CEO of Braive, Hermine Bonde Jahren went from micromanaging to being a sounding board for her employees. She shares her advice and experience from the company that is revolutionizing mental treatment, simply by making it accessible to everyone.
Having vast experience from the start-up world, Hermine Bonde Jahren is no stranger to working in a start-up. However, this time around she is not only entering a new industry, she is entering a new everyday life—juggling the roles of CEO and mother.
What’s so “Braive?”
Braive’s platform guides patients and supporting healthcare personnel through evidence-based, personalised treatment plans for mental health challenges.
And their goal? Making psychotherapy accessible to the general population.
The founder and chief psychologist is Hermine’s husband, Henrik Jahren, who started implementing iCBT (self-guided internet-delivered cognitive behaviour therapy) support to his treatments back in 2010. Working as a psychologist, he felt frustrated that he could not treat more than six or seven patients a day, knowing that so many were struggling.
A Winding Journey
Hermine sold her business in Bangkok, moved back to Norway, and started a new job. But every night she would see her husband work on the clinical foundation of a new project that would possibly revolutionize how people receive mental health treatment. She became more and more interested and discovered that, while the clinical aspect of the project was great, the business strategy was missing.
Having already founded a company with forty employees, Hermine was no stranger to start-ups and the dos-and-don’ts in business. So, before we delve into her newest venture, let’s have a quick look at what Bonde Jahren did before she became the CEO of Braive.
More Than One Night in Bangkok
Bonde Jahren was living in Australia, working for a marketing agency, when a friend called from Sweden. The friend had a business producing watches, but could not seem to get distribution in Asia. “No problem,” responded Bonde Jahren. “I’ll move to Bangkok and set up a distribution company.”
One would think that moving to a new country to set up a distribution company is not something you do of the blue. Bonde Jahren attributes her moving to a new city and founding a new company to the optimism completely beyond reason that you have in your twenties. Her optimism would get her far, as it turned out.
Not only did she manage to set up a distribution company, she also added many other Scandinavian products to the company which she would distribute in South-East Asia—her main market for distribution. She stayed in Bangkok for five years, and when she sold her company, she had forty employees and offices in Bangkok, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.
The Launch of Braive
Having moved back from Bangkok, Bonde Jahren took a job as a global sales director for a headphone company for over a year and a half before moving on to take the role as CEO at Braive. Initially, the plan was that she would make money as an employee so that her husband could save the world.
Coming on as CEO, and in the beginning also CFO, she took charge of the business strategy. While Jahren was perfecting the clinical part of the company, Bonde Jahren hired an animating company to build a brand identity, she contacted developers in Bangkok and created the technical solution.
The couple launched Braive in October 2017. They immediately got one of Norway’s biggest insurance companies Gjensidige and the Lovisenberg Hospital as major clients.
“We were happy to receive such a positive reaction from the psychology community. It is a difficult industry to enter with a new product because the public care sector rarely changes. However, the latest few years there have been some development in regards to digital solutions and telemedicine product, although Braive is fairly alone in this segment.” Although the timing was right, there is a change in the attitude towards mental health, but according to Bonde Jahren, there are still walls to break down.
Making Psychotherapy Accessible
Henrik Jahren got the idea for Braive when he realised that in traditional therapy, we were treating everybody—no matter how severe their issues were—more or less the same way. If you were bipolar or suffering from stress, you would still come and see a therapist once a week. It was becoming more and more clear that there were not enough psychologists to help the people who perhaps needed it the most.
Braive has a goal to make mental treatment accessible to everybody. With few technical terms and simple language, they wish to make your treatment interactive and inspiring.
There are digital tools created for you to use in a friendly way. Braive has a dual treatment plan, and this is how it works:
- You log on and perform a mental health algorithm test. Depending on your answers, the algorithm will map your symptoms.
- Based on your test, you will receive a tailored treatment plan, which is developed by psychologists working for Briave.
The treatment can be self-administered or guided, which means that you can follow the treatment plan alone or together with your psychologist. If your condition is not too severe, you can manage on your own.
From Micromanaging to Becoming a Sounding Board
In January 2020, Bonde Jahren ventured into a new project that would give her not only new perspective, but also valuable new experience: she became a mother for the first time. Founders can often have difficulties delegating, and they often tend to micromanage. Bonde Jahren says she normally would always be engaged in every part of the business, but faced with her new life as a mother, she was forced to make some changes.
“I had to give away responsibility, trust that my co-workers would manage without me.”
“I had recruit people to senior positions that had the necessary experience to develop the company and keep the flow going. And it has worked out great,” says Bonde Jahren.
She has been able to take the role of a more traditional CEO by being a sounding board and decision maker at the top level, rather than being involved in every detail on every level of the business.
Diversity in a Start-up
We know there still exists gender bias towards women in business. Only 20% of venture capital goes to companies with female founders. Although Henrik Jahren is the founder of the clinical treatment, Hermine Bonde Jahren is co-founder of the business, and the company’s face to the outside world being CEO.
When Bonde Jahren is asked whether she believes it is easier for male founders to raise capital than for women, she simply responds that she has never tried being a man doing the same job, so she really could not know. However, in regards to recruitment, she sees a more diverse pool in Sweden, than in Norway. Not only because Sweden is ahead of Norway in terms of developing start-ups, but also because Stockholm is more international as a city with people from all over the world working in Stockholm.
Braive currently has a team of 20 people working on product development at their office in Stockholm.
Hermine’s Best Advice
So, what are the best advice that Bonde Jahren can offer a business founder in the making?
“I made one big mistake in my first business: I gave away ownership too cheap.”
At one point Bonde Jahren did not have majority in her own company – and in top of that, the majority belonged to people who did not have anything to do with the day-to-day business. “It’s a classic mistake for new founders,” says Bonde Jahren. Today she is quite protective about her ownership, especially because it is easy to lose ownership during first years for a start-up. Bonde Jahren says that if you can get investors to buy your idea, get them to invest hard cash. “You have to sell your product. If you can’t sell your product, then perhaps you should find a new product.”
Facts About Braive
- A platform providing iCBT treatment programs with guidelines and tools to overcome mental health challenges.
- A digital program and treatment developed by professional psychologists.
- Making mental health treatment accessible for everyone.
- The treatment can be self-administrated or guided, which means that you can follow the treatment plan alone or together with your psychologist. If your condition is not too severe, you can manage on your own.
- Twenty employees working on product development as well as app.
- Braive has a team of psychologists that build programs, technical engineers for the platform, sales, marketing, and operations that manages the therapists.
- A growing team of psychologists guiding users through their treatment plan on the platform.
- New investments from angel investors every Q4 since 2016.
Click here for more information or to download Braive.