One undeniable fact in the wake of the pandemic is that the HealthTech vertical has exploded. The urgency of the COVID crisis has provided a once-in-a-century opportunity to accelerate innovation in preventive care. Policymakers have enabled access to telemedicine and advanced the incorporation of technologies into healthcare services.
The need for availability of medical services at a click away did not disappear with the withdrawal of the pandemic, but on the contrary. We talked about how a global problem was transformed into an opportunity with Ana Niculaeș – the co-founder of Respiro.
Startup Moldova: Hello Ana! Please briefly describe the startup you work on at the moment.
Ana Niculaeș: Respiro is an information and psychological counselling and psychotherapy platform where you can find the best psychologists from Moldova. The respiro.md platform allows psychologists to create their own virtual office, accessible anywhere, from any device, which allows scheduling and offering online sessions with clients’ confidentiality ensured.
Startup Moldova: Respiro is not the only platform where you can find psychological counseling at a click away. What makes you special? What is your competitive advantage?
Ana Niculaeș: We solve 2 problems:
– The first is the promotion of emotional hygiene and psychoeducation of the public regarding mental health. All specialists on the platform are verified, so we ensure that we offer quality services.
Unfortunately, in the Republic of Moldova the psychologist’s activity is still not regulated by law and many people claim to be psychologists or psychotherapists without having the necessary studies and qualifications, often causing moral and emotional damage to clients. We ensure that only qualified specialists are on our platform.
– The second is the need for psychologists to have a virtual office, accessible from anywhere, from any device, which allows meetings to be held through video chat, which cannot record conversations.
For specialists registered on the platform the offered advantages are:
✔ The option to create a flexible schedule. The specialist can set the individual number of sessions and the format in which they take place (physically or online). By synchronizing the digital calendar, you can maximize your sessions per day.
✔ Access to a rich data base of clients, that is constantly updated.
✔ Promotion of the services offered.
✔ Convenient and secure online payment system. Customers pay for services online, in advance.
✔ Clients confirm participation in the meeting only by payment, and refunds are not made if the client cancels the meeting less than 24 hours before the start of the presentation or in the case of no-meeting, this way we protect the specialist and educate the public in the assumption. responsibilities in case something comes up at the last minute. Being an hour for the client, the specialist cannot book at short notice to reschedule someone else.
Startup Moldova: Where did the idea for this startup come from, from what necessity?
Ana Niculaeș: Over the years I have noticed a gap between people who suffer emotionally and mental health specialists due to the stigma of seeking professional help. Since 2016 we have been trying to pivot different ideas that could bridge this chasm.
During Startup Weekend Moldova 2020, the goal was to come up with solutions for the new reality related to Covid-19, the Respiro project took first place. The platform offered online psychological support to people who are in emotional crisis due to stress related to uncertainty, fear of illness and death due to the COVID19 virus.
The co-founders were awarded with the possibility to participate in Upcelerator during which we passed all the stages of validation of idea, business model, market fit and mentoring, which did help to identify the ways in which the platform could respond to the needs of people who need psychological support, as well as partner specialists.
Startup Moldova: What were the biggest difficulties you faced at the beginning?
On the other hand, in the case of psychologists, they do not have automated processes, appointments are made in the classic way, usually using the phone, and notifications are in written form in psychologists’ diaries. Respectively now it is a challenge to educate them to synchronize the digital calendar and promote their services on social networks.
I think it is important to mention the fact that apart from being co-founders with Alexandru Vulpea, we are also married. The Respiro project outlined for us a strong similarity between entrepreneurial activity and the life of a couple. At their core are the same important factors: mutual respect, the ability to manage conflicts and the assumption of responsibility. I learned that it is very important to have a balance between us. When one gets stuck or anxious about the project, the other is there with the attitude: let’s get the stuff done!
Startup Moldova: What is the target customer segment for you? Do you already have real customers?
Ana Niculaeș: Given that we are a marketplace, we already have contracts signed with psychologists who are partners and people looking for online psychological support. Current customers are mainly from the diaspora. It is important for them to have access to psychological assistance in their mother tongue.
Startup Moldova: Have you already managed to attract investments?
Ana Niculaeș: For the moment we do not have this goal, but we are planning to expand in Eastern European countries and we will be interested in attracting investments in a short time.
Startup Moldova: Please introduce us to your team.
Ana Niculaeș: We are 2 co-founders:
Ana Niculaeș – psychologist/psychotherapist, founder of the individual psychology office “Consuela”, 16 years of experience, I campaign for the promotion of mental and emotional hygiene, I have been in the startup field since 2016, I went through 5 pre-accelerators with different ideas that failed , but from which I learned many useful lessons that I hope will help me with Respiro.
Alexandru Vulpea – IT engineer, 8 years of experience in the field, since 2020 he works full-time on the development of the Respiro platform.
This project gave me the opportunity to explore all the stages of a product’s development. It was as stressful as it was exciting time where I learned many new things and tested my frustration at failure. In these 2 years I was close to giving up 3 times, but the idea of making a difference for people who need psychological support helped me find the resources to continue.
#CunoașteComunitatea is an article series of Startup Moldova through which we introduce you to startups from Moldova.