Longevity Network
  • Nov 15, 2017
  • Entrepreneur Spotlight, Care Coordination, Health and Safety Awareness

Entrepreneurs of the Week: Shawn Kernes, Chris Kernes, and Jon Dabach, LARKR

Entrepreneurs of the Week: Shawn Kernes, Chris Kernes, and Jon Dabach, LARKR

LARKR is a mobile mental health app that provides access to on-demand therapy as well as behavioral health management and tracking tools. We spoke to founders Shawn Kernes, Chris Kernes, and Jon Dabach about LARKR and the opportunity they see in the 50+ market.

Longevity Network: What does LARKR, the company, do?

LARKR: LARKR is a groundbreaking mental health care app that will revolutionize mental health care in America in more ways than one. LARKR is providing people with one simple platform that can be used to ask for help and for self-care. The different functions that are offered are meant to balance overall mental health for its users. LARKR is poised to act like a personal assistant for your mental well-being. Keeping track of your mood, suggesting altruistic actions and providing a safe place to get talk-therapy.

LN: Can you tell us about your product and how it works?

L: The LARKR app is simple and easy-to-use. After filling out a simple form, users have access to their own LARKR profile, which includes a variety of functions: a mood tracker, a daily good deed and quick access to on-demand therapy.

“My Story” is a user inspired function that is meant to track moods and provide a progress chart. The chart is easy to follow and is also accessible to your chosen therapist during your sessions. If LARKR identifies that you have not been feeling like yourself lately, the app may suggest it is time to schedule a therapy session to put you back on track.

Since studies have shown that altruistic acts can improve mental well-being, we decided to add “Be The Change” to LARKR, as well. Every day, a notification suggests a different good deed to the user, which can then be checked off and journaled.

Additionally, a unique proprietary algorithm selects several pre-screened mental health professionals who specialize in treating the particular user’s issue and within minutes, the patient and therapist are connected via live streaming video for a 50-minute session.

The combination of doing good things, being self-aware and actively working on oneself is the secret to a healthy lifestyle.

LN: What opportunity did you want to address with the development of your technology?

L: LARKR’s forward-thinking smartphone app significantly minimizes the top three barriers that keep an estimated 60% of Americans who suffer from mental illness from receiving care – price, accessibility, and stigma. In today’s increasingly stressful world, LARKR is focused on improving the quality of life and saving at-risk generations of youth with on-demand, easy-to-use mental health treatment.

When in crisis, the only option for immediate attention for those in need was typically the E.R., which usually involves four-figure fees and no real mental health care, just sedation. With LARKR, people can simply press a button and talk face-to-face with a licensed professional within minutes.

LARKR will be particularly revolutionary for those living in rural areas, and for those who travel often, whose access to mental health professionals is often very limited. No longer do they have to travel long distances, and face stigma when having to take significant time off from school or work, just to reach a qualified therapist.

LN: Who are your primary users? In what ways can your products benefit the 50+ population?

L: Our user base consists of therapists looking for patients and vice versa. With LARKR, we are working to close the gap of people who cannot receive treatment because it is not easily accessible. Anyone and everyone in need of care can easily use LARKR to receive the necessary help. LARKR brings therapy to the patient, wherever they are. Patients don’t need to travel hours and take time off from work to go to their therapist’s office. LARKR adds convenience to therapy.

LN: How did you assemble your team?

L: We assembled an amazing team of experts who believed in the cause and could help bring the vision to life. We all brought our individual perspectives to the table to solve something we identified as a problem. Every single team member cares about LARKR’s success because they know the endless change that it can provide. We continuously work to improve our platform, to reach more people, and to make a difference.

LN: How has LARKR, the company differed from what you envisioned it would be (if at all)?

L: Every startup begins with an idea and the companies that succeed are the ones that learn and adapt to change along the way. So far we have not needed to deviate significantly from our original plan for LARKR. We started the company with a great mix of skills and perspectives that gave us insight into what could possibly go wrong, and we prepared for it. But, like every other startup striving for success, we continuously make small adjustments as necessary.

LN: What do you wish you had known before developing your concept?

L: There are a remarkable number of people who think mental health is “something other people deal with” and fail to recognize that most of us have mental health issues from time to time and it is something completely normal. The stigma around mental health could pose a challenge, but that is why we are working to fight it.

LN: What most excites you about the aging and / or health technology market?

L: The ability to blend humans and technology to solve a problem is something we have always found exciting. The telehealth world allow the use technology to better balance the supply and demand of mental health. There are simply not enough qualified therapists in the U.S., and it is unlikely our educational system will ever be able to produce enough therapists to meet demand. By leveraging technology to allow people to do what they do best, we are able to close the service gap.

