Andrea Campos created an app for her depression; now, she’s the best social entrepreneur in Mexico
The YANA app from Andrea Campos has become a companion for 8 million users during the pandemic.
MEXICO CITY. Andrea Campos Guerra went through episodes of depression from a young age and looked for support tools within technology, specifically, apps that specialize in mental health. This marked the origin of YANA, the app she developed and for which she’s been recognized as one of the top Mexican entrepreneurs by the Mexican Entrepreneur Association (ASEM).
The app, whose name comes from the acronym You Are Not Alone, is a chatbot (and automated conversational agent) people can talk to to obtain support in dealing with their emotional states. It achieves this through strategies based on cognitive behavioral therapy, in a friendly, simple way. If needed, it will direct the user to a crisis line or to a professional.
Andrea decided to create the platform as a solution to a personal need, but she never imagined the impact it would have, which would give way to starting her own company.
“When we got together to do this [the development team] and started talking about the project and presenting it a couple of times, we saw a very interesting and beautiful reaction from those that were listening; people who wanted to download the app, people who wanted to get involved in the project to develop it, and so I realized that this was clearly a need that went beyond Andrea. That’s when I decided to turn it into a company,” the 27-year-old entrepreneur told Dalia Empower.
That’s how she turned her disorder into an opportunity to help other people and also to grow herself. Andrea Campos established her company in 2017, although the app didn’t start operating until 2020 due to a series of unexpected hurdles she had to face. The Mexican Entrepreneur Association (ASEM) recognized her in their E-100 2021 list as one of Mexico’s top 100 entrepreneurs with a high positive impact. YANA has the second spot in the ranking and the top one in the sub-ranking of ventures led by women.
“The challenge of @hola_yana, the mental health app: Proving that you can do business and do good at the same time, says Andrea Campos (@AndreaCamposG) https://t.co/pOJVJ7ECB6 pic.twitter.com/BluTsBO0LH Dalia Empower (@DaliaEmpower) January 27, 2022
The challenges: between getting investment and coming out3 of the mental health closet
One of them had to do with the fact that this type of technological development happened to be disruptive in Mexico and there were no related sanitary regulations in place. This was the first app of its kind in Mexico, and, in fact, the first in Spanish. Because of this, there was no background information about it and the Federal Commission on Sanitary Risks didn’t know if the app was part of the medical device category and should have a special permit, the entrepreneur told News + Media, the news and information platform from Dalia Empower The other challenge was finding investors who were keen on taking a chance on the project. “It’s not common within the [entrepreneurial] ecosystem to relate something that makes money with something that does good, so I remember the investors saying to me: ‘We need more people like you and so on, but I’m not going to invest,’”, she said.
On the other hand, the introduction of YANA to investors, users, suppliers, et cetera, required that she revealed the reason she started it in the first place. So, Andrea recalls, her condition had to be made public, which meant that her family –who didn’t know about it until then– would find out. So she made the decision to talk to them about what she’d gone through.
“All in all, my family knew very little about my depression, but they didn’t know how bad it had gotten in the last 14 years. It was a bit surprising for them to find out but I needed to talk about these things to be able to tell my story and let people know why I was trying to solve this big issue […] It was like coming out of the mental health closet, but it had to be done,” she claimed.
Powerful communication: her key skill
YANA’s launch happened right at the beginning of the pandemic, in March 2020. At first, it showed the growth the team expected, says Campos Guerra. But toward October (World Mental Health Month) of that same year, the app leaped tremendously and went from 80 thousand to a million users. At the beginning of 2021, it reached 8 million. This caught everyone’s attention and with it, finally, the investors money followed suit.
Andrea believes that her app’s success is due in large part to the ability she’s had to communicate her idea. “Knowing how to communicate and share and spread your vision; it’s hard to make people fall in love with your dream, and that’s something you won’t learn at school, it’s an essential soft skill to build a team and get people on board”, Andrea told Dalia.
The entrepreneur is aware that the platform still has many challenges to face, like getting people to use the tool as a prevention measure and not only in emergency situations, which is similar to every other medical area. However, she celebrates her success so far, managing to turn a personal issue into an opportunity for many others to improve their mental health.