Podcast Transcript – Series One, Episode 10
KEVIN DEDNER HENRY HEALTH APR 2020
[00:00:00] Kevin: [00:00:00] 50% of African Americans terminate therapy prematurely and we’re seeing our clients with a 100% persistence level,
[00:00:08] I grew up in little rock, Arkansas in the midst of the gang Wars
[00:00:11]I was such a good worker that , the owner of the Wendy’s tried to convince me to not go to college
[00:00:17]we have to add a cultural competency lens in order for therapy to work for everyone.
[00:00:23]We have pointed out a 100 year old problem
[00:00:26]I have lost so much time by not having a technical person.
[00:00:31]and James said, Hey man, you can’t be sending this long thing that people, this is what a blurb looks like.
[00:00:37] I think we as a mental health company, actually have to practice what we preach about self care.
[00:00:43] Dan: [00:00:43] What’s up Unfound Nation Dan Kihanya here. Your host for Founders Unfound thanks so much for listening in. Wow. What a difference a couple of weeks has made. These are some incredibly difficult times in the midst of the Corona virus pandemic. I want to give a thank you and a shout out to the warriors out there on the front lines.
[00:01:01] Hospital workers, first responders, delivery folks, grocery and pharmacy personnel. As well as those who are keeping the supply chain going for our essentials. They deserve our recognition and help, however, and whenever we can provide it and to all those startups and small businesses struggling to find a way forward.
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[00:02:10] Today you’ll be hearing from Kevin Dedner, a former public health advocate and change maker who has a passion for life, quality, and longevity for men. Kevin is the founder and CEO of Henry Health, a company that offers a digital mental health services platform through a culturally sensitive lens. Our episode is sponsored by the Trajectory series, a new program and upcoming book from the startup whisper Dave Parker.
[00:02:33] As always, you can find our podcast on Apple, Google, Spotify, SoundCloud, Stitcher, and YouTube. And please follow us on Twitter and Instagram @foundersunfound now on with the episode.
[00:02:43] Stay safe and hope you enjoy. Hello and welcome to founders unfound spotlighting the best startups you don’t know yet. We bring you stories of exceptional founders from underrepresented backgrounds. This is episode 10 in our series on founders of African descent. I’m your host, Dan Kihanya. Let’s get on it. Today we have Kevin Dedner, founder and CEO of Henry health.
[00:03:17]Henry health is a platform that provides culturally sensitive self care and mental health services. Their first ecosystem of communities is built around black men. Welcome to the show, Kevin, and thanks for making the time.
[00:03:29] Kevin: [00:03:29] Thank you. Thank you for having me, Dan. I’m really excited to be here with you.
[00:03:32]Dan: [00:03:32] Tremendous. So some incredible times we’re going through right now, huh?
[00:03:37] Kevin: [00:03:37] Oh, man. I think we’re all trying to adjust. I actually was pretty vulnerable yesterday and say it. I’m on my social media platform and that I’m this guy who talks about going with the flow. And I, I have to admit that as much as I talk about going with the flow, I’m having trouble adjusting to this new flow.
[00:03:57] Dan: [00:03:57] You are not alone, my friend, that’s for sure. it is a difficult adjustment, no matter where you are in terms of, the health aspects, the economic aspects, the daily routine and, and family life. it’s tough.
[00:04:12] Kevin: [00:04:12] Yeah, absolutely. And I think the thing is then. None of us are left untouched. you know, this far as has had a way of impacting all of our lives. And so none of us are left untouched.
[00:04:24] Dan: [00:04:24] Yeah, it’s true. It’s definitely true. and we’ll see how it all unfolds. Hopefully it is your family and your community doing okay.
[00:04:32]Kevin: [00:04:32] You know, I’ve had one distant cousin to pass away from the Corona virus from complications associated with it. and as far as I know, that is sort of the only one in my immediate circle or family or friends who is actually, contracted the virus.
[00:04:49]and so, you know, that did shake us because it did hit home. But overall, you know, everyone else’s reporting to be safe. And in fact, you know, there are some of my family, I’m from Arkansas and I have family in rural Arkansas who recently discovered zoom and , it’s actually been quite, interesting because it’s like, I think people have started to embrace technology in ways that they had never thought about before.
[00:05:14] And that was certainly the case. Like with my family that’s in rural Arkansas, and we had a hangout a few nights ago, I never thought I’d be doing it with them, and it was kind of fun.
[00:05:24] Dan: [00:05:24] Yeah. Some silver linings from all this. So let’s start off with, why don’t you help our audience understand, what is Henry health?
[00:05:31]Kevin: [00:05:31] Yeah. I think that the best way to describe her is, that we are a teletherapy company. And at its core. and the thing that makes us very different is we train our therapists in a evidence-based technique that helps them develop more cultural humility and responsiveness. and the second part of what we are is, you know, we are building custom communities to provide self care and self-mastery support.
[00:05:57] And our first custom community that we’re building is for black men. nice. And so, how old is the company? We start the company in January of 2018. So we are still very much considered an early stage startup. And, I don’t have a technical background. This is my first startup. And. Dan, I’m sure you know, there are lots of lessons to learn along the way.
[00:06:22] Dan: [00:06:22] Absolutely. And we’re going to dive deeper into that a little bit later. but let’s, switch gears a little bit and talk a little bit about your background, where you come from, you mentioned Arkansas. that’s a place in the country that I’m actually pretty unfamiliar with. It’s one that I think the four States that I haven’t been to, so I would love to hear about what it’s like growing up there and more about where you come from.
[00:06:44]Kevin: [00:06:44] thank you for an opportunity to reflect on where I come from and what home is like for me. I grew up in little rock, Arkansas, which is the capital city of Arkansas, but both of my parents were from rural Arkansas, and so there wasn’t a free summer, or an extended weekend in which I wasn’t in the country.
