• Uprise is an app-based mental wellness program for employees who are feeling stressed, anxious or depressed. (Uprise)Source: Uprise
After 10 years as a clinical psychologist, Dr Jay Spence left his consulting room behind and entered the tech startup space.
SBS Small Business Secrets
22 Oct 2017 - 5:35 PM  UPDATED 1 Feb 2018 - 9:34 AM

Uprise aims to transform the way workplace mental health issues like stress, anxiety and depression are identified and treated.

The app disrupts the traditional therapy model - which focuses on a person to ask for help.

Founder and clinical psychologist Dr Jay Spence says, “If someone has depression or anxiety these conditions make it very difficult for them to reach out for help, and yet it is expecting them to do that so the model that we have been looking at is to say instead of waiting for them, we reach out to them.”

By making the initial online assessment quick and easy, Uprise can screen large groups at a low cost - and focus more support on the estimated 17% of staff that have an untreated mental health condition. 

The content draws on decades of scientific research into cognitive behaviour therapy - a field with proven success when adapted online.

“The research shows that these digital programs are just as effective as face to face therapies for common issues.  I know that sounds quite shocking, I thought it was quite shocking to think that an app was as good as seeing a therapist. The reason is that these programs have been around for about 10 years, they've been researched through a lot of research centres,” Dr Spence says.

After 18 months of development and testing, the platform was launched in July this year.

More than 1000 people across 20 companies have so far used Uprise a startup starts to pick up steam.

That includes PayPal Australia - where 20% of 140 employees have logged on anonymously.

People Business Partner at PayPal Kim Cheney says, “The results have been really quite interesting for us.  So we've seen an increase in self-reported productivity, we've seen an increase in engagement.”

“We've also seen an increase in things like moral, sleep, so for example 33% of people who participated told us that they had increased quality of sleep which is a really good indicator that they are finding benefit in the program and they're personal life as well.”

Lisa Wade-Lehma, PayPal employee, can attest to that. “I was 4 or 5 months into the role and I was struggling, there was a lot of information to take on at one time and I was out of my comfort zone,” she says.

 “I felt like I needed that external assistance to refocus my negative thoughts that I had about myself and it was really great because it gave me the skills to know what to do.”

Uprise began as a university research project - but advice and funding from several accelerator programs and angel investors motivated Dr Spence to shift to a commercial focus.

With no prior business experience, it was a leap into the unknown.

"Running a startup is thrilling and terrifying and probably the full gamut of emotions in between," he says.

"My initial estimation of the cost would be about a tenth of what it actually costed, and the time requirement has been about four times to build."

"I really thought the idea of starting a tech company was as simple as finding a bunch of freelance developers off a website, telling them what to build, leaving them to it and found that every other experienced startup in our space was saying, 'do not go down the route of hiring freelance developers to develop this thing.'"

"You need to stay really close to your product, you need to have people in-house as much as possible and you need to build it with your customer all the way along."

 Jay sees strong future growth coming from licensing the Uprise software to existing large employee counselling services - but profit isn't the only focus.

"You have to be driven by the message and the meaning and the mission, rather than just money."

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