David Johnson is founder and CEO of VictoryLab.
Calgary’s Business: What is VictoryLab, and what’s its history on how and why it was formed?
Johnson: Founded in 2015, VictoryLab is an evidence-based, affordable and convenient mental health app available to organizations. With VictoryLab, users can reach out to certified counsellors and licensed therapists from their smartphone or computer via text, phone or video chat – anytime, anywhere. Our app also features daily and weekly check-ins to help keep track of one’s emotional pulse, personalized coaching programs, as well as expert guided group sessions and workshops.
Before I started VictoryLab, I worked in the education system as a principal and coach. While in this role, I saw first-hand the struggles that my students and athletes had with mental health and was determined to make an active difference. I started by inviting corporate investment into a public school, which led to the creation of the first mental health facilities integrated within a school in North America. This became the topic of conversation among my family and eventually led to a conversation with Dr. Brandy Ladd and her husband Andrew Ladd, a professional NHL athlete. Together we saw the opportunity to help make my vision a reality and came together to build the financial foundation for VictoryLab.
My 14 years of research on the impact of mental health on high-performance athletes was connected to something even bigger than I could have imagined. What started with a vision of bettering the mental well-being of high-performance athletes evolved into the development of a mobile app that would help everyone across all demographics and sectors.
I strongly believe by changing culture, we can change lives for the better. Today we have a small team of people – researchers, counsellors, clinicians, marketers, and leaders – whoare passionate and skilled to make the vision a reality.
CB: Why did you create a mobile app for mental health?
Johnson: Simply put, there is a growing need to support one another. We know the best way to support those in need is through smartphone technology, especially given our immediate, in-the-moment based lifestyles. This allows youth and adults the opportunity to have access to qualified counselling when they need it most. At the same time, we’re able to share collective anonymous data back to the organization to help inform their policies and programs.
CB: Are businesses not prepared for the impact that mental health has on their operations?
Johnson: Let me put it this way: In 2011, annual costs in health care, social services and income support attributable to mental illness reached over $42.3 billion, which is expected to increase to some $290.9 billion in 2041. The cumulative economic impact of these costs alone over the next 30 years is expected to reach more than $2.3 trillion. Reality is, the total cost from mental health problems and illnesses to the Canadian economy is significant. Health care, social services and income support costs make up the largest portion of these costs, resulting in more than $6 billion in lost productivity for businesses.
We know the majority of businesses care about the well-being of their employees but are not equipped to do so. Businesses lack the data they need to help them invest time and money in a system that will increase performance and communication. Our Admin Panel, personalized coaching and counselling programs help organizations interpret data collected from their staff so they can identify and build custom solutions that better the well-being of their employees.
CB:What were your major challenges as a small business owner setting up your operation?
Johnson: Every small business comes with its challenges. These include hiring the right people with the right expertise to building a brand that speaks to our mission. We realized early on that some pieces of this work are specialized and need expertise and dedicated time to keep the business moving forward. Similarly, we knew in order to connect with our target audience, we had to simplify our concept and make it easy for people to access.
For a small business, getting these foundational pieces right from the start is what helps push a company forward in the right direction. It really is about balancing quality and growth. We are a company built on the value of relationship with the expectation of excellence and having people who are passionate and dedicated to our work, but also have the expertise is key.
The next challenge? Spreading the word and letting people know about the empowering benefits of VictoryLab.
CB: What are your future plans for the company?
Johnson: Our hope is that VictoryLab will be part of human resource packages for all types of businesses and organizations and that every person who needs support will have access to quality counselling when they need it. We hope that this prevention opportunity will unmask the stigma related to mental health and help us all have a way to better manage what life can throw at us.
– Mario Toneguzzi