Interview with Sophie Gray, Founder of DiveThru
1. Tell us about DiveThru, and where you got the idea after having originally been in the fitness industry?
DiveThru is a guided journaling app that helps you ‘DiveThru’ what you ‘go thru’. We work with mental health professionals to create guided journaling exercises that help our users take charge of their mental wellbeing. From everyday stressors to specific ‘I can’t believe this happened to me’ moments, our guided journaling exercises help our users DiveThru it all.
DiveThru was created from my own need for it. After traveling for work, I experienced a panic attack on a connecting flight. To get home, I embarked on a 38 hour drive. Through this experience, I realized I was physically fit but mentally and emotionally unwell. When arriving home, I began to put the pieces of my life back together which led me to journaling.
I learned firsthand how powerful journaling can be for helping one take charge of their mental health. And, DiveThru was born!
2. Your first business focused on fitness – what was being in that world like, and what did it teach you that you were able to carry onto DiveThru?
When I launched my first business, I knew nothing about running a company. However, I knew what I was interested in and that modeled what those my age (and target demographic) were interested in, too. With this understanding, I learned how to connect with people through brand positioning and creating products people really need.
When I came to DiveThru, I allowed this experience to sit at the center of what DiveThru is. DiveThru is created by people who get what our target audience is going through. I believe this is a fundamental part of why we connect with our users in the way we do.
2. What was it like to pivot into technology? What are the main challenges you’ve faced?
I once listened to this podcast where the guest shared that if they knew they were starting a tech startup, they wouldn’t have. I laugh to myself about that often because when I started DiveThru, I had no idea I was launching a tech startup. Although I had experience in business, I had no idea about things such as user engagement, churn, LTV and other terms I’ve now came to focus on in my day to day.
That being said, I love this world. Innovation and creativity have always been core values of mine, and the world of tech leads that in every way. It truly feels like a privilege to get to do what I do every day.
In terms of challenges, I’m a nontechnical founder. It has been a beautifully stressful experience learning how to manage product development.
3. Let’s talk about funding – why did you choose to access venture capital?
When I initially built DiveThru’s prototype, I had no idea about raising capital. Throughout the process, I’d often look to companies in our space and wonder why I couldn’t grow as big as them. Then, I started to watch HBO’s Silicon Valley. It introduced me to the world of tech startups and raising capital.
I was hooked. As it was something completely new to me, I wanted to enter the world from an incredibly educated place. I stumbled across two support networks – TEC Edmonton and Valhalla Private Capital. These organizations set me up with everything I needed to navigate the world of raising capital.
Once I understood what raising capital truly was, I made the educated decision to pursue outside investment for our company. I made this decision because I believe firmly in the potential of DiveThru and the space we’re in. And, I wanted financial support and mentorship to make that happen.
As an entrepreneur, it’s been an incredibly humbling and educational experience. But, it’s also not for all companies or founders. It’s important to first understand the world before stepping into it.
4. How has that funding experience been as a young woman?
There’s a stat that says only 2.8% of VC funding went to women-identified entrepreneurs in 2019. I feel very honoured to be one of those companies.
As mentioned, I came across two incredibly valuable resources that set me up for success in my journey with raising capital. With these organizations, each person I’ve come in contact with, and my investors, I’ve never felt at a disadvantage.
That being said, I recognize that I hold a privilege because of the colour of my skin. While 2.8% of funding went to women-identified entrepreneurs, only .0006% of VC funding raised by startups between 2009 to 2017 went to women of colour.
And, this is a huge problem that needs to change within the space.
5. You mentioned the majority of your users are based in the States, which makes sense given the larger population. What has it been like to be a Canadian-based enterprise working internationally?
As a “child of the internet”, the idea of selling internationally has never seemed like an impressive feat. In my first business, we sold worldwide and DiveThru is currently downloaded in over 150 countries.
When I first entered the tech community, I heard one of the biggest missteps Canadians make is by just thinking of their target market in Canada.
To me, selling internationally is simply a recognition of our big picture thinking – and something I encourage my fellow entrepreneurs to think of when building their own businesses.
6. Has COVID-19 impacted your business?
While DiveThru has always been free to use, we made the decision at the end of March to make the whole of the app free.
As people are more stressed than ever, we felt like it was our duty to offer an accessible tool for those who need it the most.
With this, we have been able to expand our reach and help people who may not have been previously looking.
7. How do you see DiveThru scaling?
I believe we’re just at the beginning of the mental health conversation. While it’s always been a problem, we’ll see conversations about it happening more and more. And, with this, my intention is to have DiveThru play a pivotal role in supporting people through the very real challenges they face on a daily basis.