The current state of today’s connected, information-overloaded era compounded by the uncertainty and hardship due to the COVID19 pandemic weighs heavy on the world, often culminating into heightened stress. Among other afflictions, in numbers, stress is the leading proxy killer in American society and caused nearly $300 billion in costs to businesses globally last year.

As of late, the unconventional yet increasingly popular practice of wellness has been gaining scientific, user and financial endorsement for effectively reducing stress levels. Tel-Aviv based startup Kai – short for the Greek mythological centaur hero trainer, Kairon – is combating stress at scale with a human-in-the-loop AI virtual wellness coach, married with scientifically established methods in the fields of neuroscience, psychology and productivity proven to effectively implement wellness techniques. 

Wellness-journaling dialogue with the Kai coach. GIF: Kai.

Founded in 2020 by serial entrepreneurs and clinical psychologists Alex Frenkel, Netanel Lev and Ziv Shalev, Kai developed an AI wellness coach that empowers and encourages people to practice wellness-journaling. Rooted in the Guided-Journaling technique, the Kai messenger coach, compatible on Facebook Messenger, Telegram and Whatsapp, engages in frequent dialogue with users for myriad reasons, all with the goal of indoctrinating them into practicing daily wellness-journaling. For instance, Kai will assist its users with defined tasks, like productivity, planning, organizing, and prioritizing. It will also assist users in articulating their goals regarding self-awareness, gaining insights, time usage and personal energy levels, among others.

The Kai conversational companion leverages the WhatsApp API and NLP tools such as Google’s DialogFlow to manage user conversations, understand their intents, emotions and contexts, and automate responses. As Kai is a hybrid AI model, a roster of human coaches, trained in specific methodologies to help users understand their needs and priorities and evaluate their progress, complement the automated response engine. Through a custom-built Slack application, their team can scale up and automate the communication process with users for instances where Kai’s automated messages fall short. 

While the startup’s technology is built on state-of-the-art machine learning and natural language processing models, meditative journaling has ancient roots dating back to Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, journaling his personal thoughts for self-improvement. 

Graphic: Kai.

“The modern wellness movement has sparked a renewed interest in the benefits of journaling, documented for centuries by visionaries in all fields,” explained Frenkel. “Today, people from college students to tech executives are taking up the practice, united by their desire to be more mindful, creative, productive—and less stressed. Instead of trying to get through the million and one things on your to-do list or finding the elusive work-life balance that most people seek while they burn out along the way, Kai works by honing the daily practice of journaling to help you identify and focus on what matters most.”

Kai offers its service through a freemium model, with a ceiling of $70 per year for unlimited access, whereas personal wellness coaches can cost almost $250 per session, with salaries of $52,000 per year. As the company is currently operating in beta, the offering is free for everyone. 

In addition to Kai’s conversational companion, it also offers mWeb modules and frameworks to promote personal wellness as it relates to the user. In the future, the startup plans to allow their community of trainers to upload content.

Kai is part of a growing but consolidated app market that utilizes conversational AI and chatbots to help users improve their overall wellness, including Woebot, Calm and Headspace, which combine for over 70% of the market. Meditation apps in particular generated $134 million in 2018, and the wellness focused applications market is expected to reach $4.3 billion by 2027.

The startup is currently bootstrapped and fundraising for their pre-seed round. “In our next phase, we plan to implement a subscription-based business model before adding a B2B sales channel focusing on tech companies,” said Frenkel.

Although, the startup’s main goal is to enable people to spend more time and energy on self-fulfillment and ultimately reduce stress. “Never stop growing and learning, that’s our belief.”

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