Startup Spotlight: Jane Chung, Co-Founder and CEO of Perked!

Startup Spotlight is an ongoing series which profiles Canadian wireless and mobile technology startups.

This month, we spoke with Jane Chung, the Co-Founder and CEO of Perked!. Perked!’s mission is to bring the science of growing healthier, happier minds to your fingertips. Designed by neuroscientists and leading experts in the areas of mental health and well-being, they develop engaging, interactive mobile software that empowers individuals to take proactive control of their mental fitness.

What is the story behind Perked!? What inspired your team to start this company?

Just over a year ago, a close family member was diagnosed with depression. It was the first time that someone close to me had been diagnosed with a mental illness, and it got me thinking: Why was I unable to recognize the symptoms of depression earlier? How can we overcome the significant individual and social stigma around mental health? Is there an evidence-based proactive approach to mental health?

I started having discussions with mental health professionals, academics, researchers, clinicians and discovered the following:

  • Awareness of the symptoms of mental health issues can be increased, but it requires the individual, their family, their schools/workplaces and society to become more aware and educated about what these symptoms are.
  • Although the individual and social stigma for mental health issues has decreased over the years, it is still a significant problem; however, there is a way to structure a solution that “bypasses” the stigma.
  • There are indeed science-based approaches to proactively developing healthier, happier minds. To support us in this area, we brought on Dr. Mark Holder, a neuroscientist and positive psychologist from the University of British Columbia (UBC), as our Chief Scientist to ensure that we are developing an evidence-based solution.

Your website talks a lot about the “science of happiness”. How has this topic influenced the development of your solution?

The “science of happiness” in scientific lingo refers to a field of study of called positive psychology. It is the scientific study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive, through the study of areas like mindfulness, empathy, gratitude, optimism and resilience. What it has uncovered is changing the way we see our brain.

Perked!’s first product leverages positive psychology to help individuals develop their mental fitness. “Ava” is your Personal Mental Fitness Coach available 24/7 on your mobile phone. She is responsive, insightful and empowering, constantly measuring and monitoring the things that matter to your mental well-being. She also delivers evidence-based activities/interventions that we call “Daily Doses of Happiness”, which are designed to proactively strengthen your mental well-being.

Organizations/enterprises are one of your target audiences. Where does Perked! fit into helping a company achieve its goals?

Organizations today face enormous problems around the mental health of their employees. One in four individuals will suffer from mental health problems over their lifetime and in the workplace over 70% of short-term disability costs relate to mental health problems. There is a real and urgent need for a solution that proactively and effectively engages employees in their mental fitness and well-being.

Perked!’s active engagement with employees will play a key role in developing a culture of happiness and engagement at work. As research has shown, happiness at work drives higher engagement and productivity, resulting in these companies outperforming others by 400%!

Tell us a little about the event you’re holding this Saturday, July 4 at the Telus World of Science. Why should people attend?

We want to bring greater awareness to our community about the science of well-being and happiness, showcasing how what we do at Perked! can change the way your brain is wired for health and happiness. As a part of this event, Perked!’s Chief Scientist, Dr. Mark Holder, a neuroscientist, positive psychologist, and associate professor at UBC, will be giving an entertaining talk about the research in the area of positive psychology and why it matters to individuals, families and organizations. We will then introduce “Ava” and start a movement towards creating “Positive Geniuses” to strengthen the well-being of our community.

Perked! is hosting an event called “Ava and the Science of Happiness” on July 4. To learn more and register, please click here.

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