Even before we had ever heard of COVID-19, and definitely, during the crisis, Israeli startups would do anything to sign deals that would inject some cash into the company’s piggy bank. Especially, if that deal is with a market giant, that may consequently create a further wave of good publicity. However, despite the temptation, Israeli startup Talkspace claims that they preferred to decline a deal with Facebook.
They were supposed to provide therapy to Facebook users, but instead, they took a stand
Talkspace (formerly known as TalkTala), is a startup that is not new to the game. The company originally founded in 2012 by Roni and Oren Frank, the latter formerly CEO of McCann Erickson Israel. According to the couple, they founded the company after couples therapy had saved their marriage. From there, the pair decided to make therapy accessible to the vast population connected to the digital world. The startup’s application allows digital users to access mental help therapy from certified psychologists, that have been personally matched with patients through the company website and app, without leaving the comfort of their home. Talkspace has already raised $110 million through a series of funding rounds while supporting more than half a million users.
Talkspace CEO and co-founder, Oren Frank recently announced that the company has decided to halt negotiations with Facebook, blasting the social media giant on Twitter: “We shall not collaborate with a platform that encourages violence, racism, and lies,” while also adding the #BlackLivesMatter to the criticizing Tweet. In an interview with CNBC Frank revealed that Talkspace and Facebook were at the final stages of a deal worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, allowing Facebook to offer free mental health therapy to specific online communities.
What’s all the fuss about?
A lot of focus has been put on various social media platform’s involvement in the latest protests, which were ignited by the brutal killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. Recently, Donald Trump, once again, outraged the world by posting a tweet saying he would bring in the military to stop the riots, shamelessly adding: “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” The tweet led to a rare moment in social media history when Twitter decided to hide the tweet, marking it as an incitement of violence and violation of the platform’s conduct code. However, when the same remarks were posted on Trump’s popular Facebook page, it wasn’t marked, even after both Facebook employees and users demanded it be taken down. Trump had later denied the use of force against the protesters, though the act of silence on behalf of the social media giant has led to a massive walkout of Facebook employees in protest.
Oren Frank: The decision was clear, even my child could have made it
“This is a major opportunity to partner with one of the world’s biggest media platforms,” Frank tells CNBC. Further adding “I don’t think that they are bad people, but I do think that the company has become evil.” Though Frank did say that the deal would be back on the table if Facebook would better regulate the content posted on the social media platform. “Even my young daughter could have made this decision. You really don’t need to be a president or CEO to make the right choice here,” Frank said in an interview with CNN. This is not the first time that Frank has voiced his feelings against social media platforms, back 2016, he wrote a column claiming that social media would become the new cigarette.
In the same CNN interview, Frank added, “We couldn’t have continued with the potential partnership in light of Facebook’s wrong choices. Particularly, considering that their choice would definitely harm its own users.” “It’s basic humanity rather than ideology or political stance.” Frank continued to add that he’s definitely not a big fan of Twitter but their decision to hide the tweet marked an important moment of knowing when to set boundaries. “They (Facebook) need to change their stance and quickly before the real damage happens,” explains Frank, who also compared the social media platform to a highway, without speed limits or law enforcement.