"We will always have issues, but it's about how your outlook on those things can completely change what the outcome is."

My happy place is: In my car listening to music My favorite sport is: Skydiving

Brian Femminella

Helping underserved communities break the stigma around mental health

LEADING FROM THE FRONT. The motto that best sums up Brian Femminella's approach to life is: 'You can't wait until life isn't hard anymore before you decide to be happy'. This advice has been pivotal to Brian’s success as both an entrepreneur and military intelligence officer. "We will always have issues, but it's about how your outlook on those things can completely change what the outcome is."

This philosophy was the motivation for his venture, SoundMind, an app that offers accessible therapeutic tools based around music that helps modulate the negative symptoms of stress disorders. Backed by extensive, clinically-validated research, the platform provides a visual and audio experience where users are presented with soundscapes based on their persona, with further support via its journaling feature.

SoundMind is rooted in Brian's identity as a gay man and his military career, where he continues to serve today in the United States Army Intelligence Corps. Witnessing colleagues lose their memory to post-traumatic stress and seeing many of his LGBTQIA+ friends battling depression had a deeply profound effect, inspiring him to create the platform with co-founder Travis Chen, with whom he'd previously worked with on mental health policy for Congress.

Rather than working in opposition, Brian's dual careers are intricately interlinked. "The military gives me distinct perspectives on leadership, organization, structure, and networking. It’s helped me gain our first contracts that SoundMind is generating its first revenue from. It's also inspired me to develop new parts of our product and allowed me to have a different mindset to mature and grow faster. It's been a blessing."

Brian joined the army at age 17 after Don't Ask Don't Tell was repealed but admits he and many others still feared being open. Steadfast in his resolve, he was determined to make the widespread assumption of ignorance and homophobia in the army a thing of the past. "I chose to be that loud, outspoken voice that talks about things no one else wants to talk about. I quickly learned that many people, especially those in uniform, are willing to listen and learn. I think a big problem with society today is people group and generalize people into the same category."

CREATING SPACE FOR PROGRESSIVE CONVERSATION. Brian discovered a similar narrative surrounding mental health, with military soldiers and members of the LGBTQIA+ community afraid to speak out about their struggles for fear of losing their job, pension, or an entire career. "The way to combat this stigma has been to create conversations where people facing mental health struggles aren't viewed as being weak, but rather as human beings that ultimately create a stronger bond between people in their community."

Brian is now expanding SoundMind's features in the music space and adding more customization on the platform with the aim of becoming the go-to mental health service for Gen Z. In addition to supporting soldiers and the LGBTQIA+ community, Brian wants the platform to ingratiate itself among other underrepresented groups, schools, businesses, and organizations, such as the Boys and Girls Club of America.

"By creating a resource like SoundMind where the user is in control of their own mental health, it has perpetuated a conversation that we hope will continue to break the wall of the stigma that our underserved communities are seeing."

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Presented with Pride Here is the first collection of one hundred incredible and inspiring LGBTQIA+ venture-backed entrepreneurs featured in this year's Gaingels 100.