Kim Dong-hyun, 28, CEO of Humat Company, created the online psychological counseling service application “Trost” after an acquaintance committed suicide. It is for people who are reluctant to do face-to-face counseling because of the social stigma and high price.
“Most of them refuse to go to counseling. They have a big negative image of mental illness and said it is burdensome to meet face-to-face with a counselor. Besides it is uncomfortable to have a medical record. Factually, 100,000 won for a 50minute counseling is expensive.”
After the loss of his acquaintance, Kim Dong-hyun visited a psychological counseling center in the university. He confessed his life that he had never talked about. After 10 months of counseling, including a general psychological counseling center, he finally overcame the depression. He can now acknowledge his depression to himself without fear of the opinions of others. After experiencing a better life through counseling, Kim actively recommended psychological counseling to his friends around him. However, most of them did not want to do counseling readily. He judged that this rejection of psychological counseling was an obstacle to popularization.
Kim, the undergraduate of a computer science department at the Kookmin University, gathered team members of developers and designers from his acquaintances and developed the Trost app. At first, they benchmarked overseas similar sites that text counseling on online. Kim thought that text could be converted to data so that creates new values, and judged Koreans to prefer non-face-to-face situations. Before launching the app, they prepare by raising about 200 million won for start-ups with government subsidies from the Foundation Promotion Ministry and the KDB Industrial Bank of Korea. In the end, they set up a Humat Company to create a better world by connecting people (humanities) and technology (smart) and started officially operating the Trost app in 2015.
“I used to visit the psychological counseling center with my items, but I was often turned away in front of the door.” The word “trost” means comfort in German and this app is the service that allows counseling through the internet and mobile messenger chatting. An issue was how to secure psychological counselors. However, as he was just a student who had not majored in psychology. After persistent visits and contacts, some of the centers began to show interest. That was the beginning. Now they have business agreements with 20 counseling centers in Seoul and Gyeonggi-do and have 52 professional psychological counselors.
In the first six months after its launch, 4,500 people have been counseled, and the number of app downloads has exceeded 100,000 in two years. Also, a re-counseling rate of 21% means that one out of every five people visits again. Kim said it was “not an explosive hit like a fad but rather a result of slowly spreading the name and patiently expanding its base.”
As for the management philosophy of the Humat Company, Kim said, “A happy life requires a healthy mind. I am the subject of mental health, and ultimately I have to solve the problem myself. Our motto is ‘we must be happy first.’” Kim and his colleagues make a practice of complementing each other once a week. Also, there is “refresh day” once a month, when they can watch movies, go bowling, or watch baseball together.
In 2018, the company also launched the Emotional Scanner, a solution that analyzes emotions based on machine learning. If you write about 300 words of concern, it will automatically analyze users’ emotional states. It is a way to find out eight emotions, including frustration, sadness, and love. Users can understand their emotional state and receive the counseling advice through this. They are preparing that simple psychological counseling can be conducted with not going through experts but AI in the future.
He says, “If you have the courage to bring out your worries, you can be comfortable.” In other words, recognizing that there are concerns and revealing them to the world is the beginning of healing. His goal is to create a “social society where people can say ‘it is hard’ if they have difficult.”