The reason couldn’t be worse, but for some companies, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a catalyst for business. Delivery apps, streaming services, and computer manufacturers are some of the industries that have skyrocketed during this period. So has Vittude, an online therapy and emotional education platform.
In May, Vittude completed five years having grown 540% in 2020 over the previous year. And the forecast is to repeat the performance in 2021. The health tech, which in 2019 received a $1.2 million round led by Redpoint eventures, is in a new fundraising process and therefore does not disclose revenues.
Much of Vittude’s growth last year came from offering products to other companies. “Before the pandemic, we had 8 or 9 corporate clients,” recalls Tatiana Pimenta, co-founder and CEO of Vittude, in an interview with LABS. “Today, we already have 130 and we keep growing. Our pipeline is already over 500 clients, from the most varied segments.”
The fear of the coronavirus and the anguish of the pandemic have had a significant impact on the mental health of Brazilians. “The WHO [World Health Organization] was already saying that depression would be the most disabling disease in the world by 2020, but now it’s at an unsustainable level,” Tatiana says, pointing to some indicators, such as the record 576,600 work absences for mental and behavioral disorders in 2020, according to the INSS, and a study by the State University of Rio de Janeiro (UERJ) that detected an 80% increase in depression cases during social isolation.
Vittude works on two fronts. One of them is online therapy, available to individuals (B2C), which still represents the bulk of the operation with 20 thousand users/patients, and to companies, which hire the startup to offer the online therapy service to their employees as a benefit. Currently, 450,000 employees and dependents are served.
The other front, this one exclusive to the corporate public, is what Tatiana calls the “emotional education pillar”. It consists of a kind of wellbeing consultancy for employees and always precedes the offer of therapy sessions to them.
“We sell a whole suite of services related to mental health diagnosis. We have a team that maps out the health and life quality of those employees,” she explains. From this study comes a plan that contemplates measures to relieve employees’ stress, such as redistributing tasks and suggesting new hires to reduce the overload of a certain team.
The hardships faced to endure the pandemic, a situation that sometimes reminds us of the end of time, helped demonstrate the value of therapy in anyone’s life, but Tatiana says that a lot of awareness work is still needed.
Technology at the mental health forefront
Almost half of Vittude’s corporate clientele, consisting of about 130 companies, are technology companies and startups. The adoption of the benefit is also higher among this public. On average, 15% of the employees served by Vittude make use of the benefit. Among employees of technology companies, this percentage exceeds 20%.
For Tatiana, this happens because managers in this sector have long understood that employees’ brains are their greatest asset: “[In a technology company] You have no stock, no factory, no nothing. It’s all about people’s brains.” And also there is the competition for talent, fierce due to the lack of skilled labor, which leads to offering more corporate benefits to attract and retain these professionals.
She sees, however, diversification in the sectors that seek Vittude to offer psychologists to their employees. “These are extremely conscientious companies. Vittude is a tool within their solution box,” she says, referring to broader general and mental health programs that startups and large companies had already started before the pandemic.
Even the most skeptical run out of arguments when confronted by a common argument in the corporate environment: money. “I would say that these are the smartest companies in the market because they have realized that mental health is money,” she says. Tatiana says she has clients whose return on investment in Vittude is more than eight-fold. “I often say: if you’re not worried about people, worry about the company’s profit, at least.”
Vittude also fights against the stigmatization of therapy. Recently, the startup launched a podcast, Terapeutizados, in which it interviews executives – in the first season, all men.
“We realize that there is even greater prejudice among the male audience. Eighty percent of our public, who consult us, are women. Men have as many problems with mental illness as women, and the number of suicides among men is even higher, but they seek help less often,” she explains.
Tatiana has already talked to executives from startups such as Olist, RD, and Pipefy, all of whom have been therapy patients for a long time, in the hope of reducing prejudice by approaching the subject naturally with successful men.
For Tatiana, Vittude fulfills a role that other companies, such as XP, have already followed in another area that was also stigmatized and restricted until a few years ago, that of investments. “In the old days, people weren’t in the stock market. XP did a very nice job of educating people, saying that the stock market was a place where people could be. We believe that in psychology it is the same thing. If I don’t educate people and show them that well-being is important, that mental health is important, they will not take care of themselves.”
A market with a huge potential
Vittude also has a specialized content project to get customers in the B2C segment. According to Tatiana, in 2020, more than 37 million unique users visited the health tech’s website, which publishes well-produced content on topics related to mental health, such as explanations of diseases like depression and treatments. A fraction of that audience eventually converted into a customer.
Vittude operates exclusively in Brazil and has no plans for expansion. “Brazil is a huge market, with a lot of potentials. Three out of ten Brazilians have some diagnosed mental disorder, not counting those who have never received a diagnosis,” explains Tatiana. In the corporate market, “there is a long way to go”, according to her. In that pipeline of companies negotiating to hire the health tech, there are some large companies that, considering dependents, reach close to half a million people.
For this reason, before venturing into Latin America, Vittude wants to grow more in Brazil. Today, the startup has 52 employees and 800 psychologists registered on its platform; among its clientele are many employees of Brazilian companies who live in other countries. The waiting list of partner psychologists already has 15,000 registrations and has been temporarily closed. The selection process is done with the help of artificial intelligence, which assigns a score based on 15 criteria, such as education, clinical experience and titles. “We call for interviews less than 3% of the [psychologists] enrolled,” she says, to maintain a high level of excellence.
Translated by Carolina Pompeo