Depression affects about one out of every 10 Americans, including at one time Start Talking founder Mark Nolte.
While a rough time in his life, Nolte’s struggle with depression in 2010 eventually led him to launch a venture that’s more easily connecting people with the help they need. Lenexa-based Start Talking offers patients a psychotherapy and life-coaching telehealth platform that enables them to connect with certified therapists via a phone, tablet or computer.
“We all hit bumps in the road of life that need to be addressed before it becomes a depression issue,” Nolte said. “When I started getting depression, if I had something like this, it could have addressed it before full-blown depression.”
After creating a profile, Start Talking users can select a counselor for video conferencing or video messaging to discuss their issues. Nolte said that Start Talking — which was born out of a KC Digital Drive hackathon event that challenged innovators to leverage gigabit Internet — helps folks with challenges such as addiction, depression, life-coaching and many others. Start Talking does not accept health insurance, and sessions vary in cost according to their duration.
A medical device salesman of more than 20 years, Nolte said the market for telehealth psychotherapy is ripe. He said that the international online counseling market is around $2 trillion, and domestically Americans spend about $24 billion on psychotherapy.
In addition, businesses lose about $190 billion annually from employees’ work-related stress, according to a recent study. Start Talking taps into a prospective market in rural areas where patients may have difficulty finding treatment nearby, Nolte said.
That market size has Nolte and his team mulling how to best seize the opportunity through not only psychotherapy but also life-coaching.
“Domestically there’s a big market, and internationally it’s even bigger,” Nolte said. “Everyone knows about therapy, but not too many know that you can get it online. So I realized in the marketplace that we had to educate people on what’s online therapy and counseling.”
A graduate of Kansas City-based accelerator SparkLab KC, Start Talking already has scored some traction with investors. Nolte said that his company was recently awarded $150,000 in Kansas angel investor tax credits and is now in discussions with several investors to match the funds. If successful in finding additional investors, Start Talking plans to develop an iOS and Android version of its Web-based app.