First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Jonathan Just: I have been doing well during the pandemic. I live in Denver, Colorado, which has been doing really well on keeping cases down for the majority of the year, but this second wave is no joke right now. My wife works in a hospital and keeps me updated on the growing amount of hospitalizations. During the first half of the pandemic, it felt like I didn’t even personally know anyone who had COVID, but recently I’ve had several family members in Texas get sick and test positive. It really can affect anyone, and I hope and pray for everyone’s safety during the holiday season.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Therapeasy.
Jonathan Just: My background is in healthcare, and I have experience with hospital operations, finance, and data/analytics. I always thought that I would run a hospital someday. Who knows, maybe I still will! Working in healthcare can be very difficult, but it’s the shared sense of mission that keeps teams together. It was that same personal mission to help people that helped guide the formation of my current company Therapeasy. My co-founders and I realized that there is a large gap between people seeking mental health care and the providers who are available to help. It’s our mission to make those connections, help people find their perfect therapist, and eliminate any remaining stigma surrounding mental health along the way.
How does Therapeasy innovate?
Jonathan Just: Therapeasy has developed a matching algorithm that will pair you up with available therapists who are most compatible with what you are looking for. Because we believe that a strong personal connection is a basis for successful therapy, we incorporate non-demographic elements into our algorithms, such as communication style and cultural competency. These connections are packaged into an online dating-like experience in which you can communicate directly with your matches once you receive them. We would like to be the Match.com for finding a therapist. Most online directories are overwhelming and don’t give enough context as to how compatible you might be with each therapist. We are hoping to change that.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Jonathan Just: We launched in May 2020. Right in the middle of the pandemic. I’m still trying to figure out whether that was good timing or bad timing. In many ways, the therapy business has been turned upside down this year. Many clients have decided to postpone or abandon therapy sessions, and many therapist offices were simply closed down. Some have reopened, while others still sit empty. Either way, most providers have been forced to adopt teletherapy to survive. The majority of clinical practices are privately owned and would be considered a small business, which, as you know, currently faces a lot of uncertainty. But on the other hand, the pandemic has created a lot of anxiety and surfaced many other mental health issues during quarantine, stay-at-home orders, and constant media coverage. More people than ever are seeking mental health care and are turning towards online resources first. But regardless, it’s been a tough year to launch a new company. That is for sure.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Jonathan Just: In July, our team was faced with a difficult decision. As initial free trial periods were coming to a close, we decided as a company to postpone all subscription fees and continue to offer our services for free. This means that not only would it be free for people to find a therapist, but it would be free for all providers to keep receiving client referrals during these difficult times. It was our way to provide some relief to those private practices small businesses that are such an important part of our community. This has forced us to get creative to manage expenses and re-think future strategy. Even though it’s a temporary measure (at least through the end of 2020), we are so glad to be able to support our awesome providers and help match as many people as we can who are struggling with their mental health during this pandemic.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Therapeasy in the future?
Jonathan Just: I naturally tend to bottle up my emotions and simply try to outwork them. But thanks to my own personal therapy, I know that it is neither healthy nor sustainable. I have learned to be more open and communicate my feelings, not only with my spouse but also with my co-founders. I think we do a good job of encouraging one another through the stress and anxiety that comes along with any startup. I predict that the need for services like ours will only become more needed in the future, and here is why. Although unfortunate, the demand for mental health care services is outgrowing the supply of licensed providers in this country. Many areas are already experiencing an extreme shortage of available resources. That is why solutions like ours that help make the search more efficient and eliminate waste from the system are so important.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Jonathan Just: Because we are mission-based, it’s sometimes hard to view others as competitors. If another company or website is helping people receive care, then I feel like we all still win. That being said, we definitely try to differentiate ourselves and think many outdated systems can be improved. Our focus on personal connection is not something that many others are doing right now. We will need to constantly innovate if we want to stand out in an increasingly crowded marketplace. People will always have options. We just want ours to be the easiest to use.
Your final thoughts?
Jonathan Just: I would like to give encouragement to any entrepreneur or business owner right now. Whether you have a business idea that you are thinking about launching or simply trying to survive extreme marketplace changes in 2020, I encourage you to not give up. Launch that business. Build that website. Ask for help. There are so many communities out there (including startup.info) that can provide support. Stay safe, stay sane, and keep building.
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