[00:07:05] So, you know, I like to think of myself as this weird, quirky person who, who loves the balance of being in the city. But. I am very happy in the middle of a pasture on a horse by myself. So nice. and that’s essentially what life was like for me growing up in Arkansas. I really think I had the best of both worlds.
[00:07:29]you know, I, grew up in a capital city and, you know, rode the school bus to school. I graduated from the historic little rock central high, and. So all those amenities of city life, but when it was summertime, I was working on a farm. I learned how to drive driving a tractor. And, you know, I did things that, you know, when people would look at like my, a physical physique thing, they could, couldn’t imagine how I could throw hay and pick up things twice my size.
[00:07:57] But, you know, I learned those things working with. A great uncle of mine working on the farm. And so I’m incredibly grateful for that experience and the grit that it taught me of like how to work hard. And, you know, over over time I learned that it wasn’t so much about working hard, it was about working smart. so, you know, I think I bring those sort of that same philosophy even into my startup these days.
[00:08:22] Dan: [00:08:22] And little rock. That’s, that’s the little rock, right? Little rock nine.
[00:08:26]Kevin: [00:08:26] Absolutely. Yeah. Thank you for clarifying that. I graduated from little rock central, and as you’re you’re right central high was the school that tested the Brown vs board of education decision that that test was in 1957 of course, the Brown vs board of education decision was in 1954 you know, it took a couple of years before that legislation was, who was.
[00:08:50] Test it throughout our country and go to rock sense rise.
[00:08:54] Dan: [00:08:54] So is it a place where some places, like in Alabama, I mean it’s almost like civil rights and human justice, it just sort of permeates the whole environment. still to this day, is it like to add or is it more like, this was a moment in time and, you almost get tired of people asking about it, where do you think it falls? I’m really fascinated by this.
[00:09:15] Kevin: [00:09:15] Yeah. You know, it’s funny, that you would, dig the, there. I mean, I think that we’re all incredibly proud of, what happened in little rock central and what it meant for, not only, you know, the country, but what it meant for the world. So you know, there, are these times that we have a lot of pride in that.
[00:09:34] But the truth is that, you know, little rock is a Southern city that has really struggled with these issues of segregation and balance and racial equity. since 57, the school district has, you know, been under federal court order, you know, for the majority of times since, and I think that these seven, so I think it’s just kind of this weird identity that, you know, is something that we’re, we’re very, very proud of.
[00:10:02] But yet, at the same time, the struggle, and, and it’s not just little rock, I should say. around these issues around race and class is still a real, very real life struggle today.
[00:10:14] Dan: [00:10:14] Wow, that’s pretty profound. And so you have this background, like you said, kind of the best of both worlds. We grow up in that environment, but you also have. The hard lessons and the and what turns out to be great character building aspects of your experience out on the farm, as you say. did those things inform how you thought about where you were going to go, what your trajectory was or kind of what you wanted to do in life?
[00:10:38]Kevin: [00:10:38] Yeah, that’s a really great question. Yeah. I think first, first of all, I knew I wanted to go to college. Like that was never a debate. when I turned 16, I got a job at Wendy’s. and, you know, listen, I was such a good worker that the, the owner of the Wendy’s tried to convince me. to not go to college and enter into the management program. And he promised me my own store and I was like, nah, brother, I got to go to school. So, but as a part of that, you know, my high school years were very turbulent. we were experiencing gang Wars in our city. And Little Rock is a midsize city. but I like to think of it as more like a small town with, you know, this actually a mid sized city. So the, the, the gang Wars were really. you know, they impacted our daily lives. In fact, you may remember HBO did a special about little rock central, about little rock, I’m sorry.
[00:11:33] Rather at that time in our, and at the height of our gang Wars. And so growing up in that area in that period of time for me, you know, I wanted to be something different and I aspire to be something different. And so. Community leaders and, political people saw me trying to be something different.
[00:11:50] And I was, somewhat adopted and cultivated as like a student leader. And so, you know, I, I thought that my trajectory would end up being like a career in, public service. In fact, I actually ran for office twice, in little rock. and I thought that that was my way for, you know, that made the most sense of like, of how I could make the difference.
[00:12:11] But what happened? you know, I, I took the job, I started out working in political campaigns, quickly, got jaded with that and got a job with the American cancer society and fell in love with public health and public health advocacy in that period. And went back to school and got a master’s in public health.
[00:12:29] And you know, that really changed my trajectory and I’ve been interested in public health since those days. And like, you know, what we can do to help people live healthier lives. That’s where my passion lies these days.
[00:12:39]Dan: [00:12:39] Noble pursuit, and we’re all gonna benefit from it. For sure. So I’m, I’m curious though, I think a lot of people can identify with this aspect of being surrounded by an environment like you’re talking about with, the, gangs and sort of the drug culture.
[00:12:54]With this group that you have of, folks that you say kind of adopted you, did you feel like you kinda got plucked into or out of that situation? Did you have friends that also shared those same aspirations? Or did you have to sort of distance yourself from the realities of your daily existence around you?
[00:13:13]Kevin: [00:13:13] Yeah. So I was adopted by a guy, and I’ll use that terminology, and I think it’s fair. he, at that time was running a state, commission, and it was a commission created by the legislature. There was the Martin Luther King Dream commission, and he basically took a group of young people and made us junior commissioners.
[00:13:34] And so believe it or not, he really created, we use this language these days to describe like, Oh, that’s our tribe. This is my tribe. And so he instantly gave me a tribe of young people who, I was sort of aligned with. We all wanted to, you know, we were very ambitious and wanted to do great things for our lives.
[00:13:54] In fact, everyone is going on to do some remarkable things. In fact one of the young persons who was a part of. Of our group became a public service commissioner appointed by Obama. So it wasn’t a matter of, like leaving some people behind. It was like, I embraced the new tribe and I felt very, very supported.
