Startup Spotlight: AI-Based Platform Metanoa Is Enabling The Early Diagnosis Of Learning Disorders In Children
Metanoa enables the early diagnosis of developmental disorders such as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), learning disabilities, speech delays, and others.
This article is part of an ongoing series covering startups that have been a part of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Innovation Fund (MBRIF) accelerator program.
"As a kid, I was diagnosed with speech and misarticulation issues, and most of the time, everyone thought I was stubborn and acting up. As a result, it took me more time -and nine different schools- to finish my schooling." When Vibin Varghese relays such specific memories of his childhood, it becomes clear why it was so important for him to create Metanoa. An artificial intelligence (AI)-based platform, Metanoa enables the early diagnosis of developmental disorders such as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), learning disabilities, speech delays, and others. "My quality of life and social circumstances would have been much better if the disorder was found at an early stage and proper therapy was provided," Varghese says. "With Metanoa, we are trying to solve the same problem that I faced years back- early detection of developmental disorders, and providing evidence-based therapy with the help of AI."
Launched in the Indian city of Kochi, Metanoa came into being in 2019, and it is now working on setting up a base in the UAE. The startup has two parts to its offerings: a web app that can be used by clinics, schools, and professional therapists, and a mobile app that can be used by parents and caregivers. "We help parents in tracking the development of their child from day one, as well as for school readiness and learning disorders, and provide a whole range of support services from detection of developmental disorders, to suggesting activities and therapies to treat the same," Varghese explains. "The basic version of our mobile app is completely free, and parents can choose paid plans as per their requirements."
On the mobile app, in addition to self-assessment tools and screening tests to check for school readiness, Metanoa also offers a milestone tracker for parents to keep track of their children's progress, access to a list of age-specific activities and goals, as well as telephone or video consultations. "With our mobile app, parents can check for developmental disorders and milestones in their children within the comforts of their home," Varghese says. "The platform also helps the therapists offering their services on Metanoa to track the results of the activities given, and suggest changes accordingly."
The Metanoa platform currently has a total of 18,400 users spread across its B2B and B2C clients. While the access to therapy and other educational resources remain pivotal to Metanoa's services, what makes the platform unique is its ability to drastically cut down the time that is otherwise taken in identifying learning disorders, and seeking the right help thereafter. "People now use multiple platforms for detection, and then have to consult with professionals for therapies, which will be a time-consuming process," Varghese explains. "We are trying to reduce time taken for tedious assessment processes and other quantifying tools, report generation, suggestion for solutions, etc., and provide more time to the therapists, so that they can provide help to the next person who needs it. We are thus trying to introduce evidence-based therapy practice through the Metanoa platform. This, in turn, will help in early discovery and enables us to provide early support, which provides them with better chances of progress in their disorder."
The weight Varghese places on the absolute need for early diagnosis is backed by hard facts. In March 2022, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a report stating that about one in 100 children globally has autism. The report also highlighted that while characteristics may be detected in early childhood, autism is often not diagnosed until much later. However, multiple studies have also shown that early diagnosis of autism is more likely to have long-term positive effects on symptoms as well as skills that are developed later on in life. And this bodes well for Metanoa, with Varghese saying, "The product we envision is aiming at being a catalyst for the entire diagnosis process, with humans at the center of it."
It is this vision that Varghese hopes to carry forward while shifting his startup's base to the UAE as well, a journey in which the MBRIF accelerator program has been of much support to the startup. "The UAE is one of the countries that has implemented early intervention, which is one of our core values, and we believe understanding these basics can go a long way," Varghese says. "In the initial days, however, we had a tough time. There was no representation for us, apart from competitions at events like the Sharjah Entrepreneurship Festival and GITEX. Even though we were finalists in both, the products were not validated, and getting connections and meetings were not easy. But now, being a part of the MBRIF, it is now much easier to get access, since we are validated by an esteemed entity. With the MBRIF label, it is easy to let a user know that we are serious, and let them understand our capabilities."
As Metanoa now sets forth with its operations in the UAE, Varghese mentions that plans to expand into the MENA are highly possible. But geographic expansion isn't what is at the forefront of the founder's mind when it comes to what he wants to achieve with Metanoa. "We aim to touch a million children's lives in the coming years by helping parents to detect, identify, and provide evidence-based support for developmental delays within the early stage of the child, which will expedite the progress of their conditions and their lives in minimum time," Varghese says. "In the same way, our application will help professionals provide evidence-based practice with the help of technology, which not only increases the number of children that they can support, but also helps monitor their therapy progress at the same time, without replacing humans."