Kevin Dedner: Leader in Mental Health Tech

Founder and CEO of Hurdle

Following a dark period in his life, Kevin Dedner took matters into his own hands when he felt the need to get a hold of his mental health.

An outdoor portrait of Kevin Dedner

Dedner in January 2018 launched Hurdle, a digital mental health platform focused on providing mental health services and self-care support to people of color. Dedner fully committed himself to the company in June 2018, aiming to provide the Black community with better access to digital mental health services. 

This mission became even more clear for Dedner when the health crisis hit last year, followed by the civil unrest in the wake of George Floyd’s death. 

"We have an explicit focus on Black people, and Black people happen to be the hardest hit from the pandemic," Dedner told Lifewire in a phone interview. "We see that there is a clear demand in the market for our services, so this year is all about how we can move the company along and how fast we can do it."

Hurdle’s suite of mental health services is packed with meditation guides, daily motivational messages, and teletherapy from trained therapists equipped to work with people with shared interests, challenges, and cultural backgrounds. Since closing its first seed funding round of $5 million in January, the company has been in the process of building out its platform to make it accessible through an all-in-one web and mobile application. 

Quick Facts About Kevin Dedner

Name: Kevin Dedner

Age: 44

From: Little Rock, Arkansas 

Random delight: He’s working on writing a book, journaling a lot, reading, and indulging in horseback riding. 

Key quote or motto he lives by: "Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none." Dedner has been sharing this specific quote on Facebook for the last decade, so it keeps showing up in his memories to remind him. "It really represents my life a lot, even how I’m trying to approach my work," he says.

Mental Health Is at the Helm

Dedner moved to Washington, DC in 2011 with a public health consulting practice. Back then, he had no idea he’d venture into the work he’s doing now as a tech founder. 

"In growing my consulting practice, I worked myself into mental exhaustion that led to a period of depression," he said.

It was after this period of darkness that Dedner started exploring a career in digital health, and that led to the birth of Hurdle. Dedner founded the company three years ago as Henry Health, which has since rebranded to Hurdle. The company’s business model is focused on selling its platform directly to employers, as opposed to consumers, which Dedner is hoping will help scale Hurdle in the long run. 

"One of the things about our business right now is that we’re also in the process of learning the business as we go. We may have a couple of deficits as we understand how to scale this business much faster," Dedner said. "It’s been a slow process to figure out how to build the business, but I think we’ve got a nice blueprint shaping up now on how to move the business forward."

A portrait of Kevin Dedner.

The company first started providing therapy in 2019, but has seen a larger demand for its services since the pandemic hit last year, and more people became open to the concept of telehealth. He said mental health issues, like he experienced, are common within the Black community, and he wants to remove the stigma of seeking out therapy.

"Unfortunately, 50% of African Americans terminate therapy prematurely because of provider fit," he said. "If the thesis of our company is true, we’ll change that."

Growth and Focus 

Like most Black tech founders, Dedner has struggled to raise venture capital. Despite closing a seed round, he’s still thinking of ways to finance his company over the long run, and hopes the investment community will start devoting more time to taking pitches from minority founders. 

"The thing about raising venture capital is that it is incredibly hard," Dedner said. "I think it’s inherently unfair to people from disadvantaged backgrounds."

The company, which also closed a small friends and family round at the beginning of 2020, has raised nearly $6 million, all told. With the fresh seed funding, Dedner is hoping to add some key hires to Hurdle’s team of nine by the end of March. 

Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.

This year, he's focused on expanding the company to employers in other states, connecting with more therapists, and building out Hurdle's flagship platform. The company is currently operational in Washington, DC; Maryland; and Virginia, with plans to expand to at least three new markets.  

"I think that mental health should be more like a spectrum of services, and our platform is designed to offer a spectrum of services," he said. "I think we have the vision for what healthcare should be looking like for the future."

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