Startup

A challenging year, but one still worth celebrating

· 7 min read

It took a pandemic to act as a catalyst for greater innovation and awareness in mental health. Incredible challenges had to be overcome across the globe, but we are better for it as a whole. This year has been tough, and yet, it has led to some of the most meaningful improvements in mental health in the last decade.

Healthcare infrastructure has undergone enormous advancement in virtual care adoption and we have found new ways to access mental health care. As a society, more of us recognize that our mental health is as crucial to being well as caring for our bodies. These improvements might just be surface level for some, but we have to start somewhere.

For us at Speakbox, 2020 was an inaugural year. This year we opened and closed a private beta of our app, and since then we have successfully launched two products across Canada and the United States.

Speakbox Care is now being sold as an agnostic technology solution for practice management and improved care delivery for mental health providers ranging from counsellors and coaches to psychologists and psychiatrists.

Speakbox Life, our companion tool is now available for people to download on their mobile devices or create a web-based account. The best part is, it’s 100% free to download and use for self-management, and comes with a growing library of content related to mental health.

Both products have been live for a few months now, and we wanted to share some small (but important) milestones:

  • Public users reflected on more than 500 journal entries since September

  • Public users logged over 200 health activities

  • Care providers connected with clients on almost 500 sessions since September

Growing our userbase through word-of-mouth and nearly zero marketing spend has been an incredibly humbling experience, but one which has bolstered our confidence. Seeing all the positive feedback from clinicians, users, and fans alike helped us continue this journey throughout the year.

Want to know more about Speakbox?

How it all began

Speakbox came to me after experiencing several challenges attempting to access care after being diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) caused by childhood trauma. Through my own experience, reinforced by my experiences working in the public health sector, I have come to realize that I’m not alone in some of the struggles I experienced undergoing care.

Mental health care is full of barriers. People feel alienated from their care goals. Coordination among inter-organizational care team members is time-consuming and confusing. Clients continue to be exposed to harm and inefficiency by having to repeat difficult memories each time they work with a new practitioner.

Speakbox shifts this narrative by putting a person at the center of their care, streamlining communication with their care team, and for practitioners, automating administrative tasks so they can spend more time doing what they love - helping people heal.

A year of thanks

Eric Reis, author of, “The Lean Startup” describes startups as a “human institution.” We started with a team of three co-founders and have now grown to ten, and I’m now starting to understand what he means. It’s thanks to our brave and passionate team, a spark of an idea has become something far greater than I could have possibly accomplished alone. I am so grateful to have found so many passionate and talented individuals who share a passion for mental health. Together, we are achieving our mantra, health unobstructed, on this difficult but deeply rewarding endeavor.

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Externally, we’ve also had a lot of support and I’d also like to thank our mentors, Keith, Mari and the Spring team as well as Dugan and Community Futures for your incredible support throughout this year.

Thank you RésoSanté for ambitiously adopting new technology as you make mental health support accessible to young Francophone Canadians in their native language.

But most importantly, thank you to all of our customers. In a year marked by change, you have boldly chosen to prioritize collaboration, transparency, and client empowerment within your practices. We can’t wait to continue our growth and build the features that will continue to enable the important work you all do.

As practitioners, you are delivering care in incredible ways. Looking forward, we are excited to share your stories. Please look forward to seeing incredible pieces highlighting people like Ji-Youn Kim who has dedicated her practice to support black, Indigenous and people of colour, Chris Sanchez-Lascurain, an LA-based social worker using innovative approaches to meet youth where they are, and Peace360 an organization using peer support to create greater access to mental health across the US and the broader international community.

An ever-evolving experiment

Prior to launch, our internal systems were fairly manual, they didn’t need to be complicated because we as an organization weren’t. Val coded, I interviewed and researched leading practices, and Benjamin translated my ideas into a practical roadmap Val could execute on.

Managing a technology startup is a process of experimentation with the goal of achieving a sustainable and scalable solution. As much as every day is about advancing our product and serving our customers, 2020 was also a year of internal development. This year three became ten. As our team grew it meant delegating tasks, keeping everyone informed, and being nimble and transparent enough to allow people to hop in and out of work that may not be their day-to-day, but is something they’re skilled to support.

Internally in 2020, there were three key areas of growth we all shared:

  • How we communicate. To stay aligned as a team Benjamin instituted a series of recurring 1:1’s, weekly team huddles, and monthly founder meetings. The team also went through growing pains to learn how to best communicate with each other, and this is something we’re all going to continue to work on.

  • How we plan. Benjamin and Val added rigor to product road mapping to better prioritize on sale blocking features and customer requested improvements. 

  • How we build. During the beta, development was scrappy as we rapidly developed functionality. Post-launch, more robust sprint planning now helps us balance the polishing of these founding features while strategically building in additional value. 

Along the way, whether improving communication, sprint planning, or meeting structures, what’s been imperative is a willingness to always observe and tweak the process, and most importantly, provide both open and frequent feedback, not only in terms of what we work on but how we work.

Coming 2021

In 2020 we built a strong foundation and as the year comes to an end, we are excited by our momentum. Moving forward, young and old, the pandemic continues to have a significant impact on our mental health and because of this, we believe that remote care will continue to advance as well.

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Better mental health starts with an improved understanding of ourselves along with expanded awareness of activities and skills we can do to care for our whole health. To support this, SpeakboxLife has been rebuilt. Coming soon in January, our mobile companion features an improved design, deeper check-ins and insight, and will feature new, evidence-based supportive content. As part of our social mission, we’re proud to provide this secure resource free for everyone. 

Deeper insights, better automation, and tools to support the full treatment lifecycle between clients and practitioners. Alongside our re-imagined companion, clinicians will receive new insight into their clients allowing for them to better track progress and provide greater personalization during care. Understanding the burden invoicing, billing, and reporting put on clinicians, we’re excited to bring new forms of automation to these tedious tasks in 2021. 

Despite the hardship the pandemic has brought, COVID-19 has led to a new renaissance in mental health. Although we are apart, many have found a new openness to discuss how we are feeling. As vaccines begin to be delivered and we look forward to 2021 with hope that the worst may be behind us, all of us at Speakbox are inspired for the future. This undertaking shouldn’t be done alone, building the future of collaborative health needs your input and we welcome you to join us in its design and development in the year to come. 

Thank you. From all of us at Speakbox, we wish you a safe and healthy New Year.

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Aidan Scott
Aidan Scott
Co-founder of Speakbox
https://speakbox.ca

Aidan Scott is Co-Founder of Speakbox. After experiencing several challenges attempting to access care after being diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) caused by childhood trauma. Aidan's experience, reinforced by his experiences working in the public health sector has inspired him to seek out new ways to reduce barriers and improve access to mental health care using technology.

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