Koko rakes in $2.5 mln Series A

New York-based Koko, a cognitive therapy tech startup, has raised $2.5 million in Series A funding. Omidyar Network and Union Square Ventures led the round.


Koko (https://itskoko.com), the crowd-sourced cognitive therapy technology that uses artificial intelligence to bring emotional well-being to users, today announced a $2.5 million Series A funding round led by Omidyar Network and Union Square Ventures. The company also announced the launch of its new chatbot experience, KokoBot, on Kik, Telegram and Facebook Messenger, as well as its partnership with Kik to bring emotional support to teens worldwide.

Koko is ushering in a new era of emotional well-being, providing emotional support as a service to any product. Based on technology developed at the MIT Media Lab, KokoBot is the first chatbot experience of its kind. With KokoBot, users have access to a peer-to-peer network that helps them deal with symptoms related to stress, anxiety and depression.

“Some of the most important software applications from the past decade have been powered by collective intelligence, such as Google and Wikipedia. KokoBot pairs collective intelligence with artificial intelligence to improve people’s emotional well-being,” said Fraser Kelton, co-founder of Koko.

To use KokoBot, users simply share their stressful situation with the chatbot, which then routes the message to an appropriate KokoBot peer who has elected to help someone. Interactions go through KokoBot, which moderates content and exposes users to principles of cognitive therapy.

“Emotional well-being shouldn’t be a privilege. Over the last 40 years, advancements have been made in understanding ways to help with stress, battle depression and reduce anxiety,” said Shripriya Mahesh, partner, Omidyar Network. “Combining this understanding with advances in technology has enabled Koko to help people find the help they need, and improve the support they receive over time.”

On average, someone sharing a stressful situation receives four responses, the first arriving within five minutes. Approximately 99 percent of issues receive a response and 90 percent of responses are deemed helpful. In a 2015 study, Koko’s peer-to-peer technology outperformed conventional self-help techniques for easing depression and anxiety.

Koko’s partnership with Kik will integrate KokoBot directly into the Kik platform, providing emotional support as a scaled service to the leading chat provider. When Kik users express feelings of anxiety, stress, or depression, they can opt in to be routed to KokoBot to receive safe, therapeutic, and emotional support from their peers, without ever leaving the Kik environment.

“Kik is dedicated to fostering a supportive and safe community,” said Ted Livingston, Founder and CEO, Kik. “Teens are our primary demographic, and integrating services like Koko’s directly into our platform helps ensure our users have access to the emotional support they need, when they need it.”

As cyber-bullying and stress continue to threaten the emotional well-being of teens, with over half of adolescents having been bullied and 25% suffering from anxiety, empowering teens to help one another via digital channels has become increasingly important.

KokoBot is available on Kik, Telegram, and Facebook Messenger, and its API is available to developers in beta.
Koko has research partnerships with The University of Pennsylvania, Northwestern University and the University of Maryland.

These institutions plan to analyze anonymized data coming from KokoBot to research and advance the state of online mental health and emotional well-being interventions.

About Koko:
Koko provides emotional support as a service for any product, including chatbots, voice assistants, and online communities. Based on technology developed at the MIT Media Lab, Koko combines artificial and collective intelligence to help promote emotional well-being. Koko is designed and built in New York City, funded by Union Square Ventures and Omidyar Network, and brought to life by our vibrant community of thousands of people from over 150 countries across the world. Learn more at https://itskoko.com