Elomia, new AI psychologist - extraordinary Ukrainian project
What is Elomia?

Elomia is an AI psychologist, created by a Ukrainian team. Taras Pogrebnyak, Mikhailo Markevych and Anastasia Knysh took part in creating Elomia. In 2020, in PUSB(Polish-Ukrainian Startup Bridge) finals, Kyiv Tech Hub 2020 Elomia took first place, won as the best participant and received an award of PLN 30,000.

Today, Elomia is an iPhone app and a chat-bot for reporting problems and getting support. Behind the cartoon avatar there is a generative neural network and dozens of moderator psychologists who control its answers.
Elomia's appearance
First attempt of creating mental health product

Taras Pogrebnyak was six when the family bought a computer. "One of the first games was Warcraft III with a map editor," he recalls. Taras tried to create his own map and became interested in programming. Having learned a lot, a schoolboy from the village of Voynikh in the Poltava region took up small-scale development on freelance. As a high school student, he created a small team to make custom chatbots for social networks. "In high school, I was able to earn $1,000-2,500 a month." - adds Taras.

"Out of all people who need psychological help, only 4% seek support from this type of specialist. For me, this data is more than just a statistic – it's something personal. When I was 15, I had a deep depression. There was no reason for it, and objectively my life was going quite well. I grew up in a village where stigma and shame were particularly strong. I was afraid to go to a psychologist, but that decision changed my life. So I started thinking about what I could do to help others who had the same problem as me. " - Taras reclaims.

I decided to enter the Faculty of Computer and Information Technologies at the Kharkiv Polytechnic University. "I'm basically bad at math," says Pogrebnyak. I chose the speciality "Artificial Intelligence Systems". I wanted to do what I was bad at. - shares Pogrebnyak.

In his second year, Pogrebnyak won the competition of student social projects and received a 400,000 UAH ($10,000) grant from UNICEF. They planned to spend money with classmates on a marketplace to search for psychotherapists. The first grant was spent for MVP but UNICEF did not give the next one. Clients bought only one or two sessions, and for the economy to converge, we needed at least four or five sessions, says Pogrebnyak. The team argued and the project was canceled in 2018, but Taras did not abandon the idea of a psychological service. He just decided to replace real psychologists with artificial intelligence.
Elomia founders team
  • Taras Pogrebnyak
    Co-Founder & CEO
  • Mikhailo Markevych
    Co-Founder & CTO
  • Anastasia Knysh
    Chief Clinical Officer
  • Valeria Rybitska
    Chief Marketing Officer
Creation and rise of Elomia

Pogrebnyak began to look for a business partner - an experienced AI specialist with the makings of a Chief Technical Officer. He met Mikhailo Markevych, with whom he studied at the same faculty. "This is one of the most ambitious goals of the century," he says. There was no suitable artificial intelligence, nor computers weren't powerful enough. But technology has advanced rapidly. Markevich agreed to take the risk.

In 2019, Elomia got into the CIG R&D Lab student program of Stepan Chernovetsky's venture fund, and in 2020, it received a grant of UAH 250,000. The Elomia founding team had already doubled in size by that time. Anastasia Knysh, candidate of psychological sciences from KhPI, and marketer Valeria Rybitskaya joined the project.

Elomia is solving a real problem, CIG Managing Partner Vladimir Krivko explains the jury's choice. After that experience, other mental health startups got on the fund's radar, but CIG hasn't written anyone a check yet. The Ukrainian startup came to the final presentation with an almost finished product – a bot for Telegram. But artificial intelligence was still far away.
Usually neural networks are trained on large arrays of texts, for example, from Twitter or Wikipedia. In order for the bot to "talk" about psychology, dialogues from real psychological sessions are needed. Pogrebnyak and Markevich found several psychologists and began collecting datasets.

Of course, the neural network is not independent. Sometimes it can give absolutely obscure and absurd answers. It needed a supercomputer. In the summer of 2021, Microsoft opened access to the ND A100 v4, a powerful virtual computing machine for AI. The Ukrainian startup could get it through an intermediary from the list of trusted companies. Markevych's good relationship with Oleksiy Skripnik, the founder of the Ukrainian outsourcer ELEKS, who was on this list, helped. "Like a bit of connections to get into early adopters," he laughs.

How does the bot bypass psychologists? It is easier to trust the machine, and it answers very quickly and around the clock, Pogrebnyak is sure. The second advantage is the price. For a regular session with a licensed therapist, clients pay $100-200.

"There is nothing in this product now except the algorithm," Markevich is sure. The main task is to upgrade the AI. Technology can't be sold if the product isn't. "This thing will go down in history," he says.
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