The founder of Secret returns with the anti-loneliness app Ikaria

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<pre><pre>The founder of Secret returns with the anti-loneliness app Ikaria

"I don't feel good about it. It sucks" Chrys Bader changer reflected when asked about the bullying that appeared in the anonymous app Secret, which he co-founded in 2013. After $ 35 million, 15 million users and a spectacular blaze two years later, the startup was dead. "S.Since I left the secret, I feel alive and connected to my values ​​and my goal. "

But Secret had a good side You can post without names or consequences. People opened up, became vulnerable and felt less alone when comments showed that they were not the only person dealing with a particular fight. What Bader learned when he saw Secret users "doing this in the dark" was the realization that "we actually have to learn to do this in the light to do the same kind of dialogue, but to do it openly ".

This is how the journey to Bader's new start-up Ikaria, which is revealed exclusively to the world at TechCrunch, began. It is another type of chat app, named after the Greek island, where a close community helps to extend people's lifespans. The team of 6 in Santa Monica is funded by a $ 1.5 million starting round led by Initialized Capital and Fuel Capital. People can sign up for early beta access here.

During a long interview about the startup, Bader and his co-founder Sean Dadashi were curious about how Ikaria works exactly as it is still under development. Amidst the philosophical context of the app's intent, I was able to work out some details about how the product will actually look.

“Basically, technology has brought about this monumental change in human social experience since 2004. We are more technically connected than ever, but all studies show that we are more lonely than ever. "Bader explains." It's like eating McDonald's to get well. It is not the right food source for our social wellbeing as a real connection requires a level of vulnerability, presence, self-disclosure and reciprocity that you cannot really achieve on these platforms. "

Ikaria is not another food. It's a safe place to chat with close friends and family members, or with people who face similar challenges in life. Members of these group chats will optionally have guided experiences to help them think and discuss what is going on in their hearts and minds. This could become a completely new media format in which external creators or psychiatrists can produce and bring in their own guided experiences.

"One reason why we are announcing this is as follows … It is a call to action to involve all of these practitioners and people who do these kinds of things and provide them with a platform where they can have this kind of group bonding experience through a platform where they can extend their practices to the digital world. "Bader tells me. What Calm and Headspace has done to make meditation more common and accessible, Ikaria wants to do through online togetherness for mental health.

Ikaria already has a substantial closed beta that the startup plans to continue until it believes the product is suitable and hopes to know the official release schedule by the end of the year. "We won't start this until we know that 40% of people would be disappointed if they couldn't use it."

Rather than making money by exploiting people's attention, Ikaria plans to build a “customer relationship” with users that could mean subscription access or in-app payments for content purchases. Perhaps a user could act as a sponsor and gain experience for the entire group chat. Until then, it had received initial capital funding from Initialized, Fuel Capital, F7 Ventures, Ryan Hoovers Weekend Fund, Backend Capital, Day One Ventures, Shrug, Todd Goldberg and Rahul Vohra from Superhuman.

"The hope is that at some point this will be an app that you can use instead of iMessage to increase your sense of presence," Bader explains, revealing his great ambitions. Why should we have to replace our core chat apps? For one thing, they don't understand who is really important to you. If an app understands who your mother is, it can give her messages a special spread or remind you to contact her.

Bader met Dadashi through an offline men's group to discuss life, love, and everything. After only a few weeks of these meetings, they said they felt closer to each other than most of their friends. It was only later that Bader, a designer by profession, discovered that Dadashi was a programmer who was CTO of electronics company MHD Enterprises before founding a travel and lifestyle startup for mental wellbeing called Somatic Studios.

Together, they examined the rapid rise of other vulnerability-focused meetup organizations such as Evryman, ManKind Project, Quilt, Authentic Relating, Circling and T-Groups. However, they knew they needed to create a mobile app that was familiar enough to get people over the hurdle to start mindfulness practice to have a chance of economies of scale. They set out some principles to build on: a focus on relationships instead of likes and followers, conscious design that doesn't take advantage of people's attentions or weaknesses, no advertising and confidentiality of all data, and control over the user.

Since he has known Bader since the secret days, it is obvious that working with Dadashi has made him happier and more centered. Ikaria is an app with which he can wake up well every day. "You know, I don't like talking badly about David [Byttow, Secret’s CEO who was notoriously prickly], but this relationship was very, very toxic and exhausting for me. And this time with Sean, as you can see, is the opposite. "

If Ikaria can help people build open and honest relationships with friends or colleagues, as is the case with Bader and Dadashi, it could be a beacon in the middle of a sea of ​​time that is not well spent.