2020 Indigenous Communities Fellowship



ShockTalk is a culturally tailored, and AI-assisted, telemental health platform, connecting Indigenous clients to Indigenous therapists trained in cultural humility.

Team Lead

Austin Serio

Solution Pitch

The Problem

Native American and Alaska Native (NA/AN) populations have disproportionately higher rates of mental health problems than the rest of the US population. High rates of substance use disorders, post traumatic stress disorder, suicide, and attachment disorders in many NA/AN communities have been directly linked to intergenerational historical trauma, such as forced removal of land and government-operated boarding schools which separated NA/AN children from their parents, spiritual practices, and culture. 

The Solution

ShockTalk seeks to relieve historical and intergenerational trauma in Native American and Alaska Native communities. Through ShockTalk’s culturally tailored and AI-assisted telemental health platform, Indigenous social workers match users to Native therapists trained and experienced in cultural humility. ShockTalk’s culturally tailored media stream also serves as a healthy alternative to overstimulating social media platforms. 

Culturally tailored content carries key protective factors. ShockTalk users build better Indigenous online communities by sharing culturally appropriate content within a peer support network, uplifting overall community wellbeing. 


ShockTalk will be offering its initial pilot through 33 federally recognized tribes, with an aim to eventually reach 1.3 million users.

Market Opportunity

The Indian Health Service (IHS) has a budget of $8 billion, but is chronically underfunded. This budget is only suitable to serve 52 percent of the eligible Native American and Alaska Native (NA/AN) population, leaving at least 48 percent of federally recognized tribes’ needs unmet, without account for the needs of state recognized tribes, unrecognized tribes, and self identified Indigenous peoples. 70 percent of all Natives live in urban areas, but less than 1 percent of the IHS budget goes towards urban funding. The aim of ShockTalk is to reach the 1.3 million NA/AN people not covered by the funds available in IHS. This market is worth $130 million, and currently there are no other telehealth platforms specifically tailored to the NA/AN community. Furthermore, the Indian Health Service has recently moved to expand the Community Health Aids (CHAP) program from Alaska to the lower 48 states. CHAP will train Indigneous community members in culturally competent care. Now is the time to build the healthcare infrastructure the first peoples of this land were promised long ago. 

Organization Highlights

  • Featured at U.Pitch and the Covid Global Hackathon 

  • Co-founder Sutton King interviewed in the New York Times

  • Selected as NYU Entrepreneurship startup of the week twice

  • NYU Ignite Alpha and Ignite Beta Fellow ‘20

  • Blackstone x TechStars Launchpad Fellow ‘20

  • Firefly x CUNY x MIT Solveathon 1st Place

  • Interviewed by Indian Country Today

Partnership Goals

ShockTalk currently seeks:

  • Partnerships with tribal nations and tribal nonprofits interested in building a culturally tailored telemental health solution for their communities

  • To grow its development team with Indigenous UI/UX designers, graphic designers, and programmers

  • Partnership opportunities with healthcare insurance companies. By leveraging culture as treatment and prevention, ShockTalk can help to increase the capacity of the healthcare system and maximize value through the benefits of preventative care.

  • Partnership opportunities with internet service providers (ISPs), particularly broadband providers to expand rural broadband.

Solver Team

Organization Type:
Hybrid of For-Profit and Non-Profit

New York, United States


Working in:
United States



Solution Team:

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