Founder Stories: Mandy Ralston of NonBinary Solutions aims to improve autism treatment planning

How many of us know someone on the autism spectrum? While autism has become more commonly recognized and diagnosed, having the right systems to support those who are living with autism is crucial to improving their quality of life. 

NonBinary Solutions is a Keyhorse-backed company that develops software solutions aimed to improve the quality and efficacy of decision-making by offering a systematic and standardized approach to treatment planning.  

We asked the company’s founder and CEO, Many Ralston, a few questions about her journey, inspiration, and predictions for the future of autism treatment.

How did you become interested in treatment outcomes for autism?

MR: I have been working in the field since 1999. Over the past two decades, there has been an ongoing shift in the understanding and view of autism and neurodiversity, applied behavior analysis, and the notion of “optimal outcomes.” In the beginning, services were driven in large by a study from UCLA and Dr. Ivar Lovaas that demonstrated that ~ 53% of the children participants who received early intensive intervention (ages 2-5, 35+ hours per week 1:1 therapy) were “indistinguishable from their peers socially” after treatment. However, the methods used were not without controversy, and over time the definition of “optimal outcomes” has swung from talk of “a cure for autism” all the way to a more recent understanding and acknowledgment of neurodiversity as a concept, and therefore a more appropriate and individualized goal of intra-individual best possible outcomes equating to maximum Quality of Life and/or happiness and independence.

My interest and understanding of outcomes for individuals with autism continues to be shaped by new information and new practices for all of the different types of people and needs on the spectrum, because, #ItsNotBinary.

What inspired you to found a company?

MR: NBS is my fourth rodeo, plus some stragglers: two Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) clinics, a yoga studio, and some feisty online content brands.

I’ve had a lot of conversations with other founders recently. We’ve found a pretty heavy Venn overlap between being often neurodivergent ourselves, being nonconforming socially or otherwise, and having the need to make our own space, because we didn’t feel like we fit in the other molds. I think for me, as a neurodivergent, queer woman there is all of that—plus the need to do it myself—a pervasive thought that nobody else is going to do it “right” so I best get on with it.

My interest and understanding of outcomes for individuals with autism continues to be shaped by new information and new practices for all of the different types of people and needs on the spectrum, because, #ItsNotBinary.

Tell us about your team: Who’s on it, and how did you meet?

MR: My fractional CFO and sometimes mental-health counselor, Tim Guthrie and I have been running parallel in Lexington swaths for years, but only met IRL when I joined Base 110 for my office space in June of 2022. We spent a lot of time going through the business model “for fun” before deciding that we should team up.

Bob Farinelli has been one of my coaches through the Launch Blue Accelerator and Incubator programs, and has taken up the post as my Technical Advisor for product development. His experience as a founder in tech and a background in business and engineering makes his contribution powerful, even in a part-time capacity.

Robert Beer is a seasoned founder with his own successful exit, and long history of partnership with Bob Farinelli as a Product Manager—a role which he reprises here.

My advisory board is in the making. It is my commitment that the majority of that board will always be comprised of minorities as a demonstration of the value of DEI.

Where do you see autism treatment headed in the near future?

MR: I think we’re headed toward a reckoning. The speed of growth for the service market has outpaced quality. And while there is still plenty of demand for more providers, if we don’t fix the crisis of quantitative outcomes, we’re going to see more and more rightful scrutiny from funding sources and regulatory bodies. 

There’s no question in my mind that ABA services can change lives for the better when delivered efficaciously, but our relatively inexperienced and overworked workforce is going to need greater support, and technology is our best route forward responsibly. I want to make sure that the effort of all the families who fought so hard for insurance coverage in all 50 states is not in vain.

What does success look like to NonBinary Solutions in the short term and long term?

MR: In the short term, we will be continuing to spread the word and moving forward with our mission to make sure that we can get the support this quest deserves. In the long term, I want NBS to produce a solution that will change the world for the Quality of Life of persons who are concerned with autism, scale it, and get to an acquisition—because all those things are in service to our constituents. #ItsNotBinary

Find out more about NonBinary Solutions at Are you a startup based in or looking to relocate to Kentucky? Keyhorse’s current quarterly investment cycle is open! Apply now.

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