Startup Spotlight: Zencare

Mar 12, 2017

Startup Spotlight: Zencare

Mar 12, 2017

This week we spoke to Yuri Tomikawa, CEO and Founder of Zencare. Zencare is a platform in which people can easily find their ideal therapist. 

GH: What is Zencare?

Zencare is the simplest way to find your ideal therapist. You can browse photos and videos of quality-vetted therapists, check availability and insurance, and book a free initial phone consultation.

Our goal is to make the process of finding a great therapist as smooth, easy, and comforting as possible.

GH: What was your Eureka moment: how did Zencare get started?

I started Zencare after I had a hard time looking for a therapist myself. I felt lost in my career and thought that speaking with a therapist might help.

After mustering the courage to reach out, I found myself facing barrier after barrier to getting care. I called numerous therapists, left voice messages, heard back from only half, and was told over and over again that the therapists were not accepting new clients. There were other issues like insurances, fees, and personality fit, and it was overall a frustrating, overwhelming, and discouraging experience.

I started Zencare once I learned that other friends had experienced similar challenges. My personal goal is to help as many people get connected with excellent care as soon as possible.

GH: How did you build your team?

I was really lucky in that I met amazing people at the right time. Zencare’s Medical Advisor, Dr. Stephanie Hartselle, MD, was one of the first psychiatrists to join Zencare and has been instrumental in ensuring the clinical rigor and quality standards of our network. My first full-time team member Maggie Jordan, who knew about Zencare from her mental health advocacy work, happened to apply at the right time and was a perfect fit for my work style. It’s been a lot of luck and timing, and it’s worked out great so far.

GH: What is your company philosophy driving your company culture?

Being warm and authentic to users, therapists, and each other.

GH: Startup life is full of failures and ‘make it work’ moments– can you tell us how you bounced back from one of yours?

I had never faced so many rejections than when I started reaching out to therapists to join the Zencare network, and constantly questioned the business. I knew that people seeking therapy wanted a platform like Zencare, but it took me time to truly understand therapists’ marketing needs and gain momentum.

Early user feedback convinced me that Zencare could really work and help many people, so I put a number of support systems in place to keep myself emotionally healthy in the startup’s early stages of high uncertainty. I made sure to speak with my therapist/coach once a month, touch base with my advisor every time I had business concerns, and set up monthly calls with a friend who was also working on a startup. I think these were especially important for me because I was working on my own until my first team member joined.

Ultimately what kept me going was knowing there were individuals out there who were getting connected to great care through Zencare. Receiving positive feedback from people who used the site to find therapists has always been my favorite part of this work.

GH: What did you learn from your first customers?

Navigating the healthcare system can feel so impersonal, and people are really grateful when you add a personal, human touch to it. We do this both through the photos and videos of therapists on the site, but also through our phone and chat support.

GH: What’s the best/worst piece of advice you were given along the way?

Best: Trust your intuition.

Not great advice: Any advice that encouraged rapid expansion that I or the company wasn’t ready for.

 

GH: What was the best thing that happened to you last year?

My team member Maggie joined Zencare!

GH: What does the future hold for Zencare?

We’re working on expanding our network in Boston and diversifying insurance and specialties so people can more easily find therapists who meet their criteria. After that, we’re excited to bring Zencare to wherever there is a need among consumers and clinicians!

 

Learn more about Zencare here.

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