For our third week chatting with the SmartStart winning teams, we sat down with SpeakOut, and learned more about their journey exploring a one-of-a-kind business idea.
SpeakOut is an application that has various functions to support individuals with mental illnesses, such as tips, forums and the ability to link these individuals with professional psychiatrists in times of need. SpeakOut has surprised many with its unconventionality, as mental health is still relatively taboo and not often spoken about. However, the SpeakOut team has prevailed, using their unique idea to stand out from the crowd.
Read on to find out more about their experiences here!
The following interview has been edited for clarity, length and flow.
How do you feel about this win and how has the 3-month SmartStart journey been for you?
SpeakOut (S): First of all, we had never expected to emerge as one of the winners, we never had the expectation, we were only here for the experience and to learn more things. We feel very happy and surprised, because our app idea is very different from any other competitor, even for other cycles! There has been no other competitor like us, and we’ve never expected to win the competition being the only one.
How has the SmartStart programme evolved your business idea and integrated it into the mobile application?
S: For the first time we aimed to do both physical and mental health, but afterwards we thought that it is too broad. So we decided to just focus on mental health, because mental health is often something that people overlook. Initially we wanted to do online consultancy, but the mentors and everyone else recommended that we use anonymous forums, which we settled on as we thought it would be a better idea. We added the tips and the function to make appointments with doctors, which is where we get our revenue from.
For our readers to understand, what was the inspiration behind the concept of SpeakOut?
S: We’ve seen our friends go through mental illness, and for us, we’re depressed sometimes as well. So we thought of creating something to help others and ourselves to get through it.
What were some of the challenges during the programme?
S: The biggest challenge for us was that we got lost halfway through the competition, we didn’t really understand what we were doing or what we should do next. But luckily the mentors, the organisers, everyone was very helpful, and they were willing to help us find our way again. Also, a big problem was generating revenue for our business idea. SpeakOut has positioned itself as a social enterprise with social concerns, so it is really difficult for us to find ways to obtain money because our business is just to help people.
How different were the various stages of the SmartStart journey for you?
S: Initially for the hatch day, it was very difficult as we had never been in any competitions before, and there are many things to think about and many things to do. For the hackathon, everything was rushed, as we had only two days to complete everything before pitching, so it was a challenge to divide out the work. The boot camp was more learning and activities with motivation and reflections, we learned a lot. It was still confusing for us, as there were many things such as business plans and technology stuff that came up during the week. Afterwards, we had about a month to prepare for the final pitch, which we had to work on independently.
What do you have in mind for your business idea during the incubator programme?
S: We don’t want to change anything, but firstly we want to launch some features, there are four in total and we can’t do them all at the same time. We are trying to figure out which one we should launch first and which ones we should launch later. We are also trying to make business plans and working with some technology so we have something to show Impact Hub and interested investors.
How do you want to differentiate yourself to emerge as the most outstanding team during the incubation programme with Impact Hub?
S: As we are about social concern, we would like to spread awareness about mental illnesses and let people know it is not a trend. Just focusing on mental health is already different and will allow us to stand out.
Do you have any advice for aspiring innovators?
S: If you don’t try you won’t know. Not every idea can be deemed as stupid, so just do it, believe in yourself and do your best. We had never joined any competitions before so this experience was life-changing. We would like to urge people in their comfort zones to get out and explore as there are many things out there that we don’t know.
Geeks in Cambodia is happy to have spoken to such motivated individuals who have dedicated themselves to such a noble cause! We wish SpeakOut the best for the incubation programme. To find out more about SpeakOut, visit their Facebook page here!
Stay tuned for our next feature next week as we catch up with the other SmartStart winning teams. Read about previous features, Rentech and PhumCAKE! To find out more about SmartStart, visit the SmartStart website or the Smart for Cambodia Facebook page!