Investing in SPOKE, an alternative mental health app

I am delighted to announce that my second investment as an Ada Angel is in SPOKE. The company is working with music artists to create an ‘alternative mindfulness’ app that hyper-personalises mindfulness and self-therapy via music.

Having lost a friend to mental health in 2020, I started searching for tech-enabled solutions for the growing mental health epidemic. I was surprised to see how difficult it was to find companies with a unique offering that could be appealing to young men and women (particularly men). Looking at the statistics around male suicide in the UK, there clearly is a problem but solutions are sparse.

  • 75% of deaths from suicide in 2019 were among men
  • 80% of suicides in age bracket 15 to 30 are male

I also found out that 80% of those using the leading meditation apps are female, suggesting that men are not connecting to the current solutions. Personally, I also do not relate to the leading meditation apps and find them to be a bit tedious.

Then I came across SPOKE, a company with an incredible team focused on building a product that can be used regularly, excites the audience, is accessible, and is actually fun to use! Unlike other mindfulness apps, SPOKE transcends current mental health management practices by combining personalised music, self-therapy, and mindfulness techniques into an experience that is culturally relevant, interactive, and entertaining.

As someone who listens to house music whilst working and gets bored of meditating within 3 seconds, I was testing the beta version of SPOKE with a certain level of apprehension. Months later, I absolutely LOVE it. I particularly enjoy the “Focus” soundtracks which have now replaced my usual house playlist and the “Wind Down” soundtracks for the chilled vibes. I also shared it with a group of male friends and colleagues, who (without any prompts) said that SPOKE has become part of their week and they keep going back to it.

5 reasons why I invested:

  1. It is unique vs. other providers in that it is built to be listened to in place of music and is fused with proven mind management techniques.
  2. It provides a solution for an overlooked and underserved demographic within the mental health market.
  3. It actually works, retains users, and keeps them engaged.
  4. The team is not only exceptional but also diverse.
  5. The brand has a level of authenticity that users truly connect with.

Here is a very brief Q&A with the co-founder, Ariana:

Q) What gave you the initial spark/idea to build SPOKE?

After 2 years of running my previous startup (a live music wellness events business), I realised that the wellness industry is very saturated toward older, white, middle-class women. When my younger brother’s friend committed suicide aged just 15, it really hit home how important it is to build a culturally relevant solution for the millions of people missed out by the wellness industry. Small shifts toward better mental health are what can save lives down the line, but the tools to enable those shifts are just out of reach for millions, especially young men.

Q) How come you decided to tackle the status quo and what gives you the confidence to do it?

I have seen people experience small but meaningful changes because of SPOKE. I don’t even feel that confidence comes into it, I know with absolute certainty that our mission is necessary and the effect we can have on both the individual and societal levels. The status quo is what sets culture — and it’s the systemic culture that needs to change. We are just catalysts, creating a new path and we hope for a new, less taboo culture around mental health.

Q) What is the most common feedback you hear from the users testing the beta?

That they love our sounds and it is unlike any other mental health practice they have tried in the past. People really love our music and we get a lot of interest in the artists that are in the app. Our music is a true combination between the artistry of music/lyricism and proven mental health practices such as CBT, therapy, and mindfulness. Our ‘sound calibration’ is a very popular feature too, which allows you to assess your mood based on different sounds.

Q) How has your experience been during the fundraising process as a half-Iranian woman?

I have no other experience to compare it to, but I definitely have seen my male peer entrepreneurs receive startup funding earlier in their business’s journey and with less data than ours. Beyond that, I simply cannot be sure how my experience differs to anyone else’s.

Q) What did you look for in your investors?

Investors who are not the VC status quo. We want to work with people who are driven by something deeper and more meaningful than just numbers on a spreadsheet or ego (which there is a lot of in this world). We also looked for people who have the skills, expertise, and connections to help us reach our goal; which is to be the world-leading artist-centric mindfulness movement.

Form to pitch your start-up:

If you’d like to tell me about your start-up, please fill this form out. Whilst keeping an open mind for investment opportunities, there is a preference for pre-Series A companies with immigrant founders in the UK. Industry/theme preferred are: aging population, female health, physical/mental health, climate change, and regulatory change.

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