Wysa, an AI conversational agent that has been shown to help improve mental health, announced that it has raised about $2m (Rs 15 crore) in a pre-Series A round of funding led by pi Ventures, with participation from Kae Capital and other investors. Wysa has raised an earlier round of $1.3 million in seed funding from Kae Capital and angel investors in 2017. The company plans to use this funding to further strengthen their technology and for expansion.

Founded by Jo Aggarwal and Ramakant Vempati three years ago, Wysa is an AI-based ‘emotionally intelligent’ bot, a virtual coach that combines empathetic listening with evidence-based therapeutic techniques like CBT, meditation and motivational interviewing, to make mental health accessible at scale.

Wysa has helped over 1.2 million people from 30+ countries, making it one of the global leaders in AI for mental health. It is recommended by the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK, and its efficacy has been validated through a peer reviewed study.

Jo Aggarwal, Co-Founder, Wysa, said, “Wysa has been co-designed by therapists, users, and designers over hundreds of iterations and 80 million conversations. What people want most is to feel heard, without judgement. Anonymity is key – people are scared to be seen or judged for what they are going through. We combine the free AI with unlimited support from a qualified therapist, still anonymously, over chat to make it easy to get help. We are delighted that our investors are partnering with us in this journey to make mental health accessible for everyone."

Manish Singhal, Founding Partner, pi Ventures, added, “Mental health could very well be the next big epidemic to hit the human race. Training more human therapists will not bridge the massive supply and demand gap. This is where Wysa powered by an AI engine comes in. It is scalable and is available for anyone to chat at any time in total privacy. We do believe that Wysa can create a zero-stigma pathway to support people who are struggling, and has a real chance of solving depression and mental health challenges at scale. We wish them all the very best and are grateful to be working with them."

pi Ventures' investment in Wysa comes within a few days after it led a $1 Mn seed funding of SwitchOn, an Edge-AI enabled Industrial IoT startup.

According to the WHO, one in four people in the world will be affected by mental health issues at some point in their lives. Around 450 million people currently suffer from such conditions, placing these among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide. Waitlists in UK and Canada for therapy are over a year long. India has a 90% treatment gap. Innovations such as Wysa are critical to scale support. Already, over a million breakthroughs have happened on Wysa , an impact equivalent to about 3 million hours of in-person therapy.

pi Ventures is India’s first Applied Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, IoT and Blockchain focused early stage venture fund. pi is a $33 Million fund based in Bangalore, India,. pi Ventures focuses on healthcare, logistics, retail, fin-tech and enterprise sectors. Backed by some of the leading entrepreneurs globally, pi Ventures brings hands-on product and entrepreneurial experience to the India venture investing ecosystem.

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