In a recent study conducted by the Action Community for Entrepreneurship (ACE) and digital mental health provider Safe Space™, it was found that 78 percent of startup business owners advocate the importance of mental well-being in the workplace, but only 12 percent of that number have initiated to have mental health advocates in place. The demand it takes for a startup business to kick off the ground running is a toiling one, especially since keeping pressure at bay is challenging while operating in a high-functioning team.
“Many expressed interest in seeking professional help, but reported that affordability and convenience were their top concerns,” says Safe Space™ founder and CEO Antoinette Patterson. “Such struggles include maintaining close relationships that have been difficult and frustrating for them, often as a result of becoming easily irritated as they get more stressed. Furthermore, nearly a quarter of respondents shared that they struggled with insomnia and establishing healthy sleep patterns.”
Patterson’s solution: To offer accessible mental health support for affected individuals. In fact, it was a personal experience that urged her to provide a platform that she recognized was lacking.
“Safe Space™ started from a personal need. I was an individual and an employee in the advertising industry and I was going through a burnout. After an extensive Google search and a few embarrassing recommendation requests, I was fortunate enough to find a therapist, albeit a really expensive one as that was the first person that agreed to see me.”
She adds, “In hindsight, what I really wanted was a personal concierge – someone that could guide me through the process and make the recommendation for me. It made me think of my team and how I could provide them with fast access to affordable and discreet mental healthcare in Asia, should they go through something similar. That’s how the idea of Safe Space™ came about – to solve this gap in the mental health sector.”
What services does Safe Space™ offer and who is your target audience for these services?
Safe Space™ is a comprehensive B2B2C and B2C digital mental healthcare platform that connects individuals and employees to licensed clinical therapists in real-time while helping in tracking and managing therapy usage, progress, and related administrative documentation. Since not everyone needs therapy yet, we also provide preventive mental health education to improve overall literacy within our community. Safe Space™ addresses a gap in the industry, solving the problem of not having a reliable, discreet, and convenient way to access therapy, especially when they need it the most.
Our real-time matching algorithm evaluates aspects like an individual’s mental health needs, any physical or emotional issues, level of affordability, schedule availability, geographic location, and preferred therapist type, among others, before connecting them to the most suitable therapist within seconds.
We also work with corporate clients as part of their Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and business continuity plan to provide therapy sessions for their employees, as well as educational material and webinars tailored to their unique needs.
What are some milestone achievements the business has encountered?
We launched our first minimum viable product (MVP) in March 2019, which was based on a subscription model to test out demand for online therapy services. In 2020, we saw a decline in mental health on a global scale due to the impact of COVID-19. This was finally our turning point to make a difference and to prove that there is a huge market for mental health technology.
We saw a 213% increase in users in 2020 and a 200% increase in therapist sign ups as they were looking to us to digitally transform and accelerate their physical practice. The most significant change was the openness of government bodies and corporations looking to us to provide a mental health solution for their employees.
As seen with the recent COVID-19 pandemic, digital adoption and acceleration was needed to convert running therapists’ face-to-face practice online. Safe Space™ benefits therapists as the platform provides a convenient pandemic-proof avenue for them to continue conducting their therapy sessions without having to set up a physical office. Moreover, Safe Space™ corporate dashboard allows employers and their Human Resources (HR) teams to manage and keep track of their employees’ therapy usage accordingly while maintaining the highest level of privacy.
What are the company’s revenue streams and what is your main strategy for achieving growth targets?
We currently mainly operate in Singapore, but also service clients in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam, Australia, South Korea, and India.
Our primary revenue streams are from direct-to-consumer therapy sessions and from our flexible corporate EAP programs that are available for startups, SMEs, and MNCs. As for growth targets, we hope to have an increase of 200% users by 2022. We aim to continue the trajectory by working with corporates, insurers, government agencies, trade unions, and like-minded well-being partners in order to better achieve our goals.
What are your future plans for Safe Space™? How do you plan to grow it?
Safe Space™’s goal is to be the leading digital mental health ecosystem regionally and technology hub that connects clients and service providers; to achieve positive outcomes through therapy and education.
To improve overall mental health literacy and to encourage action to look after mental well-being, we have published an e-Book and a joint whitepaper with ACE on Startup Founders’ Mental Health in Singapore.
For business leaders looking to improve their company’s mental well-being, take the pledge and get access to mental health resources at https://www.safespace.com.sg/ace-safespace-startup-survey