Industry News

EmpowerU, a Student SEL Service, Takes in $1 Million in Seed Funding

By Henry Kronk
January 05, 2021

The Twin Cities-based EmpowerU announced on January 5 it had secured $1 million in seed funding. The company, which operates primarily in Minnesota, says the resources will be used to scale its student social emotional learning (SEL) services nationwide.

EmpowerU was launched in 2018 by a group of mental health workers. The company’s product provides both daily SEL learning modules to learners along with one-on-one access to mental health practitioners. It targets some of the more common mental health issues experienced by students: depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.

These resources can be accessed via mobile device or web browser. They are available for K-12 and higher education students.

EmpowerU Delivers both Educational Resources and Coaching to Students Struggling with Depression, Anxiety, Low Self-Esteem, and More

The company believes that these two services in combination can improve the lives of a large swath of any student body. In addition, they can serve as a preventive measure that can catch some learners before they need to seek more involved treatment.

“EmpowerU delivers transformational student support at a fraction of the cost of therapy,” said EmpowerU Co-Founder and CEO Katie Dorn, in a statement. “As a licensed school counselor and therapist, I know how desperate educators are for cost-effective tools that actually help students overcome struggle. Although most students are unable to control their barriers, EmpowerU helps them navigate obstacles and come out the other side stronger. Students build hope that despite their difficult circumstances, they can feel better and thrive, today and in the future.”

The company says that 93% of learners who complete EmpowerU’s learning modules “make a dramatic shift from discouragement, and anxiety to improved well-being, motivation, and hope.”

Since launching, EmpowerU services have been deployed in some Minnesota schools. According to the company, roughly 1,000 learners have used EmpowerU to date.

Rates of Depression and Anxiety Among Students Appear to Be Growing

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (AADA), it is believed that roughly 31.9% of adolescents experience an anxiety disorder. This is generally consistent with estimates for postsecondary students as well.

Following the outbreak of Covid-19, however, researchers began to note an uptick in this rate. A study conducted by the Student Experience in the Research University Consortium at Berkeley surveyed over 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students this summer. The investigators found roughly 39% displayed an anxiety disorder. Meanwhile, 35% of undergraduates and 32% of graduate students “screened positive” for major depressive disorder.

The Round Was Led By Capita3 and Joined by ECMC and GreatNorth Labs

The St. Paul and Minneapolis venture firm Capita3—which aims to support women-led startups—led EmpowerU’s seed round. It was joined by ECMC and GreatNorth Labs.

EmpowerU also recently received an Innovation Grant from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development for an undisclosed sum.

Featured Image: Eternal Seconds, Unsplash.