aAfter working at two fast-growing startups in South Korea, Justin Kim, a Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia alum, launched his own startup from 2020 called Amy, aimed at overworked and stressed workers. To make mental health care more accessible. Asia.
Kim, along with cofounder Beknazar Abdikamalov, launched Ami in beta earlier this month. Kim, who serves as CEO, most recently was a product owner at Korean billionaire Lee Seung-gun’s Viva Republica, which operates the finance superapp Toss, while Abdikamalov, CTO, was a software engineer at Amazon. . The two previously worked together at Miso, a Seoul-based home services platform backed by famed Silicon Valley accelerator Y Combinator (which nurtured startups such as Airbnb, Coinbase and DoorDash), and at last year’s Forbes Asia 100 to Watch. Worked in honour.
Ami raised $1 million in pre-seed funding from venture capital firm Goodwater Capital (which backed Kakao, Coupang and VivaRepublica), Strong Ventures (Miso and Korbit, South Korea’s first cryptocurrency exchange), Jan Capital and Allied Funds. Collect. Several notable angel investors also participated in the round, including Irene Au, operating partner at Khosla Ventures, and Bradley Horowitz, Google’s vice president of product.
The startup operates an online platform that matches employees with mental health trainers. In a video interview, Kim says, “Employees can literally open their phones, click a button – they don’t have to make an appointment a week in advance – and get a trained psychic about their day-to-day stresses.” Talk to a health professional.” “Our goal is to make mental health care as easy as checking the weather and as comfortable as talking to a friend.”
Ami is based in Singapore as most of the demand for its services currently comes from the city-state as well as Indonesia’s capital Jakarta – two of Asia’s most vibrant startup hubs. “We are choosing to focus on fast-growing startups because the employee base is smaller and they are more open to wellness and emotional health,” says Kim. Working at a startup can be more stressful due to breakneck growth and retaining top talent is a growing priority for startups.
“I think Asia will very soon catch up with the trend in the West when it comes to mental health care.”
Kim launched Amy amid growing demand for mental health care online, as pandemic-related lockdowns and social distancing took a toll on people’s well-being. According to a study published in Knife In October 2020, 76.2 million more anxiety disorders were reported globally in the Medical Journal.
Over the next 12 months, Kim aims to expand Ami further into Asia, including Hong Kong and South Korea. “We started this company with the clear intention of building it for pan-Asia,” he says.
Asia is home to some of the most working countries in the world. According to data compiled by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the average person in South Korea worked 1,908 hours in 2020, the fourth highest among developed countries. By comparison, the average person in the US worked 1,767 hours in a single year.
In Japan, long working hours are so widespread that overworked death – called “karoshi” in Japanese – has been legally recognized as a cause of death since the 1980s. And more recently in China, millennials tired of a culture of brutally long work hours such as “996” schedules (9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week), choose “lying flat” – or “tang ping” are doing. in sugar—and get out of the rat race.
Kim, who has also worked in business development at Bloomberg in Hong Kong, knows all too well the risks of overwork. In 2019, he was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, which is chronic and highly worrying. “That’s a very good use case and a clear example of a user [of mental health services like Ami], says Jin Oh, a partner at Goodwater Capital who led the firm’s investment in Ami. “It was something that instilled a lot of confidence in me – that he really understands the market he’s dealing with.”
While mental health care is still nascent in much of Asia, John Nahm, cofounder and managing partner at Strong Ventures, believes that the search for mental health service could quickly be destroyed in the region. “We have a lot of homogeneous cultures [in Asia], ” notes Nahm, who led his firm’s investment in Ami. “If an influential person does this, he or she catches up.”
Nahm points out that mental health practices such as Buddhist meditation, which have been adopted by the West, originated from Asia. “I think Asia will very soon catch up with the trend in the West when it comes to mental health care,” he says. “And I think it will happen at an accelerated pace.”