This startup wants to scale anonymous mental health support, starting with the founders, TechCrunch

Nate Tepper first went to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), an international program dedicated to helping people recover from alcoholism with a 12-step program in the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic. He hasn’t shown his face or shared his story, but he says being in the presence of vulnerability has had an immense impact.

Following the recommended level of attendance for people joining the program, Tepper went to 30 meetings in 30 days. Now, two years later, he’s starting a company to scale his favorite parts of the program in hopes of reaching other people in need.

The result is Humans Anonymous, a social audio platform that connects people with similar identities, be it a teacher or a single parent, to create an anonymous space in which to freely share their experiences. Unlike other mental health-focused startups out there, it’s not looking to provide support through life coaches or skilled professionals, it’s just trying to provide space. (AA, by contrast, has a wealth of liturgy that provides a framework for its adherents to follow.)

After being publicly launched last month after more than a year on the sly, Humans Anonymous has now announced new funding in the form of a $ 1.7 million pre-seed round led by Glass Ventures and Backend Capital, with the participation of Ten VC and Authentic Ventures.

Upon entering a Humans Anonymous room, users are invited to share in blocks of three minutes, one person at a time. There is no possibility for others to reactivate, intervene or even “take control” of a conversation, Tepper said. While this could escalate quite quickly – let’s say a person has an unfiltered opportunity to target someone who just spoke – there is always a moderator in the channel who has the authority to block or ban people. To maintain control of the conversation setup and flow, Humans Anonymous does not allow users to create their own room.

Humans Anonymous is launching a different vibe to Clubhouse, one of the most popular audio social platforms out there, which feels more Socratic, or seminar-like, and allows speakers to mute or unmute the audio as they please. Humans Anonymous is less about personal branding and more about anonymous conversations.

The startup makes money through a subscription model, charging users $ 5 per month or $ 50 for an annual fee. Users who want to try the app can have a free trial hour or enter the general room, which Tepper says will always be free to keep programming accessible.

The app launches publicly with an explicit focus on the founders. While brainstorming for the app, Tepper emailed the founders of Y Combinator and received positive feedback on the need for something like Humans Anonymous.

β€œI’ve always thought that this is the case for everyone, right? Hence the name Humans Anonymous, “he said.” The founders are in the first wave, and then our next communities are nurses and teachers alike. And these are all groups struggling in their daily work, as if they don’t necessarily have to sharing their struggles. And I think one of the learnings along the way, and you found it anonymous and we learned that people wanted to be part of a community that maybe they identified as nurses, teachers. That’s why our way in the market is how to start with profession-based communities. And then, in the end, we want to expand further. “

Image credits: Anonymous humans

At its core, Humans Anonymous is a platform that seeks to provide community services through a virtual medium. It’s a mission that could collide with his decision to raise venture capital, an asset class that requires exponential growth for an abnormal exit, and the choice to build a for-profit organization. Tepper defended his choice of him, stating that he always believed that for-profit organizations have a greater impact than non-profit organizations. “They allow you to focus on the mission instead of raising money or collecting donations,” he said.

As the startup is still in the early stages of construction, many questions remain to be answered. For example, anonymity is a great promise and, in the world of security, one of the hardest to keep. What if you recognize someone’s voice on it? Are there any barriers preventing one user from recording another user’s deepest stories?

The other challenge is on the legal front. Although Humans Anonymous is not affiliated with Alcoholics Anonymous, AA may be concerned about how inspired the competitive product is. Tepper says he has a trademark for Humans Anonymous and pointed out that he is only inspired by the AA framework. He still goes to a meeting almost every day, two years after his first.

β€œIn terms of the brand, there is potential that AA could reach out to us and potentially tell us something,” he said. “Ideally, we can be on the same team.”

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