From Problem to Pilot: Accelerating Support for Mental Health

Published on Thursday, June 29, 2017

Team BeLeaf

A patient-centred pitch

It all started with a problem.

But let’s rewind. Matthew Miller did not expect to be up on stage pitching a health-related problem he was trying to solve at the second Hatching Health medical innovation event hosted at the University of British Columbia. Having heard about Hatching Health after interviewing a designer, he was simply looking forward to a weekend to participate and learn how to introduce similar events back at Island Health in Victoria, as the Manager of Brand and Innovation.

In fact, even after he pitched, he was keeping track of all the pitches, hoping he could find a motivated team to join for the next three days of the event. It was definitely unexpected when he saw a group starting to congregate around him, a group of fellow participants eager to join his team, passionate about the problem. A problem that all seven team members were determined to solve. And together, BeLeaf was formed.

His pitch? A call for a solution that can help individuals living with depression connect with their supporters, stemming from his personal story with supporting a close family member with depression.

“Team BeLeaf started off as a problem that was really centred around knowing the patient,” commented Lily Wong, who recently completed her Bachelor in Social Work. Like her other co-founders, Matthew’s initial pitch resonated with her, and she was passionate to find a solution to help individuals and supporters coping with mental illness.

While innovation events such as Hatching Health can often be seen as days of intensive work and extreme sleep deprivation – for the BeLeaf team, this was an opportunity to take away many crucial lessons in leadership, prioritization, and a deep plunge into the startup journey. It took seven strangers and transformed them into seven passionate entrepreneurs, dedicated to bringing an idea to life.

From strangers to teammates

BeLeaf is now developing a prototype that will serve as a self-assessment and support tool for individuals living with depression and for their supporters. Following five weeks of customer discovery and business model validation work through the e@UBC Lean Launch Pad accelerator program, the team is committed to pushing their project forward.

BeLeaf - LLP

BeLeaf at the final presentation of the e@UBC Lean Launch Pad

“At the end of every Friday after the Lean Launch Pad, we would know where to direct our energy, and it was amazing to get guidance from this community,” says Jack Dundas, as he reflects back on his experience with the accelerator program. Jack is currently completing his Bachelor of Applied Science in Mechatronics at UBC, and eager to pursue working on BeLeaf throughout the rest of his education at UBC, and beyond.

“The experience was a great proving ground for ideas, we see value in going through all the steps,” says Matthew. With a full-time career in Victoria, Matthew shows no sign of stepping back from BeLeaf and the team is committed to take the journey to do whatever it takes to make it happen.

 Commitment, honesty, and trust glue the team together. It’s been a mere three months since their first encounter, to now, building a startup together. The team enforces the importance of not apologizing for new ideas. Open communication is key, and the team’s complementary personalities and skillsets create a cohesive bond.

“Connection is a big and powerful word for me, and we are really charged up by this startup community,” says Matthew. “Joining a community and seeing different people strive towards doing completely different ideas – it was a real high for our team.”

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