I’ve grappled with anxiety and insomnia since childhood.
Exercise, writing, and time with close friends and family always helped. But when I lost my parents and got divorced, I felt like I needed more help, so I reached out to friends who helped me find a psychiatrist.
It took a few weeks and a lot of phone-tag to get an appointment. On the day of the visit, I spent 45 minutes getting to the office, and another 15 minutes in the waiting room trying not to make eye contact with anyone. When the psychiatrist finally called me in, I noticed that his walls were lined with impressive diplomas, and that he exuded confidence. He seemed like just the kind of trusted expert I needed to diagnose and treat me. Unfortunately, his experience came with a patronizing tone that made me feel a bit powerless, and like half of psychiatrists today he did not accept insurance - so each visit set me back $300.
It was worth it though - at least at the beginning. With his help, I experimented with various combinations of medications and dosages, and ultimately found a treatment plan that made me feel like myself again: citalopram (generic Celexa) daily for anxiety, zolpidem (generic Ambien), when insomnia flared up, and alprazolam (generic Xanax) on the rare occasions when that overwhelming feeling returned.
Over ten years later, I still take the same medications. But along the way, that psychiatrist stopped feeling like a fit for my needs. The hour-long visits had given way to 5 minute check-ins, where he’d ask if everything was still good. It was. But what wasn’t still good was the experience. Every three months, I had to trek back and forth to his office. Every month, I had to visit the pharmacy, and wait in line. And while the visits shrunk, the fees did not. $300 for a 5 minute visit worked out to $60 per minute, which seemed absurd. Ironically, the process of getting my anxiety meds had become a source of anxiety.
There had to be a better way….
For an entrepreneur, those can be very inspirational words. Six years ago, I co-founded Stash, based on a similar insight. My co-founders and I at Stash had invested in the stock market since high school. But as our careers progressed, we were surprised to find that few of our millennial colleagues invested. When we asked why not, they told us they didn’t have enough money, or enough expertise. At the time, one share of Google cost over $600, and there was no easy way to buy part of a share. And popular funds had confusing names like iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF. So we created Stash, an app that let them start investing with just $5, and gave them a limited set of easily-understandable investment options like “Delicious Dividends” or “Clean & Green”. Today, Stash has over 5 million customers.
Mental health medication management seemed like another opportunity to make a frustrating experience wonderfully simple for millions of people. But I needed a lot of help.
Mental health medication management seemed like another opportunity to make a frustrating experience wonderfully simple for millions of people. But I needed a lot of help. A venture capital contact introduced me to Gaspard de Dreuzy. Like me, Gaspard was a serial entrepreneur who had built a consumer fintech unicorn - Voyager. He also co-founded Pager, a telehealth communications company, and he brought me up to speed on the industry. Telehealth, he explained, had produced some very successful B2B companies like Teladoc, but direct to consumer telehealth brands had been more of a dream than reality for many years. That changed recently when Hims, Roman, Nurx and a few others became hugely popular with consumers, ushering in a new, successful business model.
Gaspard and I became intrigued by the idea of applying that model to the problem I had experienced with psychiatry, and the challenges of managing mental health prescriptions. To learn more about the field, I reached out to one of my best friends: Dr. Chris Dennis. Chris is a board-certified, multi-state licensed psychiatrist, Chief Behavioral Health Officer at Landmark Health and a pioneer in the field of telehealth. Chris evaluated the opportunity, and immediately confirmed the need.
Next, Chris, Gaspard and I decided to start Minded together as co-founders, with the mission of re-imagining the psychiatric care experience, using technology to make getting and refilling mental health prescriptions easy and affordable. Ultimately, we want to give millions of people one less thing to worry about. Thanks for joining us on this journey.
Co-founder & CEO of Minded