Today's Entrepreneur: Matt Kennedy, Co-Founder & COO of Mantra Health

Kristin Karaoglu · February 8, 2021 · Short URL:

Weed out infeasible ideas through rapid hypothesis testing

Today's Entrepreneur is Matt Kennedy, co-founder and the Chief Operating Officer of Mantra Health. Mantra Health is a provider of virtual mental health services for college students.

He was inspired to start Mantra through a life-changing experience he had with a college counselor after his brother almost died. At Mantra he is responsible for product development and clinical operations. Under his leadership, the company launched the Mantra Collaboration Portal, a software platform enabling counseling and health service centers on university and college campuses to co-manage student patients with a dedicated psychiatry or therapy provider staffed by Mantra’s provider group.

Why did you choose to be an entrepreneur?

I grew up in an entrepreneurial family. My dad started and built a telematics company that was the first company to put the internet in a vehicle (and has quite the patent portfolio to boot) and my mom has also had her hands in several small scale entrepreneurial ventures at once. When I left undergrad, I decided to start my career at more structured companies to learn just that: structure, management, and what great (and bad) leadership looks like. After business school, I ended up working in venture for a couple of years. Starting a company was always a goal of mine, but I wanted to have a solid set of experiences under my belt before starting my own business.

What are your favorite startups?

I’ve been partial to startups that clearly make a difference in the world. I led an investment in Red Points that does IP protection for brands using ML. Efficiently protecting creators against copyright and trademark infringement is a major win for long-tail brands who use to lose a lot of revenue to counterfeiters. MSCFH is hilarious and flippant - the world needs more fun creativity like theirs. I’ve been playing around on culture-as-an-asset marketplaces like Otis. Fractionalizing ownership of art, collectibles, etc. opens up access to the long tail of the internet and taps latent demand.  

Why did you start your current company?

I had a lived experience with PTSD in undergrad. My brother almost passed away in a cliff diving accident and I brought him back up. Six months later he was fine (thankfully); six months later I walked into the counseling center at my University. I was fortunate enough to be connecting with an incredible therapist for the first time in my life.  

As we start to treat mental health on parity with our physical health, the access and quality issues on the supply of mental health continue to persist. Mantra’s software augmented services help address both those shortcomings while at a pivotal time in an early adult’s development, and if done well, can fundamentally improve someone’s life trajectory. 

What's most frustrating and rewarding about entrepreneurship/innovation?

That depends on the day. Today’s frustration is attempting to sell into the rank and file of large corporations whose favorite state is in one of inertia. The most rewarding is creating something from nothing, with a small group of incredible people we handpicked to join our mission and then getting customer love and a long period of product development. 

What's the No. 1 mistake entrepreneurs make?

Undervaluing their time by spending too long on an infeasible idea.

What are the top three lessons you've learned as an entrepreneur?

  1. Test early and often. Weed out infeasible ideas through rapid hypothesis testing. 
  2. Play a multi-stage game in business model creation.
  3. Hire a talented product designer earlier (company dependent).
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Kristin Karaoglu

Woman of many skills: Database System Engineer; SplashX event producer; Author of Startup Teams

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