Mr. Young — the bot of a stress-free generation

Mental health is an issue that, with each year, takes more and more space in the social arena.
It is often that one will hear about a friend’s anxiety or a parent’s depression. It has almost become the norm, to know someone who isn’t well. It is the case of Arthur Degand and Nicolas Urena; two friends who both realized that mental health is a topic that cannot be overlooked anymore in this day and age.

Mr. Young was created following a brief phone call between the two friends. Out of sheer curiosity they were interested in creating a bot that would help people, and somewhat themselves, cope with their daily dose of anxiety.

“I was sitting on the bus talking to Arthur, and it just kind of happened. We were both stressed out about life and thought it would be cool and useful to find a solution to breathe a little easier”, explains Nicolas.
A couple of weeks later, Edouard Ferron-Mallett was added to their team; a bright young man specialized in design thinking.

Mr. Young was imagined for millennials. This segment of the population is without a doubt the one that is most vocal about mental issues, generated by political and social matters of the XXIst century. However, it does not mean that seeking help feels any easier. Taking the first step constitutes a challenge, and one might find the process frightening and stressful. 
With this in mind Arthur, and Nicolas and Edouard want to create a bot that feels like a “buddy”, a friend to talk to in times of need. Without giving actual scientific advice, the bot should have the ability to respond in a friendly manner, giving the user a sense of relief and understanding. Ranging from small tips and tricks to reduce anxiety to redirecting the user to other available stress relief apps and even generating a list of Montreal-established therapists based on the users need, Mr. Young is an ear, a judging-free friend who listens and cares, no matter the situation.

In order to get the ball rolling, the boys had to give exposure to their project. First stop on the docket, HEC’s Hacking Health’s 2016 Coopérathon, in partnership with the city of Montreal and Innocité MTL, under the surveillance following the advice of Guy Paré, professor at HEC Montréal.
This competition gives start-ups the opportunity to showcase their projects in the health department. Held over the course of one month, the participants conduct a series of presentations, detailing their ideas, plan and strategies, in order to get selected and win one of the few prizes available. This cooperathon marathon has something truly exciting to it — aside from the fact that it is indeed a competition, there is also a lot of sharing involved, giving a true platform to real health issues.
Arthur, Nicolas and Edouard’s team was awarded with the Desjardins Lab’s prize, which consisted of $2000 to start their project. An amazing way to begin this adventure.

Fuelled by the idea that their project could actually get somewhere, Arthur, and Nicolas and Edouard were registered by Desjardins to the IBM Watson AI XPRIZE competition. A much broader competition than the previous one. This international competition regroups teams from around the world, focused on different topics, using artificial intelligence. Montréal is the city with the largest amount of participants, which results in 1 groups (12 groups in Montréal and 156 in the world). It is without saying that the Mr. Young team will have to stand out, over the course of 3 years. The end prize is however, definitely worth while: a 5 million dollars cash prize and the once in a lifetime opportunity to showcase their project at the 2020 TED Talk in Los Angeles.

Arthur, and Nicolas and Edouard have since surrounded themselves with professionals in the field : Mathilde Urena, holder of a masters degree in psychology, Jean-François Connolly, expert in artificial intelligence, as well as experts in technology.

What was once an embryo of an idea is now shaping up to be an adventure of a lifetime. It is without a doubt that this team is one to watch.

Talking about a problem is the first step towards fixing it — so let’s let Mr. Young guide us through this healing path.

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