“We’re not trying to build just another app. What we’re trying to create is a new mental health approach towards things.”

Redefining mental health care from Asia to the world: On Call with Intellect CEO and co-founder Theodoric Chew

Redefining mental health care from Asia to the world: On Call with Intellect CEO and co-founder Theodoric Chew

“We’re not trying to build just another app. What we’re trying to create is a new mental health approach towards things.”

It’s now 2021, and to kick off another year of calls with Southeast Asia’s emerging technology, startup leaders, and investors, we’re going to start by talking about a topic that has been getting increasing attention recently, especially with the life changes brought by the pandemic — mental health. 

With people stuck at home and the stigma associated with availing of mental health care especially in Asia, apps and online platforms have emerged to serve as tools for people to better understand their mental well-being and connect with the right professionals.

So to better help us understand the mental health care space, in Asia especially, and how the winds are changing when it comes to the adoption of mental health care services, we’re delighted to have on call mental health company Intellect CEO and founder Theodoric Chew. This startup is behind the app of the same name that was picked up by Google as one of the best personal growth apps for 2020, and recently reached a million downloads since launching just a few months ago.

Download the app on Google Play or the App Store.

To host this episode my colleague and principal Samir Chaibi is back for his first episode this season two. For our listeners, you may remember him from our conversations with fintech leaders, but he has also been exploring the healthcare space in Asia and has been working closely with our guest today. 

Takeaways from our Guest

our conversation with Intellect CEO and founder Theodoric Chew in one infographic

our conversation with Intellect CEO and founder Theodoric Chew in one infographic

“All along the way one key thing that has been with me since I started was really bettering who we are as people. How I started Intellect as well…is really solving a personal problem. It’s kind of developed how I see the mental health landscape here where it’s a much-needed solution, but very taboo and stigmatized.”

“How people in Asia see mental health, it’s more of the extreme case scenario…what we’re trying to say is that this is actually a lot more different than what you perceived, right? Everyone has their own struggles. You don’t need to be in the critical state to actually start working who you are.”

“We’re not trying to build just another app. What we’re trying to create is a new mental health approach towards things…we have multiple clinical studies and even trials coming up to basically back what we do…”

“I expect that the next three to five years, most people or I would say more than 50% of people will have some form of experience of touching some form of mental health care.”

“How we see Intellect, we want to be at a forefront of really leading the charge of mental health care. A new form of mental health care that caters not just to the clinical needs and not just checking boxes for employers, but actually solving the needs for employees as well.”

Timestamps

01:19 Theo’s entrepreneurial journey before Intellect;

03:29 Main challenges of mental health space in Asia;

05:07 Status quo in accessing mental health care in Asia;

06:34 Motivation for starting Intellect;

07:34 Early adopters of Intellect;

08:51 What users are getting out of Intellect that they aren’t anywhere else;

09:51 Role of technology for Intellect;

11:05 Backing the science behind Intellect;

12:14 Long-term target users;

13:06 Typical user journey on Intellect app;

14:24 Surprising insights from Intellect app users;

15:36 Mental health care pain points of enterprises and employees;

17:09 Difference between Intellect’s enterprise solution and EAPs;

18:37 Adoption of Intellect’s enterprise solution;

20:20 Intellect’s plans to keep mental health TOM of employers in 2021

21:51 Mental health and Intellect in the next five years;

23:07 Rapid-fire question round;

Transcript

Samir: So before we start, just a little bit on Theo and I’d love to ask you more about this. So Theo is a serial entrepreneur. This is not his first startup. He was with Entrepreneur First, before this he was with Rakuten as well, after they acquired, the startup Voyagin. So Theo, I think you had a really interesting journey, prior to Intellect. Tell us a little bit about your own entrepreneurship journey with us, and how did you land on this idea of creating a mental health care startup for Asia.

Theo: Yeah. I mean, it’s been a few years now since I’ve been in the tech space as you shared. Intellect’s my second startup. Just some context the first company I started and founded was a digital media platform that had I would say some form of a similar thread to what Intellect does. So Intellect is a mental health company. What the digital media platform was more towards bettering people as well. So I think that’s one key thing there. We basically worked with doctors, lawyers, thought leaders, basically, to create kind of like an […] to BuzzFeed to educate people It grew a little bit, we had a very small acquisition a few years back and kind of how I fell into the tech space. 

