1. Zareen Ali, Co-Founder and CEO at COGS AI

Name: Zareen Ali

Company: COGS AI

Website: https://www.cogs-ai.com/

About Zareen Ali and COGS AI

Cogs AI is the digital companion for every neurodivergent person. Neurodivergence affects different people in different ways, so rather than focusing exclusively on one area of need, we create solutions that work holistically to support users in multiple ways.

We launched our first product this summer, a mobile app that helps users manage stress and anxiety, become more productive and learn communication strategies. Our aim is to be the super-app for the neurodivergent community, providing highly personalised experiences across the different and varied needs of the community. Our initial focus is mental wellbeing and productivity, before moving towards physical health, daily living skills, relationships and community.

We’re currently direct-to-consumer, reaching customers mainly through Instagram. We’re having conversations with NHS trusts, local authorities and corporates to see if we can provide solutions to the neurodivergent community through partners.

When did it start?

Cogs AI was founded in August 2021. Initially, our focus was on education, given my school experience and background in educational neuroscience. However, conversations with the neurodivergent community revealed that merely creating an educational product fell short. The broader issues they faced became evident, underscoring the significance of thorough user research and avoiding limitations imposed by past experiences when tackling problems.

What problem are you setting out to solve:

The neurodivergent community face some of the worst outcomes in health, education and employment. Autistic adults, for example, are nine times more likely to die by suicide and 60% of ADHDers have lost or been forced to change jobs because of ADHD. So much of this is down to stigma and a lack of understanding about neurodiversity from the outside world. I saw this in action when I was working with neurodivergent teenagers in schools, and my co-founder Felix saw the way his sister, who has ADHD, was treated during her school years. Fighting this inequality is what motivated us to start Cogs AI. As an autistic person myself, it’s a mission that’s very personal to me.

The thing about neurodiversity that most people don’t realise is that the neurodivergent brain is literally wired differently, meaning that a neurodivergent person’s internal world can be very different from a neurotypical person’s experience. The medical and scientific communities have only focused on what they can observe from the outside, which gives us diagnoses and treatments framed around how much a neurodivergent person deviates from acting “normal” and how to correct it.

Cogs AI provides the opposite of that. We work from the conviction that every neurodivergent person’s experience is central to who they are, and rather than wanting to be “normal”, they might choose to adapt to the outside world in certain ways whilst maintaining other parts of their neurodivergent identity in different contexts or spaces. Through our technology, we support each neurodivergent person to find the way of living in the world that works best for them.

Results so far:

So far, the startup has received £500k of funding from Innovate UK, Bethnal Green Ventures, The Francis Crick Institute, the London School of Economics and UnLtd, as well as forming a research partnership with the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cambridge.