Our Co-Founder Story: Laina Emmanuel and Dr Rimjhim Agarwal

Laina Emmanuel
8 May, 2020

Laina Emmanuel, has worked with the Clinton Health Access Initiative, Netapp, and has a degree in healthcare business. Her co-founder, Dr Rimjhim Agarwal has a PhD in AI in psychiatry from the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences.

Together, they founded Brainsight.AI, which, for the first time, is bringing MRI-based diagnostics to psychiatry.

When I joined Entrepreneur First, I expected to be matched with different people, but I didn’t realise how delicate and intentional the process would be.

I came in with a very blank slate. I wasn’t sure what to expect, so I decided to go with the flow, and enjoy 3 months of meeting people. I expected to be enriched by the programme, but I really didn’t expect to hit on a big problem, and build a company around that!

EF was one of the most challenging things I’d ever done at the time.

I remember being overwhelmed at the kick-off weekend, thinking this is not for me, and how on earth will I find a match in this really disparate set of people, and how do I put myself out there. I remember thinking “Damn, this is going to be super embarrassing”.

But most people are capable of so much more than they think, and now I run my own company with a co-founder who I wouldn’t have even met if it weren’t for EF.

Usually people meet their co-founders randomly. Often, there’s no logic to the pairing, and it’s very rare that people take a ‘test and learn’ approach. At Entrepreneur First, the process of meeting a co-founder is very deliberate. They’ve spent months carefully selecting each person on the cohort, and that’s before you even join.

EF create a culture where it’s normal to co-found with someone within a few days of meeting them, and that only works because the selection process is so vigorous. At the same time, though, there’s a culture of “break up as soon as it’s not working” – with none of the awkwardness or hard feelings that commonly hinder progress.

I’d paired up with four co-founders, and then subsequently broken up with them, before I landed on the right co-founder. Through that experimentation, I realised what I wanted in a co-founder, and came to understand my own shortcomings and strengths in a co-founder relationship.

Rimjhim, with whom I co-founded Brainsight, also worked in the healthcare space, was interested in mental health, and shared many of my passions, so in hindsight it was an obvious match. But if we’d have met without our respective experiences with other co-founders, I’m not sure that we’d have realised what a good match we are for each other.

We actually initially hit it off talking about dogs – who knew! We both have two dogs, and are crazy dog-moms, so that was how we got talking. Beyond that, though, we realised we’re both driven by social impact. Rimjhim is passionate about climate change, and I’m passionate about public health and citizenship issues. 

Our common goal to improve the world brought us together, but actually we’re very different people. We think differently, we work at different paces. I enjoy talking to people and explaining what we are doing, Rimjhim is more “I will do my job, and it will speak for itself”. I really like a big-picture to details view; she prefers getting into the details from the very beginning. It blows my mind sometimes to think how complementary we are.

I think my experience in corporate, international development, and research, as well as my MBA, have taught me to work with any set of people. I think I bring that emotional intelligence to the table, and that’s what makes me a good co-founder.

Rimjhim’s deep knowledge of AI in psychiatry make her the brains behind the technology. 

With Brainsight, we’ve founded the first company to bring MRI-based diagnostics to psychiatry. With neuro-psychiatric disorders costing $16.3 Trillion USD each year worldwide, it’s a huge opportunity for impact.

The brain is such a complicated organ, so there haven’t been any standardised biological tests. At Brainsight, we’re using AI-based imaging and digital phenotyping biomarkers to do early screening, diagnosis, prognosis tracking and personalized brain interventions for disorders such as Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder and Dementia. I don’t think this company could exist without both of us at the helm.

Applications for our next Bangalore cohort close on 15th July. Apply now, meet your co-founder, and realise your potential.

Find out more about our Bangalore programme

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