Naama Barnea-Goraly M.D. is a child and adolescent psychiatrist, and worked as an Instructor and brain researcher at Stanford University. She spent most of her time investigating brain structure in disorders affecting social cognition. Results of her work were published extensively in leading psychiatric and neuroscience journals, and presented in international conferences.
In the course of her work she became interested in gender differences in social cognition, and the significant benefits strong friendships offer, for women.
No stranger to the challenges of long-distance (girl)friendships while raising 3 kids and managing a demanding career, she is on a mission to help women keep their girlfriends in their day to day lives no matter how busy or far apart they are.
This mission led her out of the lab and into the real world to create “Telle” (pronounced “tell”), an app designed to be “The next best thing to teleporting your girlfriends whenever you crave unfiltered girltalk”.
1 | Tell me about your company… What does your company do?
Almost all women have close girlfriends (aka the women they can be themselves with). Having a strong connection with your girlfriends not only makes you feel like you can get through anything, it also makes you live longer (says science). In fact, research has shown that having close women friends has the same positive effects on your health as eating right, exercising and not smoking (although all of these are recommended).
Friendships and made from little shared moments, but in today’s world, it is very difficult to maintain that close friendship when we are all so busy, we may be in different stages in our lives, and we may be physically far apart. Social media is *not* the ideal place for unfiltered girltalk, and I felt like we can do so much better than texting and the occasional phone call, and even less occasional girls night.
That’s how I had the idea for “Telle” is (pronounced Tell): a *private*, sassy app just for girlfriends. A place where women can be themselves and have ongoing unfiltered conversations with their girlfriends, share moments, and discuss what they are into (without the rest of the world watching).
We’ve been in business for about 18 months. But I had the idea a few years ago, while I was still working as an M.D. and a brain researcher at Stanford University. It took a while to transition between these two careers, but now I am working on Telle full time.
3 | What are some challenges you have faced being an entrepreneur?
So many! First of all, it was a career change for me. I am an M.D. and was a brain researcher, and spent years in medicine and academia. To change paths from a well established, structured and respectable field to the unknowns of startup life raised a lot of questions from family and friends. People in my life were very supportive, but it was definitely a bit of an identity crisis.
I had no experience in building a company so it was (and is) a steep learning curve. It is great that these days there are so many accessible resources to learn everything you need to know. Mostly online. I took a few courses in design, UX, and marketing. I love learning new things and solving problems, but it is also terrifying at times. There is a lot of unknowns when starting a new company, so it is definitely it is exciting and terrifying at the same time.
One of the things are difficult for me is that there is no structure when starting a company, there are a million things to do and there’s no road map. In medicine and in research you always know what you need to do next – in business you have to make your own way and it is really challenging to do. However, I do love the independence of it.
4 | How much has social media impacted your business?
In so many ways! Social media is a great way to connect with strangers, to network and meet people on business groups. There are so many companies and groups these days which support women in tech, and women in business. In that sense social media has been an incredible resource for me. I also love connecting my audience and social media has been a great way for people to contact me and give feedback (luckily it’s mostly been positive, and the critique I got was super helpful in shaping the app).
5 | What makes you unique to other professionals in your space?
I actually don’t know anyone quite like me in my space. As I mentioned, I am an M.D., and a brain researcher and it is very rare to switch careers from science to building a sassy app for women. But I find that my background in psychiatry and neuroscience has helped me so much in the process of developing my app. I had a lot of experience in interviewing people and getting them to talk about their deepest thoughts – this is great for market research (of course all responses were kept confidential). Also, in my previous career I was very interested in social cognition and learned a lot about how women socialize and what are the deep evolutionary needs that lead to the female friendships we have today. This knowledge made it’s way to the way the app is designed. Other than that – I think my struggles are the same as everybody else’s, we are all trying to figure this out. The beauty (and greatest challenge) of entrepreneurship is that each company is unique and, although there are general guidelines, we all need to find out own way depending on our audience and our mission.
6 | What advice can you give to your fellow millennial entrepreneurs?
Disclaimer – I am a millennial at heart, but not an actual millennial.. However, I do have advice.. Entrepreneurship is hard, you really need to embrace the unknown and the fact that you will fail a lot and be rejected. A lot. However, it has never been easier than it is now. There are so many resources out there that didn’t exist in any other time in history. You can learn almost anything online, you don’t need background – you just to be curious and have an open mindset. You can get support and advice online and in person like never before. I feel like there is a mindset of entrepreneurship that didn’t exist 20 years ago when I was starting out in medicine (otherwise maybe I would have been tempted by entrepreneurship earlier). This is a great time to be an entrepreneur. ..and a lot of it is because of the innovative millennial mindset, which is great.
7 | Bossfidence is all about finding your bliss and building your confidence, how did you know that you needed to branch out from your comfort zone?
I love this question! It was definitely a process. Leaving a career in medicine and science wasn’t easy, especially since I did love the work, and I spent many years getting to the level I was at. But I didn’t like the environment I was in and it was a harsh realization that I could never change it, and that I will never be happy if I stayed in academia.
Once that realization set in there really wasn’t any choice, but to leave. I could have applied for a different job outside of academia. But I felt that this was an opportunity to decide what I really wanted to do “when I grow up”. It is so liberating to have that freedom again! Last time I decided what I wanted to do I was 19 (and it was to go to medical school). This time around I wanted to do something more independent (at least independent from an institution), and have it be something that really helps people and is also creative.
I’ve always been very interested in women’s health and how women socialize. I also have very close girlfriends that I’ve struggled to keep in touch with in the close way we want to. Many of my girlfriends live far away from me and we are all so busy with our careers and with young families. The idea of finding a fun way to bring women closer together and build a place where women can be supportive to each other, have unfiltered girl talk, and be themselves was very enticing to me.
There was still a lot of self doubt but I just keep thinking that there is no way I can NOT try to do this. It is not an option. It helps, of course, to have a very supportive husband (we are co-founders). He wanted us to build a company together for years, so I didn’t need to convince him to take this crazy leap. We are raising 3 kids together so surely we can build a company..
8 | Who is your biggest influencer or inspiration?
I am really inspired by many women who built their own businesses in a unique, creative way. My favorites are Emily Weiss (CEO of Glossier, she’s a marketing genius) and Leandra Medine the founder of Manrepeller (she’s brilliant, I love the way she and her staff write). I’m also inspired by the many I follow and learned from: Ash Ambirge (best copyrighting advice on the planet), Marie Forleo (she has a way of teaching everything you need to know to start a business in an effective and fun way) and of course, Seth Godin who is basically the father of respectful marketing.
9 | Anything else Bossfidence.com should know about your company?