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01.24.2022

Innovation Spotlight: STIGMA App

In 2021 Chicago’s Black and Latinx founders raised almost $28M collectively. I am one of the founders that contributed to that milestone, and like many undercapitalized founders, I don’t fit the profile of founders who have historically found it easy to raise VC money.

I am a Costa Rican/American, non-technical, first-time founder, and when I pitched my first potential investor in May, I had no product, no team, and no revenue.

Ariana Alejandra Gibson

7 months after my first pitch, I oversubscribed my pre-seed round, raising over half a million dollars using my lived experience and this video. That is the power of storytelling.

STIGMA App’s mission is to reduce loneliness and the stigma associated with mental illness. We do this by creating safe spaces for people to practice talking about mental illness without shame.

Using a $20k grant from TechRise, we built our low-code MVP, a web application that enables people who are struggling to instantly find people who share their lived experience and request asynchronous messages of HOPE via video, audio, and text message.

Asks for HOPE shared on our app receive an average of 5.5 messages of support. Most are videos and all are recorded exclusively for and shared privately with the member who requested support. We have no public profiles, influencers, or vanity. We exist to facilitate moments of reciprocal social connection, something researchers tell us is one of the most powerful ways to combat loneliness.

We envision a future where people make offering HOPE to those who share their lived experience as seamless a part of their daily mental health regimens as meditation or journaling. We believe that our emotional capital only increases when we give it away, and we are hard at work partnering with organizations who can help us get STIGMA App into the hands of our city’s most in-need and under-resourced citizens. If you are one of those people, or if you’re interested in offering a stranger who is struggling living proof that she’s not alone, we hope you’ll join our community.

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