An Entrepreneur’s Life Experience Fuels Mission-Aligned Startup
November 04, 2022
Founder and CEO of HearMe Adam Lippin shares his unique life experience that influenced the launch of his mission-aligned startup. In this TechTalk episode, Adam has a conversation with EisnerAmper's West Coast Technology and Life Sciences Practice Leader Amar Bhatkhande about how his idea became the leading, on-demand, peer support application—and his secret sauce for its continued expansion.
You share openly that your unique lived experience influenced the launch of HearMe. Can you give our listeners a brief intro about yourself and your inspiring startup?
AL:Thank you. So, HearMe at its core, is designed to connect people that want to get something off their chest with someone who can be there for them in real time. And the secret sauce is we connect people based on a similar lived experience or a particular topic that's relevant.
My own personal experience is one that has a lot of loneliness and a sense of disconnection in my story. It started out when I was younger and I knew I was gay when I was a kid. I knew there was nothing inherently wrong with me. And I knew that if I had someone to connect with that I felt safe with, then my life would be better and I would just be happier. But because I didn't, I sort of closed off and it became really hard for me to trust people. And I developed ways of acting and sort of behaving to keep myself away from people.
As I grew, that turned into a drug addiction on one side, which actually, ultimately, turned out to be positive because it brought me into recovery. I have 24 years of sobriety, where I learned the power of one person being there for another person. The other side was yoga and meditation, which is really great, but I also found I could hide in meditation. I couldn't hide in drugs. I couldn't hide in meditation. I needed to learn how to be in communication with other people, and be honest and vulnerable. That was sort of my challenge. And HearMe is, I hope, the solution, or one of the solutions towards that for, not just myself, but for everyone out there.
AB:That's an incredible journey that you could really summarize in short, or should I say, transformation. With mental health steadily rising, I couldn't agree more that now is the critical time for people to have access to support and encouragement. How many people have you reached so far, and what's your plan to reach your growth projections in the coming years?
AL:We've had over 600,000 people that have used our app, our service. The average length of the conversations are about 30 minutes, and the average person comes back 4.1 time per month. So, we have a lot of engagement.
We have two verticals. The first vertical is our sort of enterprise platform where we are connecting employees. We're working with companies to connect their employees to people who are there, available for them. One example of that is a large nurse staffing agency called Ingenovis Health and we support their nurses. The nurse listeners go through our peer training academy. So, the listeners for the nurses are nurses, retired nurses, they know what it's like being in the IC unit at four in the morning.
We're also able to match from a cultural perspective. One of our hospital systems, 48% of their nurses are Black and Caribbean. So we're able to staff accordingly, because we know that shared lived experience in the sense of homopathy makes people feel safer and more able to be vulnerable and open up. And when we can do that in ways that we feel culturally safe to do it, it's very important. So in terms of scaling, we're going to keep on growing in getting new corporate clients and healthcare systems. And then we just launched with a lot of university ambassadors, including partnerships with Damn Worth It, which is an organization that student athletes created around the issue of mental health and suicide along with NAMI, the National Institute of Mental Illness, where we're partnering with them to help spread the word about HearMe as well as having, we have a give back program for people that go through their programs, they have free access to HearMe. So right now we're focusing on universities and we're focusing on enterprises with a particular focus on healthcare. But we can serve many, many different demographics.
AB:Wow, did I hear that right? 600,000 users and 30 minutes of average time, that calculates to 18 million minutes. Did I hear that right?
AL:And not only that, we have studied this data with Stanford University, Penn State, and Northwell Hospital Systems and Old Miss and with these leading communication experts and they've delved into our data and it's in the process of being published and there's a 57% increase in mood after just one conversation with the HearMe listener. So we have collected this data, anonymized of course, we've had brilliant people look at it. It is effective. And yes, those numbers are real.
AB:Well that just incredible. I would've never thought before I got into this conversation, but that's real time data and I think you are just doing some incredible things out there.
