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. While more than 1 in 3 women experience anxiety or depression in the perinatal period, only 25% of those diagnosed get treatment. This has generational consequences for women and families — a particular challenge for women of color and low-income mothers, as they are several times more likely to suffer from postpartum mental illness but less likely to receive treatment.
Seven Starling is committed to changing the way women care for themselves. The company supports mothers throughout their whole journey, from preconception to early parenthood. Through pairing patients with specialized therapists, a blended model of both individual and group therapy appointments, and medication management (if needed), Seven Starling serves as a resource for OBGYNs to reliably share with their patients.
We interviewed Tina about her journey as a founder and the mission of Seven Starling. She was recognized as the UCSF Rosenman Institute’s Healthtech Leader of the month last week.
Q: What inspired you and your co-founders to start this company? How did you meet your co-founders?
Tina: I’m originally from Kazakhstan and my family was granted asylum and immigrated to the US when I was six years old. In order to make ends meet, my parents became entrepreneurs by necessity and prioritized hiring other recent immigrants in our community. Seeing them take control of their own destiny while giving back was deeply inspiring to me. I always knew I’d take the entrepreneurial path of my own — it was just a matter of when.
I was lucky to spend the bulk of my early career at Warby Parker, where I worked alongside the two Co-Founders Neil and Dave and learned first hand how to build and scale a company that also does good in the world. My main role was running large growth initiatives and one of them was launching our first optometric telemedicine service in 2015. I was really inspired by the access and affordability that telemedicine offered our customers, and through my own disappointing experiences with the healthcare system, often wondered why I didn’t see the same innovation in the women’s health space.
My Co-Founders Sophia, Julia, and I met while we were studying at Harvard Business School. In our earliest days at school, we bonded over our shared passion for the women’s health space and saw maternal care as one of the biggest problem areas of the women’s health space: the US has the worst maternal health outcomes of any developed country and the highest cost of care. My Co-Founders and I had close friends and family who were going through the motherhood journey and we were shocked by the lack of support available to new mothers during the postpartum period and beyond.
Q: What is the problem that Seven Starling is solving? How are you using data and technology to solve that problem now and over time? What was your unique marketing and/or technical insight?
Tina: More than 1 in 3 women experience anxiety or depression in the prenatal period, and 85% of those suffering from these conditions don’t receive treatment. Without necessary treatment, these mental health conditions can lead to worse birth outcomes, negatively impact an infant’s development, and delay or prevent working mothers from returning to the workplace, which contributes to an additional $14B in healthcare costs each year. Last year, the CDC reported that the number one driving factor of maternal death in the US are untreated mental health conditions. We must do better.
Seven Starling is a digital maternal mental health clinic that specializes in treating common perinatal mood and anxiety disorders like postpartum depression and anxiety. Our model combines specialized providers, group support, and medication management (as needed) to drive best in class outcomes, where 92% of our patients felt better within 2 months.
Q: Why do you think this problem hasn’t been addressed yet?
Tina: Two reasons: access to care and stigma. Today, many women are waiting over 3 months to see an in-network provider — this is a nonstarter for new mothers who barely have time to make it to an appointment, let alone the money to pay out of pocket given all the expenses associated with a newborn and limited paid leave support. Sadly, 94% of women who experience these conditions don’t seek help because they feel so much shame and guilt. By the time women do seek help, it’s debilitating to hear that you have to wait months to get support you so desperately need.
Seven Starling is focused on increasing access to specialized care, while reducing stigma around these conditions. We’re covered by insurance and get patients into care within days of signing up. We integrate group therapy into our care model to connect our patients with others going through similar experiences, while also allowing our provider team to grow in a more scalable way. We work with licensed therapists who have a unique focus on and passion for supporting our patient population, which allows our patients to feel seen and understood.
Q: How do you work with OBGYNs and health clinics?
Tina: Over 90% of our patients hear about Seven Starling through their OB/GYN. For many women, OBGYNs are not only their primary care doctor but also a critical support resource throughout their motherhood journey and often the first person to identify a mental health challenge. Many OBGYNs are screening new mothers during their 6 week postpartum visit, but struggle to connect them with a mental health resource. Seven Starling is proud to partner with hundreds of OBGYNs and women’s health clinics to ensure a seamless process for their patients to get access to specialized and affordable mental health care, conveniently from their home.
Q: What challenges and opportunities do you see in women’s health in the US today that are influencing your strategy for Seven Starling? What areas of women’s health do you think are still overlooked or emerging areas of market opportunity?
Tina: The healthcare ecosystem is highly fragmented and we see so much opportunity to increase collaboration and integration between provider teams who support a given patient. We’ve learned a lot about how to effectively integrate with OBGYNs and women’s health clinics and how to provide them with data that enable them to support their patients more holistically during the postpartum period. We’re thinking a lot about how we can further support our referral partners with additional services and tools that ultimately lead to better patient health outcomes.
Q: What’s next for Seven Starling? What are your goals for the company in the next few years and what does success look like long term?
Tina: We’ve developed a scalable model that works and our near term focus is to expand to additional geographies so that we can make our services available to more women who need support. Maternal mental health is a massively underserved market and we’re focused on perfecting the model and making a meaningful impact before focusing our attention elsewhere. Longer term, we see a huge opportunity to become the trusted partner for women’s mental health across other critical life stages including parenthood and beyond.