In this week’s edition of #SixtySecondStartUp we catch up with Leah Zabari, founder of CheckMates, an app to connect you with anonymous support during difficult times.
- What does your company do?
Checkmates is a mobile app designed to help individuals connect with anonymous support during difficult times.
Checkmates uses algorithms and a dating app “swipe right” style in order to help the individual find profiles they can relate to.
Our focus on imagery and metaphors to describe each user’s story erases the need for potentially triggering language. Therefore putting the user in control of their information and how they would like to receive support.
- Why did you set up this company?
In 2017 my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Although she received fantastic treatment and support from the NHS and Macmillan cancer support, I really struggled as a carer and a family member to find the support I needed. I was receiving therapy at the time but what I really wanted was to meet someone who was going through the same thing, someone I could relate to and who knew how I was feeling.
This sparked my idea of Checkmates; and the more I went through my vision and values for Checkmates, the more it became evident that this was a platform for everyone; loneliness and the need for support and help is not just an issue for children. Statistics show this to be an increasing worry for older adults. Everyone needs to be heard and listened to, and to feel supported.
- How did you get your first customer?
We are currently undergoing a testing period of our first version of MyCheckmates app with our community. Until we have refined the last final details we want to make we haven’t launched our paid feature Checkmates+. We are aiming to launch MyCheckmates to the world mid 2022 after our upcoming seed round.
- We knew we were onto something when?
We did a lot of market research before we began developing MyCheckmates; we shared a survey asking everyone if there was a time in their life they would have used MyCheckmates had it been available; this had a 100% positive response. The following question was asking them to share what the challenges were they were facing, the answers left me speechless.
Everyone was going through such different experiences and yet everyone felt alone. Addiction, bereavement, mothers with daughters battling eating disorders, unemployment struggles, breakups/divorce, nurses suffering mental health issues due to their work through the COVID 19 pandemic.
No matter who you are, everyone needs support, everyone needs to be reminded they are not alone.
- Our business model:
MyCheckmates is working on a freemium model meaning a basic version of the app is free for all, however a paid version with many more features is available and strongly encouraged in order for users to get the most tailored support to their needs.
We currently have a monetised weekly mental health check-in newsletter and a biweekly podcast breaking down the stigma around emotions.
MyCheckmates has huge room to expand into many different areas of mental health; including mindfulness and meditation features within the app, and in person events to find support within small communities, both of which we are working on currently.
- Our most effective marketing channel has been:
Social media! When Checkmates started out as scribbles in my notebook one of the first things I vowed was that the service Checkmates was offering was to be accessible for all. This has mainly shown itself in the form of a free version of our app but has also come through in other aspects of the company’s profile; such as its community services. All our social media is free, interactive and allows everyone to feel like part of a team. We share resources, testimonies and tips and tricks to check-in on your friends mental health as well as your own.
- What we look for when recruiting:
Enthusiasm, honesty and flexibility. As a startup things change all the time, we are a small team currently doing a little bit of everything; filling in gaps when needed and constantly learning new skills in areas some of us haven’t studied since highschool!
With our app having such a huge focus on mental health we want everyone in our team to be passionate about improving the services that are offered to those struggling. We are a business, but a business created to help our users. Passion and a desire for positive change has to lie at the forefront of all decisions.
- The biggest mistake that I’ve made is:
Assuming I needed a technical co-founder before I could get started.
As a solo founder the first thing you read online is *ALERT ALERT* you need to find a technical co founder to be taken seriously. This is not true, being a non-technical solo founder isn’t easy, don’t get me wrong, but I was the one with the ideas and vision so why not get started straight away? If partnership is the right thing to do then I strongly believe it will happen. Working with business partners; whether that is investors, co-founders or employees you work closely with does not work unless your personal relationship is solid too. You have to have the same vision and trust each other; you can’t fake or force either of these things.
- We think that there’s growth in this sector because:
In total, 45% of adults feel occasionally, sometimes, or often lonely in England. This equates to twenty five million people.
5.0% (1 in 20,) of people in the UK (2.6 million adults) reported that they felt lonely “often” or “always” between 3 April and 3 May 2020, about the same proportion as before the national lockdown due to Covid-19. Of those asked, 30.9% (7.4 million adults) reported their well-being had been affected because of their loneliness in the past seven days.
This figure is ever growing, especially with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath. As well as the heartbreak and isolation that the pandemic has brought many individuals more broadly, the social distancing measures and the limitations of household bubbles has denied many people the opportunity to meet new people and find the support they need.
- We worked with AIN because:
We are about to embark on a first fundraising journey that will allow MyCheckmates to be taken to the next step and start providing support to the people that need it. We have all the ideas, the passion and the projection. All we need now is just a little extra help from investors to make this happen. When Drummond got in touch it came at the perfect time with our BETA launch, it is a fantastic way for us to be able to share MyCheckmates with the people who can help make this happen.
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