Cutting-edge app makes it to the KickStart Finals

Bet On Me (2)

A cutting-edge app aimed at tackling the UK’s gambling problem is being developed in Sheffield.

Minal Jain along with her fellow University of Sheffield medical students Tejus Patel, Akshay Kumar, and Adil Nayeem, all aged 23, are building an app – called Bet On Me – which is aiming to change the way gambling addiction is treated on a widely accessible platform by 2020.

The charity Gamble Aware estimates that there are around 430,000 problem gamblers in Great Britain, with almost 2 million more people being considered at risk.

The Bet On Me app uses Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) – which is endorsed by leading psychiatrist Dr Henrietta Bowden-Jones – to change the thought processes of gambling addicts, making them more aware of the triggers for their actions, and empowering them in restoring rational thought processes.

One of the key functionalities of the app is to use machine learning to identify when users are most likely to want to gamble, before suggesting activities that can distract them to help combat gambling urges. Furthermore, the app will create a platform where users will be able to interact and motivate each other in their attempts to stop gambling. Thereby creating a community amongst an often isolated and neglected group.

“We want to create something that is driven by our desire to help people who desperately want and need help, and have nowhere else to go,” said Minal, who along with her colleagues, has made the final of the Baldwins KickStart Young Entrepreneur Awards where the winner secures a £20,000 investment for their business.

“When on our medical placements in hospitals we were shocked to find that a lot of patients we spoke to had a mental health condition that originated from problem gambling.

“We thought that if we could stop the spiral at the gambling stage, then they would be less likely to develop more serious issues such as depression or other addictions.

“A 10 minute chat with a doctor isn’t enough to help people with a gambling addiction – it takes time and this app will enable addicts to complete six personalised sessions at their own pace.”

Once each user has gone through a questionnaire to establish the severity of their gambling addiction, each session is delivered using animations, audio and reflective questions, and covers areas such as managing urges to gamble and cognitive restructuring.

The app also helps the user to understand what influences their behaviour through the use of key CBT principles such as the ABC Model, so an activating event, a belief and then a consequence of that belief.

With all of the app’s content now in place, the next step for Minal and her three colleagues is to prove the effectiveness of their idea via a three-stage research programme with focus groups, which will then enable them to take this to potential customers such as the NHS and community groups.

Alongside this is the task of translating the content onto an app by the end of 2019, and to fund this the group are hoping they can triumph at the Baldwins KickStart Young Entrepreneur Awards on Thursday, November 15 where a £10,000 cash injection and £10,000 worth of business mentoring and accountancy advice is up for grabs.

The group will be pitching their business idea to around 400 people at Edgbaston Cricket Ground with each runner-up receiving £5,000 worth of business mentoring and accountancy advice, and Minal believes that winning the award would help them reach their goal of making the app available in the UK by the end of 2020.

“That kind of investment would go a really long way in adding additional features to the prototype and creating animations to deliver engaging content,” she added.

“We started from scratch in January, and have achieved a lot. Winning this competition will further enhance our ability to achieve our three year plan and ultimately help a lot of people who have been neglected.

“The plan is that once we have proven through research that our app concept does have a positive impact we will be ready for our launch in 2020.”

David Baldwin, Director at Baldwins, was part of the judges’ panel that shortlisted Bet On Me for the Baldwins KickStart Young Entrepreneur Awards.

He commented: “Bet On Me is providing a service that could go on to change so many lives while also supporting our vital NHS services.

“It’s important that support services are there for people no matter how bad their gambling addiction is, and this is a commendable idea which has very strong potential.

“Minal and her team are at the crucial business stage of proving its effectiveness, and whatever the outcome at the awards, I’m looking forward to mentoring the group to help them develop their idea further.”