And since then, I’ve been with, as you mentioned, startups and a few roles that range from tech to VC as well while I was at Entrepreneur First where I led marketing and growth. But yeah, all along the way one key thing that has been with me since I started was really bettering who we are as people. How I started Intellect as well, not to go too deep is really solving a personal problem. 

I’ve been through therapy myself since I was younger. I had anxiety, had a few bouts of panic attacks when I was young. And that really triggered me to see a therapist when I was young. So starting from there, and I’ll share a bit more as we go along. It’s kind of developed how I see the mental health landscape here where it’s a much-needed solution, but very taboo and stigmatized.

And, we started last year, we went live this year, and basically what we’re trying to do is to change how people perceive mental health and get access to care.

“All along the way one key thing that has been with me since I started was really bettering who we are as people.”

Samir: Thanks for sharing this. So, if anything, we understand that you had your own personal journey in this space and if anything, last year, has pushed a lot of people to seek help, to help them cope with all sorts of damage COVID19 brought about. 

I’m curious if you could speak a little bit about how is mental health care in general perceived in Asia? You spoke a little bit about the stigma, but what are the users of Intellect’s platform facing? What were they facing in Asia before using your platform? What were their key pain points? What are the key issues with accessing the kind of service you’re offering?

Theo: Yeah, I think that’s a good question. The biggest challenges that the mental health space faces in Asia. Three key things: one is the cost. It’s really expensive to seek help or get access to care and look for therapists, psychologists. The second thing and probably the biggest issue is the stigma as you mentioned. I’ll expand on this a bit further. And if the third thing is actually, there’s quite a shortage in supply of practitioners, mental health practitioners across the region. Singapore actually has one of the lowest supplies in comparison to many other developed cities in the world. So just a bit more on where we are and how we actually solve and tackle this issue and what the stigma is like. 

So as you shared earlier, we crossed a million users just recently after going live several months ago. One thing that we see with COVID happening a year back, and a year ahead now is that people are starting to open up about their own struggles, right?

So a year back when we were knocking on doors and chatting with people, a lot of people just kind of shied away. How people in Asia see mental health, it’s more of the extreme case scenario. People think quite instinctively when you talk about therapy, mental health, almost jumping towards things like schizophrenia, maybe more suicidal thoughts, maybe more towards things like panic attacks and all that.

That is a very important segment to be solved for, but not what most people like you and I will actually relate to, right? So an interesting stat that I’ll just share is that more than 90% of our users across the middle of users that we have right now, they never actually have any prior experience of therapy or any mental support, right? 

So we are the first step into care, which is just what we are trying to do. And from there, what we’re trying to say is that this is actually a lot more different than what you perceived, right? Everyone has their own struggles. You don’t need to be in the critical state to actually start working who you are. But that’s the narrative that we’re trying to shift towards, making mental wellbeing for everyone, basically.

“How people in Asia see mental health, it’s more of the extreme case scenario…what we’re trying to say is that this is actually a lot more different than what you perceived, right? Everyone has their own struggles. You don’t need to be in the critical state to actually start working who you are.”

Samir: Tell us a bit more of the sort of experience where you have to go through if you’re seeking mental health care support in a traditional manner, if you’re anywhere in Southeast Asia for that matter.

Theo: Yeah, that’s a good question. So I’ll say right now there’s a huge gap. Most people, we typically explain, like a traffic light, people are either in the green, yellow, or red status of their mental health. Right now, in terms of care that people seek help, when someone gets access to care, be a psychologist or psychiatrist, it’s typically when it’s a bit too late when it hits the red stage, right, where you have some form of trigger and something happens there. 

And the process there is that you’re quite fractured, depending on whether you’re going through your company’s EAP program, which is like a distress hotline, or whether you are seeking government care. It can take days to weeks to actually get the right access to someone. We’ve heard cases of working with some people that they’d have to wait months to actually seek help with a practitioner.

That’s one big part of it, right. Typically the issue here is that the time to get care is a huge deterrent to actually needing it. A lot of times when we need help, we need it in the moment. People can’t wait days to weeks to actually get care. We have been trying to solve for that piece there. 

