Founder Spotlight of Intellect: Theodoric Chew
Intellect is Asia-Pacific’s fastest growing startup that provides comprehensive mental health services.
Selected as one of Google’s Best Apps of 2020, Intellect provides accessible and affordable digital mental health solutions to over 2 million users that are struggling with mental health problems, in more than 15 countries. We interviewed its Co-Founder and CEO, Theodoric Chew, who had experienced anxiety in his life and saw the need for better mental health solutions in Asia.
Since the COVID-19 crisis began, mental health issues have increased around the world. Traditional mental health services are facing new demands and challenges, especially in Asia, where high-quality treatments and professional help, such as therapy services and digital wellness solutions are often not accessible. Intellect took on the challenge to address such issues, providing comprehensive mental health services in 11 APAC languages in both D2C and B2B models.
To support and empower their business expansion in APAC and Japan, Headline Asia invested in Intellect’s USD $10 million Series A round in January 2022. “We are impressed by the positive feedback from the clients of Intellect, including Foodpanda and Shopback, who express high satisfaction with the improvement of various mental health metrics within their organizations since adopting Intellect’s services.” said Headline Asia Investor Abby Hsu, “The level of trust and relationship with clients shows Intellect’s in-depth industry know-how, strong market demand, and unique product proposition.” Headline Asia’s looking forward to supporting Intellect as they expand their modern solutions for mental healthcare in APAC.
Theodoric, can you briefly share your background with our readers?
I’m Theodoric, the Co-founder & CEO of Intellect, Asia Pacific’s largest and fastest-growing mental health startup that’s building an entirely new mental healthcare system for the region.
My journey started as someone born and raised in Singapore, a tiny Southeast Asian nation [that I believe can be competitive] on a global scale. That belief, along with a core interest in using technology to benefit millions of people, got me into the world of working with startups and building things.
Can you share the story of how you met Headline and what your experience has been working with us so far?
We first met Headline Asia through an introduction from one of our existing lead investors (Insignia) back in early 2021 and started building a relationship with the team. From the get-go, Headline Asia’s approach in understanding a market [segments] as well as the business mechanics of what makes a startup successful was exceptional and advanced in many ways.
Since Headline Asia has come on board, we’ve had a truly excellent experience working with Headline Asia Partner and the team, where they’ve rolled up their sleeves to work with us in driving the growth of the company, from initiating more partnerships to making key hires, meanwhile bringing vast operational knowledge and expertise.
“Headline Asia’s approach in understanding a market [segment], as well as the business mechanics of what makes a startup successful in it, was exceptional and advanced in many ways.” — Theodoric Chew, CEO, and Co-Founder of Intellect.
What made you go from marketing to founding a company like “Intellect”?
I’ve always been a founder at heart. Prior to heading up the marketing teams at several startups, I had dabbled in online businesses since my teenage years and founded my first startup when I was 19. Those were great learning experiences for me.
On a personal level, my mental health journey started when I first worked with a therapist at 16 for my anxiety. Since then, I’ve seen firsthand how getting professional support help me handle my struggles, but more importantly developed who I was and allowed me to thrive in what I do. That’s why I started Intellect, in order to tackle a problem I personally faced and know the majority of people in the world [also experience] or can deeply relate to.
“…That’s why I started Intellect, in order to tackle a problem I personally faced and know the majority of people in the world [also experience] or can deeply relate to..” — Theodoric Chew, CEO and Co-Founder of Intellect.
According to your website, 69.7% of employees experienced a 10% decrease in stress levels over 4–6 weeks. Can you explain in detail what system you use to track and measure stress levels?
Our in-house clinical team plays a big part in our product’s development, ensuring what we build is evidence-based and has clinical efficacy in improving mental health. We utilize clinical-grade mental health risk measures, embedded seamlessly into our platform which allows us to provide the users of our platform ways to measure and track their stress and overall well-being levels.
Which factors have contributed to “Intellect” becoming Asia’s largest and fastest-growing mental and behavioral health platform?
Before building our product when we founded the company, we started by extensively researching and validating what the needs and pain points were for many Asians in terms of mental health. That brought us to a deep [conviction] that a different approach to the subject was needed compared to what it typically [involved for] the US or Europe.
Along with that, a big focus on product-market fit drove us to really build an experience that worked for our end-users and drove our rapid growth.
Intellect is a strong advocate of stigma-free practices. What made you realize you needed to promote mental health awareness?
Following what I shared earlier, we believe that in Asia, a big part of our mission and work is to [change] the perception of how people perceive mental health & wellbeing; from one that is clinical to one that is relatable and happening every day. That is what drives us to constantly work towards making mental health stigma-free.
“Following what I shared earlier, we believe that in Asia, a big part of our mission and work is to [change] the perception of how people perceive mental health & wellbeing; from one that is clinical to one that is relatable and happening every day. That is what drives us to constantly work towards making mental health stigma-free.” — Theodoric Chew, CEO and Co-Founder of Intellect.
What are you most proud of in terms of the company culture at “Intellect”?
Firstly, we practice what we preach by keeping conversations open and honest. Our team is also extremely diverse, representing over 15 different nationalities in our headcount of 50+ strong and growing. Finally, we walk the talk by actively promoting work-life balance and our hybrid work arrangement.
We want to rapidly scale mental healthcare access across Asia and grow Intellect’s user base, customers, and network of behavioral health coaches and clinical therapists.
To achieve this, our priority is to grow our product and engineering teams to expand the company’s product offerings to serve the entire spectrum of mental healthcare, from self-care programs to live counseling, coaching, and crisis management care.
At the same time, we recognize the importance of normalizing mental health conversations in the workplace and we plan to play a big part in this by developing partnerships and marketing initiatives to spread the word.
*This article was edited for clarity.