Welcome to issue #3 of our recently launched Q&A series, Startup Spotlight.

This series is all about diving into the world-class technological innovation conducted by exciting UK startups. Getting to grips with the technology, the mission, and even the stories behind them.

In each edition, we sit down with a different startup founder, leader, or operator in an easily digestible conversational style Q&A format.

Today we’re diving into the story behind Intend, in an interview with the founders, Savannah Price and Terrance Range. 

They've identified that poor mental health and financial struggles often go hand in hand. Crucially, that this can be fixed with technology.

Highlights:

  • 🔧 How Intend are building technology to tackle the impact of mental health on financial health
  • 🤗 Why Intend are focussing on Gen Z and putting their well-being first
  • 🚀 Why *now* is the right time for Intend to launch

What if, at the tap of a button, it was possible to track your moods and your spending habits simultaneously to detect the onset of mental stress, understand your splurging triggers and stop them before they happen?

Picture a place where money issues are no longer ruling your life and ruining your relationships. Where problems can be addressed before they become full-blown crises. Where you understand the impact your finances can have on your mental health.

Life would feel easier, wouldn’t it?

➡️ Enter Intend.

Predominantly targeting young, stressed-out, financially unstable students and those fresh out of university... Intend combines mood inputs, digital health signals and transactional data to enable its users to take back control. To simplify finances and supercharge well-being.

How? Life after the pandemic has been tough, for many. Mental health issues are on the rise – especially for Gen Z. When current data suggests this is the state-of-play for so many, you’d think other fintech companies would be doing the same thing… but you’d be wrong.

Intend are the *first* startup properly tackling mental and financial wellbeing – empowering Gen Z to find their equilibrium and build a better future. It turns out these two things are deeply connected.

But what exactly is Intend and how does it work?

How are they using technology to personalise solutions for users?

What’s in store for the future with this kind of technology? And, how does Intend fit into that future?

We interviewed the founders to find out. Here we go.👇

What's the mission of Intend?

Intend is a Gen Z fintech and mental health company that uses spending patterns and digital health signals to help people identify, predict, and manage poor mental health and financial stress.

We harness the power of trusted open banking technology, daily mood inputs, and relevant health data that can be captured on a mobile phone to develop personal “relapse signatures” for our users. This enables us to provide robust insights into how their mental state impacts their finances, and vice versa.

From this data, we deploy appropriate spending controls, behavioural nudges, and tailored well-being recommendations to improve our users' long-term mental and financial health. Our vision is that Intend not only disrupts two massive industries, but creates an entirely new category to become the largest, safest, and fastest-growing embedded fintech and mental wellness device for millions of young people and families worldwide.

What problem are you solving?

Managing money is hard, but managing money with a mental health condition is even harder. There exists a vicious cycle between money and mental health, which results in debt and stress for people and their families. To make matters worse, loving relationships break down catastrophically over time if these issues remain unaddressed, and stress and isolation mean small problems quickly turn into crises.

Two-thirds of people with problem debt suffer from a mental health condition, and 93% of all people spend impulsively during periods of poor mental health. Our immediate target audience is young people transitioning into and out of university because these are moments where financial and mental stress are most pronounced. These transitions are crucial for developing new habits, personal growth, and fostering financial freedom.

However, as exciting as this phase is, it is often accompanied by a disproportionate amount of stress. Post-Covid, in particular, young people (18-25) are not doing well: first-year undergrads have reported a 475% increase in mental health declarations, and 80% of students report they are “constantly stressed about making ends meet.”

We’ve received consistent feedback from users, industry experts, and advisors that now is the right time for our product because evidence shows that only 10% of successful mental health outcomes are due to clinical interventions. Social, financial and environmental factors account for the remaining 90%.

Although there have been trials in the research community that has proven the efficacy of using digital behavioural markers to predict the onset of bipolar 2-10 days before the person themselves is aware they are at risk, no product exists on the market that can predict the onset of mental stress, nor are there financial solutions that leverage their technologies to introduce spending controls for users in a dynamic way, based on their behaviours and goals.

How are you using technology to help solve that problem?

Technology is paramount for Intend and is at the core of our user value proposition. Users are onboarded by answering simple questions about their financial and mental health goals.

Next, we use self-reported mood scores, passive digital signals, and open banking API software to measure each user’s financial and mental wellness. Our software then aggregates this data and allows us to:

  • Provide users with personalized insights into how their mental health impacts their finances over specific periods of time, and an interactive well-being plan.
  • Deploy collaborative spending controls linked to their mental health that encourage “cooling-off periods” where every non-essential item users wish to purchase is saved in a “basket” until the end of the week
  • Provide access to our friends and family accountability tool that allows users to set permissions on certain spending categories

Similar to popular fintech and mental health apps like Monzo, Wealthfront, eMood, and Wysa, Intend provides personalized insights into your finances and mental health through our user-friendly interface and secure platform. However, unlike our competitors, we harness the power of technology to empower Gen Z by minimizing mental distress.

What milestones have you achieved? Where is the business today?

We’ve accomplished a lot in a short amount of time, but there is so much more to be done. In the last month, we’ve launched our internship program and received over 150 applications from talented students across the UK, developed a dynamic prototype that we’re testing with our super users, built a waitlist of 125 people, secured venture funding from Zinc VC in London, developed a demo version of our unique algorithm and launched partnerships with private sector companies and government agencies in the U.S. and the U.K.

We are excited and optimistic about the next 12 months for Intend. We are accelerating our data collection strategy and introducing core features for our customers, including chatbots, daily journals, pseudonymous peer accountability groups, gamified learning tips, and beta testing community-focused incentives to reduce shame and stigma around money and mental health. 

What have been the greatest challenges to overcome on your journey so far, and how did you go about solving them? 

Creating a new category is exciting but doesn’t come without its challenges. One of our biggest obstacles has been convincing people in the financial sector that mental health is a real and pressing issue and, on the flip side, persuading clinicians that finances are a key indicator of wellbeing.

People who have lived experiences that resonate with our mission get it immediately; however, to solve this problem for skeptical audiences, we are conducting our own pilot studies to demonstrate the link between financial behavior and wellbeing. In the future, we will launch a fully randomized control trial to prove the efficacy of our predictive algorithm.

Another challenge we have had to overcome is deciding what advice to take and what advice to disregard. As an early-stage start-up, everyone you speak to has their own idea of how they think our product should look, act and feel. We have solved this conundrum by being obsessively problem-focused and customer-driven, and we take huge steps to ensure that every decision we make is inclusive and in line with the ethos of Intend.

We authentically care about the well-being of our users - and for us, well-being always ranks above a quick commercial win. Of course, we want to make money and add value for our investors, but first and foremost, we have a duty to safeguard and empower our customers.

Finally, we have a huge and ambitious vision. Ensuring that we never lose sight of that while building from the bottom up is important and can sometimes be challenging. As founders, we have to be bifocal and adjust our aperture - honing in on the details, never being afraid to put that first foot forward and be scrappy, whilst always having our north star guiding us to that end vision.

We make sure that we always know the “why” behind our decisions and the steps we take, even if we don’t always know the “how.”

Thanks, Savannah & Terrance. Exciting times!

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