The story behind Arkeo – As told by its Founder

Most founders don’t begin their start-up journey by falling in love with a problem. They begin with a burning desire to create a solution.

Two years ago, Founder and CEO of Arkeo, Jana Dowling found herself in this exact scenario. After suffering a severe depressive episode – where she spent five weeks under 24-hour watch as a high-risk suicide patient – Jana created an offline tracking system to help her recover. 

Little did she know that this very system would be the first MVP of Arkeo.

Here’s Jana’s story on the inspiration behind Arkeo:

“It’s safe to say that this was the worst time of my life. As I was coming out of the episode, I began to truly realise the impact of what had happened to me. I knew that I wasn’t well enough to work so instead I took my recovery on like it was my job and started to track everything I was doing. 

Knowing that I couldn’t always trust my feelings or thoughts, I built a tracking system and used the data from it to make decisions around my life. It was this very system that helped propel me back in the right direction.

Going forward, I kept meeting people who like myself were feeling bad. They had lost their jobs, we’re about to lose their jobs or hadn’t been able to get back into work. Knowing what they were going through, I was sympathetic and empathetic – but knew that there must be a solution.”

It was this drive and ambition that lead Jana to create “The 888 collective” – a social enterprise designed to help people with mental health issues get back into work.

“I bought a second-hand Panini machine and found a free shed space in East London and started selling tea and toasties. I hired anyone with mental health issues who wanted work and paid them for their time while sharing my own experiences with them as well as my tracking system.

After three months, the first person I hired left me to train as a professional barista and later went on to work in a café in East London. She wasn’t the only one. I realised that teaching my tracking system while giving my staff in-work mentoring was a great working model so I developed it into a course.

I delivered the course for free to anyone who showed up and at the end of each course I would persuade a cool East London restaurant to let us take over for a night and put on an event that was fully staffed by The 888 Collective graduates.

While helping everyone for free was rewarding in itself, it wasn’t sustainable as I wasn’t getting an income and it was hard to keep the enterprise going. Eventually I met someone who could see the potential in what I had built, not just for those struggling with mental health issues, but for everyone – and Arkeo mental fitness was born.”

Following several iterations, Arkeo transformed from an offline tool to an app centered around mental fitness.

“My way of looking at mental fitness is; we all have it, it goes up and down at different times in our lives and its impacted by lifestyle, life events and world events.

The MyArkeo app helps users to track their mental fitness taking their lifestyle choices, patterns and habits into consideration. It’s not about abstaining from anything that we know isn’t great for us, or completely changing who we are and how we live, it’s about making informed decisions with a view to keeping mentally fit. In the same way we do with physical fitness.”

Arkeo is part of Sport Tech Hub’s 3rd cohort of innovation-leading start-ups supporting London’s vision of being the most physically active city in the world.

Arkeo is set to officially launch in 2020. You can find more about the app here

Patrick Colbeck

Program Lead
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