[00:14:13] In my aspirations and you know, we were all convinced that we could change the world. I think that’s one of the things I miss about being young is sort of that naivety and that drive, like, Oh, I can fix that. I can change that, you know? But that’s, that’s how we all view the world.
[00:14:29] And now I do think that, you know. Anyone who has a startup or who decides that they’re going to build something from scratch, you still have a little event. But I think aback about, you know, how naive we were about the world and how we could change it overnight. it’s a very romantic idea to me at this point.
[00:14:44] Dan: [00:14:44] But it is the way the world gets changed, right? I forget who is it, Margaret Mead or somebody says, right? don’t underestimate a small group of people determined to change the world because that’s the only thing that ever has or something like that. but I think it’s fascinating, right? If you think about the pivot point. Right? so I, I kinda think of myself in the same vein as you. It’s like when I was young and idealistic and like, we can change the world. And in fact, my mom would say that I was a rule breaker by definition, just because I questioned everything. well, why does it have to be that way?
[00:15:15] Why can’t we do it differently? So it frustrated her, but it helped embolden us. But you know, there’s also a track where you can go into despair. Not only can you not change the world, but you’re just a victim, essentially, right? you are results and outcome of a poorly run, the collected system, that has put you in a place of jeopardy, vulnerability, low prospects. Right? And so it sounds to me like that was a pretty important development for you. And as much as I know you now, you would have survived and thrived anyway. But it’s really interesting as we go back in our backgrounds, as entrepreneurs to see where those building blocks of confidence and vision and optimism can come from.
[00:15:57]Kevin: [00:15:57] I agree with you so much. I think of, as James Baldwin was talking about when he first started writing, he simply needed one person to tell him that he could write. And you know, we think about sort of the writings of James Baldwin and how even alone in his beginning that he needed that validation that you are a talented writer.
[00:16:18]I think we all need that. And you know, I look back all the way to the point I was in high school is we’re talking about, I was always so very fortunate. And today I’m so grateful for those individuals who appeared in my life and showed me, are reminded me, are affirmed, however you want to describe it, that I did have a contribution to make.
[00:16:39] And, and, and I believed that. Like I literally believed them. I just think about it now. You know, someone told me what I could do today, I would kind of question it, but back then I believed I really believed them. And I think, you know, that is a big part of why I am where I am today. And I’m very, very grateful for that.
[00:16:58] In fact, the gentleman that I’m thinking about as we talk about this. You know, I was home in October and I invited him for coffee, and I’ve said to him, you know, I just want to spend some time saying to you how grateful I am for what you did for me.
[00:17:13]Dan: [00:17:13] it’s so amazing to see how, like you said, just that small spark of, reinforcement. and I think a lot of startups. It reached a point where they, they need that too. So, I’m glad that there’s ecosystems that are coming out that help for that, but we’ll talk about that a little bit later. So you’re in public health and, feeling like you’re changing the world. And I’ve seen your background, you had some pretty prominent roles, how does somebody in public health. Did you think about starting something or were you kind of on the path to whatever the ascension plan would be in public health? How did that switch or change in direction happen?
[00:17:53] Kevin: [00:17:53] Yeah, so it’s, really interesting about, nine years ago I started consulting.
[00:17:59] I found myself one day without a job and the next day I was offered, consulting contracts and I was offered a couple of consulting contracts that said, Oh, I guess I’m going to become a consultant. And so I started out, you know, consulting for major foundations like the Robert Wood Johnson foundation. It’s also working like for the national league of cities. And I really thought that my pathway of what I would do with the rest of my life was like, grow some, renowned consultant practice that work in the area of social impact and public health. but you know, what happened basically is in the midst of managing life. You know, all of life. Like I, welcomed my third child into the world. I was trying to grow to practice our rehab. The house of life just became very overwhelming and I worked myself into mental exhaustion and that mental exhaustion led to depression and my depression was arresting.
[00:19:03] Like it literally, you know, had me in bed unable to really function the way that I had functioned all of my life. And it took me, a couple therapists to find a therapist that I felt was a right fit or that I felt like I related to. And after that, you know, I thought once I found that therapist, which by the way today is our chief clinical officer, I thought I would just go back to growing my consulting practice.
[00:19:29] I had did fairly well. When my co founder asked me, have you ever considered doing anything in digital health? And, in that moment, you know, like this sorta pressing need for culturally competent care. became so obvious that I could take, you know, my personal experience and build something new that could help a lot of people.
[00:19:49] Dan: [00:19:49] That’s amazing. And thank you for sharing that story. It’s not easy. we’ll talk about this and probably a little bit later, but the idea of mental health, not necessarily being the same as quote unquote, regular health. but again, so this idea that somebody kind of steps into your life and puts you at this fork in the road, but I mean, did you really think, I’m going to start a company around this, or did you just think, wow, there’s gotta be some organization or some entity that I could plug into to try and address this? I mean how did you evolve to the point where you’re like, okay, we have to start a company to do this and solve it?
[00:20:25]Kevin: [00:20:25] So Oliver, was very intentional about wanting to start a company in digital health, Oliver, it’s my co founder, and he had been investing in startups and I’m studying, you know, sort of technology. And he really felt like digital health was a space that he wanted to be in. So he was very intentional. And the truth is, and he may be listening to this Oliver study, to me, he studied like the things that I was putting on social media, sort of like my knowledge of public health and the things I was talking about.
[00:21:02] And, he asked to meet with me. Very intentional, you know, I, you know, I’ve watched you, I watch what you’re interested in. Would you be interested in doing something in digital health? And so for me, when he asked that question, the truth is yes, instantly I knew the answer, it was a teletherapy company.