The second thing is that right now, mental health, it seems a very reactive solution. We are trying to make it proactive and preventative for companies, employees, and individuals as well. So meaning that before you actually reach that point, we help you pair with the right care, the coach, the counselor, or the programs that you need to actually prevent such symptoms from manifesting to become more, I would say, urgent or critical measures. So we’re trying to solve some barriers in place right now.

“Typically the issue here is that the time to get care is a huge deterrent to actually needing it. A lot of times when we need help, we need it in the moment…The second thing is that right now, mental health, it seems a very reactive solution.”

Samir: And if you look back I guess, what was the starting point of the journey? What was the thing that really lit the fire and you said, “Okay, I’m going to spend 10 years of my life solving for this.” You started this company recently, so has COVID-19 had an influence on this or was this just based on the personal journey that you shared before? 

Theo: Yeah, so we started Intellect, quite a bit before COVID happened or any inklings of it, started in 2019. The whole thesis here is that the mental health care system in Asia is quite fractured and broken. We wanted to change that. And that stems from myself being through that whole journey of trying to seek help, getting help and trying to maintain that care. 

It wasn’t feasible, right? Cost-wise, techno-wise, and all that. So we wanted to change this whole approach to mental health care a year back and how it’s actually happened and what the whole thesis was is that people who need help right now do not have the means or do not acknowledge that they want to get help. So how can we change that? 

So the two things that we’re trying to flip over, or change, it’s accessibility, but it’s two-fold, right. One part of it’s literally getting mental health care into the palms of people, anywhere in the world. The other part of it’s shifting the narrative and how people actually perceive mental health. And that’s, one of the things that we are trying to shift as well.

“One part of it’s literally getting mental health care into the palms of people, anywhere in the world. The other part of it’s shifting the narrative and how people actually perceive mental health.”

Samir: You just said that you really want to ship this anywhere in the world, right? And we would assume that the users of Intellect are global in nature, or the user base is global in nature. Tell us a little bit about this like — who’s using the app? Who are the earlier adopters of Intellect?

Theo: So, we have two core products. Our main product is an enterprise solution where we service corporates, companies to care for the employees’ wellbeing. Another part of it is our consumer app as well. So across a million-plus users worldwide right now, a huge majority of it, as what our focus is, is for Asia.

But our consumer app has blown up quite organically across the world. So we have a huge amount of users in the US and many European speaking countries like Germany, Spain, France, and even some parts of South America as well. So that’s one key part where we see this whole journey, while we are starting from Asia, we see it’s not just restricted to any boundaries or geographies. 

People around the world need access and we are trying to bridge that gap for them. And right now I think one of the exciting things is that we are quite rapidly expanding into different regions and languages and countries as well. Before long, we probably will cover most of the world in terms of the different languages and the needs in place as well.

So across a million-plus users worldwide right now, a huge majority of it…is [from] Asia. But our consumer app has blown up quite organically across the world.”

Samir: That’s amazing. And I guess the segue to this is that if you reflect a little bit on the growth of the mental health care category as a whole, right, globally over the past year, that has received, as Paulo said at the beginning of our call, massive, massive attention from consumers, of course, but also from investors we’ve seen, you know, multimillion-dollar deals being done in the space. Over the past few months, we’ve seen a couple of folks reaching unicorn status.  

What is it that Intellect users are getting out of the platform that it cannot find somewhere else? 

Theo: So I think one key thing is that we are starting from Asia and developing a solution in the space that’s built for the region here as well. You can speak to any clinician or psychologist that mental health care cannot be translated one-to-one across regions.

It’s quite contextualizing culturally, need the thing to be basically transformed to what the countries [need] as well. So we are building a solution for Asia based out of Asia as well. One thing that I get asked often is how do you guys differ from like many great companies out there in the US that have great products and do great things. But what we are specializing in is being the leader for Asia, for the population around this side of the world as well. And that’s one big thing. So that’s the first thing here. 

So the next thing that we are trying to solve for that’s quite unique to us is that we are doing an end-to-end mental health care system. We start in the very first step that people take on their journeys in mental wellbeing, meaning the self-care programs, and then we funnel them towards the higher step care that they need, wherever they need to. For example, if someone needs, say working with a live counselor or coach, they can get help. If they need more crisis management care, we can connect them there as well. So we are coming for the whole spectrum of needs, but we make it accessible from very light green areas as well.

