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At any one time, one-sixth of the adult population has some form of mental health problem, according to NHS Digital. The range of issues is broad, from debilitating anxiety and depression, to self-harm and burnout. National statistics show that young people are particularly vulnerable, and the problem is somehow getting worse, despite more public resources being made available, despite more people than ever taking medication, and despite much better scientific understanding. Work pressure, social pressure, and the complexities of 21st-century lifestyles are taking a heavy toll.
There are signs, however, of a paradigm shift in how society perceives mental health. Mainstream media is changing tone – when dealing with the subject directly, at least. Alongside the NHS, employers are looking for new ways to cope better with mental health, recognising the enormous impact it has on their employees, and perhaps seeing an opportunity to build more responsible brands in line with public perception. Recruiting and retaining talent is expensive, so investing in a healthy workforce is a growing trend. Nobody benefits from burnout.
BetterSpace is an early-stage social impact innovator, that believes mental health and wellbeing should be addressed preventatively; that they can help enable better mental health at scale with a motivational concierge-like mobile app. The app includes a new set of enabling tools for employees, nudging us towards positive choices, including many free ones, such as local exercise options; making it easy, and personal to look after yourself. Recommended health resources are accessible company-wide through white-labeling the app, which focuses on 6 essential mental health pillars: good sleep, stress management, exercise, social connections, helping others, and meaningful activity.
Founder Alfredo Belfioro notes that, “BetterSpace seeks to transform the way people manage their mental wellbeing. We’re building the first live database of interventions that improve one’s state of mind, from exercise clubs to mindfulness apps to life coaches. With a matching engine that helps you find what it’s most likely to help you, we want to make it easy for people to engage proactively in their most precious resource – their mental wellbeing.”
As a quick example, BetterSpace might recommend a local lunchtime yoga class, or a dance class, or offer expert tips on sleep management. New books on the latest brain science are recommended, alongside TED talks on issues that matter. Recommendations are vetted, and information beautifully presented, while the impact of actions can be measured by each individual employee. This is a convenient way for companies to improve and measure welfare across a business, which encourages them to help pay for activities too. In BetterSpace’s pilot project, big brand law firm Linklaters offered £300 sponsorship for wellbeing choices; on aromatherapy, Bootcamp, or sleep therapy, for example, which can all be booked through the app. Friction is eliminated, and everyone wins. Feedback from users monitors their sense of wellbeing before and after activities like yoga, with (anonymised) BetterSpace data then made available for academics to study, and employers to learn from.
“We recommend the best resources, from apps to classes to products, and make personalised suggestions via the mobile app” explains Anna Jagric, Director of Operations. The design is based on clinical and therapeutic research that underpins healthy wellbeing. “It helps people to improve their emotional literacy, measure wellbeing, and get access to things that you didn’t know about, but probably ought to.”
Jagric describes some surprising research findings; “with all that modern life throws at us, only 17% of us are flourishing. We want to avoid burnout and stress but we lack the time and money to find what’s best for us. BetterSpace exists to change that.” AI is used to learn what choices works for people in different circumstances, by measuring responses and adapting recommendations around the individuals themselves. This, in turn, creates valuable health insights and date at scale. “The long-term plan is to change the stigma of mental health and to give research institutions new data to help society at large.”
BetterSpace’s startup story involves the two founders meeting at Zinc Accelerator, which brings entrepreneurs together to address large social problems and form new companies. CTO Alfredo Belfiori is a biomedical engineer, and repeat tech founder, while Jim Woods has a background in hospitality, as former CEO of yo!Group. Tragically, 5 people close to CEO Woods have taken their own lives.
The Founders completed a 3 month deep dive into mental health while at Zinc: recognising a society-wide lack of mental health literacy and a lack of access to information that can help.
12 Impact Angel investors have since joined the company, funding early-stage development and startup costs, through a quick seed investment round. BetterSpace chose SeedLegals over conventional lawyers, to create and execute the company’s equity funding documents. As a social enterprise, Jagric explains that they have social impact KPIs, rather than prioritising profits. “Our mission is to share insights with employers and scientists so that BetterSpace can improve mental health across society. Angels were selected based on their interest in the mission.” Investor Term Sheets reflecting a focus on impact were created by the Founders on the SeedLegals platform.
Part of Jagric’s role as COO is engaging investors and getting them to contribute actively. She is a huge enthusiast for the other tools available on SeedLegals too, with all of their employment, contractor, and advisor agreements cloud-based, alongside the Shareholder documents. For BetterSpace, the platform has helped to, “cut down on time, as well as costs.” Jagric explains how, “we are building skills in house by using it… banking knowledge on how to run a larger fundraise professionally. You have a clear legal process mapped out, knowing where you are, and where you are going. SeedLegals have a hands-on role in getting it done, so it is not exclusively a digital experience. You’re never actually on your own. I literally can’t imagine using anything else!”
“The culture of the company is what’s driving the function – you get a sense that they genuinely want to help and to enable. When I think about the entire experience, the support is amazing”.
“There is no other comparative option. You’ve got access to people who are passionate and knowledgeable about helping you get the job done. From a technical point of view, the velocity of the transaction if very fast, and it can all be done for around £1,000. But it is the friendliness and the responsiveness of the team that sets SeedLegals WAY above any other options. ”
BetterSpace is now motivating their own team, by completing an EMI option agreement on SeedLegals. Key hires benefit from tax-efficient Share Options; a (normally) complicated and technical legal/accountancy process, that can be very expensive to set up and manage – now made simple through digital innovation. SeedLegals now digitises the end-to-end, such as CapTable adjustments, which can be modeled, and executed in real-time. It removes the risk of human error. “For our EMI options, the planning and the benefits were spelled out online. SeedLegals have been proactive in designing an EMI scheme with us, and otherwise, we might have sat on it.”
It is fun to see this example of two enabling tech startups helping one another to achieve their ambitious goals – taking the friction away from users, so that we can focus on the things that really matter. Both SeedLegals and BetterSpace have ambitious plans for growth, and to have a positive impact at scale; they both exist to help us thrive.