April Koh ’16, co-founder and CEO of Spring Health, spoke at the Yale School of Public Health on Tuesday morning as a part of Tsai CITY’s Yale Women Innovators Breakfast Series. Koh told audience members about her journey as an entrepreneur at Yale and the founding of Spring Health.
Founded two years ago at Yale, Spring Health is an artificial intelligence–enabled health service that partners with employers to deliver high-quality and convenient mental health care to employees, according to Tsai CITY’s website. Spring Health has raised more than $8 million in startup capital since its founding in 2016 and has 20 full-time employees. Clients of Spring Health include Whole Foods and Gap.
Koh spent most of the talk discussing her journey into entrepreneurship, which she said began at Yale her junior year after she became interested in computer science and entrepreneurship at a coding bootcamp on campus. According to Koh, entrepreneurs came to speak to participating students to share their stories; from there, the idea of launching a startup gripped her.
“The world of startups seemed to suit me,” Koh explained. “One thing in my life that has always been consistent is that I make a lot of key decisions out of the desire to be different.”
Originally a member of the class of 2014, Koh took a two-year leave of absence after her junior year to work on developing an e-commerce app that she created with several other students from the programming bootcamp. According to Koh, the app began to find success, but she decided to leave the company in order to work on something that she found more impactful than e-commerce.
She eventually returned to Yale and found herself interested in reforming mental health services.
“Mental health experience is something I’d reflected on a lot,” Koh noted. “The system when I was [at Yale] was so broken. It was impossible to see someone quickly and scheduling was a mess.”
Koh’s passion for mental health initiatives led her to do research on the subject in her free time. During her research, she read a paper by Adam Chekroud, a Yale Psychiatry doctoral candidate. At the time, Chekroud was working on an algorithm to help diagnose and recommend prescriptions to patients in need of mental health care. Koh turned this algorithm into an online survey, laying the groundwork for Spring Health. Chekroud went on to co-found Spring Health with Koh, and he now serves as the startup’s chief scientist. Koh also met their third co-founder and current chief technology officer, Abhishek Chandra ’16, through her work in computer science at Yale.
Today, Spring Health is marketed toward employers as a platform to connect employees in need of mental health care with providers. The platform allows employees to take a survey and uses imputed data to assist them in scheduling an appointment with an approved health care provider.
For health care providers, the proprietary recommendation engine minimizes trial and error by recommending prescriptions and treatment based on the employee’s input and data from other similar patient cases, according to Koh.
“Spring Health is helping individuals and organizations flourish by eliminating every boundary to mental health,” Koh said.
Koh attributed much of Spring Health’s early success to the resources available to her during her time at Yale.
She described Yale’s main offerings for anyone interested in entrepreneurship as “people, prizes, perks and programming.” She recommended that anyone interested in entrepreneurship take advantage of Yale’s network of students, faculty and alumni and apply for prizes and grants that the University offers.
The Yale Women Innovators Breakfast Series takes place every Tuesday morning, according to Cass Walker Harvey, managing director at Tsai CITY. The breakfasts change locations each week.
“Rotating locations is a new thing we’re trying this year,” Walker Harvey said. “We want to make sure this is accessible to students across campus, so we’re rotating it through different locations.”
Jennifer McFadden SOM ’08, associate director of the School of Management’s Program on Entrepreneurship, said that although the program’s speakers all come from an entrepreneurship or startup background, they each bring different experiences to the table.
McFadden noted, for instance, that the speakers range from venture capitalists and investors to entrepreneurs, spanning both the nonprofit and commercial world.
“We’re trying to get a really broad spectrum and picture of women working in the field,” Walker Harvey said.
Tsai CITY was founded in 2017 and is located on the third floor of 254 Elm St.
Madison Mahoney | firstname.lastname@example.org