“What we are specializing in is being the leader for Asia, for the population around this side of the world as well…the next thing that we are trying to solve for that’s quite unique to us is that we are doing an end-to-end mental health care system.”

Samir: And how do you, I guess, leverage tech through this. Where does technology come in to help you do all of this?

Theo: So one big thing is technology provides scalability towards what we’re trying to do as well. So when we started up the self-guided app that has scaled quite substantially worldwide, the main thing here is that it’s not meant to replace therapy, right from the get-go, it’s more of a lightweight tool to be a stop-gap for the masses that can’t access a live therapist or psychologist.

So the main thing is how can we get the basis of psychology and clinical therapy into everyone’s hands and then follow them from there into high touch care. 

So just spinning off from that point here, psychologists and therapists and psychiatrists are in quite a shortage in some parts of the world, unbeknownst to many people as well. What we do is that we help mental health practitioners be able to access these clients and these users from anywhere. So reducing the stigma and the issue of logistics, having them get easy care within minutes or seconds, even.

“[The app is] more of a lightweight tool to be a stop-gap for the masses that can’t access a live therapist or psychologist. So the main thing is how can we get the basis of psychology and clinical therapy into everyone’s hands and then follow them from there into high touch care.”

Samir: Got it, that’s a helpful context. I think the other thing behind leveraging tech is leveraging the science behind mental health care and implementing it into the platform. And a lot of, I would say, Western platforms have come under pressure to prove that whatever work they’re doing for their patients actually works and how they are actually delivering value towards solving their mental healthcare, healthcare issues.

How do you approach that question? 

Theo: Yeah. that’s a great one. So I get asked this question frequently. How does the Intellect app differ from say other mental health apps out there from mindfulness to meditation? And one big answer that I give is that we’re not trying to build just another app. What we’re trying to create is a new mental health approach towards things, right? So to your question, how do we help provide the basis  of making sure it’s credible, there’s results in place? That’s a key moat that we’re building as well. 

Today we have multiple clinical studies we run across the world, in Singapore, in the UK, and in Australia as well. We work with renowned institutions like NUS, like King’s College, and even a few hospitals in Australia, where we have multiple clinical studies and even trials coming up to basically back what we do, anything from the efficacy of the programs towards how do we prove the results of workplace wellbeing for clients as well. That’s some of the things that we do today. And I’m quite happy to share that we have today quite substantial data that shows that people who proceed and use the programs on the app itself actually improve in their symptoms over four to six weeks as well.

“We’re not trying to build just another app. What we’re trying to create is a new mental health approach towards things…we have multiple clinical studies and even trials coming up to basically back what we do…”

Samir: That’s amazing to see such early progress, right. I guess my question is what’s in the long term, how do we build that platform — just reusing your words around the green, the yellow and the red patients, to whom are we going to cater in the long term?

Theo: So the goal here is that how can we make mental health care accessible to everyone? But as you mentioned, there’s different segments of people in different stages of need as well: people who are subclinical in need, people who are clinical and more towards medical areas where they may need more urgent, intensive care.

So right now it’s starting with the masses, where everyone can take their first step into a lightweight form of journey, but the end goal is we can cater to anyone from the very subclinical to even the more clinical distress cases, like people who are depressed or maybe having more severe anxiety issues as well.

We are eventually going to move towards, say, helping people — just to share, we’ve even worked with clinicians and a lot of mental health practitioners actually organically use our platform to plug into their patient’s care and their interventions as well. And we see that’s quite an interesting use case because that actually compliments what practitioners want to do as well.

So right now it’s starting with the masses…but the end goal is we can cater to anyone from the very subclinical to even the more clinical distress cases…”

Samir: For the interest of the users, can you tell us a little bit about how the typical user journey looks like on the app?

Theo: So there are two main things that you can do with the app itself. We have our self-guided programs, which basically are developed by a team of psychologists that are based on cognitive behavioral therapy that essentially guides you through a series of sessions and programs that work on who you are.

