Karin Andrea Stephan: When Others Present Ideas, I Immediately Get Excited and See but Opportunities Popping Up

Karin Andrea Stephan

Karin Andrea Stephan of Earkick.

Tell us about yourself?

I love connecting. Born into a multi-national family, I started collecting languages to better mediate between people with differing opinions. Studied the universal language of music to connect hearts and minds beyond borders. Co-founded and led a company that teaches and produces music in a novel way. Went on to study management psychology to deepen my understanding of how humans tick and how communities are built successfully. Put that knowledge to work at Impact Hub Singapore and Impact Hub Zürich, leading people, growing the business and connecting the dots between entrepreneurs, innovation and the ecosystem. Co-led a mandate from the Swiss government that connects academia to the startup world. Realised how technology offered unprecedented opportunities to tackle global challenges and finished a master in digital management & transformation. My thesis “Therapist in the Ear” explores opportunities at the intersection of deep tech and mental health and has become the basis for my newly co-founded venture. Today, I’m on a mission to make mental health measurable for everyone. If you want to join the movement contributing cutting-edge science, ML, expert content, connections, talent and smart investment – Let me know, because I keep connecting. People, dots and opportunities.

What do you think is the single biggest misconception people have when it comes to startups?

People believe startup founders are either sleep-deprived hustlers who work themselves to the bone for a genius idea and zero money, or they are rockstars with loads of cash, a roller coaster life and endless opportunities. Being part of a startup can be a very structured, focused and inconspicuous job with time for recovery, leisure and even boredom.

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If you could go back in time to any moment from your journey, and give yourself one tip, what would it be?

I used to worry a lot and to overwork as a way to get a sense of control over that worry. Today I would tell my younger self to enjoy the ride. To focus on the here and now. It’s the present, the gift of being alive.

What makes you stand out as an entrepreneur?

I’m an absolute not quitter. When others present ideas, I immediately get excited and see but opportunities popping up. This fills me with almost infinite energy and keeps me radiating positivity- enough to shine the light during tough times.

What are some of the best working habits you’ve gained over the past couple of years?

1. To ask questions and not assume. 2. To take “no” or other rejections as a motivation to improve my approach, rather than taking things personally. 3. To go outdoors – ideally to the mountains – when things seem overwhelming.

Give us a bit of an insight into the influences behind the company?

Earkick was founded in 2021 by us – serial entrepreneurs Herbert Bay and Karin Andrea Stephan. We both witnessed close friends, relatives and colleagues slip into mental health disorders without anyone noticing. Loved ones’ private and personal lives were tragically impacted and the experiences left us wondering why nobody saw issues coming. We realized that even when treatment was accessible, reactive care always proved to be unsustainable, kicking in only when people were already deep into a disorder. At the same time, we noticed how current treatment options still lacked objective measurement and monitoring along patient journeys. Why was the brain the only organ system that still got diagnosed based on subjective self reported criteria? Why did people with anxiety or depression get the same first line of treatment? From Karin’s research we knew that one person’s mental health challenge could be related to a medical condition, another one’s to childhood trauma and yet another one’s could be rooted in grief after a loss. Different mental health conditions often run under the same name, yet have very different interventions that work for an individual. We knew that this could be solved using AI and without putting more work on chronically overburdened mental health care professionals. Early detection of developing issues and a full understanding of physiological signs could prevent unnecessary suffering. We realized that most everyone already carried a smartphone in their pocket and that wearables were becoming mainstream fashion, making the collection of relevant vital signs effortless. We’re convinced that this trend would continue with hearables and augmented reality glasses. Having led the user-sensing team at Magic Leap, Herbert wanted to combine the insights collected there with cutting-edge machine learning algorithms to finally make mental health measurable for everyone.

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Where do you see your business in five years?

In five years measuring/tracking mental health in real-time will be as common as counting steps or checking the weather. Earkick will make the impossible possible and give individuals, organisations and institutions a way to master mental health in a personalised and rewarding way.

What do you think the biggest challenge will be for you in getting there?

1.) Growing a massive end user community that helps us improve Earkick on a daily basis 2.) Finding the right partners to roll out this new technology in a scalable and smart way.

Talk to us about your biggest success story so far?

My biggest success story is a simple string of pearls. Each pearl represents a life touched, a problem solved and an idea brought to life. A particularly shiny pearl is having found my current co-founder and starting Earkick.

How do clients and customers find you? Are you much of a salesperson for yourself?

I usually find them. I do lots of research and social listening before reaching out, always making sure that I come with value, when knocking at their door. I’m not much of a salesperson for myself, but I will go to the end of the world to promote a product I believe in. You can find me on LinkedIn, twitter, youtube, tiktok, insta, reddit. On blog posts, podcasts, pitching or speaking live, etc…

What one tip would you give to fellow startup founders?

Don’t compare yourself with others if it doesn’t inspire you. Comparison is the thief of joy, time and unique ideas.

And finally, what do you hope the future brings both you personally, and your business?

I hope the future brings endless opportunities to tackle global challenges like the mental health crisis in a collaborative and creative way.

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