How this startup is helping create meaning mental health connections

Rob Pintwala isn’t a mental health professional, but after seeing a loved one unable to find the help they wanted, he began developing a platform that takes the guesswork out of finding a therapist.

What he does: First Session makes finding a therapist more efficient by connecting clients to professionals through an online platform that allows people to browse through a video catalogue of therapists. 

How he got started: Pintwala watched his wife struggle to find the right therapist to help her navigate a family tragedy and saw firsthand how discouraging the process can be for someone in a crisis.

  • “What did she get? A sales pitch from the clinic’s intake coordinator. An experience devoid of any empathy—she was just another customer, another source of profit.”

How much it cost: $5,000 for video recording equipment and editing software. Pintwala had the idea, grabbed a camera and filmed a few therapists to get the business launched.

  • “I spent a couple of hundred dollars on an overseas developer to write a bit of JavaScript.”

His advantage: First Session’s focus is creating solid client-therapist connections—a therapeutic alliance. The videos make it easy for clients to gauge how relatable a therapist is to them, using their intuition and opinion.

  • “The most important thing to look for, which studies and a lot of research have proved, is the connection you can build with the therapist.”

What’s next: “In 5 years, we want to be a household name in Canada and the best place to find, connect, and work with a therapist for anyone in the market for private therapy.”

Key takeaway: You don’t need to be an industry insider to see a problem and forge ahead with a solution—it’s often outsiders who can pinpoint flaws in an established system and build effective tools to fix it.