smart counseling

Houston-based mental health startup backed by Serena Williams emerges from stealth

OURS is re-imagining and de-stigmatizing couples therapy. Photo by Mikhail Nilov/Pexels

A Houston startup that's re-imagining mental health treatment and counseling has emerged from stealth, announcing financial support from seed investors including tennis legend and venture capital investor Serena Williams.

Targeting the $5 trillion health and wellness market, OURS is founded by family therapist and author Liz Earnshaw, as well as Adam Putterman and Jessica Holton.

“We’re excited to take this first step in shifting the way we think about relationship health. We are building for a world that treats relationship health with equal importance as physical, mental and emotional health. We want working on your relationships to be an everyday experience, accessible to all,” says Holton, who serves as co-CEO, in a news release.

The company has raised nearly $5 million pre-seed and seed round from investors including TMV, Serena Ventures, Lakehouse Ventures, Collaborative Fund, GreyMatter, and pioneering angel investors such as Andy Dunn.

“Research shows that relationships are the most important factor to our overall health and wellbeing, which is an area that I'm hyper-focused on in my personal life,” says Williams, managing partner of San Francisco-based Serena Ventures, in the release. “When I learned about what the team was doing, I knew this was something we needed to support.

"OURS offers a reimagined and preventative solution to relationship wellness that's not only experiential and research-backed, but memorable and fun," she continues. "We're proud to be early investors in a brand that is making relationship health accessible to couples everywhere and play an integral part of the larger OURS mission.”

OURS has thousands of couples already using its platform. Image via OURS

The company launched its beta in 2020 and has already worked with thousands of customers and has an engaged community of couples across its platforms.

The OURS founders were inspired by their own experiences with couples counseling and created a technology-enabled platform based of expert and data-backed research.

“As it stands, the current mental health and wellness space is largely geared towards individuals, yet nearly 50 percent of couples have either participated in, or have sought out solutions, to foster stronger romantic partnerships,” says Soraya Darabi, co-founder and general partner at TMV, in the release. “However, a lack of therapists - until now - or confused perception of couples counseling leave needs unmet.”

Initially targeting romantic partners, the platform costs $400 for a four-week program that includes six personalized interactive sessions with an OURS guide at the helm of the experience. These one-hour technology-powered sessions are based around an innovative new technology, called Loveware, and include dynamic and meaningful conversations between a couple that are built around the magic that comes from being in the room with an expert.

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Houston-based Melax Tech has developed multiple Natural language processing tools that are used by more than 650 health care and life science organizations. Photo via MelaxTech.com

Melax Tech Partners, a leader in natural language technology processing, announced a new partnership with the University of California at Irvine that will help researchers derive insights from the UCI Health Data Science Platform’s electronic health records system and improve patient care.

Melax will implement its signature text annotation tool LANN to pull information from clinical notes, and its CLAMP product to develop natural language processing customizations through the use of AI, according to a statement from the company.

“There has been a strong desire among UCI researchers to have the capability to analyze free-text clinical narrative data using cutting-edge NLP technologies," Kai Zheng, chief research information officer at UCI Health Affairs, says in a statement. "We are delighted to have this opportunity to work with Melax Tech to deploy their AI-driven annotation and analytics tools to help our researchers advance their research agenda by leveraging the vast amount of free-text data that our health system has accumulated in the past two decades.”

Natural language processing, or NLP, allows organizations and healthcare groups to sift through and analyze massive amounts of data at a rapid rate through the use of machine learning and AI. Houston-based Melax Tech, founded in 2017, has developed multiple NLP tools that are used by more than 650 health care and life science organizations, according to its website.

In addition to the recent partnership with UC Irvine, Melax has also recently partnered with Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the University of Western Pennsylvania on similar clinical projects.

Melax has also used its platforms to pull vital information from datasets relating to COVID-19, in both medical and social settings.

In March 2022, it was awarded a Phase 1 NIH Award, valued at $300,000, to develop informatics tools based on COVID-19 datasets with the San Diego Supercomputer Center at UC San Diego. The tool aims to help researchers better understand vast amounts of virus-related data and connect findings with other similar results.

In August, Melax also received another $300,000 grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to develop NLP-based algorithms that will "model, extract and synthesize vaccine misinformation from multiple popular social media sources," according to a statement. Melax will also develop a visualization that presents its findings on the misinformation into a compressible format.

"This is a very real topic affecting culture at present," Andre Pontin, CEO at Melax Tech, says in a statement. "And shows that we as a collective business and group of experts continue to be on the cutting-edge of science in the NLP and AI domain."

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