ilab Germinate alumnus, Mindstar, are making the support needed to be happy more accessible. As part of our series of alumni interviews, we catch up with Aaron Williams, Clinical Social Worker, CEO and Founder of Mindstar to find out more.
Tell us about your company…
Mindstar is a new online wellbeing and mental health service that allows customers to speak face-to-face with their choice of therapist over the secure Mindstar online video-platform.
Our vision at Mindstar is to offer our customers a new level of choice, convenience and confidentiality. Our individual and corporate customers choose from Mindstar’s range of high quality wellbeing and mental health professionals. Customers can conduct their sessions from the comfort of their couch, at a time that suits them, on their smartphone or on any internet-ready device.
What inspired you to start your company?
My inspiration for Mindstar came from a desire to change the way that all of us look after and improve our individual happiness and wellbeing.
There are more than 5 million Australians who end up experiencing mental health problems every year. My frustration is that due to reasons such as stigma, limited access or embarrassment, the vast majority of them don’t connect with the early professional support that would help them turn things around at an early stage.
From my experience as a senior mental health clinician and through my PhD research, I saw an opportunity to use technology to help people quickly & easily connect with convenient, quality, professional support to help them be happier and healthier in their day to day work and personal life.
Mindstar’s invitation to our customers is pretty simple: Be Happier.
Why did you choose to work at iLab?
We were fortunate enough to be successful in our application for Germinate 5.
What has been your experience at iLab so far?
To be honest, even the experience of Bootcamp alone was such a huge learning experience for us. The opportunity to listen to a range of experts across the industry and then develop, refine and then continue to practice my pitch in such a supportive environment was invaluable.
Our involvement in the Germinate Program took Mindstar from being merely an academic concept to commercialisation over a very short period of time. The high quality mentors, supportive iLab staff and connections that were made early in our development allowed us to establish ourselves as a business and gain the incredibly exciting amount of traction that we experienced.
How has being at iLab helped your business?
In under 18 months our involvement in iLab helped Mindstar evolve from an outside-the-box idea scribbled on a piece of paper, to an exciting business with a high-level advisory team, team of amazing private investors and an ever-growing number of wonderful evangelists spreading the news of Mindstar across the country.
What is your advice for someone thinking about starting a business?
Follow your passion. If you are passionate about what you do, then people will want to come on the journey with you.
Starting a business is bloody hard work and there will be many, many moments when you will wonder why the hell you chose to do this in the first place. You need to love what you are doing. If you are not passionate about what you are doing, there is a good chance that you will be miserable.
Secondly, believe in yourself and your own vision and stick to your guns. You will have a thousand people give you continually contradictory advice on how to do it better. Get as much advice as you can and pick out the pearls. Most importantly, don’t listen to that little voice in your head that tells you that other people probably know better. When it comes down to it, nobody knows the answers better than you do.
What has been your biggest frustration so far?
Doing something innovative is challenging. People tend to either understand and appreciate your vision, or they don’t. When they don’t you need to have a thick skin and soldier on. It the early days it can at times feel frustrating constantly feeling like you have to convert people. However, my experience is that if you stick to it you very quickly begin to draw in and bring along the believers and the concept begins to flourish. This makes all the early pain worthwhile.
How did you overcome it?
It probably sounds like a cliché, but the doubters actually can spur you on if you believe in what you are doing.
Mu number one priority has always been to focus on the vision of our business, which is to improve the lives of our customers, our therapists and our employees. If we do this well and develop an excellent culture, then I believe that the rest will follow.
What are the next steps for your business?
We have rolled out our Mindstar Youth Wellbeing program into 150+ schools right across the state from Cape York to Tweed Heads. We are very fortunate to have had over 200 school professionals put up their hand to act as our evangelists by facilitating the program in their schools. Over 10,000 students will complete the Wellbeing program in the next 12 months.
We are currently in final development stages of our consumer and corporate mobile and web solutions and are in negotiations with a number of major corporates.
I encourage people to jump on to www.mindstar.com.au to register and join the growing Mindstar community. That way we can stay in touch with them and let them know when we are about to launch. The future of wellbeing and mental health support is here. Watch this space.