In 54 Hours, This Entrepreneur Seeks to Change How We Think About Mental Healthcare.
Updated: May 13
This is the first piece in Entrepreneurship in Action – Why It Matters to Have That Entrepreneurial Dare, which discusses the multi-faceted, impact-driven role entrepreneurs play in our societies and communities.
With more than a third of the world’s population under lockdown, many new events emerge from this unprecedented phenomenon. This crisis has seen air quality levels in major cities improving dramatically, closing of the ozone hole over the Arctic, and also waves of virtual hackathons that swept the world. Many communities came together to find a solution — focused on tackling issues from the COVID-19 pandemic and developing solutions unique to each country.
Screenshot of Startup Weekend SG 2020 Pitch, The Mind Hyve Credit: Author
We often talk about the business-driven mechanisms of entrepreneurship but how often do we muse over the motivations that drive us to kickstart a new venture? Most startups often begin with the need to resolve a problem or improve upon an existing practice.
We seek to uncover what were some of the key driving forces that inspired Reactor’s lead designer & marketing manager, Elaine Yeoh, to build a tech-health startup from scratch. Alongside, we can get a sense of the endeavours, challenges and aspirations she held during the 54-hour Startup Weekend Singapore hackathon.
Apart from running the show as Marketing Thestral of Reactor, Elaine wears numerous hats — from her earlier entrepreneurial encounters e.g. customised Calligraphy & Design services, to her latest venture as a co-founder of The Mind Hyve — a tech-health startup that seeks to redefine the culture of work by rethinking access to mental health care.
Sherman: What prompted you to take part in this year’s Startup Weekend SG?
Elaine: I’d already been planning to participate in a Hackathon this year, to improve and challenge myself to build a brand from scratch within a weekend. It would also be a chance to network with amazing members of the Singapore startup community. The perfect opportunity came along when Startup Weekend announced it was going ahead with the very first virtual edition 2020.
Sherman: It’s not everyday that we have a 100% virtual, online hackathon, is it what you had expected?
Elaine: Having been a part of Team Reactor for 2.5 years, I’ve had experience running hackathons for youth and adults. However, the 100% virtual experience had its own share of surprises. Kudos to the organising team because it must have been a nightmare managing team formation for over 700 participants over countless (well-organised) Discord channels.
I’d recently had an idea to tackle mental healthcare at the workplace, having recently witnessed a shocking lack of prioritisation of employee safety before the Circuit Breaker, in a few companies where my friends & family were hired. It was a moment of stars aligning when amidst the mountain of ideas presented I saw a group of two working on mental healthcare for employees — and they were in search of a designer. And here we are (well, after 7am nights and record-breaking video call durations).
Screenshot of The Mind Hyve Prototype at SWSG 2020 Credit: The Mind Hyve
Screenshot of The Mind Hyve Prototype at SWSG 2020 Credit: The Mind Hyve
Sherman: What are your thoughts on clinching 1st place in this Startup Weekend Singapore 2020? Is it what you had in mind? Elaine: All 4 of us had a common drive toward transforming workplaces of the future by helping employers prioritise mental health for their employees. And we each felt so strongly about this through our own experiences that we knew this would be something we wanted to commit to building together. Winning would be a fantastic springboard to helping those in need sooner, but we knew we wanted to make The Mind Hyve a reality regardless of the outcome. Even with that, the exact moment we won will be one of the most memorable moments in my life.
The Mind Hyve Team Credit: The Mind Hyve
Sherman: As a startup developer-incubator, Reactor School often emphasises on the entrepreneurial dare and enterprising spirit we hope our students to develop, through our EntreEd (Entrepreneurial Education) programmes. What are some qualities/traits/learning experiences that come to mind when you work on The Mind Hyve? Elaine: The past week has been a deep step into the shoes of a co-founder (thanks for the hard work, Reactor co-founders). If the responsibilities and learning curve of working in a startup had been daunting but highly rewarding before, I found myself having to bring my A game to a whole other level. Have grit, resilience and always remember why you started.
Sherman: Given the rather recent intersection between mental health and technology-based startups in Asia, where do you see The Mind Hyve taking a more central role in helping the community?
Elaine: The Mind Hyve takes a highly personalised approach to virtual therapy. Through our very own profiling tool, face-to-face sessions (virtual & in-person) and health tracking features, we believe in customising every employee’s therapy experience to their individual needs.
According to a 2017 NCSS Survey, every $1 invested to support mental health, an average of $5.60 is generated in return on investment. When companies think about investing in mental healthcare, we want to help them think ROI. Not cost.
Screenshot of The Mind Hyve Pitch at SWSG 2020 Credit: Author
Sherman: Given the current lockdown situation, there has been a rise in calls to mental health services resulting from declining mental health among home-dwellers — what immediate role does The Mind Hyve play in terms of assisting this vulnerable group of people?
Elaine: With our focus on early intervention rather than cure, we hope to partner with such mental health hotlines & services (who are now overwhelmed and only able to help each caller to a certain extent) to provide assistance to those in need at a much deeper level with our diverse network of mental healthcare experts.
Sherman: Given how millennials perceive self-care and the general public’s opinion of mental health, how would you describe the change you hope to see?
Elaine: We hope that by transforming workplaces of the future, we can assure the next generations entering the workforce that their employers prioritise and have dedicated resources to support their mental wellbeing.
Sherman: What are your thoughts on the oft-maligned millennials? From being labelled as ‘strawberry generation’ or ‘snowflake, do you feel there’s any truth to it?
Elaine: As millennials ourselves, we understand that our world is vastly different for every generation, each with its own unique challenges and skills needed to thrive. What held true a generation ago may change with every rotation. I’m pretty sure our educators who’ve nurtured and watched the growth of the millennial generation see this truth the clearest. ;)
Sherman: In Asia, mental health is (unfortunately) often met with stigma, bigotry and discrimination. Survey findings from a NCSS study show that 7 in 10 believe that people with mental health experience some form of stigma and discrimination. On that same note, mental healthcare services were deemed ‘non-essential’ under Singapore’s circuit breaker measures. Case in point, this shows that mental health hasn’t quite remained in our national consciousness. What do you think can arise from this episode? Or is this something that The Mind Hyve is looking to shape?
Covid-19 has really highlighted the dire need for employers to have proper mental health resources and professional help in place for their employees. Now and beyond the pandemic.
Elaine: Covid-19 has really highlighted the dire need for employers to have proper mental health resources and professional help in place for their employees. Now and beyond the pandemic. We’re heartened by accounts of mental health hotlines set up by the government and companies alike. But at the same time, the large number of calls these hotlines have received since the start of the pandemic makes it critical for us to get The Mind Hyve off the ground as soon as possible.
We hope that after this episode, the heightened public awareness of mental healthcare will open up more conversations about how we can all prioritise mental wellbeing in our daily lives. Our team also believes that youth today will greatly shape the future of work in Singapore, and are working to help nurture the next generation of employers who understand the importance of mental care access in the workplace.
Having the skills of an entrepreneur, or some might say the ‘entrepreneurial dare’, now seems exceptionally imperative during this time of uncertainty. Find out more about how you can be the next generation of changemakers at Reactor School.
Written by Sherman Tham
Sherman is the Marketing Ensign at Reactor School, and a Reactor Student Alumni.
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