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

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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 adults with ADHD worldwide in 2020. Adults with ADHD are said to lose an average of 22 days of productivity per year. And between 2003-2011, the US experienced a 42% growth in childhood ADHD diagnoses. 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. London-based HelloSelf matches patients with licensed therapists and treats a range of mental health conditions, including ADHD. New York-based Inflow, an app that supposedly helps members better manage ADHD through cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)-based support, 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. The originally Ukrainian startup Numo is an app for adults with ADHD that gamifies daily tasks and receives support.
Healios raised a £7 million ($9.9 million) Series A round to expand its platform in the UK.

Now there’s a Sidekick, whose pitch is that it’s 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 led by 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-depriving browser space, including Arc, 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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