This Co-Founder's Startup Matches Clients With Local Therapists -- and Her Mentor Used Her Services
In the Women Entrepreneur series Mentor Moments, female founders sit down to chat with their own mentors (and us!) about how and why the relationship developed, and the lasting impact it’s had on their careers.
In her first year of business school, Eva Breitenbach endured a health scare that left her feeling shaken and a bit uneasy. To cope with the uncertainty, she worked with a therapist, an experience she calls transformational. At the same time, she kept hearing her fellow students talk about an eagerness to speak with a therapist, but how difficult it was to find one that was a good match. So Breitenbach set out to build Sophia, a Boston-based startup that aims to facilitate searching for -- and matching with -- the ideal therapist. Through involvement with Techstars Accelerate, a three-month program that provides guidance and mentorship to founders, Breitenbach has developed a relationship with Jennifer Jordan, a venture capitalist who is helping her tap into the business-building instincts Breitenbach may not even know she has.
Women Entrepreneur: How did you two first meet?
Eva Breitenbach: Jennifer, I think I reached out to you through an MIT connection?
Jennifer Jordan: Yes, Eva approached me first at the MIT Women’s unConference, but we didn’t really connect there -- we had a phone call or a chat in passing. But I’ve been a mentor with TechStars for a couple of years, and when Eva joined the program, it was a perfect opportunity to catch up.
EB: Jennifer very graciously reached out and offered to help, and I eagerly took her up on the offer. We’ve been meeting every couple of weeks since.
JJ: We have a standing meeting every other Tuesday morning, to drive consistency.
EB: Having the balance of someone who’s outside of the day to day of your business, and having that regularity of mentorship, allows for a unique relationship. I send Jennifer updates weekly to keep her in the loop, but our meetings are focused on higher-level issues that I don’t have the time or space to think about day to day -- but those are the things that are really going to drive success for the business in the next few months. There are some mentors who provide a lot of advice, and there are some who sit back and let you talk. Jennifer strikes a balance between those two and really helps me process things and figure out how to move forward.
JJ: I got involved with Techstars and started mentoring in 2011, and I love their philosophy. They want you to be a bit of a sounding board and bring your experience and guidance, but my job isn’t to have the answers -- it’s to help Eva think through her questions and find her insights or ways of thinking that she hasn’t tapped into yet. It’s to help her get more comfortable with where her instincts are leading her.Related: How This Founder Uses Obstacles as Inspiration: 'I'm Making Lemonade'
WE: When Eva first reached out to you before you were both involved in Techstars, what was appealing about what she was building? What made you respond to her request?
JJ: Three things: First, I really do believe it’s more challenging for women founders, so I want to do the best job I can to support them. Second, Eva has such a strong spirit and passion for what she’s doing, and very systematic thinking about how to tackle the problem, which is compelling. And third -- I’ll be honest -- I’m a 50-something woman who’s hitting menopause, and I’ve found that my resilience has been tested in the past year or so, and it made me want to find a therapist. Which I’ve never done -- I’ve always been a bootstrapper who thinks she can handle everything on her own. But I met with Eva, used her service and was even more compelled.
WE: Eva, do you agree with Jen? Have you found that the startup world is harder as a woman?
EB: Being a female founder isn’t something I tend to spend a ton of time worrying about because it’s just fact: I am female, I am a founder. There are many things that make up who I am. Some are advantages and some are disadvantages, and most are probably double-edged swords. What I will say is that, since joining Techstars, I’ve been blown away by how engaged and helpful the other female CEOs and VCs have been. There’s a real sense of being in this together. I’ve been incredibly grateful for that assistance and guidance. You don’t always know what you need or what to ask for. It’s an awesome gift to have people who come to you and say, I think you need this, and you’re not asking for it.
JJ: As women we tend to be inclined not to ask. I have a passion for helping women founders because [as a VC] I know the numbers. But all of the best founders, it’s not that they wear the woman-badge first. They wear the company and the opportunity and the team -- that comes first. Most women founders I know don’t want to be known as women founders. We’re founders. But yet, we know that for women -- and people of color and especially women of color -- the stats are just abysmal for the access the capital. We can do a better job, and one way to do that is to recognize that it’s not a pipeline problem, it’s a network problem. We need to get the right people to the right resources and make sure the funnel is really open.