Dr. Katherine Grill
Dr. Katherine Grill

Dr. Katherine Grill: There Is So Much Innovation in California, It’s Inspiring. You Can Meet People Who Have Built Companies Before To Get Their Mentorship

Dr. Katherine Grill of Neolth.

Tell us about yourself?

Dr. Katherine Grill is the CEO and co-founder of Neolth, a technology company that provides personalized mental health support to teens through a self-guided platform.

Prior to founding Neolth, she worked at Children’s National pediatric hospital conducting NIH research, co-founded a community health program for young adults, and was a university professor teaching courses in psychology and neuroscience at undergraduate and graduate levels. Dr. Grill received a BS in Art Therapy, MA in Psychology, and a PhD in Behavioral Neuroscience.

She has expertise in school-based mental health and using digital interventions with adolescents and young adults. She has developed and deployed a mobile application for mental health on college campuses and in K12 schools throughout the country.

She has also deployed mobile solutions for adolescent behavioral health in national healthcare organizations and the corporate sector, such as leading providers of student financial services.

She has worked with hundreds of students throughout her career and often provides mentorship to students during life transitions, such as graduation to early-career.

She has authored peer-reviewed papers and op-eds addressing quality of life, digital mental health, and integrative wellness and has been a speaker at over 50 professional events.

Dr. Grill was selected for the Forbes 30 Under 30 list in the 2022 education category and was the recipient of the Outstanding Young Alumni Award in 2022 from the Canterbury School.

She has won numerous awards through her work with Neolth, including being named as a top international youth mental health solution by the World Economic Forum, UNICEF and Salesforce as part of their UpLink Innovation Challenge, the 2021 Lyfebulb-Loyola University Chicago Public Health Innovation Challenge;

2021 Timmy Finalist for Best Tech for Good in San Francisco; 2020 Startup of the Year EdTech award; Top 100 Startup in 2020 by SOTY; Top 100 company in 2020 by Pepperdine University; and was a SoGal Global Finals and Regional (San Francisco) pitch competition winner.

She was featured in Forbes alongside the founders of Bumble and Zyper in 2021 as a leading female founder and was honored with a display on the Nasdaq Tower in Times Square in 2020.

What do you think is the single biggest misconception people have when it comes to startups?

That founding a startup is guaranteed to make you a lot of money. You don’t have a multi-million dollar salary as an early-stage startup founder.

You might not have any salary at the beginning. People don’t realize when you start your company, you are often leaving a stable job, giving up your income, and using your own money to fund the company.

There’s a lot of work that happens before getting outside funding, revenue or going through an acquisition.

What lessons has being an entrepreneur taught you?

It gets harder. In the beginning, you’re only worried about putting together a team and building an initial product with some pilots. As the company grows, so do your challenges.

There’s more on the employee and customer management side. If you have a good idea, people will replicate it and the field gets more competitive. It’s common to see founders exit as the company grows, because the leadership requirements change.

If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what piece of advice would you give yourself?

Know who to listen to and who is just gaslighting you. Everyone will have an opinion about your company, your strategy and your abilities. Listen well and be open to diverse opinions, but at the end of the day trust your gut about which advice is sound.

A lot of entrepreneurs find it difficult to balance their work and personal lives. How have you found that?

There isn’t work-life balance, you work more than 40 hours per week. You have to make sacrifices in your personal life to found a startup or be a CEO. Talk to people who have done it before and make sure you’re ready for it before making the jump to found a startup.

Give us a bit of an insight into the influences behind the company?

From a young age, mental health was a big part of my life. I had family members and friends who struggled with mental health, particularly being unable to access care due to stigma and cost. I saw the devastating impact this had on them and their families and wanted to make a change.

I studied Art Therapy in college, as I was interested in the expressive arts as a healing modality. I enjoyed patient care but was frustrated by the inequities in the health system. I returned to school to complete my MA in Psychology and Ph.D. in Behavioral Neuroscience.

I wanted to learn how to create and validate health programs that could increase access to and engagement in mental health services. I worked at Children’s National pediatric hospital conducting NIH research focused on teens and young adults.

I also co-founded a community health program for young adults and was a university professor teaching courses in psychology and neuroscience at undergraduate and graduate levels.

I built a well-rounded background in patient care, clinical research, public health, and education. I leveraged this experience to put my passion into action – ultimately founding Neolth as a way to create impact at scale for millions of people.

What do you think is your magic sauce? What sets you apart from the competitors?

Neolth is founded by health and education professionals, with industry expertise in and a lifetime dedication to student mental health. This isn’t a company run by business folks looking to make a quick buck. That matters.

We prioritize students in every aspect of our business – from co-developing the product, to our privacy standards and even GTM channels.

We deeply understand the inequities in the health system and how to use our technology to increase access to, and engagement in, mental health care.

That’s why we built a suite of comprehensive tools, which can be used across education, healthcare and corporate settings. Our product is the most versatile, has the highest engagement, and a strong evidence-base. When you set yourself apart in so many ways, it’s hard for competitors to keep up.

How have you found sales so far? Do you have any lessons you could pass on to other founders in the same market as you just starting out?

To have success as a mental health company, you need to approach the sale from a place of deep expertise and service to your customers.

It’s about understanding their needs and demonstrating you are the right company to help them with such a personal topic – mental health of the children in their community.

Having a sales team with a background in clinical mental health and education – not just sales – allows us to connect with customers on a deeper level. If you take the time to build trust with your customers, the sales will follow naturally.

What do you consider are the main strengths of operating your business in California over other states in the US?

There is so much innovation in California, it’s inspiring. You can meet people who have built companies before to get their mentorship.

You also have access to more startup events and the larger startup ecosystem in California, in ways that you might not in other states.

What (if any) are the weaknesses of operating your business within California?

It’s expensive to live in California. If you’re starting a company, your finances will likely shift as you leave a stable job to work on your startup. Be prepared and talk to your family/partner before making major changes.

We are currently suffering through a cost of living crisis. With California already being one of the most expensive states to live in, how has this impacted your business?

Our team is fully remote, but for companies operating a physical location in California it’s a significant expensive they need to account for.

It is no secret that California is the birthplace of innovation. But that also makes it incredibly competitive. How have you found the competitive environment of California?

I’ve lived in major cities like New York, Boston and Washington, D.C. I don’t know that San Francisco is much different in that people are highly ambitious and competitive. Competition is good because it fuels innovation by pushing companies to do better.

You have to watch your back though, especially as you gain traction. People will copy your idea and try to pass it off as their own. Your best defense against copy-cats is to build up not just the company’s brand, but your personal brand as an expert in the field.

For competitive companies building value-add products, get to know them. In California, people are generally open to collaboration. You might find you can team up through a partnership or merger to enhance the work you are doing.

Have you considered moving your company to another state? If so, which state and why?

No, we haven’t considered moving.

Where do you see your business in the next 5 years?

Neolth’s vision is to champion a preventative model of care within schools, where every child has access to quality mental health support before the point of crisis.

In 5 years, we’ll be working in schools across all 50 states supporting millions of students. We’re getting close to this goal – Neolth is already helping students across 33 states in the US and has just expanded internationally!

And finally, if people want to get involved and learn more about your business, how should they do that?

Students can download Neolth on the App Store, and educators can get started for free at cloud.neolth.com.

You can follow Neolth on LinkedIn to learn about any opportunities to join the team and major announcements about the company.

You can also keep up to date with us across Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter by following @Neolth Website: https://www.neolth.com/ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/neolth/ Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/neolth/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/neolth LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/neolth/

Follow Neolth on Twitter or Linkedin.

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