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After Nearly Dying From an Eating Disorder, She Raised $75 Million for a Startup to Make Evidence-Based Treatment Affordable for Everyone Kristina Saffran spent years in the nonprofit world figuring out the most evidence-based treatments, and then built a company on that knowledge.

By Liz Brody Edited by Frances Dodds

This story appears in the May 2023 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Courtesy of Kristina Saffran

Kristina Saffran nearly died during her freshman year of high school. She had anorexia nervosa, considered one of the most fatal mental health disorders, and was in and out of the hospital as doctors struggled to find a solution. It was a family-based outpatient treatment that finally helped her recover.

She was so grateful that, at age 15, she started a nonprofit to make this treatment available to others who couldn't afford it. But by the time she was 27, she wanted to make a larger impact and started thinking about a telehealth startup specifically for eating disorders, based on the same model of care.

When she met with Martin Rosenzweig, chief medical officer for Optum Behavioral Health Solutions, part of UnitedHealth Group, and described her vision for the program, he told her, "If you build it, we will come," offering to provide guidance into making it scalable and workable with most people's insurance. That was major. Still, it was such a complicated industry. How would she tackle it with what little experience she had?

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