Interview With Krista Berlincourt the CEO & Co-Founder of Kenshō, An Accessible Holistic Healthsystem Platform

  • Published on:
    May 31, 2022
  • Reading time by:
    8 minutes

Krista is the CEO & Co-Founder of Kensho Health. Krista has spent the past decade driving social innovation through transformative technology for top tech companies like T-Mobile, Microsoft, Simple, and Acorns. She was named a Top Female Founder to Watch, is a founding member of both The Forbes Councils and The Aspen Institute’s Fringe Diplomacy. Krista is an internationally accredited coach and author whose work traverses transformation and all that makes us human — exploring the science of shame, emotion, and connection. An Oregonian at heart, Krista is an avid cyclist, naturalist, and outdoorswoman.

Kensho is a first-of-its-kind virtual health coaching program designed to care for all of you: mentally, physically, emotionally. With optional at-home labs, a dedicated coach and their members-only app, you can track and identify “invisible” habits. Kensho makes it easy to get clear on your goals, shift habits and stick to a plan for lasting change.

What inspired you to start Kenshō Health?

My heart has always been in helping people. 

I’m the only child of two parents who are both community-oriented outdoor leaders and entrepreneurs that dedicated their lives to educating and supporting others. My earliest memories are of my mom helping customers in the bicycle store she independently founded and then led for 35 years, or late nights spent watching her lead outdoor education classes – she was committed to helping people, especially women, feel confident in the outdoors. My dad led a division of our local ski patrol, Search & Rescue, and was a SCUBA, climbing, rafting… avalanche, really an everything instructor. I suppose you could say that our family’s dharma was a service to people, so in a way, Kenshō was always in my blood. Though I got the real ‘spark’ of inspiration after leaving Simple, the country’s first digital bank, bringing more cost-effective financial services to more people. The company grew quickly and I was passionate about our work, but the imbalance of travel time and stress took a toll on my health and I began to experience symptoms that baffled me: intense fatigue, chest pain, and irregular hair growth. I spent two years and tens of thousands of dollars trying to get answers from the conventional health system before I found a doctor who looked at me holistically, at the whole picture of my health. She ordered labs, monitored not only my vitals, but how I was living, and we got clear answers. After that I was hooked and wanted to create a new model of health care that sought to 1) treat the root cause of health concerns, 2) expand access through improved care navigation, and 3) remove the unnecessary middle-man to decrease the cost of care. 

Two years later, I met my co-founder Danny who had experienced similar challenges, and together we founded Kenshō, a platform and virtual practice for coach-led holistic care. 

How is Kenshō Health different from any other health platform?

Today there are a lot of health companies who are in the business of helping patients identify imbalances with testing, but none of these actually support the patient with personalized 1:1 care until they resolve the concern. It’s easy to be a problem-spotter but much harder to be a problem-solver. Our coaches are able to support members in ordering virtually any lab test at home, which is reviewed by our In-House Naturopathic Doctor, who works with the member’s coach to create  a health plan. This means no more late-night symptom searches or dead-end diagnoses. Our Health Coaches and In-House Naturopathic Doctor go beyond symptoms to treat the root cause of illness and deliver long-term healing. In many ways, Kenshō is the first comprehensive holistic solution to do both by bringing together testing, coaching, and a network of holistic specialists for referral, all on one easy-to-use platform.

Tell us more about your business, who are your clients, what are they looking for? 

Our members want to feel better, that’s why they come to Kenshō. For some that means treating persistent skin conditions or addressing digestion issues. For others, it means maximizing energy or accelerating sex drive. Some members come in feeling quite well, others not: all just want to live and feel their best. 

How do you manage work life balance?

Our entire business is founded on the core principle that health is more than biomarkers and bloodwork, it’s a measure of balance across all areas of life. Most of us have had a moment where our physical health was high but mental health was low, or perhaps finances, family, and free time were lacking. In turn we feel less well. To prevent that, when work ramps up, so do the things that refuel me. As we prepared for our recent launch and rapidly scaling our team, I increased my time outside, moving my body, with friends, and entirely offline when not working. This helps me to be more present and offset the intensity of work during the week. 

Tell us what is one mistake you see all women make when they’re looking for help? 

Do lean on people. We aren’t meant to do things alone. This has been my life’s ‘cosmic lesson’ that I had to learn far too many times in the building of Kenshō. Women are so often conditioned to support others, to nurture, but in order to do that well, we need to be nurtured and supported too. It took me nearly three years to reach out to my earliest mentors for advice. I was telling myself a story that they would not care, that I would be annoying them or that my time wasn’t valuable, but I could not have been more wrong. Tell yourself the story that people care, that they want to help you, and that your work matters, then you’ll watch it play out. 

Tell us how you started Kenshō Health, what investment was needed, and how can we learn from this? 

