January 30, 2023

Founded in 2014 by Ahmed Abu Elhaz and Mohammad ElShami, Shezlong enables users to find and speak to licensed psychiatry therapists through its web-based platform. 

Shortly after receiving a diagnosis of depression years ago, Ahmed Abu Elhaz was hard-pressed to find psychotherapy services that were professional, reliable, and cheap.

The glaring market gap inspired the young Egyptian entrepreneur to set up Shezlong, a Cairo-based start-up that provides online counseling services to Arabic speakers around the world from the comfort and privacy of their homes, in addition to addressing the social stigma around seeking mental health support.

Negative attitudes towards mental illness have meant that women in some countries have inadequate access to the required support, those battling mental health issues are often considered to have weak faith or poor resilience, and people who try to seek professional help are often subjected to shame or ridicule.

The entrepreneur recognized the need for quality mental health services in the Arab world before the outbreak of Covid-19. However, demand grew after the onset of the pandemic as grief, stress, financial uncertainty, and feelings of isolation took their toll on many.

Shezlong, therefore, enables users to book up to hour-long video or voice sessions with over 500 therapists that Shezlong currently hosts on its platform. The users can choose not to share their identity with the therapists and their details are kept private.

The startup has received ten thousand cases from different countries including Egypt, Saudi, UAE, Qatar, Germany, and the United States, since its inception. Shezlong also has over 100,000 registered users on its platform who follow up frequently with their therapists.

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It also offers free assessments to users to help them understand their mental health and identify psychological problems. 

The start-up’s platform assists patients to search for licensed therapists, reserving dates, and talk to them without disclosing their identity and keeping their details private, enabling patients to identify their psychological problems and get treatment.

How it Works

Psychological Tests

All of the information contained on Shezlong platform, website, or app, including the results of any self-assessment or questionnaire, are discussed with a suitably qualified healthcare professional before drawing any conclusions about your mental health. 

Self-assessments are not intended to give a specific formal diagnosis or provide medical advice. You are strongly encouraged to confirm any information obtained from- or through this assessment and any other information on this platform and to review all information regarding your mental health condition, life stage, or treatment with your treating professional. 

Additionally, you should never disregard professional healthcare advice or delay seeking treatment because of something you have read, or accessed through, this platform.

Charges & Market Size

In Egypt, Shezlong offers online counseling sessions that start from 100 Egyptian pounds ($6.40) while rates for users outside the country range from $30 to $100, with the company coming up with several promotions.

Clients are typically between the ages of 25 and 45 years. About six in 10 are women and they are a mix of professionals, homemakers, mothers, and couples.

The company is riding the telehealth wave that began during the pandemic and is helping to eliminate the stigma associated with visiting a therapist’s office.

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Founders

Mohammad El Shami

Mohammad El Shami is the Medical Director at Shezlong.

He is a Psychiatrist consultant and Health Care Management, Specialist 

He is also the Founder of the Psychiatry department at Children Cancer Hospital Egypt 57357 as well as the Director of Psychosocial oncology at Luxor cancer center Shefaa Elorman.

Additionally, Mohammed El Shami is a Professional Certified Trainer from AUC and the Author of Stigma towards mental illness & The black dog; surviving depression.

He is also an Award winner from Prof. Okasha and Cairo University.

Investors & Funding Rounds

Asia Africa Investment and Consulting, Mohamed El Khamissy.

Shezlong has raised fresh funds, without disclosing the size of the investment. The investment came from Asia Africa Investment Consulting (AAIC), a Singapore-based investor focused on investing in healthcare startups in Africa.

The round was also joined by Mohamed El Khamissy (investor in different health and wellness startups across the Middle East, Europe, and the United States) and Cairo-based angel fund HIMangel.

Shezlong had previously raised $350,000 in a bridge round in 2018. It also won a $ 100,000 grant from Expo 2020’s Innovation Impact Grant Program.

Shezlong plans to use the latest funds to expand its services across the region as well as to the Arabic-speaking population all around the world, and to introduce new products including texting-based therapy and corporate wellness programs.

Main Competitors

Meru Health: This is an online mental healthcare company that teaches people the skills needed to create long-lasting healthy lifestyle habits.

Afya Rekod: It is a digital health data platform that allows users to capture, store, and have real-time access to the patient’s health data.

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Advekit: This is an online healthcare platform that makes mental health therapy easily accessible and affordable.

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