On November 12, ResolveX, a Morrisville, North Carolina (NC) company cofounded by Rangeley Lakes Regional School (RLRS) alumni Tyler Castle was one of nine recipients to receive an NC IDEA SEED Grant in the amount of $50,000.

The NC IDEA Foundation, an independent non-profit group that helps support entrepreneurs based in North Carolina, certainly found the epitome of the entrepreneurial spirit in Tyler Castle, as anyone who knows him well might say.

As one of 301 applicants, Castle was thrilled to receive the good news, “It’s really exciting to kind of see some early traction and to see some other people who are interested enough and think that we can grow big enough to be worth an investment of that size.”

I was conducting the interview over the phone as he’s not yet home for the holidays. We chatted about his time at RLRS, and I wondered aloud if he felt there were some correlations between his younger self, what he was studying then, and where he is today. “Absolutely, you know, Mrs. Whitman, science teacher, basically created a unique opportunity for me while I was at school to have a class that was fairly self-directed and was very much an R&D (research and development) class where I basically got to have a structured environment to build test, experiment, come up with ideas and try to build them and test them- do reports on those things. And so having that freedom and flexibility to explore passions of mine that I had at the time which focused on essentially innovation and R&D is huge because that is what I’ve essentially ultimately ended up getting into. Because that’s all we do now. You know, that’s all I’m doing now is to try and innovate, and bring new products to market.”

Graduating from RLRS in 2013, Castle went on to study interdisciplinary engineering, focusing on different aspects of manufacturing and product design at the Wentworth Institute of Technology (WIT) in Boston.

There he devoted a great portion of his time at Accelerate, Wentworth Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center, an extracurricular program which he likened to a boot camp for start-ups. “Think of it as a mini-Shark Tank every semester- where you get together with other students, and you try to put some sort of a business or a product idea in mind together. And then you have their kind of help and support throughout the semester to get up to the point where you can pitch at the end of the semester to a panel of individuals from the community and at Wentworth.”

Students competed for real prizes of seed funding and Castle was among the very first funded teams. This early encouragement led to several more wins. Never one to stay idle, he continued to work on new ideas and projects. “I worked really extensively there. Basically, anytime that I was not in class and sometimes even when I should have been in a class, (he laughed) I was in the entrepreneurship center.” He summarized his time there. “That was the majority of school. Networking like crazy, reading like crazy, trying to get a handle on what it was like to build a start-up rather than like a traditional brick-and-mortar store.”

Prior to college, Castle had already been learning basic entrepreneurial business skills from his parents, Toby and Ginger Castle  who are celebrating the 30th anniversary of the company they founded, The One Man Band. He described how they would assign him an objective, as opposed to a shift, and gave the following hypothetical example, “‘Hey we have this task to do, and it needs to get done and it doesn’t matter if it takes 2 hours. It doesn’t matter if we’re here till 3am in the morning. It has to get done today.” He also gained their strong work ethic. “Like they’re very, very hard workers and that just kind of was the environment I grew up in.”

He elaborated on his drive and expressed his aspiration to get to the next level. “Growing up my entire life in my parents’ business, I have a very good understanding of what a normal kind of business- day-to-day operations and building that looks like. But if I wanted to go and build a very large tech company and bring a new product to market- sell nationally and internationally, and things like that, I really need to kind of come at it from a slightly different angle. And so hence the focus on entrepreneurship during college.”

He wound up graduating from WIT in the fall of 2017 and decided to move to a place where he could surround himself with networking and mentoring opportunities. He settled on West Palm Beach, Florida because his research at the time indicated that it was a large market with a growing economy and a high percentage of high-net-worth individuals. “My third criterion was actually a place that had good weather for good cars. Cause I really like cars, as everyone who can remember me while at Rangeley probably can remember with my ‘little green machine’,” he said with a chuckle.

I asked him if his time networking in West Palm Beach was well spent. He mentioned he had many valuable interactions with “pretty unbelievable individuals who were incredibly astute from a business sense in terms of building and scaling large organizations” but added that at some point you are on your own. “Fundamentally though, nobody is going to know your business better than you.”

So after about two years of holding a full time, 40 plus hour a week job while spending another 60 hours buying and selling and trying to build up enough capital to start his own business, he finally saved up enough so that he was able to work full time on ResolveX. “I took the leap and founded the company on August 2, 2019.”

The focus of his new venture focused on the mental health space as he believed it was lagging on the technology curve.

