How KeepAppy was born from a crisis

Making an attempt on her life when she was 23-years-old led Aimée Louise Carton to found KeepAppy, a wellness app that helps people take control of their mental health. She talks to ThinkBusiness about the need for proactive care.

Why did you set up KeepAppy?

The beginning story of KeepAppy began when I was sick. I got very unwell a few years ago and made an attempt on my life. During my recovery, I was so angry because I felt really let down by society.

I had spent my whole life learning about my physical health. We learn about it in biology, we play sports, it’s all directed at our physical health.

“Mental health needs to be sexy; when we picture mental health, even when we Google it, it’s a girl in darkness, crying. It’s really depressing”

Then at the age of 23, it was my mental health that took a hit. I started looking at solutions. There is so much help out there but the stigma is stopping so many of us from getting access to it. 

Mental health needs to be sexy; when we picture mental health, even when we Google it, it’s a girl in darkness, crying. It’s really depressing. But when you Google physical health, it’s a gym bunny with a six-pack, smiling. Why are physical health and mental health perceived so differently? That was the starting point. I wanted to create a gym for mental health. It wasn’t about solving mental illnesses or crisis care but about proactive care. I set it up with my co-founder Will Ben Sims.

Young woman speaking with a microphone.

Aimée Louise Carton speaking at an event.

“I wanted to create a gym for mental health. It wasn’t about solving mental illnesses or crisis care but about proactive care”

What makes your company different?

There are 200 wellness apps added to the app-store every day. A lot of the marketplace is populated with meditation but during my recovery, my doctors advised against mediation in my case. They advocated for different solutions, from journaling, goal setting and gratitude to mood tracking.

That’s what makes KeepAppy different. We have 10 different features, tools and techniques that people can engage in to track their mental health and wellbeing; from gratitude, journaling, period tracking and everything in between.

“The other thing that makes us quite different is that we were the first app to really bring data to mental health. We’ve been called the Fitbit for your mind”

The idea is that just like with the gym, you might not use all the equipment but you’ll use the ones that work for you, it’s the same with KeepAppy. The other thing that makes us different is that we were the first app to really bring data to mental health. We’ve been called the Fitbit for your mind because of the amount of data we empower users to look at.

Fifty percent of the population weigh themselves or have fitness watches that track their steps. They know exactly where they are in terms of physical health, but they don’t have an overview of what triggers them mentally or what stresses them. They don’t look at the granular – we do that. We track the vitals that largely impact daily wellbeing; like social, productivity, exercise, hydration, food, sleep etc. We empower people to help themselves. That’s where the mood tracker has really stood out and where we’ve gained the most attention.

“We haven’t had a mental health start-up in the tech space in Ireland addressing the problem the way we are”

What challenges did you meet and how did you overcome them?

We haven’t had a mental health start-up in the tech space in Ireland addressing the problem the way we are. There are a lot of people in the space but we very quickly stood out because we are taking such a unique approach. 

Our biggest problem was the stigma around mental health. We don’t value our happiness in the same way we value how we look or what size we fit into and that’s really sad. That’s changed as a result of Covid-19. We’ve seen a huge increase in the conversation around mental health and the stigma is reducing every day.

“The value of obsessing over your customer cannot be overstated”

Did the pandemic impact your business and how did you adapt?

We only actively marketed to five countries and yet we’re now in over 130.

People have started taking that data driven approach that we advocate for. Trying to figure out how to improve mental health during lockdown made people try to understand their wellbeing. But a lot of people didn’t have the budget to be able to afford a mental health app, so we started looking more at B2B.

It had always been part of our business plan to look at corporate and B2B sales, but we didn’t expect it to happen so soon. We started doing wellness programmes and mental health webinars. What really took off was our wellness from home and work from home. It’s exciting to see the impact that we are having in the workplace.

“It had always been part of our business plan to look at corporate and B2B sales, but we didn’t expect it to happen so soon”

What supports did you receive to set up your business and how could support for entrepreneurs be improved?

Dogpatch Labs are the centre of start-ups in Ireland. Every month they run First Fridays for start-ups. It’s completely free, you get exposed to start-ups, networking, mentorship and keynotes. Everything about it is helping you get started. Others are New Frontiers, which is a great starting point for start-ups and Local Enterprise Offices, which have given us so much funding and support. We also we got funding from doing Launch Box out of Trinity College. We ended up winning it so we got money from that too. We hit competitions hard initially to garner traction and finances.

I really wish there was more support for female founders. Dogpatch are big advocates for us. Female High Fliers programme in DCU and Huckletree Coworking have events for female founders and women in business, but it’s not enough. We need to be really pushing this agenda forward.

“Dogpatch Labs are the centre of start-ups in Ireland. Every month they run First Fridays for start-ups. It’s completely free, you get exposed to start-ups, networking, mentorship and keynotes”

What was the most important thing you learnt and what would you pass on to other businesses?

The value of obsessing over your customer cannot be overstated. So many things that we’ve added to KeepAppy, I was completely opposed to initially until I heard how many of our users wanted it. Businesses get so used to going in one direction, hearing our own voice, that we almost stop listening to the user. I really think listening to the user is why we’ve had the success we’ve had to date. Putting the user first is something you have to keep coming back to. I’m constantly asking for feedback; asking what we can do to make them happy.

What are your plans for the future?

Bringing B2B together. We’re tinkering away with that technology and the wellness platform that we provide corporates, working on the seminars and webinars that we provide. We are focusing on scaling that up and making sure that we’re doing right by our customers.

Main image at top: KeepAppy.com co-founders Ben Will Sims and Aimée Louise Carton

Interview by Olivia McGill

Published: 2 February 2021