Two Steps Forward One Step Back

How we Built a Bot that Helps with Social Anxiety

Rikke Koblauch
Sep 21, 2016 · 4 min read

Social anxieties are one of the biggest reasons for not achieving the things we want in life! The fear of speaking in public, talking to strangers or just speaking our mind is something that affects us all.
Two years ago I would not have been able to publish a blog post or host a workshop. But I’ve overcome it, simply by doing it.

This method is also known as exposure therapy and it simply means you expose yourself to whatever you might be afraid of. Therapists use this technique to treat all sorts of fears and exposure therapy is proven to be the most effective treatment for social anxieties. And that’s great! But there are some problems:

  • It’s an unknown method to most
  • It’s hard to practise alone

This is what I want to solve!

The usual approach would be to build a technical prototype, but instead I‘ve been Pretotyping. Pretotyping means you don’t build anything, but instead do the absolute minimum to get validation from users and understand the problem.
So I’ve been running experiments, some including high fiving strangers, dancing Lindy Hop and hosting Fearshop.

The past two weeks..

I’ve been working together with Yasir and Alex. It’s been great to have passionate people to bounce ideas and to get new perspectives on the issue.
We’ve been spending our time working out some new experiments.


First thing we did was to map out all things we’d personally like to improve in. We wrote down every action we take to help us improve and ended with about a 100 post-its.
We picked a handfull from each area and went out and did them!

“Ask a dog owner for the dogs name” & “Buy someone a coffee”

We built a robot

or not an actual robot, but a Facebook messenger bot.

“Bot” is used to describe any software that automates a task. A Facebook Messenger bot automates a conversation.

Using Chatfuel, we had a bot up and running within a day. About 20 people tested the bot and just a few days later we’d gathered more insights and feedback most products do within their first 6 months.


One step back..

Exposing yourself to fear is really hard to do alone. And even though bots are cool to chat with, there is one thing they can’t recreate: the feeling of community. Luckily that is something the internet and especially Facebook is really good at.

So we decided to our switch focus to our Steps Facebook group.
The group has been live for a week and has more than 40 active users. We shared 7 challenges and people are already uploading photos and sharing their experiences. We want to let the community and users shape the product, and it seems like they have already started..

Steps Facebook group

“I need a nicely designed weekly card to put in my wallet to remember the challenges. Who is feeling design-y”

“Buy a stranger a coffee.
I know it is easy. but this one is special because i know i made her day and got a chance to talk with her :)”

Lessons learned

Tech is easy, humans are hard

Thinking we could solve a problem by building a technical solution was stupid, it doesn’t work that way. Start with the hard part, the humans and then find a way to help your users from day 1. Tech can’t do that now but it will be able to one day.

I need people

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together

It has been great to get people involved and I really needed it! I’m actually not sure the quote above applies to me, I’ve been going both faster and further than I would have on my own.

Ask for help

Asking for help is not a weakness. I need your help! Help me build a community that talks about anxieties and encourage to overcome them.

Get in touch and signup for news at or!
Shoutout to Yasir and Alex and to our always supportive Fampany™, ustwo.


Tools to help you become socially confident and do more

Thanks to Yasir Ekinci and Philip Bock

Rikke Koblauch

Written by

Freelance UX/Service Designer. Currently with @malmociviclab 🎀 Co-founded a mental health startup and previously worked @ustwo 🐓



Tools to help you become socially confident and do more

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