ADHD startups are exploding, and now there’s even a dedicated browser

by Ana Lopez

Was it the pandemic? Has everyone followed too many ADHD TikTokers? Have smartphones baked our brains? Be that as it may, there’s an explosion of tech solutions for ADHD, from online drug deliveries to websites and apps.

There’s definitely something going on out there. There were 139.84 million and 366.33 million ADHD affected adults in 2020, worldwide. Adults with ADHD would be lose an average of 22 days of productivity per year. And between 2003-2011, the US faced a 42% growth ADHD diagnosis in children. And the mental health space (of which ADHD is a part) boomed a few years ago. Venture capitalists poured $1.4 billion into Europe’s mental health sector by 2021, according to data from Dealroom, but investments fell to $354 million last year as VCs took off in the recession, more broadly.

Yet there is still plenty of activity. Based in London HelloSelf matches patients with licensed therapists and covers a range of mental health conditions, including ADHD. From New York, Inflow, an app that supposedly helps members better manage ADHD through cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)-based support, has raised an $11 million Series A round led by Octopus Ventures. Centered is a desktop app that provides AI voice coaches to help ADHD patients stay focused (with Pomodoro timers, calendars, etc.) and also has “Buddy Sessions” between members and for productivity and ADHD coaches. Startup originating in Ukraine Number is an app for adults with ADHD that gamifies daily tasks and gets support.
Healios raised a £7 million ($9.9 million) Series A round to expand its platform in the UK.

Now there is one sidekick, whose pitch is that it is a “productivity browser”. Today it launches a host of features tailored to ADHD patients and diverts attention more generally.

Sidekick was a member of the 2020 Y Combinator cohort and in March 2021 they raised $2 million in a round under the direction of Kleiner Perkins.

The company claims that users with ADHD have noticed a “significant improvement” after using the browser. The Chromium-based browser was founded by Dmitry Pushkarev (a Stanford Ph.D. in Molecular Biology), ex-Amazon exec and ADHDer)

So how does it work?

To avoid distractions, the browser includes AdBlock 2.0; a Focus Mode Timer turns off all sounds, badges, and notifications for a selected time or indefinitely; a task manager organizes your day; and there’s a built-in Pomodoro timer; it also claims to run 3x faster than Chrome, which is apparently important for ADHD sufferers. Suffice it to say it has a number of other distracting properties, but I’m not going to list them all here.

CEO and founder Dmitry Pushkarev said in a statement: “Modern browsers are not designed to work, but to consume web pages. This gap really hurts hundreds of millions of users. We believe that reducing internet distractions reduces anxiety and improves the quality of improves people’s work and the quality of their lives.”

He says the startup plans to make money through corporate subscribers, who will pay to help their ADHD-stricken employees be more productive.

Unfortunately for Sidekick, it has many competitors in the attention-diminishing browser space, including Bow, Brave And Vivaldi.

That said, Sidekick’s attention (geddit?) to ADHD could earn it a valuable niche, especially given the apparent pandemic of ADHD patients.

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