[00:21:19] But to be very clear, it took him asking that question. For the possibility to even arise in my mind that that’s what I should do with my own experience. You know, we’ve not all, you know, talk about this yet, but I was also, before my depression, I was also becoming deeply, deeply aware of the disparities, unhealth for black men.
[00:21:43] And I wanted to really like raise that as a national priority. Black men have the lowest life expectancy, if any population. And much of that can be contributed to unmanaged stress and untreated mental health issues. So I, sort of had all of this cooking at one time. And then Oliver says, Hey, would you be interested in doing something in digital health?
[00:22:04] And so it took him like literally, you know, turning that light on for me to see the possibility. But for me the answer was yes. And when I said the yes, here’s the most important thing, I had no idea of what it meant. Oh, what I was saying in that moment, the answer was yes. Had I known I’m not.
[00:22:24] Dan: [00:22:24] There you go. There you go. Sometimes sometimes that a lightning strikes. Well, that’s a good point for us to take a break.
[00:22:31] We will take a short break to hear from our sponsor and be right back with Kevin Dedner from Henry Health.
[00:22:37] Trajectory: [00:22:37] Hi, I’m Dave Parker, author of the Trajectory series. The series is designed to help startup founders to launch their startups. First time founders will learn how to de-risked your ideas. Scaling founders learn best practices for growth and business service founders will learn tech best practices applied to your services business.
[00:22:55] Come join us at gettrajectory.com.
[00:23:04] Dan: [00:23:04] So we’re back with Kevin Dedner of Henry Health. And so Kevin, we were just getting into the origin story for Henry health. And, sort of that epiphany moment where you took that big step forward and said, okay, let’s go do this. what happened next? how did you begin the process of building a company around this?
[00:23:24]Kevin: [00:23:24] Well, early on I relied very heavily on Oliver. Oliver had the experience in tech, and so when we started, he was able to recruit someone to sort of help us with the technical piece. And he recruited a designer.
[00:23:41] I went back to my therapist who had helped me and said, Hey, what were you doing when I sat on your couch? I know that there was something different and I need you to help you replicate that experience and found out that he was using the evidence-based technique. So, so I invited him to join us also.
[00:23:59]had, a consultant who had worked in my consultant practice, I invited her to join us and she had just wrapped up her PhD and was, you know, PhD was on the health of black men. And so, what we started to do was build out really, the, the foundational thinking, like, what is our hypothesis?
[00:24:18] What is our theory of change here? and you know, we, we put together team and we, we filed papers in Delaware. You know, looking back now, it was very, you know, sort of naively done. There was so much that we were doing, we didn’t know to do, but I felt. Very, very supported by, you know, by God, you know, the universe, whatever language you want to use.
[00:24:39] I felt very supportive and I felt like very intentional in the way that we were going. And, and to be very honest with you, I naively just started asking people for money, investors and people who I knew. And of course, I was told no out the gate. but you know, something happened. I went to a innovation meeting and sat across from a guy and it was telling him what I was working on and he was asking me questions and I thought nothing of it.
[00:25:10] And he told me where he worked. And the next day I went to another meeting. And met someone, dr bill Carson, who is recently retired, but Dr. Carson was a president of pharmaceuticals. It was to cut, maybe I may not be pronouncing that right, but Dr. Carson is a psychiatrist. I told him what I was working on and he said, you know, and he was very passionate, like, I want to help you.
[00:25:33] And he said, but I tell you what, what we need to do is we need to get you into Startup Health. And turns out the guy who I’d met the day before was in Startup Health. He worked for Startup Health, and startup health is the world’s largest digital health accelerator. And so, you know, maybe two or three months later, we became a member of that startup Health’s portfolio, which was really very candidly the first validation that we got that we had an idea of worthy of consideration.
[00:26:06] Before that, you know, we had conversations. People flattered us, but you know, they laughed at us too. it goes back to the James Baldwin story about him writing. You know, you need just someone to say what you’re doing does make sense.
[00:26:21] Dan: [00:26:21] And that’s so hard as a startup because. By definition, you’re doing something that’s different or you’re at least taking a different approach. And so most people view difference with suspicion or lack of confidence around it as a solution. And so you fight these naysayers constantly, and then you’re trying to explain what you’re trying to do to everybody, in your life and investors and other partners. . It’s a challenging thing, but it is so, it’s so, so nice and joyful when somebody is like, I love it. I get it. I’m in whatever that means. Right? It’s such an uplifting experience. It can make your day.
[00:27:01]Kevin: [00:27:01] Man. Listen, it can be like, you could be completely on empty. And every conversation that we could be a no. But that one validation that week is all you need to keep going on to the next week.
[00:27:15] Dan: [00:27:15] That’s the way it works. So let’s, make sure that we dive a little into how does Henry health work? What’s the experience like.
[00:27:22] Kevin: [00:27:22] Right now, our core offering is teletherapy and it’s web based therapy that we offer, in the States of DC, Maryland, and Virginia. and so we started providing this court therapy offering, last spring.
[00:27:37] And it’s very exciting because, what we’re seeing very early here. Is that we have a 100% retention rate for our care plans. One of the things that happens in therapy, I’ll just, I’ll put this in here for you, is 30% of people generally abandoned therapy before they complete their care plan.
[00:27:59] And a care plan is about a, you know, a six month average care plan. And 50% of African Americans terminate therapy prematurely. And we’re seeing our clients with a 100% persistence level, meaning that they complete their care plans. So it’s very exciting. So people right down. Are are essentially getting remote therapy.
[00:28:20] now, what makes Henry health different is, you know, the community experience that we’re building. And as you said in your opening, our first curated community is built for black men. and very candidly, we have, struggled with this idea of commercialization, or is this too niche.
[00:28:41] And where we landed is, that the community is a very focused, curated community that provides like these tools. That people can access within their community. So whether that be meditation, daily, motivational messaging, video content that people can access. But the therapy offering is like this universal offering that is for everyone, but the communities that we build are custom.