LN: What is your best piece of advice for startups who want to include or target the 50+ market?

L: Entrepreneurs looking to succeed need to remember that those over 50 grew up in a world without personal computers, smartphones and tablets. Startups, especially those looking to create a new app, need to ensure that their interface is easy to understand; what is natural and intuitive to a 20-something, may be largely foreign to someone in their 60’s. Apps that don’t require a novel of instructions are the ones that succeed.

LN: Do you have any other products in development?

L: We’re not developing other products per se, but we are constantly working on expanding and evolving LARKR to include more features to promote mental well-being. The next feature we will be releasing will provide various options of guided meditation for our users.

LN: Where do you see LARKR five years from now?

L: We want LARKR to be the go-to hub for everything mental health. We will continue growing our therapist base and will provide more services for more people. LARKR will become the daily app for self-care and mental well-being.

Shawn Kernes – Co-Founder and CEO

Shawn Kernes is a visionary trailblazer in the tech industry. With over 20 years of executive experience in building and leading startups, Shawn is always ahead of the curve while remaining grounded in understanding how to meet the fundamental needs of everyday people through innovative new products. A highly-driven entrepreneur, Shawn has spent the last two decades building and managing teams using his exceptional expertise in technology, operations, business strategy, business development and customer service.

Prior to co-founding LARKR, Shawn was at the helm of exciting burgeoning companies including serving as Senior Director of Product Development at eBay, CTO of StubHub, COO of Cash4Gold, CTO of BeyondTheRack, CTO of Boost Media, CTO of JOIST, and CTO of BuzzMob. Shawn played an instrumental leadership role in directing these startups, helping the companies grow rapidly and disrupt their industries for the better. His professional passion for innovative solutions has cultivated remarkable success rates, driven by his personal quest to wed the best of technology with the unmet needs of society. Throughout his career, he has earned the confidence and respect of the startup community in Silicon Valley and some of the nation’s leading venture capital firms.

This impressive business career combined with an innate ability to anticipate the world’s evolving needs through intuitively-friendly platforms have catapulted Shawn to the forefront of his industry.

Shawn received his Bachelor of Computer Science from Marist College in 1998.

Chris Kernes – Co-Founder and Licensed Therapist

Chris is a highly respected and compassionate licensed marriage and family therapist. In addition to co-founding LARKR, Chris also serves as Director of Clinical Services at HealthRIGHT 360, a major non-profit organization, where she oversees the treatment of clients seeking integrated care, and treatment for mental health and substance use disorders. Her responsibilities also include managing various outpatient and residential substance use disorder treatment programs in San Mateo County.

Since 2004, Chris has treated clients in her positions as Clinical Supervisor at HealthRight360, Clinical Supervisor and therapist at Women’s Recovery Association, and therapist at San Mateo County Mental Health. Throughout Chris’ professional experience as a therapist, she has received wide praise for her kind, emphatic and engaging approach toward her clients. She is known for cultivating a relaxed, warm and trusting environment where her clients feel profound comfort and trust.

Chris’ greatest passion is to help people overcome their challenges through therapy, as their trusted partner. And at LARKR, Chris’ boundless passion in providing  support to those who suffer from mental illness or relationship issues is a dream come true. LARKR’s founding principle of exponentially reaching and helping more people in need of therapy through their online platform is of fundamental importance to Chris. Chris received her M.A. in Clinical Psychology, Marriage and Family Therapy at Notre Dame de Namur University in 2004.

Jon Dabach – Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer

Jon is a multi-talented designer with more than ten years of experience in user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) design and marketing. As the UI/UX Designer for LARKR, Jon’s unparalleled creative vision and digital marketing know-how have propelled the innovative technology that serves as one of the driving forces behind LARKR’s groundbreaking online therapy platform.

In 2011, Jon founded Calabasas, California-based Rhino Marketing Group – a cutting-edge design firm that assists businesses of all sizes with attracting more clients through top-level web strategies. With a special expertise in SEO/PPC and Web Design, Jon’s insights have led to the successful growth of numerous client companies. Jon is also a respected writer and director. Over the past five years, he has written and directed animated content for MTV, VH1, G4TV and other major networks.  

Previously, Jon served as Creative Director for Sotheby’s Real Estate, and as the Creative Director for the Rabbinical Council of California & The Calabasas Shul where he oversaw both entities’ marketing and image. He also spent time working with The Gersh Agency. Jon received his B.A. in Film, TV and New Media in 2005 from the University of California, Los Angeles.

To learn more about LARKR, visit their website or follow them on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

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