It’s not easy to talk about mental health issues in your first language — imagine in a second language.
AC program client PsyMood is preparing for their launch on Dec. 22. After a three-month soft launch phase, founders Rodrigo Bergel and Fred Neumann are excited to see their project come to life after a year of planning.
Bergel and Neumann met in their home country of Brazil in 1997 while playing on the same university soccer team. The two became fast friends, realizing they had more in common than playing soccer. Just the year before, in 1996, both Bergel and Neumann had spent time in Sydney, Australia, where they ran in the same circle and had mutual friends — but never met.
The two friends had always talked about starting a business together, but couldn’t decide on what that business would be. They both had educational backgrounds in advertising and communications, and Bergel also studied film and media production. As life moved on, the two found themselves constantly chasing other opportunities.
Neumann traveled around Brazil, living in various cities and exploring entrepreneurial ventures. In 2016, Neumann moved to Toronto, where he’s been ever since.
Not long after, Bergel also moved to Toronto with his wife, who is Canadian. Bergel and Neumann, now living in the same city, started exploring business ideas, yet again. All they knew was that they wanted to help people solve problems. That led them to think about mental health services.
Bergel’s father was a psychiatrist, so he grew up in a home that openly discussed mental health.
“Since I was a child, I listened to [my dad’s] stories, and that made me very curious about therapy and mental health,” Bergel said.
Bergel started therapy as a teen to cope with his parent’s divorce. It helped him so much that he never quit. Regardless of where he lived, he’s made room for therapy. When Bergel moved to Canada, he was able to find a Brazilian therapist, which was very important to him.
“My challenges are familiar to her because she also came from Brazil and this [prompted the idea] to help many other immigrants and people that can connect with therapists who have a similar background to them,” Bergel said.
PsyMood is an online platform that offers mental health support based on your language and cultural background using matchmaking, scheduling and video therapy tools.
“The assumption is that it’s not easy to talk about mental health issues in your first language — imagine in a second language,” Neumann explained.
They saw a gap in the market, as Canada, a country that plans to welcome 350,000 immigrants per year by 2021, does not have a service that matches people seeking mental health care with professionals who speak their language or share their culture.
PsyMood has partnered with Arrive by RBC Ventures, an initiative that offers support to newcomers to Canada. This partnership led PsyMood to offer not just support from therapists and psychotherapists, but also professionals who offer meditation practices, life coaching, career coaching, etc.
“There are 7 million immigrants [in Canada] and a lot of them are newcomers. Not all [newcomers] need mental health support, but sometimes they need career guidance, or they’re lost, not [struggling with their mental health], just in need of coaching,” Neumann said.
When they started to build their roster of specialists, Neumann and Bergel wanted to ensure the offerings were diverse. They put an ad searching for mental health professionals and received 482 responses. With only 25 spaces in their first phase, PsyMood now has a long waitlist of mental health professionals waiting to join the platform. With just 25 specialists currently on board, 18 different languages are offered.
With large amounts of funding available for mental health initiatives, Neumann and Bergel are preparing for the first round of investments within the next month. They have big plans for growth including other Canadian provinces and the United States. They’re hoping that in two years, PsyMood will be available in other continents.
“We believe Canada is the best place to test this and do this business because we have so many immigrants here,” Bergel said.
PsyMood also isn’t just for personal use. Neumann spoke of plans to make the platform attractive to employers, too.
“There is currently five billion dollars lost due to a lack of mental health programs in Canada. There are a lot of professionals who leave work or are absent from work because they have mental health issues.” Neumann said.
“Our B2B idea and concept is to offer personalized and customized mental health programs [to businesses and companies].”
Bergel and Neumann have had a busy end to the year. After joining the The Accelerator Program® just last month, the two friends are eager for their Dec. 22 launch and to see what the future has in store for the company they had always hoped to start together. They were keen to point out how the Accelerator Centre helped them get closer and closer to that goal.
“It’s good to have contact with people who can guide us. They know the answers and each contact that we have [at the Accelerator Centre] offers a lesson each time from different perspectives,” Bergel said.
Neumann expressed his gratitude to the AC mentors who have helped guide PsyMood along the way.
“They’re always amazing sessions,” he said. “Every time we wrap it up we’ve learned so much. We share our plans and ideas and they send very critical feedback that is so important for us.”
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