Meet the Founders: Frame
In Struck Capital’s ‘Meet the Founders’ Series, we will go in-depth with the brilliant entrepreneurs of our portfolio who are building the next generation of human-centric technologies.
Kendall Bird and Sage Grazer are the co-founders of Frame, an innovative, technology-enabled mental wellness network. Frame’s mission is to help people find a form of therapy and a therapist that they can meaningfully connect with. What started as a therapy matching app idea has evolved into a multi-faceted offering, with streamlined matching functionality, as well as a full suite of practice management tools for therapists (e.g., for scheduling, payment processing). Additionally, Frame offers free digital discussions run by licensed therapists that aim to make therapy more approachable and accessible for all.
Q: You’ve each talked before about the exciting and unique experience of building a company alongside a childhood friend. Can you say more about how you first came to know one another, and how you each found your way back to LA?
Kendall: Sage and I grew up as neighbors here in Los Angeles, getting together every weekend as kids to play. We stayed in close touch when going to different high schools and parting ways for college — even in the era before smartphones. We were great friends, and yet neither of us knew as teenagers that the other had started seeing a therapist. It’s not really something you swap notes about when you’re 13 years old, but it had a big impact on our lives all the same. In the years after college, we crossed paths on a few occasions in New York and reignited our friendship. Later, when I moved back to Los Angeles to begin working for Snap, I knew that finding the right therapist was important, and yet I realized that they had always kind of been put in front of me: by my parents when I was young, by my college while at Vanderbilt, and through luck when in New York. I knew I wanted to work with a therapist who understood and could keep up with the tech world I lived in, but I was struggling to find the right person and that experience was a bit jarring. That process led me to really reconnect with Sage, and ask her genuinely: “can you help me find a therapist?”
Sage: Like Kendall, I started going to therapy when I was a teenager, and it had a really positive impact on my life. It helped me conceptualize how I see the world and helped me realize that I wanted to be that person for someone else. It wasn’t a direct path to therapy, however. I originally went to school to study film — it’s what my family does, after all — but found that while I do have a love for film and photography, it wasn’t the career path for me. Toward the end of my undergraduate years I took up a minor in psychology, just because I had been so interested in it before. As I thought more about it I decided that if I could help improve even one person’s life then that line of work would be worth it, and from then on I was set on being a therapist. I went back for my masters in social work from NYU, and then came back to LA for postgraduate training. After getting my license, I started my own practice, and quickly realized that running a small practice is really more like running a small business, and that they don’t train you for this part of the job in graduate school.
Q: Can you speak to how your own career journeys initially informed the development of Frame?
Sage: Like I mentioned, when you start your practice you are starting a small business. No one really prepares you for this; they don’t train you for that in your postgraduate training. We had one person come in and do a workshop on how to run your practice — it was basically an afterthought. I wanted to be a therapist, not necessarily a marketer, and so I took on a part-time therapist job at a group practice just so I wouldn’t have to be hustling to look for clients to keep myself afloat. And I shared this experience with a lot of my friends and colleagues who, when they first started their practices, would have to dedicate many hours to networking just to build a viable client base. It’s hard to do that work anyway, and even harder when you know it’s cutting into time you’d rather be dedicating to your clients.
When we got back together in Los Angeles, Kendall asked me about this. I told her about what it’s like to be a therapist and we started having in-depth conversations about how the most important part of finding a therapist, as well as the most important part of working with a therapist, is the connection that you have with them. The biggest indicator of a successful therapy outcome is the therapeutic alliance between the client and the therapist, and so even if a therapist is highly qualified or excellent for Kendall, they might not be the right therapist for me and it’s not going to be the same kind of success. These were some foundational insights as we started building Frame.
Kendall: I just couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that therapists don’t go to school for things like marketing their business, and then they’re just spit out into the world and expected to build their own book of clients. These are highly intelligent and qualified people, but that’s a muscle that can be harder for them to flex as they haven’t really had to do it before. So I did my own research — actually on the advice of my own therapist, funny enough — and was fascinated by what I learned and definitely believed that there was an opportunity for us to explore. I had this great job at Snapchat though and was worried about taking the leap. That said, after some great conversations with my husband, I decided that I could always go back into the tech world, but I couldn’t get back the time I’d lose by not giving this business a shot. So I said screw it, let’s do this.
Q: What was, in your own words, the biggest inflection point for Frame where you thought “okay, let’s actually do this together”?
Sage: Kendall and I had been having all these talks about Kendall’s curiosity with the space and I’d been giving her all of this information about my experience, and so at one point I said “great, let me know when you build this thing because I’d love to use it”. And it wasn’t long after that she came back to me and said, in as many words, “do you want to do this together?”
Kendall: I don’t think she was picking up on what I was asking at first!
Sage: It definitely took a minute to sink in! But once we started looking at this idea as the seed of a new company we could build together, that was, for me, the turning point. And so the hard work began.
