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ADHD startups are exploding, and now there's even a dedicated browser

Was it the pandemic? Did everyone follow too many ADHD TikTokers? Have smartphones fried our brains? Whatever the case, there is a boom in ADHD tech solutions, from online drug deliveries to web sites and apps.

There’s definitely something going on out there. According to research, some 366.33 million adults globally had persistent ADHD symptoms in 2020. Adults with ADHD are said to lose an average of 22 days of productivity per year. And between 2003-2011 the U.S. faced a 42% growth in childhood ADHD diagnosis. And the mental health space (of which ADHD is a part) took off a couple of years ago. Venture capitalists put $1.4 billion into the European mental health sector in 2021, according to Dealroom data, but investment shrunk to $354 million last year as VCs took flight in the downturn, more generally.

However, there is still plenty of activity. London-based HelloSelf matches patients with licensed therapists and covers a range of mental health conditions, including ADHD. Out of New York, Inflow, an app that supposedly helps members better manage ADHD through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) based support raised an $11 million Series A round led by Octopus Ventures. Centered is a desktop app that provides an AI voice coaches to help ADHD sufferers stay focused, (with Pomodoro timers, calendaring, etc.) and also has “Buddy Sessions" between members and for productivity and ADHD coaches. Ukrainian-originated startup Numo is an app for adults with ADHD that gamifies daily tasks and get support. Healios raised a £7 million ($9.9 million) Series A round to expand its platform across the U.K.

Now there is a Sidekick, who’s pitch is that it’s a “productivity browser.” Today it's launching a host of features geared to ADHD sufferers and the attention distracted more generally.

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Sidekick was a 2020 Y Combinator cohort member, and in March 2021 it raised $2 million in a round led by Kleiner Perkins.

The company claims users with ADHD noticed a “significant improvement” after using the browser. The Chromium-based browser was founded by Dmitry Pushkarev (a Stanford PhD in Molecular Biology, ex-Amazon exec and ADHDer).

So how does it work?

To nullify distractions, the browser incorporates AdBlock 2.0; a Focus Mode Timer disables all sounds, badges and notifications for a selected time or indefinitely; a Task Manager organizes your day; and there’s a built-in Pomodoro timer; it also claims to run 3x faster than Chrome, which, apparently, is important for ADHD sufferers. Suffice it to say, it has a number of other distraction-killing features; however, I’m not going to list them all here.

CEO and founder Dmitry Pushkarev said, in a statement, “Modern browsers are not designed for work, but for consuming web pages. This gap really hurts hundreds of millions of users. We are convinced that lowering web distraction reduces anxiety and increases the quality of people’s work and the quality of their lives.”

He says the startup plans to make money via corporate subscribers, who will pay to get their ADHD-afflicted workers into a more productive mode.

Unfortunately for Sidekick, it has plenty of competitors in the attention-reducing browser space, including Arc, Brave and Vivaldi.

With all that said, Sidekick’s attention (geddit?) to ADHD may win it a valuable niche, especially given the apparent pandemic of ADHD sufferers.