Idea at a glance

The product takes a two-pronged approach to help people through the traumatic COVID time.

  1. Through community — A public forum where people can anonymously share their experiences of COVID, ask questions, and connect with other people who went through similar experiences. This whole forum will be powered by blockchain, which will make it truly anonymous and censorship-proof.
  2. Through counseling — For paying users, there’s a facility to avail counseling through texting. But the thing is, there’s an acute shortage of people who’re at the intersection of being a COVID expert and a therapist. Hence, we are creating the whole therapy experience with help of a combination of NLP techniques to infer the user’s text and GPT-3 to generate responses

That is our idea, at a glance. Dive into the rest of the article — I’m sure you’ll love it.

Does the market want this?

As of writing(19th December 2020), there are currently 1,00,00,000+ cases in India alone. Think about that, over 1 crore COVID cases in India alone.

And, about 48% of COVID cases are from 5 metropolitan states alone, namely -

  1. Maharashtra
  2. Karnataka
  3. Tamil Nadu
  4. Delhi
  5. West Bengal

But what’s special about Metropolitan states? The average income in these states comes out to be INR 15k, which is significantly higher than in other areas of India. Hence, higher purchasing power and a more literate population.

By the sheer number of people affected by the pandemic and everybody seeking help, and wanting to connect with people who understand what they’ve been through — it’s safe to say, the market demand for this is present and a platform like this is of dire need.

Who are we building for?

  • People affected by COVID in urban areas.
  • Front-line health workers.
  • Anybody seeking help, whose mental health might be affected due to this pandemic.

How do we plan to build this?

A robust platform that has two services amalgamated into one -

  1. A public forum to post and talk about COVID experiences, powered by blockchain to maintain anonymity and to ensure it’s censorship-proof.
  2. Counseling service for paid consumers, powered by AI to deal with the acute shortage of people who’re an intersection of both, COVID experts and Therapists.

Talking about technical aspects of the platform -

  • Frontend — We’ll have both, a mobile app and a web app. But the web app will be a PWA(Progressive Web Application), which allows the web app to be installed onto the Mobile, just like a normal application.
  1. The web application will be built using ReactJS, which is a frontend web framework.
  2. The mobile application will be built using a cross-platform tool, Flutter.
  • Backend -
  1. The server will be built using FastAPI, which is a Python web framework.
  2. For the database, we’ll use MySQL.
  • NLP Engine — For this, we’ll use a Python package called spaCy, it boasts a strong suite of features that are useful for NLP and also an easy API. NLP Engine, at its core, will perform two tasks — detecting the sentiments of the user’s text and detecting the intent of the user’s text. This is needed for the AI-based counseling.
  • Generative Language Model — To generate responses for user’s texts, I’ll use a famous generative model called, GPT-3. It’s a revolutionary model that generates texts with such accuracy that you’ll assume it’s written by a human. There are even several start-ups being built around GPT-3, like which generates copy-writing for websites. We intend to take a similar approach.
  • Tezos(Blockchain) — Tezos is a blockchain with a low gas-fee and a high transaction per second which makes it an ideal candidate for our application. Another reason to pick Tezos is, you can write Smart Contracts using SmartPy, which is a flavor of Python and, hence is very easy to get started with. We’ll use Smart Contracts on Tezos as the backbone of our public forum.

Here’s a graphical representation of how our architecture would look like -

Architecture diagram

Now, I’ll explain how this will all work together in 2 parts, first for the forum and then for the counseling.

  • Public Forum
  1. The user on visiting the platform will see all the posts so far, sorted by timestamp or upvotes.
  2. The user can choose to post on the forum or just browse through the posts and comment on other people’s posts.
  3. All the posts in the forum will be stored on-chain in a Smart Contract that’ll power the whole forum.
  4. Using a Smart Contract will ensure that the posts are censorship-proof, nobody can take them down.
  5. The users who would like to be contacted by others can choose to display their contact info along with their posts.
  • Counseling
  1. This is a paid service that the user can choose to avail of.
  2. Once the user buys the subscription, he’ll have access to a private text channel with a bot.
  3. Now, this bot isn’t a dumb bot. It’ll be a bot heavily powered by NLP and Deep Learning to create an experience that is as human as possible.
  4. The user’s text will be processed using an NLP engine.
  5. Based on the result from the NLP engine, the bot will generate a response using GPT-3. I don’t need to remind you how damn powerful GPT-3 is.
  6. GPT-3 can literally even write code to make a website from just the description of the UI! Blows my mind.

So, this is it for the solution. I’m happy to hear your thoughts down about it, down in the comments.

Stuff we’ll need to know

A platform like this requires working knowledge of multiple fields. Namely -

  1. Frontend web development
  2. Backend web development
  3. Mobile app development
  4. Smart Contract development
  5. Natural Language Processing
  6. Generative Models
  7. Most importantly, how to google and figure out how to build what you want to.

Money it’ll cost us

Budget highly depends on the scale(amount of traffic) of the platform and the amount of paying customers for the counseling service.

The three places I see us incurring cost in the first few months of the startup -

  1. Backend hosting
  2. Frontend hosting
  3. Usage of GPT-3

Once we grow as a startup, we’ll also need to take into account the salaries of the employees we hire.

How much do we earn from this?

The public forum would be completely free to access, but for later stages it would be interesting to think of some sort of token economics(as it’s based on blockchain), to reward people who’re active in the community and take a small cut from that reward to go towards maintenance fee for the forum.

But, on the other hand, the counseling service will be priced at $10 monthly.

How do we tell people about us?

Today’s internet economy is the attention economy. The longer you can hold a person’s attention, the more effective your content is.

Our plan is to create content that has the potential to go viral and distribute through multiple social platforms, the organic reach generated through this will make up for a huge chunk of our expected footfall on the platform.

Secondly, we’ll leverage the targeted ads feature of the social platforms and run ads that are not only effectively targeted towards the right audience but also pique the curiosity of the viewer. It’s been proven that advertisement campaigns that generate curiosity for the viewer are more often than not, successful.

Third, collaborations with influencers are a big one too. Today’s urban population spends a lot of time either binge-watching videos on YouTube or scrolling through Instagram reels. And creators on the internet have started proving that their audience is more targeted and usually they have a lot of superfans too.

We’re acknowledging that the media industry is changing, and popular actors are not the only influencers now. The creators of the internet age carry a lot of influence as well, and we will leverage that fact.

When will we launch?

We move fast. We launch, gather user-feedback, and iterate.

Our plan is to launch the platform in phases.

First, the forum, then, paid counseling service.

The first launch of the MVP will be executed within a span of 45 days, this version will simply contain the public forum.

Next, the second launch would be in 60 days of the first launch. We need a longer time frame for this version, as we’ll need to deal with the NLP engine and GPT-3.


We take solace in the fact that this pandemic won’t last forever.

We aim to build a long-lasting and sustainable company, that is profitable.

To achieve this goal of ours, we have a long term strategy of pivoting our platform once the pandemic dies out.

At the time pandemic starts to phase out, we’ll rebrand our platform as a place for all discussions related to health on the forum. And we’ll use this time to adjust our whole NLP and text generation pipeline to be able to provide therapy in general, not just aimed at people who’re being affected by the pandemic.

I hope you enjoyed reading through this idea. I would genuinely appreciate it if you could take out a minute to provide feedback in the comments below.

Full disclosure, this was a college assignment and not a real start-up.

If you’d like to talk to me, find me on Twitter at manangouhari.




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Manan Gouhari

Manan Gouhari

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