The ESG Initiative at the Wharton School
WIVA students connected a gaming startup addressing youth mental health to crowdfunding platform
Students at Wharton Impact Venture Associates (WIVA), an experiential investing program at the Wharton School, researched SuperBetter, a science-backed mental health startup addressing mental health challenges for youth. Impressed by its potential impact, they connected the company to the crowdfunding platform Republic.
The U.S. is facing a youth mental health crisis, the scale of which is alarming. According to a CDC study in 2018-19, 15% of children aged 12 – 17 years old had a major depressive episode, 37% had persistent feelings of sadness, and nearly 20% seriously considered suicide, and the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated these issues.
Enter SuperBetter. SuperBetter is an app that uses the psychology of game play to help youth and young adults learn to set goals, measure progress, and celebrate wins. Over 1 million people have played SuperBetter, and the World Economic Forum recently named SuperBetter 1 of 14 ‘top innovators’ globally’ in their Youth Mental Health Challenge. In addition, the company has a new collaboration with Parkland Health System to empower at-risk teens in Dallas.
A published trial conducted by Penn researchers found that playing on the app for 10 minutes daily was associated with a 49% reduction in depression symptoms and a 61% reduction in anxiety symptoms over the course of only 6 weeks.
“Our North Star is to unlock the heroic potential of 50 million youth and young adults in the next 5 years. Our proven methodology empowers resilience, life skills, and mental health.” says CEO Keith Wakeman. “We’re excited to work closely with Republic to help us exponentially scale our company and help teens develop resilience and confidence.”
Jan Jaro (WG ‘23), a dual-degree Wharton MBA and Harvard Kennedy School MPA student, connected with Keith in the fall and was excited by SuperBetter’s theory of change and traction. “Our early years are deeply formative and have major implications on our ability to reach our full academic, earnings, and personal potential,” Jan said. “I was fortunate to grow up playing competitive sports, which helped me build a sense of belief that I could bounce back from any setback. I firmly believe that SuperBetter can develop those same capacities.”
Jan and the rest of the WIVA team performed business, financial, and impact research on the company. In particular, the WIVA team was excited to see how games could be used to developing resilience. “We’re excited by the company’s growth and can’t wait to see Keith, Jane, and the rest of the team make a huge positive impact on the lives of youth.”
Neither the University of Pennsylvania, the Wharton School, Wharton Impact Venture Associates (WIVA), nor any of their respective students, faculty, directors, officers, employees, representatives, affiliates, or agents (collectively, the “Penn Parties”) (i) is acting as underwriter, broker-dealer, promoter, financial advisor, or other intermediary with respect to any offering of securities by any entity mentioned in this article, or (ii) has received or will receive any compensation from any person or entity as an incentive to publish of this article. In addition, the Penn Parties have not received and will not receive any compensation or other item of value in connection with any possible or future investment in any securities issued by any entity mentioned herein.
Any research or diligence described above (i) was performed by WIVA solely for its own, limited, educational purposes, and not for the purpose of aiding any person in making any investment decision, and (ii) may be limited and incomplete, by its very nature, as a result of limited publicly available information and other limited information voluntarily made available to WIVA. No Penn Party shall have any liability whatsoever arising from any error or incompleteness of fact or opinion in, or lack of care in the preparation or publication of, this article.
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