Interview by Anastasia Markelova
Congratulations on getting into Forbes Europe 30 under 30. I am sure many entrepreneurs have a lot to learn from you! What do you consider the key elements of success for a social entrepreneur?
Thank you! It is a great recognition for the work of our team and for all our partners and supporters. Without them we wouldn’t be where we are now. It is difficult for me to break it down to just a couple of elements of success, since I don’t have a recipe for success or any rules I follow. A lot of times you just make decisions based on gut feelings, and of course from time to time you sit down and consider a lot. But here are a couple of learnings which in my opinion are very important:
1. You should create/develop the project/product with focus on the social impact and with a clear goal what problem you want to solve. There will be a lot of questions and obstacles on the road and for me it is important to make the decisions based on the question “What will help us to leverage our social impact and help the people who need the solution”. This has impact on the partners you work with, on the projects you work on and also helps you to focus and don’t start with activities which won’t help you leverage your
2. Don’t be afraid of changes, and be able to let go, accept the changes and adapt to them. Sometimes you have to react to changes when they come from outside, and this is still I believe the easier part. It gets more difficult when you have to kick off a change, because you have learned something and see that it doesn’t work the way it worked until now. As a founder I believe it is very difficult to let go of your first idea, because you have fallen in love with it, and it is hard to change the concept and pivot the development. But sometimes you have to do it, especially when you see that you have to try out a new approach to make sure it works.
3. Admit mistakes – not only in front of others, but also in front of yourself. It is inevitable to make mistakes, especially if you are working on a really innovative idea and leaving the beaten path. You can’t save yourself from mistakes or escape from them, but you can admit them and learn from them so that you don’t make the same ones again.
Tell us about your working day – how does it usually look like? What three main daily routines and habits help you to be productive and efficient in your work and maintain work-life balance?
I try to focus on the tasks that will lead to the ultimate goal and leave unimportant things aside. It is a difficult task because of the “fear of missing out” and because of always wanting to do more, to expand the activities and work with more partners, but on the other side, it is also important to focus on the important tasks to get your work done. At the end, you will be more productive. I try to practice mindfulness – and I say “try”, because it is a tough task. I have a smartphone app my phone called “Buddhify” with which I can listen to short and very nicely presented meditation and mindfulness trainings. I know that it helps me feel more balanced, but unfortunately I don’t to it as often as I would like to. I surround myself with people I can learn from – for me it is very important to be challenged and be taught new things by the people around me – the team members, external partners and supporters etc. Being in the Impact Hub is making exactly this environment possible for me.
It is mentioned on the website that you were inspired to create Jourvie because of your personal experience with eating disorders. Many people however still dismiss this problem and do not consider it somewhat significant. What would you say to them?
As a former patient I can always speak only from my personal experience, but if I could give a piece of advice it will be: Don’t be afraid or ashamed to admit it to yourself that this is a problem and that you want to face it. Tackling this problem requires a lot of work with yourself, but it’s worth it. You learn a lot about yourself, because the recovery is focused not only on meals and eating behavior, but on many more topics – underlying thoughts, beliefs, behavior patterns. What I always tell other young people in this situation is to not give up. The road is long and hard, but worth it because you get to know yourself on a very deep level, and this is something that stays for life and helps a lot in the future.
You are a member of Impact Hub Berlin. How has Impact Hub helped/supported you in your entrepreneurial journey? What elements were/are most helpful for you?
I have been member of the Impact Hub Berlin for almost two years now, since the early stages. The Impact Hub creates a great environment for both focusing on your work and at the same time expanding your horizon through the exchange with others. Here you find a community of like-minded people, who at the same time are very diverse and possess various qualities and skills. It is very enriching to get to talk to people from different parts of the world and to be confronted with ideas which are not part of your daily work or your usual “bubble”. This always leads to new ideas and also to collaborations and it is a really inspiring place to be! I was also happy to experience a lot of support by the team and the members of Impact Hub and things like these – moral support, encouragement, honest feedback and even short-term coaching at the kitchen table – are extremely valuable.
You have created a simple tool to try to solve a complex and vast issue. I assume a lot of research and science must be behind your app. What was your approach in making the app scientifically proven? What was your path from research to the product? What is the business model?
We are creating a tool which is supposed to support the recovery process and not to replace the therapy, because we know that a smartphone app cannot “heal” the illness or replace the relationship between the patient and the therapist, but can support and enhance. We started the development of the app by identifying the everyday challenges that patients face during the therapy. As part of the therapy, the patients have to fill out food diaries on paper after every meal, where they write down what they ate, when and where, and even the more important part – their feelings and thoughts during the meal, such as fear or disgust. Having this information helps to recognize behavior patterns together with the therapist. The problem with food journals is that they are a lot of paperwork which means that they are not practical and not at all discrete. They can easily be forgotten or just not filled out because of the embarrassment of writing things down in public or in front of peers. But when the patients don’t fill out their journals, important information for their therapists is missing. We wanted to create a solution that makes it faster and easier for the users to log in the necessary data and to communicate with their therapist. We were very happy to find the support of scientific institutions like the Charité Universitätsmedizin in Berlin. Our long team goal is to motivate the patients to complete their treatment, to increase the efficiency of the therapy and decrease the drop-out rates. Another goal is to break the taboo around eating disorders in the society and support those affected in seeking support.
There are quite a few somewhat similar applications on the market. How do you think what makes yours to stand out and why is it better?
It is great that there are also other solutions on the market, because specific solutions will fit the specific needs of different patients. Our approach is to create a validated support tool for both patients and their therapists and to work not only with clinics, but also with health funds and insurances so that the tool becomes part of the course of the therapy and is integrated in the work with the therapists or in the clinic. Another thing is the understanding for the problem and the trust from our users. I was a patient and know what the challenges during the therapy are, therefore we know what other people in this situation need. And they trust us, because they know why we are doing what we do – not to prove something or to sell them something, but because we truly want to support them and believe that we can do this with the help of digital technology.
How do you measure your impact? How many users are there currently and how many do you aspire to achieve? How do you make sure that the instrument is really working for users?
We look at different parameters for the measurement of outcome and impact. On the one hand quantitative (such as the number of downloads, duration of use, etc.) but also qualitative – for example, in what situation or stage of the illness is the application exactly used and what impact just feel patients. Together with our partners we develop questionnaires on a regular basis and we conduct meetings with patients to find answers to these questions. One of our biggest partners is the University Clinic Charité, whom we cooperate with from the start regarding the contents of the application – they are the experts that we discuss new ideas and next steps of the scientific level with. It is very important to have such an expert with us because we work in the field of mental illness, and we want to make sure that what we do helps. We are now staring also a randomized clinical trial with two partner clinics to determine how we can make the app better, and just started a cooperation with a big health fund here in Germany.
Not only has Ekaterina recently been named on Forbes 30 Under 30 Europe, she has also been nominated as a finalist for the Google Impact Challenge Awards. This means that with the financial help of the prize money (which all 10 finalists get) they can continue working on their app into the next year. Please take the time to vote for their team here.