In this profile of WiSTEM C4 members, Brianna Wolin, CEO and Co-Founder of Find Your Ditto, tells the story of how her personal journey with chronic illness led her to create a tech-enabled solution for in-person peer support.
Q: Tell us a little bit about your personal history and background.
A: As someone who has lived with Type-1 diabetes and celiac disease since I was very little, I am fully embracing the "patient entrepreneur" title for my work on Find Your Ditto. After attending a Big 10 university with 40 thousand students for four years where I was unable to meet a single other person dealing with the same stressful health management routine on top of the stress of coursework, I was driven to change the status quo of chronic illness management with my cofounder, Parisa Soraya. I have a BSE in biomedical engineering from the University of Michigan.
Q: Tell us a little about your company. What’s your elevator pitch?
A: Find Your Ditto connects people with the same chronic illness locally for on-demand, in-person peer support. People with chronic illness(es) are 2-3 times more likely to develop co-morbid depression, which often results in poor self-efficacy. Poor personal health management is one of the main causes of health care dollar waste every year in the U.S.
Q: How did you come to join the WiSTEM cohort ?
A: I read about WiSTEM online, and having worked on FYD full-time in Chicago with my co-founder working in Ann Arbor for the last year, I was not only interested in what 1871 would be able to offer me in terms of mentorship and connections, but I was really seeking personal connections with other startup founders in the Chicagoland area.
Q: What about the program do you think helped your business the most? Are there any specific examples?
A: Troy Henikoff and his financial modeling session have already and will continue to impact our business in a very positive way. He showed the cohort many important considerations when creating financial projections and provided a benchmark template for a responsive spreadsheet. He provided both the entrepreneur's and the venture capitalist's insights for creating strong financial models.
Q: What’s the greater good your company is trying to accomplish? How will it impact the community? What problem does it solve?
A: Find Your Ditto will impact the chronic illness community at large by creating the ever-important personal connections for a "me too" over coffee or a meal. By providing patients (like myself!) with the opportunity to feel like they aren't alone in their management, we can change the trajectory of self-care and improve current health care spending requirements. But most importantly, the simple act of meeting a local “ditto” can provide patients with the emotional support they need to have stronger psycho-social outcomes in their lifetimes with chronic illness.
Q: Give us a little insight into your perspective on diversity in the tech community. Why is it important? What do you hope to see?
A: After 12 weeks of insight from fellow cohort members, I have been awakened to the concern about the lack of diversity in the tech community — on the ground and in executive management. Much like FYD seeks to connect people with similar experiences for positive outcomes, I believe that having ongoing diversity in tech and improved success for people of color will provide the next generation with better opportunities and drive to seek tech-based positions and create tech companies in the nation.
Q: Now that the program has concluded, what do you think was the most valuable experience you gained personally and for your business?
A: Personally, I have a renewed sense of commitment to my business knowing there are other women I can reach out to for help and validation of my frustrations and successes. For the business, I've really been driven to re-evaluate our business model three-times over and commit my team to just getting the product out there. There are endless conflicting opinions about how to run a startup, and I've heard hundreds, but the program has pushed the importance of getting your product into the hands of direct users and we're now on that path.
Fourteen businesses made up the fourth cohort of WiSTEM, which is 1871’s innovative and customized program designed to accelerate and cultivate opportunities for women in technology. The 14 women-owned companies began the 12-week program beginning in March and participated in a showcase event where they pitched to investors, business leaders and supporters.