Q: Therapy is an incredibly important and intimate part of a person’s life. What comes to mind when you think of the human element and gravity of the work you do?
Kendall: It has been really powerful to approach this work having come from the world of tech where company values can feel more performative and hand-wavy than concrete and applicable. Here, the values really matter. It has also been really meaningful to partner with Sage because she comes from a profession where someone’s well being is in your hands, which only further reinforces our belief that our values need to be human-centric and embedded into everything we do. Sage and I believe in this so deeply, and I think that starting this company with a therapist has made the organization as a whole even more committed to sticking to our guns with what we think is really important and ethical because we are dealing with people’s mental health. Our team is here because they deeply believe in the mission of this work.
Sage: We’re building a platform that actually upholds the values that we believe in, and prioritizes lifting up the therapists doing incredible work for their clients every day. It is unfortunate that sometimes in the mental health business therapists can be treated less like people and more like machines, lining up something like eight sessions in a row just to squeeze as much revenue out of them as possible. Therapists are humans and should be treated that way and respected for all the work they have done to get to this point in their career. They have needs and they want to build their businesses, and they need to be able to feel empowered to choose how they’re going to do their work. We’re not telling them that they have to do text therapy or that they have to do video therapy, we’re giving them the tools that allow them to easily decide not only what their rate is, but how they’d like to interact with their clients.
Kendall: Every founder is passionate about what they’re building, but I think there is a difference between seeing an opportunity in the market and really building something you intimately understand. A huge part of our mission is in building an experience that is completely a reflection of the client and the therapist, and it really takes the human aspect of what it is to be a therapist at play. With this in mind, we’ve developed a very differentiated business model that, when compared to competitors, speaks to the heart of that client-therapist relationship.
Q: As LA natives, what has it been like to build and lead your company in the LA entrepreneurial ecosystem?
Kendall: Sage and I are deeply loyal to LA in general. We grew up here, and we love our city. And so to be able to start the company in the city that we love so much was a no brainer for us. A funny anecdote comes to mind: before COVID, a majority of therapists did not do telehealth, and so the platform was initially built with the assumption that all of this would happen in person. However, we both thought about the perils of LA traffic and wanted to save our users some time on the 405, so we built in telehealth to accommodate our beloved LA natives. And so when COVID hit, we already had a differentiated telehealth option built in, all thanks to LA traffic!
Having come from the LA tech world, I feel a great sense of camaraderie with the entrepreneurial thinkers of the region. We all want to be part of something and build it, and I feel that this community is incredibly supportive and connected with each other. So it is just such a special place to be building a business.
I’ll also say that Adam and the Struck Capital team have gone above and beyond as an investor. I had always worked in marketing, which is a heavily female dominated industry, so I never really experienced a lot of the sexism that you hear exists in technology. Being a female founder though, I did start experiencing that sexism a bit more — it was real. I met Adam though and we hit it off — he has never treated me any differently than any of his other founders. In fact, he’s always had my back, and he’s always supported me. He cares. I remember one night when I was in the depths of fundraising, he just called out of the blue to give me a pep talk. It’s those little things that showcase how much he cares about his portfolio companies.
Sage: Frame was my first experience working in the tech world. So, Adam was also my first experience working with a real investor. I’ve seen him care way more than somebody who’s just putting money into something to make a quick dollar. I mean, obviously he knows how to invest money and that has made him very successful, but he cares about much more than just that. Struck Capital has been there from pretty much day one, aside from me and Kendall, and that has meant so much to us.
Q: Sage, what is your favorite part about working with Kendall?
Sage: First off, I have learned at what feels like an exponential rate since we started working together. I did not use much technology prior to Frame: I wasn’t a Google Docs person and now I’m all over it with all my friends and family for everything. Beyond, that, I feel like Kendall and I have this symbiotic relationship where we’re kind of like a yin and yang together where, if I didn’t exist, things would go too far too fast, and if she didn’t exist, I would just be moving at a snail’s pace, you know, so I think that, for me, the thing that I like best about working with Kendall is that she brings out the best in me and we balance each other.
Q: Kendall, what is your favorite part about working with Sage?
Kendall: She’s thoughtful and analytical, and she’s always there to say, “let’s stop and think about this”, and so it really does balance us out. Sage is an incredibly nuanced thinker, and it has been eye-opening letting her step in to help me think through things at times in a more holistic way. As CEO and an incredibly driven person, I have a strong bias for action and she has an amazing eye for detail — together we end up with a pretty amazing partnership. I would definitely advise any aspiring founders out there to find a co-founder who complements your strengths as well as pushes you to learn. In this regard, Sage has been the best teacher, teammate, and friend I could ask for.
Check out tryframe.com to learn more about the amazing work that Kendall, Sage, and the Frame team are doing to connect people with accessible mental health support and care.