For our latest Startup Spotlight series, we spoke to Carol Constant, founder of Bemensa, an app brain training.
Carol Constant is a TEDx speaker on brain training and the founder of Bemensa, your app for fun brain games. Carol’s brain training took her husband from a severe brain injury to getting a Bachelor of Economics, an outstanding feat that still baffles doctors.
Before we dive in, our readers would love to get to know you better. So, can you tell us a bit of your “backstory” and how you got started?
Before starting my own company, I worked for top corporations like Ford and also in colleges as a lecturer and course coordinator.
9 years ago, my husband had a devastating accident that left him with a spinal and severe brain injury. We were told that he would not be able to live an independent life.
For years I worked with his doctors and brain rehabilitation experts.
4 years ago, he was given brain games apps as part of his brain rehabilitation program. We noticed that pattern recognition games were the most beneficial for him, to the point that he was able to improve his memory and reasoning skills significantly. I started creating these puzzle games specially for him. This is how the first games for our app Bemensa were born.
What was the most exciting story that happened to you since you launched your startup?
While training daily with Bemensa puzzle games, my husband enrolled for a Bachelor of Economics at university. 50 young and brain-healthy students enrolled with him. At the end of the 3 years, only 2 graduated: one other student and my husband.
And he is not the only case. One of my business workshop’s clients at 47 fell strong enough to go back to university and finish his Bachelor of Engineering. In this first test, he scored 10 out of 10.
People are telling me that they feel 20 years younger, that their thinking speed and brain fitness after only a few months have improved dramatically. Less brain fog, more focus, and confidence. I can see that the transformation I saw in my husband is happening to many more.
No startup founder is immune from making mistakes, and it’s part of the “growing pains” they go through. Can you share one mistake you’ve made with us and the valuable lesson it taught you?
A terrible mistake was choosing developers to build the app, and I ended up in court, losing almost everything. Now I only work with those from whom I can get references directly from recent clients, regardless of how great they seem to be.
There has been much talk about supporting diversity and inclusion among startup investors. This may be obvious to you, but can you share with our readers the reasons why it’s so important for investors to support startups with a diverse and inclusive executive team?
Because you will get more money for your investment, pure and simple, data is clear: First Round Capital, for example, found that the female-founder companies it had funded performed 63% better than the all-male founding teams.
Research from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation also found that women-led teams generate a 35% higher return on investment than all-male teams.
It is suitable for your ethics and good for your pocket.
If you could inspire a movement that would bring a positive change within your community, what would that be and why?
I want to trigger a change by including brain training in business.
As the world of work becomes more complex and fast-moving, the ability to find the cause of complex problems and then solve them is key.
According to the World Economic Forum, problem-solving is the top job skill for 2025.
Most corporations already have the training, but workshops are few and far. In between them, the skills practised are quickly forgotten.
This is when the Bemensa app plays a key role in complementing our workshops. Playing fun games for just 10 minutes daily, these skills are fresh and ready to make teams more efficient.
If you had a chance to spend a day with someone and have the liberty to ask anything, who would that person be? What three questions would you ask?
I would choose Yuval Noah Harari, the author of the best-selling book, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.
You stated that intelligence is the ability to solve problems and that humans have developed and utilised their prefrontal cortex to problem-solve.
Question 1: What advantages do you see in problem-solving training?
Question 2: You claimed that the essential skill for surviving and flourishing in the 21st century is how to master new skills again and again throughout your life. Is gamified learning, then, the way for adults to train and learn new skills continually?
Question 3: What benefits do you see in an app like Bemensa for brain training, especially for adults?
Can you share your favourite life quote with us and why this is so relevant to you?
“Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans.”
For 9 years, I lived in Sydney, yet Australia was just one of the stops in an around-the-world trip that I never completed.
Last summer, I joined a pitch group to improve my pitching to investors, and 2 months later, I was selected as a TEDx speaker.
I was telling a friend about it, and we ended up applying to organise a TEDx event. The very first TEDx Women event in her country, and I became the co-organiser.
And I can go on and on… what will happen next?
