“I don’t feel good about that. That sucks” Chrys Bader-Wechseler reflects when asked about the bullying that went down on the anonymous app Secret he co-founded in 2013. After $35 million raised, 15 million users, and a spectacular flame out two years later, the startup was dead. “Since I left secret I feel alive and aligned with my values and my purpose again.”
But there was one bright side to Secret letting you post without a name or consequences. People opened up, got vulnerable, and felt less alone when comments revealed they weren’t the only person dealing with a certain struggle. What Bader learned from watching Secret’s users “do this in the dark” was the realization that “actually, we need to learn to do this in the light, to have that same kind of dialogue, but do it openly with each other.”
So began the journey to Bader’s new startup Ikaria that’s exclusively revealing itself to the world today on TechCrunch. It’s a different kind of chat app, named after the Greek island where close-knit community helps extend people’s lifespans. The 6-person Santa Monica team is funded by a $1.5 million seed round led by Initialized Capital and Fuel Capital. People can sign up for early beta access here.
During a long interview about the startup, Bader and his co-founder Sean Dadashi were cagey about exactly how Ikaria works since it’s still in development. Amidst all the philosophical context about the app’s intention, I was able to pull out a few details about what the product will actually look like.
“Basically, since 2004, technology has created this monumental shift in the human social experience. We’re more connected than ever technically but all the studies show we’re lonelier than ever.” Bader explains. “It’s like eating McDonald’s to get healthy. It’s not the right source of nutrition for our social well-being because true connection requires a level of vulnerability, presence, self-disclosure, and reciprocity that you don’t really get on these platforms.”
Ikaria isn’t another feed. It’s a safe space where you can chat with close friends & family, or people going through similar life challenges. Members of these group chats will optionally go through guided experiences that help them reflect on and discuss what’s going on in their hearts and minds. This could become a whole new media format where outside creators or mental health professionals could produce and contribute their own guided experiences.
“Part of the reason we’re announcing this is that . . . it’s a call to action to involve all these practitioners and people who are doing these types of things and giving them a platform to allow them to facilitate these kind of group bonding experiences through a platform where they can extend their practices into the digital world” Bader tells me. What Calm and Headspace did for …read more
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