AL:So one of the things we can offer our corporate clients is anonymized data. So they will not know the person speaking, but they will know the type of subjects people are choosing to talk about and what issues are rising. So for example, then we can turn that back into actionable information to the company and communication back to the employees. So one example is one of our clients in the hospital system, we're talking about workplace violence and some racism issues. So we're able to turn around and create content to address those issues directly. The employer didn't really know that was as high of a level problem, or they didn't really understand that was a big need. And so they were able to then offer some further programmatic things to deal with those particular issues. So the real time data is very important.
AB:Absolutely. But let me slightly divert from the topic and I'll say, I know giving back to community for you is very important. So as an early stage startup that just launched in 2019, how important is giving back to the community at this stage in your company's life cycle?
AL:It's integral. And so it's very important. I mean, I had had a successful business or two in the past and I wanted to do, it's a mission aligned business. It's something that I care very deeply about. And obviously we need to make money to grow and scale and we also need to take care of people that mental health is a serious issue and that don't have anyone to talk to about it. So we have a give back program. So basically every client, every person that pays for the service, we offer that for free to an underserved community. Right now, our give back partner is NAMI, the National Institute of Mental Illness. They have free programs all over the country for people. And then we augment the support that they give for free with HearMe memberships for the people going through their programs. And we're rapidly expanding some different partners in the Give Back program as well.
AB:What you have done thus far is just fascinating in just short amount of time. This I understand is your third successful startup. But let me ask you a little different question. What role, if any, have business advisors like EisnerAmper played in helping you achieve your goals?
AL:I love that question, because it's really important for if there's any entrepreneurs out there to find trusted advisors who can help guide you through the process. There are issues that ... None of us know everything, right?. Most entrepreneurs have a very ... We don't know about taxes, we don't know about compliance issues. And so we can do things and get ourselves into trouble unless we set up systems and operations and procedures with people that know what they're talking about. Because I can tell you from personal experience, if you don't do that, you go back and do a lot of re-fixing up. So I think trusted advisors like Eisner are critically important and I consider them partners in my business, basically.
AB:Can't agree with you more. And I'll tell you from my perspective, I'm very open about it. I focus on corporate side of business. I do audits and I don't do taxes. So a lot of people will come to me saying, "Hey, who does your taxes?" And I tell them very openly, I don't do my taxes because if I go to the right professional, and even if he can get me one thing right, that saves me a lot over the years. So you are absolutely right. Focus on what you know and everything else take help. I think that's what I hear. That's the message I heard from you.
AL:Right? Because if you don't, you can't shortcut it, unfortunately. And I've tried, because as you scale, if you ever want to take your company somewhere, really grow with it, if you don't have that basic infrastructure in place, you're going to have trouble getting it, more financing, it's just going to cause you problems. So, much as you don't want to focus on it. It's important to find people that can focus on it.
AB:You are essentially in the business of listening. That said, is there one conversation you can point to that's had a particularly significant influence on your entrepreneur journey?
AL:So early on in my career, I was a commercial real estate broker with a company called Newmark & Company in New York City. And my boss, Barry Gosin, taught me a very profound lesson. And that lesson was, if I was talking to Barry, if he was asking me a question and I wasn't being really clear, he would sort of pick up the phone and start talking to someone else and just do something else. He never said, "Hey Adam, you're not answering my question." But he taught me that his time is really valuable and if I want to take advantage of having this relationship with him, I got to come with my game on. So it really taught me from a very early, I was 23 at the time, to you can't fake stuff. And you have to be honest and you have to do your homework and be ready to answer tough questions and people's time is valuable and you can't play with that.
AB:You are absolutely right Adam, one of my bosses used to always say, "Come prepared." And I think those two words I think I have really remembered for long time. He's no longer with the firm, but every time I hear him, those words actually resonate every time I go for a meeting, "Come prepared." And then that's why I try my best to go prepared.
AL:Yeah and entrepreneurs in general, we like to talk, we consider ourselves very good sales people, but that takes you so far. But you need to have the substance underneath it.
AB:Agreed. Adam, thank you for taking time to have conversations with me today. And thanks to our listeners for tuning into TechTalk. Join us for our next podcast episode or visit eisneramper.com for more tech news you can use.
Transcribed by Rev.com