While the exit from my previous company left me with a slightly padded bank account, it wasn’t enough to sustain me for long. This means the early years of business exploration before we raised any real investment was chaotic and strained as I tried to make my financial, and in turn personal, life work. It’s the underbelly of the founder reality that is often dramatized yet glossed over in podcasts. For many people, becoming a founder means leaving the security of a consistent paycheck, health insurance, benefits, and a retirement account. To make due, I consulted more than full-time to bootstrap Kenshō, then worked on the business during any downtime. I slept on so many wonderful friends’ couches while we fundraised – including one friend’s bedroom that was really a glorified walk-in closet – in an effort to cut expenses, and even sublet my room and car. Your business may take off quickly, or it may not. Believe in the former, and prepare for the latter.

How do you keep yourself updated? What are some of the websites or magazines or apps that you subscribe to or read regularly?  

I read relentlessly. I’m a big fan of podcasts – anything VICE, Songexploder, The Daily, and The Journal, which happens to be hosted by a college friend, Ryan Knutson. One of my earliest mentors from Microsoft told me to read The Economist whenever I was on a plane, and the next at Simple said to do the same with The Atlantic. I’ve read both religiously ever since. I also love books that expand my mind and understanding of reality. Right now I’m eating up The Prophet and just finished Silence in the Time of Noise. 

What’s your favorite social network – Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter? Why?

I have to be honest that I don’t enjoy social media. I prefer life offline and without screens, which I realize is quite an oxymoron for a technology CEO. This realization has led me to a more intentional — and admittedly limited — use of social media. 

What has been your greatest accomplishment so far?

Finding balance. The first few years of building Kenshō marked so much personal growth in asserting boundaries, vocalizing needs, and getting consistent. It’s true that building a company and becoming CEO far surpasses any dreams my younger self might have had, doing so in a way that finds me happy and fulfilled is a far greater accomplishment. A wise mentor of mine, Reini Chipman, who is also Kensho’s People leader told me years ago, “There’s no such thing as ‘busy’. Everyone is busy. My three-year old son is busy: busy napping, busy playing, busy eating. If you feel overly busy, it’s because you’re doing too much. Prioritize. Do less.” Every life is full. Make sure yours is full of the things that keep you feeling energized and balanced. 

Tell me about what you’re working on now.

In August last year we launched Care Matching, a 1:1 matchmaking service to help patients easily find the right holistic care, and  we discovered that when it came to support, they actually wanted much more. They wanted an expert who was always on call and who would work alongside them to treat the root cause of health concerns, and connect them to a specialist if need be. When we thought about who the best person was for this job, it became clear: health coaches. From here, our product naturally evolved into virtual coach-led holistic care that makes it easy to order at-home lab tests, get access to Naturopathic Doctor oversight, and referrals into the country’s largest network of mental, physical, and emotional health providers as needed.

What to do in the face of a hurdle / obstacle: 

We launched Kenshō in February 2020 just weeks before Los Angeles went into lockdown. That was a trip. The day we planned to begin our Seed raise, the market shut down. We became nimble, developed a strong practice of listening to market feedback, and remembered that you can make plans but you can’t control what happens. In the two years since then, we have adapted our product many times to better suit the changing needs of the market, and of the world. We found that having providers pay for their profile listing on our original platform was challenging given many of them were experiencing insecurity themselves during the pandemic. This forced the question “in healthcare, who pays?” The truth is that in America employers, insurers, and patients pay, which led us to our current product – the first holistic health coaching membership that makes it easier for patients and in turn their employers to find the care they need and feel better than ever. 

What is a skill you think all women should learn and why?  

Soft is strong. It feels counterintuitive at first, but learn to listen to your body, to soften into things, to celebrate the parts of you that are decidedly feminine. While society may tell us to toughen, I’ve experienced in myself and witnessed in others far more strength from softening into the things that too often leave us hardened. 

If you could go back by ten years, what would be some of the top tips you would give our audience?

I would say dream bigger and believe that anything is possible. I came from a small town and an admittedly limited reality of life. When I was first asked what my dream was by a boyfriend at 25, I didn’t have one. Rather than acknowledge the lack in myself, I was furious at him for putting me on the spot. That question triggered a series of events where I began to ask myself not what was my one dream, but what would the life I dreamed of look like? How would it feel? Where would I be? What would I be doing? Who would I be doing it with? Then I’d tell myself that another word for ‘dream’ is vision – create a vision for your life, surround yourself with people who champion that ideal and push you to keep going for it, and subconsciously, you’ll begin to make many decisions that bring it into reality. 

Tell us about your proudest achievement? 

I’m incredibly proud of the culture we’ve built at Kenshō and how our team stepped up during the pandemic. Together, we made the best out of a hard chapter for history by focusing on being of service to people all around the world. We facilitated millions of hours of free programming and holistic health education, including therapy for frontline workers and pro bono care for those who couldn’t pay. I was also delighted that our team’s hard work resulted in my being named LA’s Rising Entrepreneur of the Year. And there’s truly no better feeling than hearing from the people we’ve helped find greater health and wholeness – that’s why we’re doing this, to make the world a healthier place one person at a time. 

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