Based in Lebanon, Sympaticus is an online psychotherapy/wellbeing platform and targets women in the MENA region. Founded by Joe Zaarour, Ramzi Nohra and Dr. Nicole Braun-Elias, Sympaticus aims to help women overcome issues such as breakup, job loss, bereavement, burnout and depression.

We discussed with Joe Zaarour Sympatics’ platform and their experience with the TIP so far.

Q: Why did you choose to apply to the TIP program and what were you hoping to achieve/benefit from the program?

A: We see synergies between what TIP wants to achieve in terms of entrepreneurship and digital tech and what we foresee in terms of the next vision of Sympaticus. We selectively chose TIP because we previously saw what companies like Anghami and touch can do together. We primarily hoped to achieve 2 things from TIP. First of all, establishing a meaningful business partnership on both ends of the equation where we can benefit from TIP’s high profiles and subscribers to leverage TIP’s regional number of subscribers. Since we are launching in the Middle East, we are also hoping to leverage and network with companies of high profiles in the region such as Zain to ease our way into the GCC.

Q: What problem is your solution working on addressing?

A: Sympaticus is simply a self-help program with 1-on-1 therapist sessions. Sympaticus was the result of my personal experience where I had lived phases of high anxiety and mild depression. I went through the traditional process of getting therapy, and that is how I met one of my co-founders who is a therapist. I realized that there are obstacles that inhibit people from achieving mental health services. These 3 obstacles are the following:

  • First of all, high costs per sessions;
  • Second, the stigma of talking about your problem in the region;
  • Finally, the ambiguity in terms of the duration of treatment.

Q: What’s the current state of your startup?

A: Up until now, we’ve soft launched many times and released three versions of the app. Currently, we have the beta product with a certain number of both paid and non-paid users that are using the live version of the application, but it is by invitation only now.

We structured a treatment pathway that is specific to each patient based on a certain assessment they fill. The assessment requires them to log in with a username that could either be their real name or not, and it allows them to reveal as much information as they want to. Based on the patient’s assessment and condition, they receive a specific path determined by an algorithm. The journey begins with a 1-on-1 session with the coach through either text, voice, or video – depending on the patient’s preference. After the session with the coach, a therapist is assigned to the patient to begin diagnosis.

The journey consists of 6 primary steps in addition to several goals a patient sets to achieve in their family, life, or career. There are activities a patient can do such as reading material, answering questions, and journaling. One of the steps is what we call “mindfulness practice of meditation” which are daily tracks of assisted meditation such as listening to an audio track. Another step is the clinic where a patient has a secure chat only between the patient and their therapist via text or call. The program’s duration is between 14 to 16 weeks for mild to moderate cases; Sympaticus doesn’t treat severe cases.

Q: What are your customers/users saying about your solution?

A: We have iterated three versions of the platform so far. We have been receiving ratings and feedback as we progress with the app, and the data we’ve seen so far is very promising for Sympaticus. We had some friction in terms of onboarding our patients and engaging them so that they don’t drop off. This problem was due to the cognitive and behavioral therapy process and not a technical one. A major problem with getting feedback is that people usually don’t react (like or comment) to the posts on our Facebook page, but about 2000 people are viewing the posts. That might be due to the fact that many might not want their friends to know how they feel. We are trying to break this taboo.

Q: What have you benefited from the program so far?

A: We are at the early stage of the program. We met with great mentors from touch and connected with one of the three mentors so far who is interested in the topic itself. We attended a session about sales and B2B which was very beneficiary to us. We are also gaining exposure by being featured on OTV. As the program progresses, it is interesting to learn what TIP has in mind for this startup program and if there will be any chances of working with touch in the future. We’ve also benefited from the co-working space at touch lab which we do often use.

Q: Would you advise this program to other startups?

A: Yes, I would. It is simply an amazing experience being associated with TIP as one of the top technology houses in the country with a technical perspective. The branding we are and will receive from TIP is very impressive as well.