We invited the industry’s leading thought leaders:
Sarah Seegal, CEO & Co-founder Affect Mental Health
Here’s what our panelists had to say:
Deeply partner across disciplines. As Seegal notes, the mental health technology space is not one that operates in a silo. Only through interdisciplinary collaboration can any company truly make an impact in the space. That’s why the panelists recommend building an advisory team that incorporates relevant aspects of the mental health technology space, which could include clinicians, technologists, payers, and potentially even patients.
Co-founders should complement each other. Creating your co-founding team is perhaps the most critical decision your company will make. Especially in the mental health technology space, successful companies know how to balance skill sets and domain expertise within the founding team. For instance, bolster a technologist’s role in the company with a clinical co-founder.
Mental health is more than the absence of mental illness. When Modern Health surveyed their users about why they sought help, less than 10% selected “mental health.” Instead, most users selected other categories like money, work stress, and personal relationships. Find ways to engage potential users in areas that might not be traditionally considered “mental health.”
“Who’s gonna use? Who’s gonna choose? Who’s gonna pay the dues?” More than just a catchy phrase, Laws uses the answers to these three questions as guiding principles when considering the viability of innovations in the mental health tech sphere. This three-pronged analysis is critical for the healthcare industry in which patients, providers, and payers often have misaligned incentives.
There’s no one size fits all for mental health. Friedensohn explains that similar to physical health, there really is no one size fits all solution for mental health. It’s important to create a holistic mental health system that triages each person to the right type of care based on their level of need. The mental health provider system can be particularly confusing with the wide spectrum of care options such as LCSWs, therapists, psychotherapists, coaches, psychologists, psychiatrists, and many more. Having a deep understanding of the nuances across mental health resources is integral to aligning your product with the user’s needs.
Design with end-users in mind. Even the most clinically efficacious technology won’t solve the problem if users are not interested in using the product. Understand your user base and what they’re looking for. Is your product using language and tone that resonates with your users? Does the product offer interventions that align with the user’s emotional context?
Solutions need to combine technology with a human touch. Ramo points out that while digital technology in mental health can outperform humans at predicting and triaging mental health issues, such as companies like Crisis Text Line, it is equally important to incorporate a human touch. Only by combining a human touch with innovative technologies can we truly shape mental health care in the right direction.
Funding requires focus. When it comes to raising your initial funding, don’t feel pressured to check all the boxes. Friedensohn recommends focusing on one of the three main buckets listed below and creating your pitch narrative around that one aspect: 1) Team — do you have a team that has the X factor? 2) Traction — is your company already gaining some form of traction (whether it be engagement, efficacy, or paying customers). 3) Market opportunity — what’s the market size? Do you have a key, novel insight into the market? Prioritize nailing down one of these for your initial pitch to VCs.
Ask for help. You’ll have to ask for help and don’t be afraid to say that you don’t know how to do it. While common to all founders, this especially applies to the new, but rapidly growing mental health tech ecosystem. There’s no reason to start from square one when so many other mental health tech founders are breaking new ground and willing to pay it forward.
Balance hustle with self-care. Starting any company requires an incredible amount of hustle. In a space as multidisciplinary and nebulous as mental health, there will undoubtedly be roadblocks and pitfalls along your founding journey. While it may seem obvious, it can be easy to forget to take care of your own mental health! Self-care and self-compassion are incredibly important traits to build into your mindset as well as your company’s ethos as it grows.
We at HackMentalHealth are so honored to share these insights with you, and we are extremely excited to help you continue along your mental health tech founding journey.
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Missed the event? You’re in luck - click here to watch the full panel discussion.