New mental health app: getting problems off your chest

They want their app users to get their worries off their chest

Professional photo Nina Anika Klotz

With Clay, a former Rocket Internet manager and an investment banker want to help users with emotional lows. Demand exists – but so does competition.

Heartache, stress at work, the feeling of an inner emptiness. No app will help. What can help with such problems on the other hand: talk. Two Berlin founders have developed an app for this purpose. People meet virtually on their platform and can talk openly and directly about their concerns. With others who have similar grief, but also with psychologists.

Clay calls himself the "first mental health training club". "We’re kind of like the mental health peloton," says Marina Jozinovic. She was previously responsible for launching various D2C health products at Rocket Internet’s Digital Health division before founding her own early last year. Her partner Janina Polking comes from the field of finance and investment banking and was responsible for strategic investments in digital marketing at Axel Springer for the past four years. With their app, the two want to use personalized training plans to help users cope better with things that stress them out. The Clay customers are supported by a community.

Apparently, the two Berlin founders have hit a nerve: "80 percent of users want to exchange ideas with others about the problems they are having," says Janina Polking. You might know this from yourself: Getting all the crap "off your chest" with friends works. The founders themselves have made the experience that often the greatest help comes from friends who already have therapy experience themselves, i.e. who pass on knowledge from professionals. That’s why the clay community sessions are supervised by psychologists.

Between relaxation app and psychotherapy

The founders are thus moving between offerings from the fields of wellness, mindfulness, wellbeing and psychotherapy. "We clearly don’t see ourselves as a substitute for therapy," Janina Polking notes. "We are active in the field of prevention, so that people do not fall ill with depression." That’s how Clay differentiates itself from competitors like Hellobetter or Selfapy, he said. At the same time, however, Jozinovic and Polking say apps in the meditation space like Calm or Headspace were "not psychological enough". Their goal is to create a product that is so low-threshold that you can quickly download it when you’re lying in bed at night and can’t fall asleep because you’re brooding, but that also delivers real content from psychotherapy instead of relaxation music.

However, users must be willing to pay for this. There is no freemium version. The annual subscription costs 65 euros. Jozinovic and Polking are satisfied: since launch in August 2021, the number of users has increased by around 120 percent every month in the German-speaking region. In February they want to go to the USA with Clay. From then on, they would be listed in the US app store. Yet the range of English-language mental health apps is even greater. Polking is confident: "Competition spurs the market on. That’s good for us because we don’t have to do so much reconnaissance there."Unlike here, it is normal on the other side of the Atlantic to spend an average of $40 per month on mental health," he said.

In the focus of investors

Startups in this segment are correspondingly hotly traded there: as Forbes magazine reports, investors in the USA already put more than 1.5 billion dollars into mental health companies in 2020. Even celebrities like the Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps are on board. It supports the therapy startup Talkspace. This is one of the now seven U.S. Unicorns that care for the well-being of souls. When two of them, Headspace and Ginger, merged in August 2021, a $3.5 billion business was created.

New mental health app: getting problems off your chest

Last but not least, it was the pandemic that caused the demand for such apps to skyrocket – or in other words, made sure that many were in a bad way. German investors also see a growing market. VC fund Heal Capital, which specializes in digital health issues, is making deliberate investments in mental health apps, but non-specialist VCs such as HV Capital and Cavalry are also following suit. Last year, the two invested in Actio, a company of serial founder Nikita Fahrenholz, which also focuses on community and coaching sessions.

The founders of Clay were able to win one million euros in pre-seed funding for their startup from business angel and Razor Group founder Jonas Diezun. They also have a French VC on board. They still want to close their seed round in the first quarter of 2022.

Note: Axel Springer is a shareholder of Business Insider Deutschland GmbH, the media house of Grunderszene. You can find more information about Business Insider here.

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