[00:29:06] Dan: [00:29:07] And is there a business model around this?
[00:29:09]Kevin: [00:29:09] So, where we ultimately want to be is selling directly to payers. Larger employers. Obviously, you know, I, I’d imagine in a podcast like this, your listeners know that the sales cycle for a payer are large, important employers must slower.
[00:29:27] So, you know, right now what we’re doing is we’re testing some business to consumer directly. and we’re very excited. You know, we’re in the final stages of negotiating our first partnership agreement with a university here in the DMV. I hope to be able to, and now it’s within a few days. and we actually have two churches that have also agreed to offer teletherapy to their members. But where we really want to be, as I’m mentioning, is selling directly. To payers and large employers, but you know, what we want to do is prove the efficacy of our theory of change in this period as we moved to that, like that sales cycle of being able to achieve that.
[00:30:09]Dan: [00:30:09] That makes a lot of sense. And forgive my ignorance on this is, is a teletherapy something that people can get reimbursed with their healthcare insurance and things like that.
[00:30:20] Kevin: [00:30:20] Hey, I’m so glad you asked that question because, one of the things that we’ve done from day one that some of the larger companies, it took them years to, to figure this out, is we put agreements in place with payers.
[00:30:34] So we have contracts in place now. With care first, Aetna, and, Cigna in DC, Maryland, and Virginia. And so we are able to take people’s health insurance as a payer, which is a really important thing because in the mental health world right now, the first thing is the question that people ask is, well, the therapist would be a good fit.
[00:30:59] Right? And sometimes, you know, the order of these questions might be different, but then after that, the next question is, will you accept my insurance? And so, you know, one of the things that I know because of my own experience, when I realized. I was depressed and I asked my primary care physician, for therapy offering.
[00:31:19] He went away. He came back into the room with a, it may have been like eight or nine pages with three columns. A people up therapists who are in my network. And so, you know, when I was choosing a therapist, it was literally like any many meiny Mo.
[00:31:40] Dan: [00:31:40] You’re like, pick a number between one and a thousand and a okay.
[00:31:44]Kevin: [00:31:44] And some of those majority of therapists, by the way, don’t accept health finish there. and then those who do accept health insurance, the good ones are not accepting new clients. And so, you know, there are some real barriers here that are our pain points in this market that I think that, you know, the way that we’re thinking about our technology, that we can solve for these things.
[00:32:08] Dan: [00:32:08] So help the audience understand. I think one of the, doubting Thomas questions would be what? Why does therapy need cultural sensitivity applied to it and why for black men or any other group? Why does that matter?
[00:32:20] Kevin: [00:32:20] I am so glad you asked this question because I think it’s a really important thing to tease out. I think it’s becoming very clear that healthcare has to be personalized , and I do believe, you know, like it’s an important thing to establish the narrative that we’re not all equal when it comes to healthcare. In fact, right now, in the midst of the Corona virus, their early reports are showing that minorities and African Americans in particular, are more impacted by the Corona virus.
[00:32:50] Right. And the, underlining cause of that, by the way, is chronic diseases and disparities in health care that existed long before the Corona virus. But to get back on subject in psychology, the theories that psychologists approach, a session with, like the theories that people use are based on research from, white middleclass families.
[00:33:14] Who have experienced one trauma, right? And so when we have the cultural competency of that, you know, you take me, I just described to you, I grew up in little rock, Arkansas in the midst of the gang Wars, right? So what you know, you can take from that is, I saw a lot of violence growing up just in my everyday life of going to school.
[00:33:36] I went to little rock central and there were gang fights there. So those are traumatic events. So that’s trauma right there instantly. And so, when we think of like these theories being. I’m rooted in research from a white middle class family that’s experienced trauma. I think that we’d all agree at face value. We have to add a cultural competency lens in order for therapy to work for everyone.
[00:34:01] Dan: [00:34:01] I mean, it makes sense to me. I mean, I kind of set it up for the question, but you know, I personally suffer from mild depression and I went through the same experience looking for a therapist and going through several of them and the outcome that they shoot for and sort of the method that they use tends to be fairly similar, although there are some differences, but their perspective and the lens that they use to look through. To provide. The care is so different. And I guess it’s why there are so many, because there has to be a fit, right?
[00:34:36] And it has to be appropriate so I can identify with it personally. so it makes a lot of sense to me. And it also makes sense that most industries start with what can support a majority of the consumer slash user slash patient base out there, right? I worked in the auto business and we designed cars.
[00:34:56]you know, I started in the late eighties and our, crash test dummies were a 160 pound, five foot 10. You know, male builds doesn’t take into account, if you’re a smaller woman with high heels, or you’re a larger person, or you’re taller. So I think this idea of personalization and using digital for that, makes a ton of sense.
[00:35:19] Kevin: [00:35:19] Yeah. Thank you for sharing that example. I’m always like just fascinated how when we’re not intentional, what the results can be, and I never would imagine like even in testing for auto crash, so there’s this disparity there that’s unfair.
[00:35:35] Dan: [00:35:35] Yeah, it’s interesting. I mean, look at AI, right? I mean, now there’s all these questions about like, facial recognition, right? And how people of color are not being put into the algorithms and which has obvious effects, right? They’re either eliminated or discounted from opportunities or they’re over false positive, you know, if it’s a security issue.
[00:35:55] And so, yeah, I think , the need for this in particularly in a, in a more of a diverse society that we’re living in. it’s so important. so I gotta ask about the name. I’ve read a little bit about the history of the name, and I love it. So I want you to talk about where Henry health got its name.
[00:36:10] Kevin: [00:36:10] Yeah. So again, you know, in my consulting world. sort of how black men had the lowest life expectancy of any population.
