Hiyo: Therapeutic Disruption via An Anonymous Mobile Counseling Community

Caleb Chiu: Founder of Hiyo

Startups #nofilter had the pleasure of sitting down with Caleb Chiu, founder of Hiyo, a new mobile platform which offers a ‘compassionate, advisory-oriented community for members to comfortably discuss personal and sensitive topics anonymously’.

Basically, an anonymous counseling app for strangers to help strangers. Hiyo looks to disrupt the counseling industry, and has an incredibly bright future. Read about how Caleb conceived the idea, and some other interesting tidbit below: 

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1. Tell us about the idea behind Hiyo, the anonymous messaging app – where did the idea come from?

Hiyo is an anonymous chat app to get on-demand and unbiased advice for any questions that you may be uncomfortable in asking your family and friends.

The idea came at a time where I was going through some personal trauma myself and founding myself seeking condolence and advice online, only to find loose articles and forum answers which gave me some comfort in hearing other’s experience but did not quite offer the real-time interaction and compassion that I sought out for. With that pain point in mind, the concept of Hiyo was conceived.

2. Is there evidence that people prefer advice from anonymous people rather than vetted, public professionals?

When it comes to advice, particularly on topics that have no right or wrong answers such as on relationship – People seek advice from people who are unbiased and are experienced. The evidence comes from the existence and the thriving support communities worldwide both offline and online. Many times people are not seeking for advice specifically but for emotional support – regardless of whether the person giving it is professional or not.

However, we have found that professionals are able to give a more structured and effective advice particularly with conversations around depression and anxiety. So we are looking into providing professional counselling services as well.

3. Are there any cyber-bullying risks that could occur here being that the communication system is anonymous?

Yes, cyber-bullying and harassment is a big concern of ours and all anonymous chat applications. Especially when users are using this platform as a way to emotionally vent, it becomes an attractive playground for trolls and bullies. To tackle these issues, we have placed a lot of resources in our reporting systems as well as monitoring for abusive behaviors.

Moving forward we are implementing more policy changes to our platform to continue tackling cyber-bullying issues. For example, ensuring that all users go through screenings before they can give advice and give them more incentives to give better advice.

4. Are you employing any startup principles to succeed, such as establishing an MVP, bootstrapping, or lean startup methodology?

Yes, we are! We are particularly focused on ensuring that no change goes out without an experiment to test and verify and where possible use techniques such as A/B testing to assess the effectiveness of each change made. When we were initially building the product, we ensured that we had sufficient metrics logging built in. Build, measure and learn.

5. Can you share any data with us? Number of users?

From launching our current version of the app in June 2017, we’ve reached 6000 monthly active users. From releasing our opt-in anonymous feature – we’ve noticed that 95% of questions are posted anonymously.

6. What are you most excited about for Hiyo’s future?

We have a mission to provide emotional support on demand. As we look more into the professional counselling space, we are getting more and more excited about the opportunities and potential we can innovate in this space. Especially in Hong Kong where we are currently based, 1 out of 6 people here can be diagnosed with a form of mental illness and there is a huge stigma against mental health and counselling. I see a dire need to address this issue and I believe that Hiyo can bring us closer.

7. Speaking of the future, do you foresee blockchain technology developing at all in this space? Or anything to do with cryptocurrency?

Blockchain technology has already disrupted many industries and I think we’re inevitably going to see more and more creative ways this technology can be applied. As of now, particularly in the counselling space, I see no need to use blockchain technologies to solve the problems that we are facing. In the future, if anonymity takes a bigger role, then using cryptocurrency as a payment would not only help with improving internal payment processes but could also enable more creative value for users who want to ensure their identities are truly anonymous.

8. Since you have created an app that employs community principles, what are your thoughts on the Uberfication (Uber for X) movement of many service-based industries and mobile apps?

I think that its great especially for industries where the service providers are fragmented and where the customer experiences are unpredictable. I think with technologies such as the blockchain, it is only going to make this movement easier for many industries. In the end, it’s going to be really beneficial for the end user as in many cases Uberfication means easier access to service providers and more importantly more standardization of experience and price. 

9. As a startup founder, what is your biggest fear?

My biggest fear as a startup founder is damaging or losing relationships with people around me throughout the startup journey. As important as the startup or mission is, nothing is achievable without a team and I have and will have the opportunity to work with incredible people both personally and professionally. My fear is losing sight of that perspective along the way and forgetting that people are the most important part of any company.

10. For fun: What is your go-to website for both regular news and hi-tech news?

I use Apple News for regular news, have a widget set up on my phone and I find it great it really convenient. As for hi-tech news, I stick to Hacker News!

11. For fun: What is the first thing you eat and drink in the morning?

A glass of orange juice and a bowl of oatmeal to start my day!

12. For fun: What website do you go to check when your internet isn’t working?

I type gibberish in Chrome. “fjlsfslkdf”. Works great but when the internet comes back on, it’s always a surprise what I get to see.

13. For fun: Any advice for Startups #nofilter, in our quest to become the mecca of startup founder interviews?

Keep up the good work and provide a supportive platform for startups to be heard and understood! 

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