Avatar Buddy leverages AI to help people become the best versions of themselves

By Riley Kaminer

Since ChatGPT gained major momentum late last year, there has been a proliferation of platforms helping with everything from creating presentations to saving money on construction projects to even talking yourself out of parking tickets. But what if there were a platform that actually helped you become a better version of yourself? Now there is. 

Meet Avatar Buddy, a Miami startup co-founded by Stephanie Sylvestre and Donovan Lee-Sin. The platform leverages four different generative AI engines, including OpenAI’s GPT-3.5, to create a safe and private place for users to share their emotions and learn.

Currently, there are two main use cases for Avatar Buddy. The first is for teenagers, who can leverage the platform as they would a mentor – someone to give them emotional support. The second is for companies, who can use the platform to upskill or reskill their employees.

“How do you build self-worth?” Stephanie Sylvestre asked herself when she was working as the Chief Information Officer of The Children’s Trust of Miami-Dade County. In this role, she noticed that many clients did not even use the services that were readily available because they did not feel worthy of them.

One solution: mentors. The problem? “We don’t have enough human mentors,” noted Sylvestre. That’s where AI steps in. Through Avatar Buddy’s platform, users can have private, candid conversations about whatever is on their minds.

“Avatar Buddy responds, is supportive, and provides helpful information,” explained Sylvestre. “It empathizes with your plight, tells you that it is OK to feel how you are feeling,” and then signposts you to talk with a real-life person such as a therapist or friend. The platform stands in contrast to more generic alternatives such as ChatGPT by being optimized to be positive and constructive in the advice it gives.

The platform has a short-term memory, but that chain of memory gets broken if the user deletes the conversation. “The solution is accessible and inclusive, and is very much about privacy,” Sylvestre asserted. Administrators are provided with a word cloud showing the overall sentiment of their user base; however, they are never provided with full access to all the conversations. To improve accessibility, Avatar Buddy also requests very little info from users when signing up.

The now seven-person Avatar Buddy team has been working on the platform in one form or another on and off since around 2016. But in 2019, things started to accelerate when Avatar Buddy partnered with some after-school programs.

After a brief Covid-prompted pause in 2020, the team picked back up and launched the first iteration of their platform on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2021. Since then, they have had as many as 145 kids testing the platform – and even crashing it out of popularity (“That was a really good testament for what we were building,” said Sylvestre). 

Avatar Buddy is currently in the process of fundraising to expand the platform beyond its four paying customers and 490 paid licenses.

“Our goal is to get to 9.5 million users in about 7 years,” shared Sylvestre. They plan to get there through partnerships with after-school programs and organizations that are interested in reducing their turnover and increasing employee engagement.


Riley Kaminer