Asian Americans struggle with mild to moderate symptoms of anxiety and depression due to the lack of accessibility and inclusivity in mental health resources
Before Empathie became a company, it started in a product management course I took during my Master of Design program at UC Berkeley. I was tasked with identifying unsolved problems in the world, and I gravitated towards mental health for racial minorities since it's underrepresented.
We also discovered that Asian Americans are concerned about credibility and time inconveniences when seeking mental health support
It wasn't until January '22 when my co-founder/CTO and I converted Empathie into a company and began conducting 50+ user interviews to validate our initial hypothesis. Francois, Product Designer @ Empathie, and I split the work on leading user interviews.
Reddit (online forum)
Instagram (Social Media)
Gauge product-market fit after designing an affordable, easy-to-access, and culturally relevant mental health app that delivers credible advice in the form of videos and activities
Given the constraint of an already limited pool of racially diverse therapists, I recruited licensed Asian American therapists to produce original mental health content — making support more accessible and inclusive.
Lack of diversity of therapists makes 1:1 therapy less scalable
On-demand videos + activities by diverse therapists is more scalable
In collaboration with therapists, designed and iterated original mental health learning content to be easy-to-digest, relatable, and engaging
Our team worked together to develop a standardized structure for education our audiences on mental health concepts and strategies. After each user testing cycle (next section), we iterated our learning content.
Coordinate topic with therapist
Provide framework for generating content
Prepare content for mobile app
Validation For Product-Market Fit
Limited in ability to control functionality/design, I shipped and tested our mental health learning content on a live, no-code mobile app — achieving 17% over target goal for product-market fit evaluation
With the goal of launching and getting feedback ASAP across 50 users in a 1-2 week span, I built and tested a no-code app, which was limited based on Glide app's guidelines, over 3 iterations (next sections). Before doing so, we explored sketches to create a simple structure that would house our initial mental health content.
Limited UI + functionality based on no-code provider
Spreadsheets that help capture user data and feedback
Design explorations (by Francois Yap, Product Designer), based on Glide app feasibility, to create no-code app's structure for housing our mental health learning content
Though users were overwhelmed by amount of video length, lack of autonomy over info consumption, and emotional heaviness of topics/activities, users loved the cultural responsive content
Overwhelming video length: Though we aimed to keep videos 5 minutes or less, people still felt the videos were too long.
Lack of autonomy: Users didn't have the option to skip past the mental health tips portion. Some preferred learning the context before deciding what actions to take on their own.
Emotional overload: Users felt exhausted from reflecting deeply on past events that were sometimes traumatic.
After breaking up mental health video into consumable chunks and creating a broader range of activities, satisfaction increased but users still felt video topic was not engaging enough
Video experience lacks engagement: Shortened chunks of video improved attention spans minimally.
Improved range of activities in addition to learning: Collaborated with therapists to develop activities that were less emotionally laborious.
Users are motivated to return to personalized content: Though gaining points for completing activities was motivating, users didn't find them rewarding over time.
Achieved signal of product-market fit after breaking up mental health videos and activities into a journey of video shorts/screens with user interactions in between
We received high-ranked evaluations on user successfully reaching their most common user goals, such as building self-awareness and reducing anxiety. We measured for product-market fit using the Sean Ellis test, achieving 17% over the target goal. This gave us signal to design and code a more scalable mobile app that could handle features the no-code app couldn't (customized notifications, ML personalization, etc.).
Basic personalization increases product value: Users felt this culturally responsive-based personalization created more differentiation from other competitors
Demand for more topics: Displayed topics were limited due to need for testing a few before standardizing the rest
Prioritizing personalization, step-by-step content, and mood check-ins for our iOS/Android MVP to sustain user engagement and serve Asian Americans with intermediate mental health knowledge
I worked with our CTO to determine these features, which are also based on a Kano Model feature prioritization survey across 100 participants previous private beta testing insights. I segmented responses based on demographic information to identify which audiences found our product features most desirable. We learned that Asian Americans with some knowledge of mental health strategies were most interested in our product as opposed to complete beginners.
Kano Model quantitative analysis
Kano Model feature prioritization survey
Ann Kim (Product Designer @ Empathie) led usability testing and minor improvements over time. I collaborated with Sophia Lee (Content Design intern) to create the UX writing below while I co-created illustrations (Briana Tran, freelance Graphic Designer). I worked with our CTO to determine technical/UX feasibility, which was limited by Flutter (iOS/Android platform) app's developer guidelines.
User signup and onboarding
Accessing step-by-step mental health content (videos and activities)
Mood check-in to encourage frequent re-engagement
Step-by-step video journeys
To catalyze self-empowerment and balance for racial minorities by becoming the go-to mental wellness education resource that’s inclusive, approachable, simple, accessible, and insightful
In collaboration with our PM intern and PM advisor, I spearheaded the product vision along with product principles to guide our MVP and beyond. I led a design sprint with our engineering lead, Clinical Director, and team of designers to create a motivating vision of what the MVP would be working towards.
Product principles to guide design for MVP and beyond
Below our design outcomes from the design sprint and a visual way to see how the MVP is foundational to the vision. I took ownership of accountability experience, Ann Kim (PD) was responsible for the activities experience, and Francois Yap (PD) was responsible for the learning experience. I led coordination for our team.
Achieved a 168% increase in waitlist signups on Empathie's site after demoing our MVP/public beta and mental health learning content, which was based on prev. testing and shipping private beta
Acquiring our 232 public beta waitlist signups was one of our metrics for demonstrating product-market fit. This traction helped us get into the prestigious Berkeley Skydeck incubator twice and win numerous grants. After shipping and testing our private beta (See "Validation") section, we gathered those research insights and applied them to our MVP/public beta designs and mental health learning content. Our MVP/public beta has been built (~50% completed).View website
Briana Tran created some of the start illustrations. Based on those, I created the rest of the illustration library and led creation of our design system for our mobile app.
Design system for tokens, components, and base frames + illustration library
The co-founding team and I collaborated with the New Business Community Law Clinic by Berkeley Law to establish privacy policies, therapist contracts, etc. to finalize our product launch. These foundational processes altogether helped me see what it takes to take a product from 0 to 100 and the implications.
I learned that financial stability is more important to me than I previously thought, but I discovered a passion for building products and teams from 0 to 100
Empathie started as an idea of mine. I was doubtful if I had the ability to grow a team/product from nothing. Within a span of 6 months, the founding team grew to 3 and our team consisted of 18+ people across marketing, design, product, engineering, and clinical (therapists). We won the Hack for Mental Health award from Microsoft. We got into Berkeley Skydeck's incubator and won a few grants. 7 months later, I partnered with Dropbox (former employer) for a mental wellness event for our Asian affinity group.
I learned to lean into my strength of challenging the status quo and being unequivocally me instead of worrying about my ideas being stupid. Through all the tears shed, my insecurities, fears about failure, I let my passion for creating real change drive me. The people who supported us could feel my passion and felt moved by it.
Team bonding event with Empathie team
Partnering with Dropbox
Keynote speaker at Stanford
However, after 1.5+ years of full-time entrepreneurship (accounting for my design bootcamp business at Product Design Fam), my mental health waned due to financial anxieties/instabilities. I also learned that I prefer to focus on design and product over business, legal, and searching for funding. Despite our awards and recognition, the economic downturn has affected our team members' priorities and startup funding has been challenging to secure — impacting Empathie's ability to succeed.