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Camilla Bøgh Erlang and Abdul Rahman Hasan from Mental Assistant, Denmark

May 17, 2024

BY Nina Lyhne

Meet Camilla and Abdul:

 

  • Co-founders of Mental Assistant, Denmark, where they are developing a method to assist people suffering from PTSD in situations where they are exposed to triggers

  • Both graduated their Bachelor of Engineering in Healthcare Technology in January 2024

  • Founded Mental Assistant, Denmark in March 2024 but has worked on the project for 1,5 years

  • Today, they are both working full time in the company as part of the Innofounder program

How did the idea of becoming an entrepreneur arise?

Camilla came home from a secondment in Afghanistan in 2011. She realized that she suffered from PTSD and that she needed some help dealing with that. But she missed something from the available treatment options that could support her in specific situations when being exposed to triggers. This is when the idea first started to grow in Camilla’s mind.

A few years later, she decided to do something about the idea and searched for an education that would give her the knowledge and skills it would take to realize it. She applied for the Bachelor of Engineering in Healthcare Technology at Aarhus University.

Here, she met her co-founders Kasper and Abdul, who both quickly jumped on board. Abdul came to Denmark as a Syrian refugee in 2015 and knew about PTSD from his network and his experiences with war, while Kasper added an outside perspective to the team. After graduation, Kasper chose another career path, and therefore, he is no longer involved in Mental Assistant, Denmark.

How did you get started with your entrepreneurial journey?

We experienced a lot of interest from people when we told them about the project – this fueled our ambitions to continue our work. One day, we went to a conference at Aarhus University Hospital. Here, we met a business developer from The Kitchen, who thought our project had potential and convinced us to become a part of the startup community in The Kitchen. Since then, we have participated in workshops, gotten advice and feedback from our business developers, received funding from EarlyCash in March 2023, and now we have an office here.

What has been the biggest challenge in the process?

For Camilla, the biggest challenge has been to believe in herself and the idea. To convince herself that the idea will help other people suffering from PTSD and not just herself.

For Abdul, the insecurity of starting your own company and becoming self-employed has been challenging, especially as a refugee, where stability is something you value. But the motivation of being able to make a difference for other people outweighs it.

Another challenge we face is how to handle sensitive personal data. It is a vulnerable target group and therefore, we need to have high ethical standards.

What does a typical workweek look like for you in relation to combining your startup with your studies?

Today, we are both working full time in the company, so we no longer have to balance the startup with our studies. However, as a company focusing on mental health issues, we need to be frontrunners and maintain a healthy work-life balance ourselves.

When we were still students, studying was our main priority, and we scheduled the different tasks within Mental Assistant, Denmark around our studies – and whenever it was an option, we brought the project into our studies as a case. For instance, we wrote our bachelor’s project on Mental Assistant, Denmark which turned out to be a huge project, but in the end, it also became the stepping stone to landing the Innofounder.

In general, we have always been good at dividing the different tasks between us and scheduling our work around these tasks, which gives us a lot of flexibility.

How do you use your academic skills as an entrepreneur?

The Bachelor of Engineering in Healthcare Technology has given us an overall understanding of how our idea can be realized and what it takes to develop the software and hardware for our solution. We believe that our chance of becoming a success is much higher with the knowledge and skills we have acquired during our studies. On top of that, the degree gives us a high level of professional integrity, which is an advantage when dealing with stakeholders.

Where is your startup today, and what are your dreams for the future?

We are in the proof of concept-phase and expect to be ready with version 1 of our solution next year.

Camilla’s ambition is that Mental Assistant, Denmark will be offered as a mandatory resource to all veterans and refugees upon their return to or arrival in Denmark. This could take some pressure off the psychiatry, where waiting lists are long, and make sure that people get some much-needed help from day one.

Abdul’s dream is that Mental Assistant, Denmark will become world leading within the treatment of PTSD and other mental health issues.

Your best advice for other students who are considering becoming entrepreneurs?

Talking to other people about your idea can really open up doors for you. Of course, you might need to keep some things to yourself in the process, but don’t be afraid to tell people about your visions at an early stage.

Surround yourself with people who can help and guide you – and don’t be afraid of asking for help.

Make sure to create a diverse team where your personalities and competences supplement one another. And be honest and upfront with each other in the team – it is important that you can trust each other.