Great! Thanks for that. Now, let’s go to the main focus of this interview. Can you share the story behind that “A-ha Moment” that led to creating and launching your startup?
My husband had a very severe brain injury that included short-term amnesia. Most times, he could not remember what had happened just a moment ago.
He enrolled at university to keep himself occupied, socialise, and exercise his brain. No one thought that he had any chance of even passing one subject. Yet, at the end of the 3 years, out of 50 students, only 2 graduated: one student and my husband.
During all this time, he played brain games daily, specifically pattern recognition games. This was the one thing that made a difference between him and 50 young and brain-healthy students.
Our brains are a superpower, but we still don’t know how to utilise that power.
What do you think makes your startup stand out? Can you share with us examples to show this?
There are many types of brain training games. Some use numbers, some words; each train a different area of your brain. In the past, intelligence tests used mathematical and verbal questions, but modern tests changed to pattern recognition puzzles. Why?
Because experts found out that your ability to solve these puzzles gives a better measure of your intellectual executive functions, the most complex skills on your brain: problem-solving, flexible thinking, working memory… and precisely these puzzles are at the core of Bemensa’s games.
On our app, you will find games and short video lessons to help your brain “click”.
Users report a significant difference after just a couple of months.
What are some “myths” or misconceptions people have when launching a startup that you’ve debunked throughout your journey?
Myth: Someone will steal your idea and run, so you need to keep it a secret until you are almost ready to launch. Taking my developers to court took 2 years, and I thought someone would copy my idea during that time, but it was more complicated.
Many people have many ideas, but only a few do something about it and even fewer commit. You are the key ingredient for your startup’s success: your heart and soul are invested… and no one can replace that.
If there’s one significant difference between launching a startup and launching a small business, what would that be and why?
A small business usually targets a small or local market. For example, with Bemensa, I also run business workshops for B2B and courses for B2C: our own and in Udemy, the most effective course platform.
I would not have needed investors or cofounders, but I wanted to create an app.
A startup implies a tech company and a global market, and a global market means that it is challenging for one founder alone because different skills and expertise are needed.
Launching a startup is a more complex process involving many more people to be successful.
What are the top three traits that entrepreneurs must possess to launch a startup successfully? Can you expound on why you chose these three traits?
1. Networking: In business and life, whom you know may make a difference. Your network is your net worth, so start networking from day one. A chance conversation may be the key to getting your foot in the door.
2. Flexibility: You need to be able to listen to your users and adapt. The information is all out there, and you need to pay attention and then be able to make the necessary changes. You may end up with some features that you have yet to consider but are a must for the success of your product.
3. Vision: It will be challenging. You must be aware that you are going on a wild roller coaster. It will only work long-term if you have a clear vision of what you want to achieve. When you feel like giving up, and you can bet it will come a time when you will, nothing else will keep you going—only the certainty that one way or another you will get there.
Let’s flip things around: What do you believe are the three things that can cause a startup founder not to become successful, and why?
1. Data shows that reason number one for startup failure is running out of money. Make sure you consider all funding alternatives and plan cash flow well in advance.
2. Poor team choices. Founders need to surround themselves not only with talent but also with people they connect with. Choosing your collaborators and even investors for the long term is critical.
3. Burnout. Most founders endure enormous pressures for extended periods. Many work alone or in small teams. Learning to manage stress levels is key.
As a parting gift to our readers, what are the top three pieces of advice that you can give to them about launching a startup and why? Please share a story for each.
1. Get to know your early users; engage with them. Build a relationship strong enough for them to tell you not just what they like about your product but, most notably, what they don’t. I became online friends with a few, and their ideas are so good I consider them part of the team.
2. Join an incubator or accelerator. If budget is an issue, there are many free. You will learn from someone else’s mistakes. The founders that I met in them became my most valuable advisors.
3. Learn to pitch. You may have the best business idea, but you must know how to sell it to get anywhere. In only two months, I joined a pitch practice group and realised a lifelong dream: I became a TEDx speaker.
This is the beauty of the founder’s journey; you never know what comes next. Enjoy!
Thank you for these fantastic insights and for your time. We truly appreciate it and wish you all the best on your journey.
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