Startup Stories: Aleksander Dahlberg, Co-Founder & CTO at Sahha

Sahha co-founder Aleksander Dahlberg joins Startup Stories to chat about building a behavioural data analytics platform for mental health.

by hao-nguyen on October 6, 2022

Aleksander Dahlberg is the Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer at Sahha, a behavioural data analytics platform for mental health.

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Hi Aleks, great to be chatting with you again. For those who may not know, can you please tell us a little bit about yourself and Sahha?

Sure, I’m from Nelson, a small city at the top of New Zealand’s South Island. I grew up all over the country but spent most of my time in Motueka, Golden Bay and Nelson Lakes. Myself and my two brothers had a relatively abnormal upbringing, somewhat turbulent at times, and I think that led to us growing up relatively quickly. 

For myself, I have always been creative and entrepreneurial, naturally this led me to designing and developing things with computers like art, music, or websites. Somehow along the way these things started to turn into businesses, I never really had a “real job” this was really the only path I could see for my future.

After leaving the last company I founded (fourth company), I wanted to explore something in the mental health space. An area that was always near and dear to me. I’ve always struggled with communicating my own mental health and this has been exacerbated along the way due to a few too many head injuries and TBIs which made it even harder for me, to the eyes of others I might seem to be somewhat stoic. I’ve always taken risks, but I’m starting to learn not to physically, trying to avoid the next one.

At Sahha we predict mental health changes using device data, and we make that available to tech-enabled healthcare companies through a simple API / SDK. We turn what was once a subjective, biassed and fractured problem into an objective, longitudinal and passive solution – how to understand the mental health of a cohort of people, at scale and without questionnaires.

What were you seeing in the market that led you to co-founding a behavioural data analysis startup? 

We saw a broken funnel. Plenty of companies are offering great solutions as treatments and intervention to those suffering from mental health challenges, but not a lot of uptake of those treatments due to a top of funnel issue – which is where the assessment of a user’s mental health happens.

Anywhere from 40-60% of people simply won’t answer the assessments these companies offer, and when they do it can be biassed, and response rates are slow. So how do we get people into treatment when we rely on them for the data required to nudge them towards it?

Our devices know us better than anyone else, and they can provide the perfect means to passively predict the mental health of an individual using sensor data that is collected in the background. Sahha does this, with respect to the end-user’s privacy and giving them full control over whether or not they choose to share that data with our customer apps (which is where our technology sits).

We love what Antler are doing with startups and have collaborated with them a lot in the past. Can you talk about your experience launching Sahha as part of the Antler program?

Antler provides the perfect testing ground to try out an idea and surround yourself with potential founders or early employees. They also provide a great deal of resources you can use to maximise the success of that process.

What have been some of your biggest challenges as a co-founder since launching Sahha and what sort of lessons did you learn from them? 

Definitely on the product. I knew this would be hard, but definitely underestimated how difficult this is. We’re trying to do something that has not been done commercially, and turn that into something that any health company with an app can use.

I have learnt a significant amount about trying to build a solution for a difficult problem into a very simple product.

If you were looking to hire new team members to join Sahha, what do you think would be the company’s biggest selling point?

Come and join a team that’s building something very difficult. If you want to challenge that status quo, if you want freedom to innovate, if you want to share your ideas and lead the development of something new then get on board!

One last question before we let you go, what’s next on the horizon for Sahha? Where do you see it headed in the next few years?

Short term, we’re looking to continue commercialising. We’re also rolling out predictions on stress, anxiety and hopefully burnout. After that, we’re looking to provide APIs for recommending treatments/interventions, as well as for tracking intervention success/failure and efficacy.

We’ll also be introducing a large number of new measures along the way to truly democratise human data for the benefit of building great solutions to the world’s new and existing problems. Idealistic, but YOLO.

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