He had always been passionate about mental health and psychology, and it wound up being a great complement to his math and science skills. “I didn’t necessarily want to practice mental health. I wanted to build a company that supported higher quality of care outcomes- better access, reducing stigma around access, and also trying to leverage technology to bring the costs down as only a fraction of people here in the states (which is the largest economy on the face of the planet) can actually even afford mental health care, let alone have super consistent reliable results from that. And being an engineer, I like to focus on system level things. I like to look at critical, limiting factors or tipping points. And so, in the mental health continuum I saw suicide as a very critical limiting factor because obviously if someone actually takes their own life unfortunately that means that we no longer can try alternative treatments or healing or get them the support they need and so I wanted to address suicide and suicide prevention.”

He admitted that it is an incredibly challenging field and so the decision was made to relocate the company into the center of great human resources. “That’s one of the reasons we moved to North Carolina was because of all the research and all of the local talent in the mental health space that’s present here in Raleigh and the Research Triangle. And so, we moved our business here so that in the future we can actually take advantage of that local expertise and the people who have the skillsets that we are ultimately going to need.”

For now, he’s focusing on the task at hand. “But you know, beyond that, the vast majority of it is you know just ‘in it’ every day and trying to figure it out. Because we’re trying to do something long term that doesn’t currently exist. And so, there is really no roadmap. There are guidelines for other companies who have built something of scale but what we’re looking to do long term with the business and how we impact the mental health space doesn’t currently exist. And so, we’re trying to build that roadmap ourselves as we go along.”

A large part of the work right now requires systematic and thoughtful research. “We really need to have a firm foundation. Essentially crisis intervention and knowing how to operate in life and death situations and have a really good understanding of how to handle a situation when that arises, at that level, so that if we are ever dealing with someone who is not at that level, and then escalates to that level, that we aren’t caught off guard by it by focusing our initial market on something less severe.”

Castle is immersing himself as much as he can to deepen his comprehension of crisis intervention. “I’m very much an emergent phenomenon supporter. I like to have things kind of start at the bottom and then grow up rather than trying to mandate things from a top-down bureaucratic standpoint. And so, I wanted to really have a very firsthand experience to understand what actually is going on rather than what you know we think is going on, or what we think will work. As I’m going to continue to make decisions in the business that have far reaching effects later on, I want to make sure I have a personally firm foundation to understand ‘Okay, that may sound good in practice, but I have firsthand experience knowing that that will never work. And it sounds great on paper but lived experience shows that it’s not going to help’.”

He has spent close to 3000 hours just on crisis intervention research to get a firm understanding of what the needs of everybody involved in a situation like that entails. The goal is to allow counselors “to spend more of their time focused directly on talking and supporting and helping the individual in crisis rather than worrying about the backend documentation that a lot of these organizations need for their compliance with their sponsors or their funders or the contracts that they have. And so, we ended up looking around and trying to figure out how we could impact the suicide prevention space, and ultimately ended up settling in on supporting the existing efforts that are taking place with the National Suicide Prevention Hotline and all of the other crisis lines around the country that are focused on suicide prevention through phone calls, texts and chats with counselors and things like that.”

Currently the National Suicide Prevention number is 1 800 273-8255 (1 800 273-TALK) but in July of 2020 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) officially adopted rules to establish a new nationwide hotline for Americans in crisis. “So basically, many people aren’t aware that coming July of 2022 that there is a new three-digit number that’s going to be rolled out across the United States similar to 911 and it’s going to be 988, and that’s going to be the mental health emergency number for the United States. And all these centers are the ones that are going to be servicing that line. And so, what we are doing is we’re building software systems that will help these organizations scale their operations to meet that increase in volume because their expecting a 4 or 10 x increase in volume of calls. So we want to make sure that these centers don’t just get overwhelmed and overrun by ensuring that all of their processes and protocols and workflows are as efficient and streamlined and automated as possible.”

His positive outlook towards the future is one of constant growth and meeting new challenges.  “Business kind of serves that opportunity to try to tackle and solve problems which is what I really like to do.” He likes it as much as a game but compared it to a puzzle. “I’m always very intrigued to solve problems. It’s why I love entrepreneurship because it’s fundamentally about solving problems and it was the only space that I could see long term to be continually engaging as there is always another level.” He spoke briefly of the challenge of not receiving a salary right now and how the early years of a business are arduous but well worth it. “I’m interested in continually challenging myself. If I could do more, why would I do less? I get bored very easily if I’m not challenged. And so, I figured, you know, why not take that energy, that drive, that dedication or diligence or discipline that I have, to really push myself hard, to leverage that in an industry where we have the potential to really impact a lot of people’s lives.”

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