So that’s one key, big part there, and then we have our live telehealth sessions. They connect you with your own coach or counselor. So a typical employee or user that comes on the platform can start with either. They go through a series of assessments that basically help assess where they are on their journeys.

Are they stressed out or how’s their wellbeing right now? And based on what they need, we recommend a personalized journey and plan for them to tackle whatever issues they have. It ranges anywhere from more coping areas like coping with anxiety, coping with maybe some forms of low mood all the way towards developing who they are as well.

So that’s a big part of what we see. Our programs around procrastination, even towards self-esteem and confidence see a lot of usage amongst users and employees, because we know people instinctively want to start more subclinical, more and more every day and then slowly funnel towards high touch care as well.

So we first measure how they’re doing, funnel them to the right journey of care, and they can go on 24/7 towards self-guided programs or life coaching and counseling sessions as well.

Samir: From a user behavior perspective, what are some of the insights out of the data that really surprised you in the way that people use Intellect?

Theo: So we have two types of programs on the platform. One is a more, I would say, longer-term. They simulate the process of working with a therapist over a few weeks. We call those our learning paths and that instinctively was one of our flagship things that expected that to have the most usage, the other program we have are called rescue sessions. These are more bite-sized, on-the-go help-you- when-you-need-some-form-of-help, which we initially didn’t have as much volume of interest for. But what we see as we went along is that a lot of people, do want help in the moment as well. That’s one key thing.

We see a range of users across our learning paths to the more comprehensive ones and all the way towards bite-sized ones where we help them in the moment when they need it. So, I mean, moving forward, what we’re actually doing is how do we actually prompt them in a moment of need, whether based on their biometrics, how are they stressed out right now, is their heart rate faster, how do we prompt them the right solution when they need it in the moment of time as well. So I’ll say one key thing is that people need a lot of help on-the-go on a daily basis, more so than we realized initially.

“One key thing is that people need a lot of help on-the-go on a daily basis, more so than we realized initially.”

Samir: What’s interesting with you is that you’re combining both that, direct-to-patients or direct-to-user approach with a corporate approach, right, where the model is sold in a B2B to manner, right? 

Tell us a little bit about how does that process happen? What are corporates looking for when they approach Intellect for their own employees, right? What are the key pain points that they are trying to solve?

Theo: So I would say with COVID, what has happened is that it has really accelerated the pace of mental health adoption across the world and definitely Asia as well. A year back when we were pitching this to clients and prospects, it’s more seen as a nice-to-have solution but what we see is that a lot more companies [now] see [this] as a must-have. We are on the agendas of many of the companies and clients we work with for 2021. 

And we see this trend to grow and increase as we move along the months as well. So how we actually work with these guys, we basically are trying to intervene and care for their populations’ mental wellbeing and care. A lot of times with the companies that we work with, we are typically their first mental health solution across the spectrum. What we are typically complimenting or working alongside is something called EAPs, which are more distressed hotlines. And these are the incumbents in the industry.

What they do typically are more reactive. When employees are distressed, they pick up the hotline, they call it and they will possibly get triaged towards care within few days or weeks, depending on how quick the system is. What we come in and do is that we cover anywhere from proactive, all the way towards extreme cases as well.

So in this sense, are now really complementing such solutions and also replacing some of the EAPs in companies big and small. We work with startups of a leaner structure all the way towards a couple of large enterprises with thousands of headcount as well. So that’s what we do today.

“A year back when we were pitching this to clients and prospects, it’s more seen as a nice-to-have solution but what we see is that a lot more companies [now] see [this] as a must-have. We are on the agendas of many of the companies and clients we work with for 2021.”

Samir:  Tell us a little bit about the usage of those EAPs among your corporate clients. It seems like for you guys, this has been the corporate incumbent that has been here for like decades, hasn’t innovated much, hasn’t moved much in the way they deliver their care. And suddenly you come in with a completely different value proposition, much more targeted, much stronger when it comes to employees’ mental health care.

So what is the difference here?

Theo: So EAPs, as you mentioned Samir, is that they are the incumbents in the space. They’ve been around for the past two, three decades. And honestly, it hasn’t changed much it’s as literal as a hotline, which most large companies provide. Not most employees do know that it’s there for them even. So that’s one big thing.

