Posted on August 3, 2023

Read the original on my blog: The Higher Purpose Venture Capital Blog

Matching neurodivergents with fulfilling careers

Company: Mentra is a hiring platform that intelligently matches neurodivergents (this includes autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and other forms of neurological diversity) with fulfilling careers.

HQ Location & Year Founded: Charlotte, North Carolina, 2021

Founder: Jhillika Kumar, founder and CEO, is a passionate advocate for individuals with neurodiversity. While a student at Georgia Tech, she founded Mentra with the goal of becoming the world’s leading employment and career development website in the field.

Funds Raised and VC Investors: $4.5 million from MPG Fund, Shine Capital, and angel investors.

Where did the idea for Mentra originate?

My brother Vikam is a nonverbal autistic individual. Until he was 27, we doubted if we were being understood. Through technology such as an iPad, he learned to communicate and turned out to be very eloquent. He said he was a silent observer. We discovered that my brother had his own personality, dreams, and ambitions. He just didn’t have the same opportunities as the rest of us. I felt like something was really wrong with how our system works. At least one billion people worldwide are neurodivergent. Such people have been found to be 30% more productive as citizens when they are placed in the right environments, according to a Harvard Business Review study. The question for me became what would an inclusive workforce really look like and I found a mission to help pioneer a neuro-inclusion revolution by examining the needs across diverse views of walks of life and abilities.

What is the key problem that Mentra intends to solve?

At Mentra, we are building an employment network that matches neurodiverse jobseekers with neuro-inclusive employers who want to hire from an untapped talent pool. We have grown to almost 30,000 job seekers on the platform while partnering with employers who are embarking on this journey. Our technology uses AI to match employers and employees based on holistic parameters. We go deep by using holistic data to match candidates with employment opportunities. Sam Altman was the lead investor for our pre-seed round and we have been integrating ChatGPT to support with help writing for job seekers. This helps with resume building and more.

How are you most differentiated as a service?

First of all, we are a fully neurodivergent team. I myself have ADHD. We started when I was at Georgia Tech’s school of interactive computing and we have been building for the past four years. We started with autism and have expanded to serve a broad neurodiverse population. Our nuanced understanding leads to better matching and retention of employees.

What are the company’s key accomplishments to date?

We started out while I was in college and sought funding support by applying for a grant from the Department of Health and Human Services. We won a grand prize of $300,000 out of 60 applicants. We received another grant from Microsoft for our application of AI to solving problems for people with disabilities. Sam Altman, the founder of OpenAI and former president of Y Combinator, is neurodivergent himself and knew that the need for our service existed. Both I and my co-founder Conner Reinhardt were recognized by Forbes’ “30 under 30” for social impact. Mentra has had a 97.5% 1-year retention rate for all placements made through the platform. Even Microsoft CEO Satya Nardella talked about us in his end of year keynote address to stakeholders.

What lies ahead in the plans for Mentra?

We are looking to bring more companies onto the journey of seeking and retaining hidden neurodiverse talent. We want to have large 1000+ person companies. We are building an end-to-end roadmap with a goal of getting to 100,000 hires by the end of 2025. We ultimately aim to have a greater impact on the lives of neurodivergent people by offering the independence that comes with income, career fulfillment, and community. Our next step is to become the LinkedIn for neurodiverse individuals by facilitating conversations and connections.

Ron’s Take

Inclusion and empowerment may be buzzwords to some, but they are vital to human fulfillment for the millions of people whose neurodiverse backgrounds present obstacles to achievement. With an estimated 15-20% of the global population classified as neurodivergent, that represents somewhere between 1-1.5 billion people. Yet historically few employers have made the accommodations necessary to leverage this workforce and provide the tools for neurodivergents to achieve their maximum potential. Mentra, along with other companies previously featured in this blog, such as Daivergent and Inclusively, are helping those with disabilities be more fulfilled in their professional lives. However, they are also benefiting those employers who are picking up on the lost opportunities of not engaging closely with the needs of neurodiverse workers.

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Ron Levin welcomes the opportunity to connect with you and engage in meaningful discussions about how we can collectively make a positive impact on the world through purpose-driven investments. Your ideas, insights, and questions are highly valued, and he looks forward to your contact.