Tech Company Highlights Gender In Business, Health

By Will Doran
The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)


A new women-led technology company in Morrisville has focused on a niche market in creating a mobile app meant to help women facing mental health problems.

Women are statistically more likely than men to suffer from depression and anxiety. Women are also far less likely to found or lead any sort of private company, especially in the male-dominated tech world.

Connie Mester and Kelly Earp hope to bring both uneven representations a little closer to equilibrium with their company, Thrive4-7, and the mental health app they plan to launch next month.

Mobile apps tend not to be focused on women because there are few women in technology, Mester said, especially at the top.
“I’ve always been used to being on presentations or around the board table as the only female, and it’s a whole different level as a CEO,” Mester said.

Women have founded only about 1.3 percent of private businesses in the U.S., according to a Dow Jones study, and less than 7 percent of companies have a female CEO, the role Mester holds with Thrive4-7.

Fighting an uphill battle for funding, while also jostling for attention in the crowded app market, Mester has learned about anxiety beyond the knowledge her master’s degree in public health brought her.

“We sleep about an hour a day,” Mester says in her Perimeter Park office, pausing before adding: “I’m joking. A little. I mean, we’re at startup pace.”

But Thrive4-7 did become a member of the state’s Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network, landing ties to the largest alternative investment firm in the world. The team still had the challenge of designing, creating, marketing and selling an app that exists precisely because its subject can be taboo.

“It is helping (app users) think it is OK to go see a therapist,” Mester said of the upcoming app, named Mevii. “It’s unfortunate that mental health care is so stigmatized. Everyone should have a doctor for their head, just like they have a primary care physician.”

The app itself will have a number of features, ranging from simple inspirational quotes to more complex features, like programs to help users develop better mental and physical health habits.

Before the tech world, Mester worked for the Centers for Disease Control and the health insurance industry. She said that in both sectors, the primary focus was on how hospitals and doctors could treat patients, with little attention paid to how people can help themselves.

“And with what we’re creating it’s really … a mind shift, or transition, that ‘My health is my choice, and the decisions I make every day,’ ” Mester said.

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