Adolescence is a turbulent time and its challenges are exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Even in the best of circumstances, teens struggling with personal and academic issues may find it difficult to talk about them. New Zealand start-up Komodo is a student wellness platform that wants to provide students with a place to communicate with staff, while providing schools with data to help them detect and resolve issues like as depression or bullying.
Founded in 2018 by Chris Bacon, Matt Goodson and Jack Wood, the startup today announced that it has raised NZD 1.8 million (approximately $ 1.26 million) in seed funding led by Folklore Ventures, with participation from ‘Icehouse Ventures and Flying Fox Ventures. Individual investors included Rod Hamilton, co-founder of employee engagement platform Culture Amp; Chloe Hamman, Director of Humanities at Culture Amp; the leaders of the Education Perfect learning platform; and Kristi Grant, Director of People Experience at Auror.
Some of Komodo’s clients and partners in New Zealand and Australia include Marist College Ashgrove in Queensland; St. Andrew’s College in Christchurch; the Australian Boarding School Association (ABSA); New Zealand Independent Schools; and the UK International Schools Council.
Komodo was originally created to monitor the well-being of young athletes, based on research Bacon did while earning a doctorate at the University of Canterbury. Many of his clients were from schools, and that’s when the team started to expand Komodo’s reach.
“The draw for us was to witness specific examples,” Wood told TechCrunch. “We have had schools that have responded, ‘We have a child who has been bullied in the past three months who hasn’t even felt confident to approach a staff member and start talking about it. . We have finally seen this happen to Komodo and they are happy to have a confidential channel to voice this concern.
Komodo has a web app and a mobile app which most students use. The platform can be customized by schools and includes psychologist-designed surveys and questions on topics such as what students think about going to school, socialization and relationships or major transitions like start of high school or preparation for university. The length of time students check-in in Komodo depends on their school. In some cases it is once a week, others once every two weeks or every month. Schools use the platform differently depending on their environment. For example, if they are learning remotely, they can check more frequently.
For schools, data collected from surveys can help them see trends emerge and spot potential issues, like cyberbullying, earlier. Prior to implementing Komodo, its founders claim that some schools conducted wellness surveys several times a year, but many relied on the intuition of staff and teachers, for example, if a student usually extrovert suddenly becomes withdrawn. Komodo gives them a more efficient way to identify and solve problems, although Wood and Bacon stress that it is not meant to replace person-to-person interactions.
“Ultimately, our larger vision is to facilitate and support student well-being as early as possible,” Bacon said. The founders spent a lot of time discussing with Culture Amp’s Hamilton “how really important it is that the people you provide data to can actually understand it and use it on a regular basis,” he added. “The key element for us to provide visibility and psychologists who can come and support [school staff] even more.”
Komodo’s seed funding will be used to add more psychologists to its internal team, expand the platform, and expand to more schools in Australia and New Zealand before other markets, including the United States. United.