SXSW Leadership on Growing a Successful Midwest Mental Health Company

By Jim Molis

Zack talking at SXSW

At an SXSW panel discussion, leaders share how to grow a mental health company in the midwest.

Michigan may not be the first location that comes to mind for a mental health startup. But Mentavi Health’s growth as a Midwest-based company has drawn the attention of entrepreneurs and innovators in the space.

In a recent panel discussion about entrepreneurship, founder Zachariah Booker shared insights on how the company initially built ADHD Online and expanded into the mental health space, now providing access to assessments and treatments for anxiety, depression and other conditions.

Here, we’ll cover highlights from Booker’s participation at SXSW on the Scaling in the Midwest panel.

Watch the full panel discussion — which includes two other founders of rapidly growing companies — here.

Growing a mental health company

Booker and a friend started Mentavi Health in Grand Rapids, Mich. in 2018. “That’s where we saw an immediate need for the solution,” Booker said.

The pair started by “utilizing the brain trust” surrounding them at the time. “There was an extremely great amount of intelligent people that were able to complement the business’s success and scale. We were honored to have the right people in the right seats for growing a telehealth company at the right time,” Booker recalled.

While most of Mentavi’s competitors were based in Silicon Valley — where they raised copious amounts of venture capital from deep-pocketed investors — Booker and his team were content putting down roots in the Midwest.

“We know we made the right decision to stay there and to grow here, but competitors raised as much as $500 million — whereas we raised 1% of that amount,” he said. “We are the leading telehealth company in our sector because we’re doing things right. We have maintained our high standard of care, we have the right investors, the right people to be able to grow the company — and it’s all in the Midwest,” said Booker.

A passion-driven return on investment

Even with the $5 million Mentavi did raise, it was more about the investors than the money. “We were profitable and debt-free when I went to raise capital,” said Booker. “But I knew I needed to raise it because I needed people around me who were much smarter than myself.”

Within 24 hours of pitching Michigan investors, Booker had received a term sheet and was off and running — and Mentavi Health has since kept growing and scaling.

In addition to the investors themselves, the company has been able to tap their networks of contacts for assistance. “I didn’t end up using the cash until eight months after we closed, but having the people helped,” Booker said.

Its Midwestern investors are interested in more than just financial returns. “They value the company growing with a sustainable model and passion for its mission,” he said. “Having Midwest values also provides for a great working culture, and your investors and your team know you’ve got the backing of the entire community.”

Mentavi Health has also benefited from belonging to a strong healthcare community. “We didn’t have to go far outside of our normal network because Grand Rapids had the right people for us to grow the company,” he added.

Helping people with ADHD

Mentavi Health went national quickly, helping people with ADHD across the country. At a Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) conference — soon after Mentavi Health started — a patient thanked the team for saving his life.

Booker recalled the patient saying, “’I was about to kill myself, but you guys saved me from that. I couldn’t get into a psychologist or a doctor within seven months and you gave me access the same day.'”

That further stoked the company’s desire to help. “Creating that easy access and giving that to every state, to every patient no matter where they were, was extremely important to us,” Booker said.

Mentavi Health connects with patients, caregivers and healthcare providers in many ways, offering free books, blog posts, podcasts and group support.

Looking ahead to the company’s future growth, Booker is most excited that Mentavi Health has expanded to encompass the entire mental health space.

“Now, we can take care of the mental health community, not just the ADHD community,” he said. “Even though ADHD is still close to my heart, we are excited about helping everybody else through the easier, faster, less expensive access to healthcare that we provide.”

Learn more about how Mentavi Health helps patients take control of their lives across a spectrum of mental health needs on our website, or contact us for additional information.