MATTER Startup Spotlight: Seven Starling
Making high-quality mental healthcare more accessible for new mothers
According to the Maternal Mental Health Leadership Alliance, one in five women will experience maternal mental health conditions during pregnancy or the first year after pregnancy, and 75 percent of women who experience maternal mental health symptoms will go untreated.
Tina Beilinson, CEO and co-founder of MATTER member Seven Starling, is reimagining how we support new mothers on their mental health journey. Read on to learn about Seven Starling’s solution, Tina’s entrepreneurial journey and her thoughts on the growing women’s health space.
Responses have been edited for length and clarity.
MATTER: What’s your background, and how did you become interested in healthcare?
Tina: “My family immigrated to the U.S. when I was six years old, and my parents became entrepreneurs to make a living for our family. They inspired me to take control of my own destiny and have a meaningful impact in the community, instilling in me an interest in entrepreneurship at a very young age. It wasn’t until I had worked for a few startups that I took the plunge to start my own.
“For the majority of my career, I’ve worked at startups. I started at Warby Parker in the company’s early days prior to launching any stores, and I stayed until right after they raised their Series E. While there, I was focused on transforming Warby Parker from a consumer brand to one focused on broadening access to vision care.
“I was fortunate to work on the launch of their first health product, a telemedicine service that enabled people — such as those who couldn’t leave work for an appointment or lived in rural areas — to conveniently and affordably access a vision test from their mobile devices. This was in 2015 when telemedicine was the Wild West — states were just figuring out to regulate it and patients weren’t accustomed to using technology to receive care. It was an interesting challenge to develop a brand new user experience, navigate regulations and grow a provider network to support that technology. Seeing the impact we had on patients really kicked off my excitement for the future of digital health.
“My interest in women’s health comes from a number of challenges I’ve had with my own health and situations where I didn’t feel heard or understood. This motivated me to develop a solution that made women feel more empowered in their healthcare journey.
“While pursuing my MBA at Harvard, I met my co-founders Julia Cole and Sophia Richter. We bonded over our passion for women’s health and discussed issues we cared about, such as the lack of support when having a child, and instantly started brainstorming solutions. It became clear that we’re in a maternal health crisis in the U.S., and maternal health is a space that desperately needed innovation and change.”
MATTER: Can you tell us more about the Seven Starling solution?
Tina: “Seven Starling is a platform uniquely focused on supporting the mental health needs of new mothers and caregivers. We offer both individual and group therapy, matching women with a specialized therapist that has deep perinatal mental health experience as well as a peer support group. We combine this therapy with education and exercises in our app, creating a truly comprehensive, completely virtual experience.
“We try to understand the unique journey of a new mom, what they’re feeling and the challenges they’re facing. As many can probably assume, being a new mom can be overwhelming with the constant balance of feeding and sleeping. And adding mental health challenges on top of that makes it difficult for people to function throughout the day, let alone go to an in-person therapy appointment. Seven Starling designed its therapy experience to meet the needs of new moms.”
MATTER: What differentiates Seven Starling from similar solutions?
Tina: “According to the American Psychiatric Association, seventy-five percent of people feel better and get the support they need with therapy alone. Our combination of individual therapy with group therapy is even more powerful due to the importance of peer support during this critical time. We also personalize each person’s care plan based on their needs and can provide medication as needed. Up to 90 percent of people will feel better when they receive a combination of individual and group therapy and medication. We have found great success for our patients with this personalized approach between our three treatment methods.”
MATTER: What obstacles have you faced being in women’s health?
Tina: “When raising our seed round in 2021, we found that many investors still saw maternal health as niche. This is surprising to me because it’s a critical part of 51 percent of the population’s health journeys and is one of the biggest drives of expense for payers. Untreated postpartum depression drives $14 billion in societal and healthcare costs, equating to $32,000 in costs per mother-child pair.
“This is surprising to me because [maternal health is] a critical part of 51 percent of the population’s health journeys and is one of the biggest drives of expense for payers. Untreated postpartum depression drives $14 billion in societal and healthcare costs, equating to $32,000 in costs per mother-child pair.”
“I’ve also found there’s a huge lack of research and knowledge around what women need and why the healthcare system isn’t working for us. This has manifested in many different ways. For example, there was an abundance of misinformation in the early days of the COVID-19 vaccine regarding whether pregnant women should get it, when the reality was that COVID-19 was a lot more harmful to pregnant women than the vaccine. And this all stemmed from pregnant women not being included in initial COVID-19 vaccination trials. This is just one example of women’s health not being prioritized or well understood, which I’ve advocated for throughout our entire journey as a company.”
MATTER: How do you see women’s health evolving over the next few years?
Tina: “I think it’s similar to the arc that we’ve seen with digital health. Up until now, women’s health has been put in a giant bucket with single companies trying to solve for all of the healthcare needs that women have across their lifespan. Frankly, I don’t think it’s feasible for one company to do it all well.
“In the future, I think we will see significantly more specialization, like how Seven Starling specializes in women’s mental health. Recently, there has been a growing number of companies focusing on specific conditions unique to women, such as polycystic ovary syndrome, and their care experience. I see this trend of specialization continuing in the near future.”
MATTER: What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?
Tina: “You have to be genuinely obsessed with the problem you’re solving. If you’re pursuing entrepreneurship, work on something that motivates you, excites you everyday and you’re willing to spend the next two to three years on — at a minimum.
“Someone recently told me they were interested in starting a company, but they were unsure if they wanted to leave their full-time job because they didn’t believe the solution was perfect yet. I said, ‘Your solution is going to change whether or not you have all the information you need right now. Focus less on the solution and more on whether you’re excited to work on this problem day in and day out.’”
MATTER: What value have you gained from your MATTER membership?
Tina: “Number one, MATTER is an amazing community. I love the Slack channel and hearing updates, milestones and accomplishments from other founders. It’s motivating to see other healthcare companies working through similar challenges and seeing success; I benefit from hearing answers to other founders’ questions because oftentimes we’re going through the same things.
“It’s motivating to see other healthcare companies working through similar challenges and seeing success; I benefit from hearing answers to other founders’ questions because oftentimes we’re going through the same things.”
“The second value add is MATTER connecting us with amazing partner opportunities. As a founder, you’ll never be able to accomplish everything alone, which is where an organization like MATTER can help put opportunities in front of you with potential partners who are looking to fill certain gaps and needs. We’ve already had a few awesome opportunities through MATTER that we’re taking advantage of.”
About Seven Starling
Seven Starling is a digital platform making high-quality mental healthcare more accessible for new mothers and caregivers. With specialized therapy, peer support, and in-app exercises, Seven Starling uses the most effective, proven methods to treat common perinatal mood disorders like postpartum depression and anxiety. Learn more at www.sevenstarling.com.
At MATTER, we believe collaboration is the best way to improve healthcare. The MATTER collaborative includes more than 700 current and alumni startups from around the world, working together with dozens of hospitals and health systems, universities and industry-leading companies to build the future of healthcare. Together we are accelerating innovation, advancing care and improving lives. For more information, visit matter.health and follow @MATTERhealth.