We spoke to Claire Ann Banga, founder of mental health app eMoodie, about the startup’s aim to use data to improve mental health research, as well as the ways the University of Edinburgh, the Venture Builder Incubator, and the DDE programme as a whole, is helping them share their vision with a wider platform.
eMoodie came out of my PhD research. I was looking at the effects of digital technologies on emotional development and mental health problems in adolescents. I found the tools out there weren’t fit for the job. If you’re going to divulge sensitive information like mental health data, you have to trust the platform, and I didn’t. It became clear to me we’d have to start from scratch.
I realised that in the study of physical health, artificial intelligence and more sophisticated analytic methods have been applied, but there was a real technology gap in the market when it came to mental health. This is exactly what we are addressing with eMoodie.
Success for us is reaching as many end users as possible, as well as contributing to research. I'm not under any illusions that an app is going to replace face-to-face talk therapies, but value can be added through technology. After therapy, people have to go back into the world and manage their mental health for the rest of their lives. And we can create tools to help people do that.
You have to look at your temperament, because if you can't handle uncertainty, risk and failure then it’s perhaps not the right path for you.
eMoodie was developed because we didn’t have appropriate statistical methods in psychology to analyse self-report data that we collected on mental health symptoms via smartphones. Data and its analysis is a huge part of the company and the way we hope to have a positive impact on mental health.
I wasn't a business person, and to figure out how to become one I leveraged the support networks of the University. The student community has also been great. For example, I was able to get help from a graphic design Master’s student to create the graphics for eMoodie. Now, she’s the creative lead of the company. The DDE initiatives themselves also offered a huge amount of encouragement and presented me with opportunities I wouldn’t have accessed without them.
I’ll finish my PhD and then take eMoodie to the next level.