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Entrepreneurship News

March 28, 2014

Melissa Thompson '11: The MBA Difference

Melissa Thompson ’11 talks about her company and the difference her experience at Columbia Business School has made in her career.

Tell us about TalkSession and what is unique about it?
TalkSession is a healthcare technology company. We recognized a critical need for mental health care reform as one in four Americans suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder, yet there are many who do not get treatment, due to barriers to healthcare.

We are addressing the biggest challenge: access. My Wall Street background proved to be an advantage as I was able to translate my experience as a trader into the healthcare market. There was an enormous market disparity, and therefore great potential, in leveraging technology and creativity to solve the resource inefficiencies. TalkSession as a platform is unique as we specialize in online tele-mental health. Also, we have strict quality control around our providers, which is unusual as well as difficult in a highly subjective population.

We have been fortunate to have amazing partners. Springboard is a fantastic non-profile accelerator for women-founded businesses in life sciences. TalkSession is in the GE Ventures / StartUp Health Entrepreneur Accelerator program, and has been recognized by the White House as an innovative breakthrough technology in behavioral health IT.  I am fortunate that we have achieved the exposure to reach people who not only appreciate what we do, but can make a difference.

Healthcare is one of the most formative issues of our time and as Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” That is a quote I live by daily as I increasingly realize that utilizing creative destruction and pushing the limits of the anti-fragility of healthcare, are going to be the only ways we can get everyone in this country the care they deserve.

What about your Columbia Business School experience can you point to that has helped you most to be the professional/entrepreneur you are today?  
Professors Jeffrey Harris and Todd Jick, in particular, have made an indelible imprint on my career as an entrepreneur. Innovator or Die, with Professor Harris was an inspiration to my career choice. We studied more than a dozen entrepreneurs in highly varied industries. He led discussions around entrepreneurial attributes. What was it about Steve Jobs that made him a great entrepreneur? We asked the same question about Hugh Hefner, Harold Schultz (Starbucks), and Michael Milken, among others. Of all of our class workbooks it is Professor Harris’ that has stayed active on my bookshelf, years after graduation.

Professor Jick leads Organizational Management and Change, one of the most popular classes at the business school. Aside from his deep experience and insightful lectures, Professor Jick inspired me in his role leading our class’ Chazen trip to India. For over two weeks Professor Jick was an incredible leader, friend and role model for the thirty students trekking through four cities together.  By having that concentrated block of time with Professor Jick, I learned more from one professor than any other during my time at Columbia Business School.

I love Columbia. I went to Barnard in addition to Columbia Business School. We had our company’s launch party at Low Library, which was just grandiose. It is such an incredible space, full of history and presence, and I was honored to be able to launch this company that meant so much to me, in a place that also meant so much to me.

It was at my launch party that I met one of my closest mentors and fellow Columbia alumnus, Dr. Paul Maddon, B.A. ’81, M.D.’88, Ph.D.’88, a successful biotechnology entrepreneur. I have found mentors in Drs. Lloyd Sederer and David Rosenthal from the Mailman School of Public Health. Over the years, Columbia Business School has been an entry point into embracing the talent and heart of alumni, faculty, and students of the entire Columbia ecosystem – and for that I am very grateful.


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