[00:36:21] And, one of the papers that really became a grounding document for me was a paper that Dr. James Sherman published in 1994 and dr Sharman study cardiovascular health outcomes among black men and what his research proved is the sociological factors that black men experience on a day to day basis, increased poor health outcomes and cardiovascular health. He coined the term John Henryism and John hear me is, and really as a play on the African American folk hero, John Henry. And the story goes that John Henry worked on the railroad was known for his power, his ramp, and his determination. And when the steam powered hammer cane wasn’t vinted, John Henry was challenged to a competition with the steam powered hammer. He won the competition. That’s the important part. But he later died from a heart attack and stress.
[00:37:19] And so, you know what? We see that playing out in practical terms, what that means in places like Washington, DC, black men are expected to live to be, I think there’s 67 while white counterparts are elect expected to live to be 83. So this is what we call John Henry ism. And so part of our vision has been evolving because what we want to do is stay true to our founding, which is why, you know, we’re starting to talk about ourselves as an ecosystem of communities. And our first community is built for black men because we want to stay true to that. So here’s what we’ve done. We have pointed out a 100 year old problem that payers, public health leaders, are all very well aware of.
[00:38:09] In fact, W.E.B. Dubois, you know, I’m studying insurance documentation in the early 1900s, and he even pointed this out back then and what we’ve said that this problem really deserves to be solved. And, you know, in public health, we follow the data and the data tells us what the need is. And I think when we put this data in front of people, clearly there’s a need among black men that has not been met over the years.
[00:38:33] Dan: [00:38:33] I love that story and I, I’m a huge fan of that. the John Henry tale, and it’s such a metaphor for lots of things, but I think as black men, it definitely sums up the experience, which is that , you work really hard and then you have these other things that you have to overcome on a daily basis that essentially taxes your system.
[00:38:55]you run out of the red line, as we used to say, and auto business, right? And. You run an engine at the red line, it’s not going to last very long.
[00:39:03]Kevin: [00:39:03] Yeah. I really appreciate that analogy, and I just want to say this, you know, and I’ll continue to play on the car analogy. I re remember, I used to have a, before I moved to D C I had a 1940 Plymouth, which by the way, I totally regret selling my car. And I made friends with some older fellows who really knew how to work on their car and their car, and they say, Hey man, this thing is running too idled up, you gotta we gotta adjust this. Right, right. And, you know, we popped the hood and they’d go up under the hair and nail. They’ll tinker with the carburetor and do something and the engine would lower at an easier rate. And it ran much smoother. And so, you know, to play on your red line analogy, what is happening with black men is that they run idled all the time.
[00:39:53]and most of us are so unaware that that’s happening to us because we’re just busy managing life. During the day, we are expected to do, but meanwhile, our heart is beating faster, which means the blood is pumping through our veins faster, which means that there’s more pressure on our organs, which means that our immune system is under more intense pressure, which makes us more susceptible to disease.
[00:40:19] Like this is what’s happening to us physically. Although we can’t see it, we look healthy and we seem to be managing life well. This is what is happening when we don’t manage our stress well.
[00:40:31] Dan: [00:40:31] Yeah, it’s amazing and, and particularly in this crisis that we’re going through, which I want to talk about.
[00:40:37]when we get back, we will take a short break to hear from our sponsor again and be right back with Kevin Dedner of Henry Health.
[00:40:43] Trajectory: [00:40:43] Hi, I’m Dave Parker, author of the Trajectory series. The series is designed to help startup founders to launch their startups. First time founders will learn how to de-risked your ideas. Scaling founders learn best practices for growth and business service founders will learn tech best practices applied to your services business.
[00:41:02] Come join us at gettrajectory.com.
[00:41:10] Dan: [00:41:10] So we’re back with Kevin Dedner of Henry Health. So Kevin, tell me, how are you thinking about mental health and what are you seeing in this crisis? the COVID 19 pandemic, particularly in communities of color, black men. How has your business seen this , almost daily evolution of what’s going on?
[00:41:31] Kevin: [00:41:31] Well, we quickly, adjusted internally , our head convened conversations internally. And the question was, how can we be in service and of service right now? In this time. And so we put together a webinar series. We pushed out an info graphic, we lowered the cost of therapy, we actually started three wellness calls, and all of these things that we put out there, have been responded to well, and we were given more free consultations and people are converting into therapy.
[00:42:03] So I think. For us. It’s really interesting. We quickly responded, you know, saying, we know that people are gonna be clearly in need right now. And we wanted to make sure that people knew that we were available. and that we could provide therapy right now in this intense time. But you know, what I also realized in doing that is that we didn’t take the time internally to adjust.
[00:42:28] In fact, our therapists came up with this framework. define, acknowledge and adjust. and I basically took our team to adjusting very quickly. So we have come back now that we, we’ve sort of created all of these services and they’re sort of dealing with the aftermath. And I’m trying to make sure that we internally adjust this will.
[00:42:48] Dan: [00:42:48] So what’s that looking like right now?
[00:42:50]Kevin: [00:42:50] so, you know, I, took for granted how, how much we all appreciate it, you know, being in the same workspace. And so, we’ve actually, just downloaded a new app, that allows us to create like a virtual office so you can see who’s literally in the office at any given time.
[00:43:05] And it’s integrated with zoom and also with Google and Slack. So a lot of the features that we were already using. But I think more importantly, you know, outside of how we work with also acknowledging that life is different and giving people the space to take a step back and you know, not hold themselves like accountable to feeling like they have to be productive at the same level that we were productive. I obviously, I think that there’s some tension with that idea because we are a startup and it’s all about like getting traction, getting customers. What’s your conversion rate? There’s some tension there, but at the same time, I think we as a mental health company, we actually have to practice what we preach about self care.