One very interesting stat is that on average, we see about a one to 2% adoption and utilization of EAPs in the company. and that’s honestly really low. Intellect, for example, we see on average within the first month or so, an average of a 30% uptake within the whole company. So of course it ranges depending on the demographic of the company at the moment, are they millennials or are they more based in Asia, what’s the average profile, but on average you see about 30% of the workforce take it up, which is close to 15 to 30 times more than what EAPs do and I would say that’s one big thing that we see and actually really differ and promote to our clients whom we speak with because one key thing is that utilization is much higher and people actually like using it as well.

The other thing is that EAPs really are more of a hygiene where it checks certain boxes for certain companies, but they don’t actually solve the issues that their employees need help with. They’re not there when you’re struggling with something on a daily basis. They’re more there when you are probably at a breaking point. We come in and say, we help you no matter where you are in your journey, you don’t have to be clinically distressed. You can just be a normal everyday person and you can get this access anytime, anywhere as well.

“On average you see about 30% of the workforce take [Intellect] up, which is close to 15 to 30 times more than what EAPs do…utilization is much higher and people actually like using [Intellect] as well.”

Samir: Do you feel like employees are helping each other to access Intellect? Are they pushing each other to do so? Is there a proper dialogue that starts, as soon as Intellect is being used in enterprises or still sort of like remaining kind of a stigma among employees?

Theo: I would say definitely there’s a good amount of organic word-of-mouth happening within companies, especially the more forward-thinking ones as well. We do a few things when we roll out with the company, a mixture of educating their workforce on how mental wellbeing works all the way towards creating campaigns that really propel and organically push the spread of mental health in the company as well. So we see a range of things from advocates springing up within a company from certain departments all the way towards the company themselves really pushing and making this a priority within the company.

But across the board, of course, it depends as well. Some organizations do have more I would say restrained cultures, more traditional ones. So some of these we come in and say, how can we help you guys implement something that actually is more palatable? And what has worked quite well is that our programs are very every day as I mentioned earlier. We don’t just jump towards say depression or anxiety. We come in [with a] softer touch and say how can help with your everyday problems, sleep issues, working with people, working with yourself or whatever it is and help them take the first step there as well.

Samir: So those are green patients you are talking about essentially.

Theo: Yeah, I wouldn’t just say that. A lot of people who are in the yellow and even bordering red as well, tend to not want to acknowledge that they are struggling with something. People who need help here on this side of the world do not acknowledge they need help due to all the stigma in place in the culture.

And that’s why we see a lot of quite bad incidents happening in many parts of Asia. So in Singapore and Korea and Japan, where you hear of suicide cases, because people just aren’t able to open up about it or seek help for it for a variety of reasons. So I wouldn’t just say, even the green patients or users or people, a lot of people in yellow and red as well.

“We see a range of things from advocates springing up within a company from certain departments all the way towards the company themselves really pushing and making this a priority within the company.”

Samir: Got it. That makes sense. What does 2021 look like for you? I mean, we are obviously past a pretty terrible year when it comes to mental health care, but at least, the conversation is around us. 

So how do we maintain the momentum going forward and how do we make sure that mental health care still is at the top of the priority list for employers?

Theo: So I think one of the good things is that this wave of mental adoption post-COVID has really triggered a whole massive wave of adoption, but the good thing is that I believe from what we see is it’s here to stay as well. It’s not something that will rise and shift. From what we’re seeing post-COVID a lot of companies from your Google to your Facebook are shifting towards a mixed work structure, couple of days at home, couple days at work, or somewhere in between as well. 

And this is creating a whole new gap in how people interact with each other as well. So one big issue is isolation amongst different workforces. What we come in to do is we help their employees and people’s employees really feel engaged and positive and healthy, mentally and not just physically, be engaged in what they do as well. So the trend that we see just based on all the traction and growth that we’ve is that it’s going to have a huge rise in 2021, a lot of organizations have it top of the agenda.

And following that as well, a lot of things are going to shift in how people work from working staggered and all that. So it’s here to stay. We see more people being opened up to it and that’s a good thing for industry. I expect that the next three to five years, most people or I would say more than 50% of people will have some form of experience of touching some form of mental health care. We definitely want to drive the charge.

