In August 2021, I did one of those 10-day silent meditation retreats known as Vipassana. After 7 days of talking only to myself, I concluded it was now or never to test a startup idea I had a few months earlier.
The idea was very simple: having an app that would calm me down or lift me up, just like a therapist does.
How did I end up here?
From the time I moved to London in 2018, I was struggling to manage myself, manage my relationships and also struggling to find meaning in what I do - life felt kind of empty.
Lifestyle issues—nothing too bad but bad enough for me to understand that something needed to change.
So, in 2019 I decided to go for therapy.
I found a therapist at an event, and she quoted me £250 for a hypnotherapy session. Crazy!
At that moment, I thought I would break the bank, to fix all my existential problems in therapy.
I didn't go for it.
Instead, I decided to learn it myself. So, when the pandemic started, I took a one-year course to get my license in Rapid Transformational Therapy with Marisa Peer, a renowned hypnotherapist in the UK.
So, in September 2020, I started my course.
The dream job 2.0
In that period, I was working full-time as a ventures manager in a top startup studio in London. And, I genuinely loved my job.
However, after just a few sessions practising hypnotherapy, I discovered a totally new level of loving my job. It felt so meaningful and heart-fulfilling to listen to someone’s life inner struggle and bring a new perspective on it. I literally thought that was my calling.
By the end of the course, I figured out that a part of the “know-how” of a therapist, could be made easily accessible within an app—like Spotify, but instead of listening to music, you listen to what a therapist would say on how to navigate difficult situations, emotions, etc.
This insight planted the first seed for selftalk.space.
2 weeks after my Vipassana retreat, I convinced 2 angel investors to give me £20K pre-seed money and invited my friend Vio to work together to validate the concept.
We spent a few months doing customer development to understand what needed to be built. (NOTE: It wasn't this straightforward and easy as it sounds but that story is for another article).
The first method to validate the concept was to manually create 100 therapy audios and see how people reacted to them.
The Business Model
After the 50th audio, we began selling them at prices ranging from £9 to £79—we made £1,386 with this type of audios. After about 70 audios, we started to play with tags and categories and soon figured out an algorithm for the app.
Meanwhile, in the summer of 2022, we got invited to attend a pre-accelerator in Silicon Valley hosted by the billionaire Tim Draper. We shifted our business model from B2C to B2B, conducting pilot tests with three companies.
After so much validation and testing (maybe a bit too much) - everything was looking good enough to start coding.
We launched a closed beta version of the app in February 2023.
We soon realized we had a big fat problem with the content. We needed better content.
The first version of the content was made by us (looking back - I laugh at my overly confident self).
So in March 2023, a quest to create “THE CONTENT” started.
This quest took us to many places, including speaking with psychologists from Oxford and Cambridge, meeting spiritual leaders, and attending intense workshops focused on deconstructing dysfunctional thinking patterns.
All tested on ourselves!
This whole journey felt like an ongoing therapy session, but especially these 6 months of creating content. It has brought me face-to-face with my character's duality: the very good/bright side and the very bad/dark side, what Carl Jung refers to as the shadow. Human beings possess both, in equal measure—similar to how a tree's crown reaches as high as its roots go deep.
To sum it up, I felt like I had done a PhD in therapy in one year.
One thing I struggled with all this time was underestimating the time needed for these tasks.
I have a natural tendency to think “Oh, this should be easy”! Quite delusional (like many other founders, probably). However, this is a helpful thinking pattern; otherwise, I might never have started.
And I am so happy I did.
Even if it wasn't easy, we are very happy with the product we now have available on the App Store and Google Play. Right now, only the version for companies is available but soon there will be a freemium version for all to try!
The mission I set for Selftalk is to democratize access to therapy knowledge, but Vio, my co-founder, felt it wasn’t ambitious enough.
She added that we should aim to reach at least 1 billion people.
Transforming the minds of 1 billion people — one selftalk audio at a time!
I know it sounds crazy.
Some have called it a "Herculean mission," while others might say it's delusional.
But as the saying goes, "Who doesn't risk, doesn't drink champagne."
So, follow us to see! What if it really works?
P.S. Curious to test the app? DM me, and I will give you access or sign up here!