[00:43:51]And, there’s some tension in that idea, right? Absolutely. but, we are, we’re doing that. And for me, what that has meant is, making more time to take walks. I have the best yard on the block right now. spending time outdoors is a proven way to, improve your mental health.
[00:44:08] So I’ve been working in my yard at a rate, like I’ve not worked in it in years. So, yeah, I think we’re all, we’re trying to adjust and make sure that people know that our service offering is there, which we have seen an increase in people seeking services. But at the same time, I think we also have to practice what we preach here.
[00:44:26] Dan: [00:44:26] That makes a lot of sense. I’m wondering if you hear from or service hospital workers, they, I mean, I think about them every day, and it’s like being a soldier in war and having to, every day kind of suit up and head in knowing that this could be the day that you contract the virus or that, you know, and the psychological, and just the stress of having to be on those front lines all the time.
[00:44:54] It’s just, it’s gotta be, pushing the limits. it’s almost an extended trauma, I would imagine.
[00:44:59]Kevin: [00:44:59] Yeah. I don’t know for a fact that we’ve seen any hospital workers and in this period. So I can’t say that with any certainty, but I do agree with you. I think Dan to your point is that, you know, we understand trauma, today better than we’ve ever understood trauma before.
[00:45:18]And I think that that means that, you know, collectively as society, we have to acknowledge that we are all experiencing a very traumatic event. And after trauma, life will never be the same. Like that’s what trauma does, trauma changes life indefinitely.
[00:45:35]Dan: [00:45:35] It does. And you know how we respond, how we were able to get through it and how we’re supported makes all the difference. For sure. So let’s talk about raising money and a wonderful topic that every entrepreneur just loves. so you’re part of a startup health. Have you been raising money before or are you raising money now? ? Where has that trajectory been for you?
[00:45:57] Kevin: [00:45:57] Yeah. So that’s a great question. And you know, one of the things that, you know, I’m very honest about is how difficult it has been to raise money. The company was bootstrapped mostly for the first year and a half this winter.
[00:46:13] We just closed a family and friends round. and we were just accepted into the Morgan Stanley multicultural innovation lab. Which comes with, an investment of $200,000. Nice. Congratulations. Thank you very much. we are on track to close, our first institutional round this month. obviously that seems to be a bit impacted by COVID 19 so we’re trying to round up all of the folks who said that they would participate in around to make sure that they’re coming in. But we are, actively fund raising. And I will tell you, it has been a very challenging proposition to raise, but something did happen at the top of the year.
[00:47:01] And I think if any founder is ever honest you know about the difficulty around raising money? They know that part of the challenge of raising money, it’s not, you know, is your vision big enough? the question is do you have a vision that you can execute on and do you have the right people around you?
[00:47:20] And I think for me, being able to say yes to that question, really happen at the top of. 2020 is that our narrative changed and we had finally put together the right team that could execute on our vision. And I think that that’s why our fundraising conversations have gone much differently.
[00:47:38] Dan: [00:47:38] Well, that’s good news and that’s a good lesson. Hey, Unfound Nation out there listening. This is a good kind of side note. This is an important aspect of evolving and taking the feedback signals from investors if you really want to pursue investment can change your business necessarily, but take the signals on what they think are the things that are the difference between being funded and not.
[00:48:01] And so Kevin’s bringing up a great point here about how the constitution of your story can be bolstered and amplified and improved so that investors reach a point where they can’t say no anymore, and that’s really what it’s about.
[00:48:17] Kevin: [00:48:17] Can I go a bit deeper there? I think it took me a while and, and there’s a part of me that’s, that’s a little bit ashamed of this.
[00:48:24] But I actually think it’s just a learning curve, but I’m ashamed I didn’t get it quicker. It took me a while to understand the question behind the question and I think most founders struggle with that. Like investors are asking you a question that at face value seems to be very front and center, but that’s not what they’re really asking the question behind the question.
[00:48:51]And once you, really understand why they’re asking you that one question, then you start, you can go to adjust what they’re really trying to tell you that they need to see. And it took me a while to do that. And, you know, I appreciate what you’re doing in this space, so, you know, I’ll be a bit vulnerable and, and talk about, some of the examples that’s meant for me.
[00:49:12] It meant for, tell me who’s on your team. For example. So I think what some founders will do is they can get all of these people who appear on paper or who can appear on their website and I say, Oh, we have this person, this person, this person. But no, what they’re really asking you, if I invest in you who will be working on this every day as if their life depends on it.
[00:49:37] Dan: [00:49:37] That’s a great example. That’s exactly right. that’s a somewhat loaded question. They’re not, and they’re not asking necessarily for a CVS or resumes. They’re asking for commitment levels and relevant expertise and then cohesion. Right. Have you worked with them before? That’s what they want answers around.
[00:49:56] They don’t want to know that, Oh, he worked at Microsoft, or he worked at a Proctor and gamble, or she worked at Walmart, or whatever it is, right? they want to know those three things, and you’re right, and you certainly should not feel shame about that because there’s no a secret manual that says the translation of, okay, when the Wii, when an investor asks you this, they’re really asking this other thing that is unfortunately something you learn with experience. So don’t beat yourself up too much about that.
[00:50:25] Kevin: [00:50:25] Yeah. Thank you for that. I appreciate you giving me a little bit of grace.
[00:50:29]Dan: [00:50:29] So, as a black founder, one of the things we like to, try to hear from our guests is, have there been specific organizations, mentors, experiences, events, conferences, people that have been helpful for you specifically as a black founder?
[00:50:47] Kevin: [00:50:47] Yeah, that’s a great question. So Startup Health was the first validation we had. And startup health was not the cause. I’m a, a black man, but it was the validation, the next form of validation that we got. Is a group. and I would, there are any founders listening who would just kicking around their ideas. They know that they’re working on something. Maybe they don’t have any traction yet, is a group called the Transformative Collective, transformative collective. And in particular, a guy named James Norman, I’m sure you know, people can find James that they’re looking for.
