MARGARET LIM
March 27, 2017

Uprise hits highs at SF World Cup

StartupLand

Uprise hits highs at SF World Cup

Jay Spence: Taking a wild ride with mental health startup Uprise

Although mental health startup Uprise did not bag the $1 million investment prize at the Startup World Cup Grand Finale in San Francisco last Friday, things are going more than well for the less-than-eighteen months old Australian startup.

The global pitch competition organised by Fenox Venture Capital involved 15 finalists from North & South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia. The grand prize went to the Japan regional champion Unifa, a startup that offers an internet of things solution for parenting and child development.

Uprise managed to outshine 10 finalists selected from over 300 applications to emerge as the Australia regional winner last November. It walked away with prizes valued at US$120,000, as well as an all-expenses paid trip to San Francisco to represent Australia in Startup World Cup Grand Finale.

Not a shabby achievement for a startup that was only established January last year.

“An employee just decided to enter us into the competition and it has since gone very well,” said Uprise founder and clinical psychologist Dr Jay Spence.

“Startup World Cup is a very international competition. It’s extremely competitive, but what it comes down to is your ability to express and solve the business problem using technology. What we came up with is an innovative, niche and timely solution for the current market,” he said.

For companies who are dissatisfied with underused and unmeasured wellness programs, Uprise offers a digital mental fitness program enhanced by phone coaching that improves employee retention, performance, and engagement.

The app proactively engages staff to measurably improve wellbeing and peak performance.

“In an organisation, one in six people have a mental illness in any given time, but only one in three seek help. Another problem is that people who suffer from mental health issues do not know that they have it and hence don’t get help,” Dr Spence said.

By the time these people came to see him, it was often too late to treat them back to a full recovery. Many patients arrived in crisis with complex problems that made recovery time prolonged and emotionally difficult.

He began to look at early intervention approaches and was fortunate to be part of one of the first online treatment clinics established in Australia. He completed his PhD thesis on adapting face-to-face therapies to be delivered online in the shortest amount of time possible. His PhD research became the basis for Uprise.

“The application helps to remove the stigma commonly associated with patients seeking help for mental issues in the workplace,” said Dr Spence. He feels that companies are in a unique position to be able to support their community of workers because taking care of them means better output from the community as a whole.

“Our aim is to facilitate that by bringing the best that psychology has to offer in the most accessible and engaging format possible.”

The young start-up is quickly making its presence felt among the startup community. Uprise, whose customers include PayPal, Telstra and Lendlease, is now working on growing its customer base in the US.

For the past month, it has been meeting with companies there to secure its first customer. Once a contract is signed, it will work to refine the product for the customer, and then expand it into future companies.

Entering a global competition like Startup World Cup only helps it to gain momentum on both local and international stage.

For aspiring startups after worldwide fame and recognition, Dr. Spence has one advice: get a professional pitching coach.

“We were lucky to have a lot of assistance from Ben Sand, our Entrepreneur in Residence at muru-D to help refine our pitch. It’s one thing to pitch a lot, but another to nail the message. The best places to practise is not just at local competitions but also at toastmaster events,” he said.

The results and interest that Startup World Cup has garnered have been positive and encouraging. Preparation for the 2018 event will go full steam ahead in April.

“We have seen an incredible number of inquiries and support from all over for this global new platform, as well as interests from more than 30 countries who would like to host their own Startup World Cup regional events," Fenox Venture Capital CEO and General Partner Anis Uzzaman said.

"We definitely expect more regions and entries next year,” he said.

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