HeyKiddo founder Nicole Lipkin has been working in the mental health and child healthcare space for nearly two decades — and is acutely aware of the ways the system has “broken.”
As a clinical phycologist who ran her own practice for more than 15 years, Philly-based Lipkin sees how essential it is to bring resources to families to help them manage mental health care at home. The barrier to entry for professional health services is high, she said.
“I always found traditional mental healthcare wonderful, but it’s unintentionally culturally and socioeconomically insensitive,” Lipkin said.
Since 2017, she and a team of technologists and fellow doctors have been working on a tool to help parenting adults support their kids’ mental health. The project took a few iterations: first, a subscription-based box set called the Young Leader Project, which won a National Science Foundation grant, then an educational video game.
Its current iteration, an app that helps parenting adults with behavior assessment and a personalized coaching pathway to deal with issues like anxiety, worry or self-talk, came about in 2021. It may help a parent talk their kid through an issue at school, or the behaviors that follow a divorce. HeyKiddo is not meant to replace a therapist or mental health professional, but rather be a tool for parents to handle the at-home side of mental health care. The app also “red flags” behaviors that warrant professional intervention.
“When you’re helping a child with this, it’s about helping the parent,” Lipkin said. “I think it’s important to reiterate you can’t outsource all of this mental health care to schools, parenting adults need those tools too.”
The app is heading into beta testing in March, and currently works in a B2C model, with individual parents and their kids subscribing. But Lipkin is envisioning B2B functionality, and testing dissemination of the app through pilots with schools or other places that serve children communities, like the YMCA. Lipkin also recently began fundraising a $1 million seed round for the first time, and snagged some “yeses” from the investor lions at PACT’s annual Lion’s Den in November. This version of HeyKiddo also won a National Science Foundation grant that helped fund the research and development for the app.
The team of HeyKiddo — a runner-up on Technical.ly’s 2023 RealLIST Startups list — is made up of developers, psychologists, therapists, UX and UI pros, plus interns. Forthcoming features to the app include the ability to communicate and strategize with multiple caregivers, Lipkin said.
Though she’s spent her career working with children, her ultimate inspiration were her parents who were schoolteachers in The Bronx. They were dedicated to their students, and though they passed when Lipkin and her brother were young, they created an environment at home where they felt free to share any and all of their feelings. She’s hoping those sentiments will be instilled with HeyKiddo.
“I know my life could have gone down a different path, but it didn’t,” Lipkin said. “It’s because the foundation of what they gave me.”
Knowledge is power!
Subscribe for free today and stay up to date with news and tips you need to grow your career and connect with our vibrant tech community.