Going Beyond the Lab

Going Beyond the Lab

This month Hopelab welcomes two new team members to help us bring in new perspectives and explore additional mechanisms—including impact investing and an Entrepreneur in Residence role—to improve the health and well-being of teens and young adults.

We’ve been structured as an operating foundation, with our funds largely devoted to supporting our in-house staff of researchers, designers, and product developers in their efforts to collaboratively develop new interventions.  The areas we’ve tackled have been as diverse as cancer, maternal health, physical activity, and mental well-being, but the majority of our work to date has focused on products and services we’ve developed inside the lab. Today, we’re pleased to announce that we are going “beyond the lab,” launching capabilities in impact investing and company formation.

HOPELAB IS NO STRANGER TO PARTNERSHIPS.

As we’ve developed products and interventions in the lab, we’ve joined forces with nonprofit organizations like Nurse-Family Partnership and for-profit companies like Grit Digital Health, and we’ve teamed up with partners like Ayogo to do the technology development work needed to bring our interventions to life in digital form. These partnerships have helped us expand our reach to underserved young people, and have brought in crucial expertise to complement our in-house capabilities. But even as we’ve developed and worked in these inspiring and impactful partnerships, we’ve struggled with the challenges of bandwidth – our team can only work on a couple of large projects at any given time, despite being exposed to a broad range of exciting ideas and people pursuing related work that we’ve been eager to support and learn from. In service of our goals of more effectively sharing our learnings and supporting other innovators with aligned missions and aspirations, we’ve sought to broaden our vision and expand our partnerships.

 

This challenge has led us to open up our aperture and look outside of the projects we can support inside the lab to consider additional ways we might invest our resources to amplify our impact.

We are excited about the potential to discover synergistic opportunities to learn from other impact-focused entrepreneurs and to ensure that what we’re learning in the lab gets incorporated into others’ products and services. I’m personally excited to draw on my experience as an impact investor and grantmaker, and we sit in great company as part of The Omidyar Group; our “sister” organizations bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise in impact investment and ecosystem development in areas as diverse as education, financial inclusion, and emerging technologies.

As we begin to plot this new course, Hopelab is welcoming two new team members, each uniquely qualified to help us take this next step, to go “beyond the lab” to explore additional mechanisms for impacting the health and lives of teens and young adults.

Erin Washington Sietstra

Erin Washington Sietstra joins as Director of External Investments and Special Projects, and Robert Morris (Rob) will join as Entrepreneur in Residence.

Erin will be responsible for the development and oversight of Hopelab’s work investing in organizations and companies working to improve the health and well-being of teens and young adults. As Director, she will source, execute, and manage investments, positioning Hopelab as both a financial and a strategic partner to entrepreneurs, thought leaders, and innovators.

Erin is passionate about developing solutions to improve access to quality healthcare for vulnerable and low-income populations. She began her career as a strategy consultant at Leerink Swann Consulting, a healthcare-focused boutique. Next, she led Transactions and Business Analytics at Johnson & Johnson Innovation, where she sourced and led deals with startups and universities. As the lead for consumer health investments at J&J, she saw the value of digital health as a tool to reimagine how we access and pay for healthcare, an interest she brings to her work at Hopelab. While at Stanford, she worked with ConsejoSano and CoachMe Health, two healthtech startups primarily focused on Medicaid patients.

Erin is a 2020 graduate of the Stanford Graduate School of Business, with an MBA and a Certificate in Public Management and Social Innovation. She also holds a BA in biology from Harvard. We’re thrilled to have Erin on board to begin our exploration of how we might most effectively invest in entrepreneurial ventures in a way that truly leverages the power of what we’re learning in the lab, and gives us an opportunity to support and work alongside entrepreneurs tackling the issues we’re passionate about. To learn more about our impact investing efforts, please visit our site.

Robert Morris

Robert Morris has joined Hopelab as Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) for 2020. Rob’s interests lie at the intersection of artificial intelligence, social computing, and digital interventions for mental health. He is an award-winning designer and his work has been featured in WiredNPRFast Company, and HuffPost, among others.

As EIR, he will work on developing new concepts and enterprises in the space of mental well-being, with a focus on how we can most effectively integrate advances in AI and Natural Language Processing with more traditional services for teens and young adults.

Rob earned his AB in psychology from Princeton University and his master’s and PhD in media arts and sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. At MIT, he worked in the Affective Computing Lab, where he helped develop emotionally intelligent AI systems. After graduate school, he co-founded Koko, an online mental health intervention that has reached nearly two million people. He is currently at Airbnb in a cross-disciplinary role, drawing upon research, engineering, and data science to help enhance the safety of the platform. We’ve been a huge fan of Rob and his work, and are incredibly excited to learn from and with him as he explores his next ventures.

I’m optimistic that this new phase will both bring new ideas and inspiration to our mission, and expand our ability to create real-world impact with the insights and interventions we develop in the lab. And I’ll be excited to report on what we’re learning with and from Erin, Rob, and others as we explore the ways in which our ability to improve the health and well-being of teens and young adults is enhanced and amplified.


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