Ryan deeply cares about creating a world that is more nurturing and connected.
His passion for mental health first started as client grieving the sudden loss of his mom, but grew as he saw what therapy made possible for friends and family. Ryan has his mom’s determined spirit to fix what is broken, which led him to research, develop, and launch Mental Health Match. Through Mental Health Match, Ryan hopes to remove a major barrier preventing people from healing and hope – the barrier of finding a therapist.
Ryan is currently CEO of Mental Health Match, a free and confidential service that matches people to the therapists and counselors who best meet their needs. Prior to founding Mental Health Match, Ryan was principal of Full Focus Communications, a messaging and communications strategy firm for social change organizations.
Ryan geeks out on understanding how people think, feel, and act – especially when it comes to breaking through the stigmas of mental health. He was trained as a cultural anthropologist at Stanford University, and spent many years as a communications strategist for social change movements. Ryan’s stories have been told across the globe; he’s been recognized by the Media Institute of Southern Africa for producing the community radio show of the year.
Where did the idea for Mental Health Match come from?
A few years ago, I searched for a therapist for the very first time. My mom had suddenly passed away and I was grieving.
I started asking friends and family about how to find a therapist, and was discouraged by what I heard. Some people said they were so overwhelmed finding a new therapist that they gave up on the process altogether.
One day, I was sitting in a coffee shop with a friend. I was scrolling through endless therapist websites and unhelpful online profiles, unsure of what to do next. My friend sat across from me setting up an online dating account. Within minutes, she was being matched with potential loves of her life, and I was still confused and overwhelmed.
I compared our processes and realized it was time for a modern approach to finding a therapist. It should be easier to find a therapist than a life partner. That was the moment that Mental Health Match was born.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My typical day is atypical! As a founder of a startup with a small team, no day looks the same. There is always some combination of keeping the team focused and moving forward, customer research, and investor relations.
Productivity for everyone has been hard this year, amidst the pandemic and political unrest. However, I make sure to stay organized and take time every morning to prioritize what I want to get done for the day.
I also stopped drinking caffeine, which has helped me stay level and consistent throughout the day without the jitters, anxiety, and crashes.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Only through research and collaboration. I think that’s the hard part of being a startup founder; ideas bubble up constantly. I document new ideas in our project management system, then explore them on weekly calls with my colleagues. If we think an idea is worth pursuing, I start to mock it up on paper. Then I get on the phone with customers and test the idea with them. If it is well-received, I sent the mockup and research notes to our development team who makes the first working version. It is all about collaboration and iteration.
What’s one trend that excites you?
The growing openness about mental health. I know firsthand the power of therapy. It has helped me not only overcome a crisis moment, but better understand myself and the person I want to be. Even though my crisis moment has passed, I still regularly see a therapist. I truly believe that therapists can help us all heal, grow, and be in better relationships with each other.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Meditation. Just a few minutes every morning can help me ground myself, discover new clarity, and be a calm leader for our team.
What advice would you give your younger self?
There are no set career paths. From a young age, we’re taught that there are specific jobs we can hold. We’re taught one-word answers to the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I would tell my younger self to listen to your heart and follow your passions, especially if they can’t fit in a nice little box.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
You should be seeing a therapist.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Ask you team how their work-life is. Talent is your greatest asset as a company, and burnout is detrimental. At least once a month, I make it a point to ask every staff person to rate their work-life and work-life balance. I also ask what their most uplifting moment was since we last talked, as well as their most frustrating.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Personally interacting with customers and nurturing them as advocates. Sure – this is the work of automated series and marketing staff, but its more impactful when it comes from the founder. I am constantly on the phone asking customers about their experience with our product and thanking them for being part of our community.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Self-care. When I first started Mental Health Match, I worked nonstop. I was working to start the company while also working as a consultant to pay the bills. I would have quickly burned out if I didn’t listen to the advice of my therapist to “not let my passion kill my self-compassion.” So instead, I slowed my pace a bit and started listening to my body when it needed a break.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
A/B testing of dating profiles and photos.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I bought a new pillow and its significantly upped the restfulness of my sleep.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Calendly. I no longer waste time trying to schedule meetings and phone calls. Now people just click a link and find a time that works for both of us.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo. This book not only helps people understand race, but also understand their defensive mechanisms. These are crucial insights for being a leader, managing a team, and just being a human in a diverse society.
What is your favorite quote?
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
• Founder mental health is often overlooked and not discussed, but is a crucial part of success.
• Talent is your greatest asset as a company. Be sure to nurture and connect with your employees.
• Therapy is helpful for entrepreneurs to stay grounded and develop new insights.
Carlyn runs the day-to-day publishing operation here at ideamensch and interacts with our awesome customers and entrepreneurs. She is likely editing this with a cat on her lap.