From porn to social media, this former product manager built Atmana to beat technology de-addiction

Atmana builds mobile app-based solutions to help users cut down on technology addictions like excessive use of social media, gaming, pornography, and smartphones. The Y-Combinator 2021 startup has recently raised $500,000 in funding.
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One in four young adults is addicted to smartphones, point out global studies. These numbers are significantly increasing with each passing year. 

It was something Tejas Balasubramanya felt strongly about, and spurred him to start Atmana in Bengaluru early this year. The startup builds mobile app-based solutions to help users cut down on technology addictions like excessive use of social media, gaming, pornography, and smartphones. 

“We have started with our first use case, BlockerX, which is a complete porn de-addiction solution with over 1.5 million installs, over 200,000 monthly active users (MAU) and over 10,000 paying customers from countries like US, UK, Canada, Germany, France etc,” says Tejas. 

Funding and initial days 

Atmana has raised $500,000 as part of a seed round. Investors include Y Combinator, Goodwater Capital and angels like Dhruv Gupta, co-founder of Orange health, and Austen Allred, Founder of Lambda school. Atmana was part of the S21 batch of Y Combinator. 

“The funding will help us in growing our paid marketing channels and building out newer products to help with gaming and social media de-addiction,” adds Tejas. 

Previously a product manager at Practo and later Capital Float, Tejas had always wanted to do something of his own. He began by building apps for himself to become more healthy and fit, and also built a gamified app to help users wake up early. An app to help users go to the gym regularly also came into being. However, he failed to monetise these as he strongly felt apps that help with cutting down a harmful habit stood a greater chance at monetising. 

He then started looking at addictions and on researching further, he saw that over one million people were discussing their porn addiction problems anonymously on discussion website Reddit. This sparked the idea for a porn de-addiction app. Tejas, who spoke to over 200 users one-on-one, to understand their addiction problems, admits there were many hiccups initially in getting users to engage with the app regularly. 

Focusing on addiction 

Barrett Parkman, VP at Goodwater Capital said "Technology addictions are more widespread than ever, and can cause deep relational and health problems. We're excited to back Atmana to help millennials get help with their technology addictions. Their solution works and has already helped hundreds of thousands of people get help with unwanted behaviours."

While the process of building the app was quite insightful, Tejas started focusing on features that users found helpful. As engagement and installs started to increase, he knew he had found something that was beneficial enough to monetise. 

Tejas, who is the solo founder, has a team of 15, all hired via recruitment channels like Linkedin, Internshala etc.  Atmana’s first product, BlockerX, is available across all platforms for computers and phones. BlockerX combines content filtering on the device along with proven techniques from substance abuse treatments like buddy programmes, support groups and resources that help educate the user on the addiction.

Increase in addictions 

Austen Allred, Founder of Lambda School and angel investor says "Addiction is one of the most pervasive problems in the world, and an app that solves that (or helps solves that) could become one of the most important apps there is. I’m excited to invest in Atmana to bring addiction recovery to folks who have not had great options in the past."

While the world was busy battling a pandemic, a problem that rose on the side was that of excessive screen time and a general dependency on technology for everything. 

Globally, according to multiple research reports, India is ranked third in smartphone usage, with the average Indian spending 4.6 hours per day on their device. And Atmana is now focused on tackling this very problem. The app aims to help youngsters control excessive screen time using mobile first solutions. 

"Neurologically, technology addiction is no different from a substance abuse addiction,” says Tejas. He adds that the platform has psychiatrists and psychologists on the team who help them leverage proven techniques from addiction treatment in tackling technology addiction.”

Market and future 

According to GlobeNewswire, the addiction treatment market will touch $6.2 billion by 2027. Some of the apps in the segment include - I am Sober, Recovery Path, Sober Grid and others. Atmana works on a freemium model, and while the app is free to install, the advanced functionality requires a paid subscription of $90 per year. 

The team has over 200,000 monthly active users and over 10,000 paying users. Atmana’s revenues are growing at 15 percent month over month, says Tejas.

Speaking of the future, Tejas says, “We plan to provide more offerings to help users on their de-addiction path like coaching by experts, courses to help understand the addiction and daily journaling. We also plan to build solutions to help users with other addictions like gaming and social media.”

Edited by Anju Narayanan

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