J Balvin, the prince of Reggaeton, is candid with his fans about his mental health issues and healing journey. Now he produces part of his journey by launching OYEa Spanish/English wellness app.
The app, which seeks to support people struggling with mental health issues, was built by Balvin and his two co-founders Mario Chamorro, a creative wellness activist and acting CEO; and Patrick Dowd, a creative strategist, and the company’s COO.
“This is one of my biggest dreams because it comes from my heart,” Balvin told australiabusinessblog.com in an interview. “I’m human like everyone else and I felt I had this mission to make the world a better place, starting with mental health.” The company says that while a co-founder, Balvin will be Chief Dream Officer, or CDO. While it’s a creative title, it’s unclear how much Balvin will have in day-to-day operations or whether he’ll be largely used for marketing and distribution efforts. The company told australiabusinessblog.com Balvin that the role, other than co-founder, is to help the team “dream bigger.”
According to an internal OYE survey, 92% of respondents in Latin America have a negative view of mental health and mental health. australiabusinessblog.com asked to review the research, but was told by a spokesperson that they couldn’t share it because it was “proprietary information” for the company. However, the statistic provided shows similarities with a report published by the American Medical School Association. The AMSA report noted that there is a cultural stigma on mental health within the Latino community and little knowledge of what it means to access mental health services. In addition, Latinos in the US have 50% less access to mental health care than their white counterparts, according to a study published in Hispanic Health Care International.
For the reasons above, Calvin and his co-founders said they felt it was critical to ensure OYE was offered in a bilingual manner.
“[We’re] transforming the way we talk about mental and emotional well-being from something seen as a personal burden to something that is a creative opportunity to practice creating new aspects of your life,” Dowd, who was formerly the head of brand innovation & partnerships at PayPal. “We’ve actually built two versions of our app that we’re launching this month. One of them is completely in Spanish, the other is completely in English, and our team is also bilingual and spread across America.”
Oye, a Spanish word translated to English means listening, which has become an important goal for the team.
The app provides users with bilingual wellness practices and daily check-ins. Users can also engage in creative wellness exercises such as guided training to better understand their emotions. Daily wellness exercises can last anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes.
Users who download the app before October 31 will get access to a one-month free trial. After that trial period, users will have to pay $4.99 each month to access OYE and its resources.
As OYE enters the international market for iOS and Android, it will have to prove that it can do more than just leverage Balvin’s reputation.
Calvin is the latest of many celebrities to add startups to their careers: Serena Williams and her venture into venture capital; Kim Kardashian is a private equity dealmaker; and ‘Selling Sunset’ star Christine Quinn is working on her crypto-based brokerage. Though for the Grammy-nominated artist, being the CDO of a wellness app seems and will remain more of an afterthought for now.
“We all dream and have big dreams,” Balvin said.[At OYE] we are pooling our strength, talent and capabilities to create this beautiful app.”
However, Oye is entering a space where wellness apps and digital therapy have oversaturated the market. BetterHelp, TalkSpace, Headspace, and Calm are just a few platforms that come to mind. Wellness apps boomed during the COVID-19 pandemic, but have since interrogated because of their usefulness and effectiveness.
One thing was made clear to australiabusinessblog.com: OYE wants partnerships to effectively serve marginalized communities.
“[JBalvin] is the person in reggaeton who has the greatest number of collaborations in his music, and that’s how he’s been able to become a rising artist and the Prince of Reggaeton by working together,” said Chamorro. “We have developed very conscious partnerships around us and we work that way to amplify the voice of OYE.”
The company claims to have partnerships with Apple and Google to better optimize its app on their respective platforms.
The road to breaking mental health stigma is long, but Calvin hopes this initiative will help break those stigmas and “make the world a better place.”
OYE has secured support in the form of a $4.1 million pre-seed round led by MasterClass and Outlier.org co-founder Aaron Rasmusen, with participation from Collab Fund, 17Sigma, Expa, GreyMatter, Propeller Ventures, Gaingels, Alley Corp CEO Kevin Ryan, former Amazon executive Jeff Wilke, Future Ventures co-founder Maryanna Saenko and Coursera CEO Jeff Maggioncalda.
The funds from this round will be used to further develop content, improve marketing, upgrade the app based on user feedback and begin promoting B2B offerings, which the team has explained they plan to offer next year.