G&W Portfolio Founder Feature: Melissa Kiguwa, Founder & CEO, break*through

Who is Melissa Kiguwa?

My work focuses on supporting human flourishing globally. For much of my career— from the BBC World Service to Get Lifted, John Legend’s film/television production company— I developed and produced stories centered on the nuances of what it means to be human.

Today, I’m interested in our collective inner worlds— how do the internal stories we tell ourselves impact how we show up in the world? In the words of the United Nations: “Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed.”

I’m fortunate to spend my days developing transformative AI tools revolutionizing how we relate to ourselves, each other, and the world. I truly believe democratized access to healing and flourishing tools catalyzes the evolutionary direction of our species forward, as well as, a collective recognition of the talents and gifts imbued in every single one of us.

What inspired you to start your company?

A year and a half ago my cousin, passed away from an ectopic pregnancy. It was an incredibly sad time, and I couldn’t understand why it had happened. She was young, sprightly, and ready to do big things in the world. I later learned that after finding out she was pregnant, she did not go to the doctor again— despite the bleeding and pain. My cousin was a new immigrant, didn’t speak English well, and feared interacting with bureaucracies.

Since her passing, I’ve thought about the millions of Americans who refuse to go to their doctor because of a similar fear, or some sort of psychological / emotional barrier.

break*through’s thesis is born from this: that underinsured, and hard to reach populations need a friendly, culturally intelligent “companion” that connects with them before they meet with their attending physician. We bridge worlds by bringing nuanced character-building to nondescript AI models.

How will break*through change the world?

There are 117 million Americans suffering from a preventable chronic condition. Emphasis on preventable.

At break*through, we pioneer empathy-driven technologies that increase access to holistic wellbeing. Our first AI powered product engages with underinsured, traditionally hard to reach patients of primary healthcare organizations to increase positive health outcomes while decreasing costs. We do this by building AI companions that lead cohorts of patients through gamified wellness courses and challenges that increases medication adherence while also increasing health literacy.

What is the hardest part of being a founder? And what’s the most rewarding?

The hardest: The unpredictability of the journey coupled with the pain of suffering consequences from ignorance. I don’t know how many times I’ve groaned in embarrassment thinking about the better business decisions I could have made in the past with the wisdom and skills I have now.

The rewarding: Building something out of nothing, and seeing products that were just ideas manifest.

Why do you do what you do?

At our best, humans have immense capacity to experience optimal well-being, fulfillment, and thriving across the most important aspects of our lives. This capacity encompasses physical, mental, emotional, social, and even spiritual dimensions of well-being. I’m committed to our capacity to flourish, and this flourishing implies not just the absence of suffering or illness but the presence of positive attributes such as happiness, meaningful relationships, personal growth, accomplishment, and a sense of purpose or fulfillment.

I think it’s a worthy pursuit to help humans (including myself) live better lives, and I’m honored to spend my days developing transformative AI tools revolutionizing how we relate to ourselves, each other, and the world.

Tell us one (or more) fun facts about your team.

We’re jokesters. We all seem to believe we can be relentless about quality, while not taking ourselves all that serious. On Slack, somedays it feels like we just communicate through gifs. The team’s gif game is strong.

What is the most important life, career or startup lesson you’ve learned, and who (or what) taught it to you?

No soldier wants to follow a frenetic general. Emotional regulation is one of the most powerful skills to have, not only because you can maintain a sense of clarity during chaos (which in the startup world is par for the course), but because it allows others to trust your leadership. I learned this from a mentor of mine who also happens to be an esteemed military leader.

What is one thing you wish you’d known at the start of your startup journey?

This is a game of endurance and stamina. Buckle up.

Where do you go for inspiration?

The natural world inspires me. A baby nuzzling her mother. A hummingbird hovering mid-air. A rose in bloom. I can be quite sentimental sometimes.

Anything else you want people to know?

If any of this sounds interesting, feel free to sign up to “How Humans Flourish”, my weekly research-informed newsletter on how humans thrive. You can sign up here.

Why Graham & Walker Loves Melissa Kiguwa

We’ve been supporters of Melissa from back in 2021 when she participated with her last company in our Ready Set Raise 2021 Pre-accelerator, which later became the Catalyst! You can see our feature on Melissa’s previous company, Obanj, here! We’re thrilled that she’s now launching break*through and we’re excited for the trajectory she’s on and the impact she will continue to make!

Learn more and connect:

G&W Team

Never Miss a Story

Sign up to receive email updates.