Samir: I agree. I feel like employees in general and maybe it’s going to take a little more time in Asia, but I feel like most of them are going to look at mental health care, just like another employee benefit.

Theo: Yeah, definitely. And that’s why our enterprise solution is called mental health benefits. We essentially compliment and are a health benefit for your workforce that specializes on their mental health needs essentially.

“I expect that the next three to five years, most people or I would say more than 50% of people will have some form of experience of touching some form of mental health care.”

Samir: So how does Intellect look like say five years from now, right? What are you guys going to mean to your users and to the employers that you work with?

Theo: So that’s a good question. How we see the space going right now is that mental health in Asia is exponentially growing and rapidly rising as well. But that being said, there aren’t many solutions in the region that effectively cover the vast need and demand for it right now that’s getting there as well. 

How we see Intellect, we want to be at a forefront of really leading the charge of mental health care. A new form of mental health care that caters not just to the clinical needs and not just checking boxes for employers, but actually solving the needs for employees as well.

So, I mean, one thing that we share internally, we are trying to build a consumer-grade tool for enterprise clients, something that people, employees actually love using. It’s not just a hygiene measure that companies put in place there. So three to five years down the road, we see ourselves as the go-to mental health benefits provider across the region.

We are covering, as I shared earlier, not just a lightweight form of say, care. We’re not just an app out there, we are moving to care towards everyone on the spectrum from subclinical all the way towards clinical as well. And eventually, you may even see us in more health care scenarios over the span of the next few years as well.

Samir: What you’re building is really global in nature right, with Asia in mind at the top of it.

“How we see Intellect, we want to be at a forefront of really leading the charge of mental health care. A new form of mental health care that caters not just to the clinical needs and not just checking boxes for employers, but actually solving the needs for employees as well.”

Rapid-First Question Round

What is one thing you learned in your experience so far leading Intellect that you wish you had known earlier? 

Theo: l would say, top of mind, hiring is a key thing. And one key thing for startups is that you hire for the people you need for the next 12 to 18 months…There are many great people out there and that gears towards different growth stages of the company. I think what’s important for a startup founder is that you hire for where you’re at as a company, where you want to be in 18 months.

Who is a CEO (or leader) that you look up to in your career? 

Theo: I mean, there are few that I look up to globally. But I’ll say regionally, just based here, we have a lot of good homegrown founders in the ecosystem here. One of them, one of our mentors Siu Rui from Carousell, he’s this really great guy that advises us and works with us.

Yeah, I think he’s someone that really has the know-how of building a product at scale and, someone who has grown a company in a very, very great way from a local perspective. 

What are your go-to activities to de-stress? 

Theo: I am pretty much like your everyday guy. On the weekends, you probably can see me at cafes, having some coffee, reading a book. I do enjoy some sports here and there, like tennis and whatnot. But yeah, I’d say having good family time, being an Asian as well, it’s something that’s quite key to actually de-stressing and winding down. Being a founder, it is quite tiring and stressful at times as well.

Anything you’d like to plug or announce?

Theo: Yeah. I’m quite happy that mental health has really been on the forefront for the past year in various ways and not just for us, but I think for the whole betterment of humans as well, mental health is something that’s quite key to everyone. And we’re quite glad that we are here to lead this charge. So anyone that has a need for their workforce, their people…we’re happy to chat and share more and of course, hope 2021 is a good year ahead for everyone and a better one than this year.

Samir: Thanks Theo for coming on the On Call with Insignia podcast, and kicking off the year for the show. Hope our listeners know a little bit more about the mental health space in Asia, and Intellect’s role in revolutionizing the way we take care of our mental well-being. If you’d like to try the Intellect app yourself, you can download it on the App Store or Google Play. 

About our guest

Intellect CEO and Founder Theodoric Chew

Intellect CEO and Founder Theodoric Chew

Theodoric Chew is a serial entrepreneur and startup leader. Prior to founding Intellect, he was with Entrepreneur First where he led marketing and growth, and before this, he was with Rakuten as well, after they acquired, the startup Voyagin. The first startup he founded was a digital media platform existisgreat.com which was acquired two years later.

Reach Theo at theodoric@intellect.co.

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