July 13, 2021
Meet the Catalyst Semifinalists: OkaySo
Imagine you were having a crisis—about your identity, family, mental health, or self—and had nowhere to turn. Imagine that instead of suffering alone, you could have access to a slew of experts at the touch of a phone screen.
When the founders of OkaySo were growing up, they didn’t have access to that panel of experts. As LGBTQ-identifying teens, they felt alone navigating their lives and struggled with questions about their sexual identities, and wished for a trusted adult they could talk to.
Both went into the sexual health and well-being fields because of their experiences as teenagers. But they found that there was still a massive lack of access to trustworthy information out there. That led them to create OkaySo, a wireless app that connects young people with questions to teams of experts who provide personalized responses.
“To date, only 22 states require medically accurate sexuality education, which at its best is only focused on preventing pregnancy and STI transmission,” said Elise Schuster, OkaySo co-founder. “And in-person nonprofits providing support are often overworked or inaccessible for many adolescents, which is where the power of technology comes into play.”
OkaySo users can download the app and ask any question they have about stress, relationships, identity and more—in their own words. Then, they have a real conversation with vetted experts who are trained to provide accurate, non-judgmental information and support with empathy and ongoing engagement. Sometimes multiple experts will weigh in on one conversation, giving users as thorough and accurate a response to their questions as possible.
The app currently serves a diverse group of people aged 14-24, and has answered over 11,000 questions since launching in 2018. In surveys conducted by the company, over 80% of their users reported a change in thinking about their issue after using OkaySo, and 50% reported enacting some sort of behavior change like visiting a doctor, starting therapy, having a difficult conversation, or exiting an unhealthy relationship.
“We envision a world where all individuals can know and love their bodies, identities and selves, so that they can live freely and authentically,” said Schuster. “Utilizing wireless technology makes that reality all the more possible, as it enables us to expand our reach while also easily growing our expert base since we can tap into anyone, anywhere.”
Moving forward, OkaySo plans to deepen their work to reach young people in every city and rural area in the U.S., and plans on partnering with both local and national organizations to reach their goals. Eventually they hope to be able to show how these types of conversations are the engine of change, and the founders plan on helping hundreds of thousands of young people manage stress, make a doctor’s appointment, talk to their parents about a serious issue, and much more. The Foundation is honored to partner with OkaySo and be a part of the positive impact they are making.
A grants program for social entrepreneurs accelerating wireless innovation for health and well-being.