[00:51:20] James is out in the Bay and has had some success. in startups himself, and he’s actually leading a startup right now.
[00:51:28] But James basically, brings a group of founders from around the country who are women and minorities, I should say. He brings him to the Bay, plus him up in a hotel for a week and goes over everything from how to build a pitch deck to legal, to marketing.
[00:51:49]And you know, James was the first person, Dan who showed me what a blurb was. So, you know, when people say, Oh, send me your blur. You know, I had this long dissertation explaining what I wanted to do or what I wanted to do, and James said Hey man, you can’t be sending this long thing that people, this is what a blurb looks like.
[00:52:10] And he also, quite candidly taught me a lot of this sort of investor culture. When you respond to someone, instantly put them on BCC so you don’t crowd their inbox. Right. These things now. To me seem very, very elementary. But you know, when I met James in 2018 they were big game changers for me.
[00:52:34] So I really, credit him. Obviously we got the week long experience we had with James was because I was a black founder. But, you know, my relationship with James and the transformative collective has been actually enduring since then. But there were some very pivotal lessons I learned very early on interacting with James and the folks at the transformative collective that candidly, I’m not sure where I would have picked those things up about tech culture not being a person being in tech before.
[00:53:05] Dan: [00:53:05] That’s really cool. We’ll put the link, for James and the transformative collective in the show notes. but speaking of lessons, one of the last questions we always like to ask is, the kind of the classic, if you could go back in time to the Kevin Dedner before you founded Henry health and say, here’s what to look out for brother, here’s the things that I want you to, either avoid or run to. What would you tell that earlier version of yourself?
[00:53:31] Kevin: [00:53:31] You know, even if, I had heard this advice, I don’t know that I would have known what to do with it. Right. But that’s the advice and I probably wouldn’t have known what to do with the advice. And I think this is the case for non technical founders, right? Having a person next to you early on who can match your vision. From the technical standpoint is incredibly important. I have lost so much time by not having a technical person.
[00:54:07] I’ve blown through money that I could have saved by not having the technical person. So, you know, my advice to the younger version of me two years ago would be stop everything you’re doing and take the time you need. To find a technical marriage, like you need to marry somebody very quickly who can match your vision with the technology.
[00:54:31] Dan: [00:54:31] That’s so profound. And I tell the startups that I counsel and mentor all the time, if they’re solo founders, I say, the first thing you need to do is find a partner. And even if you’re the technical person who’s a solo founder, I mean, you can definitely build things. But having that, compliment of whatever it is, if it’s business or customer access or sales expertise or whatever, you know, you’ve got to have a hustler and a hacker. And they, so they, it is, it is so fundamentally hard if you don’t have co founder or co founders, who can help you figure out, what part of the industry are we going to tackle first and what color should our logo be?
[00:55:13] So, it’s so important, and you’re right, having a technical founder who can take your vision and your ideas and say, Hey, yeah, we can build an MVP for that, or we can figure out how the back end should work for that is critical. I mean, it’s certainly not impossible to do without, but it makes it much harder as you’re, as you’re mentioning.
[00:55:30] Yeah, you’re right. So we’re coming to the end of our time, but I want to make sure to leave some time for you to tell the folks how can people find out more about Henry health?
[00:55:41] Kevin: [00:55:41] Well, first of all, let me just, say thank you, Dan, for the work that you’re doing to bring attention and awareness about founders like myself who are trying to build something from the ground. I really appreciate this, you know, one day own the other side of this journey. I really want to devote, you know, a significant amount of my time to doing what you’re doing, to make sure that we create opportunities for folks like myself who are trying to build something from scratch.
[00:56:06] So thank you for the work you’re doing.
[00:56:08]Dan: [00:56:08] Well, thanks.
[00:56:09]Kevin: [00:56:09] is really important. and, and I hope we can, we can go deeper in the conversation one day about why it’s so important. but both can follow me at @Kdedner. our website is Henry-health.com. Henry health app is the, handle for Henry Health and people can DM me at, at cadet neuron Twitter, Instagram. And email. This is firstname.lastname@example.org. I respond to all emails and all inquiries, so people should feel free to reach out to me.
[00:56:41]Dan: [00:56:41] Well, Kevin, this has been so great. I can’t believe that the hours already just evaporated. A great conversation. I could go on for probably another two hours, but we’re busy, with everything going on around us. So I really appreciate that you took the time today.
[00:56:56] Kevin: [00:56:56] Well, Dan, I want to come back after I raise my series a so, and then maybe a year or so I could, maybe I can come back.
[00:57:02] Dan: [00:57:02] We would love that. We would be, in fact, I’m going to hold you to that.
[00:57:06] Kevin: [00:57:06] Yeah. After we’ve raised a ton of money and have lots of customers, I want to come back and talk about the next leg of the journey.
[00:57:12] Dan: [00:57:12] Yeah. And I love that you’re talking about the WHEN, not the IF.
[00:57:16] Kevin: [00:57:16] yeah. It’s gonna happen. No doubt about it.
[00:57:22] Dan: [00:57:22] All right. Thanks again.
[00:57:24] Kevin: [00:57:24] Thank you. Have a great afternoon.
[00:57:25]Dan: [00:57:25] Thanks so much for listening to the show. We’d like to thank our guests, Kevin Dedner and our sponsor, the Trajectory series. Don’t forget to subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts and follow us on Twitter and Instagram @foundersunfound.
[00:57:39] This podcast was produced by Dan Kihanya, social media and other promotion by Omama Marzuq.
[00:57:45]Our music was composed by Bobby Cole, Neil Cross, Jason Donnelley, and Glenn Zervas.
[00:57:50]I am Dan Kihanya and you’ve been listening to Founders Unfound.
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