Profile Response: Peter Shalek, Joyable, San Francisco, CA

HWWLT Logo on yellowPeter Shalek wanted to be a therapist. “I read Freud and Jung at age 16. I’m interested in why people do the things we do.” As a college freshman Peter began a laundry service and enjoyed building a business. which led him, after completing a math degree at Columbia, to business school. But his interest in what makes us tick persisted. “I shadowed emergency docs at Stanford to see what business opportunities existed. There were so many patients with mental health issues.”

imagesThe result of Peter’s twin passions is Joyable, online Cognitive Behavior Therapy. While the average cost of a single visit for traditional therapy is $162, Joyable provides CBT software plus a personal coach for $99 a month. “The software handles the therapy. Our coaches’ goal is to get clients motivated. The coach gives feedback and is proactive if the client’s not following through.”

IMG_4706Joyable recently moved to start-up chic offices in the South of Market district. The company has grown from a staff of five in May, to thirty the day Peter and I met. Five more employees were starting the next week. Staff growth centers on new coaches, to maintain an consistent client to coach ratio as subscriptions rise. “We have unlocked a lot of demand, though we can’t get below $99 a month and offer personal coaching.”

Just as Amazon began its online retail empire selling books and CD’s that people didn’t feel the need to see and touch before buying, Joyable is strategic in the therapy it offers. Its first therapeutic product addresses anxiety. “Social anxiety is well suited to online interaction; these folks don’t want to meet others in person.”

images-1Peter interviewed clinicians and patients to develop a series of computer-based activities that clients use in a self-help way to become more comfortable with social interaction. “CBT is about putting yourself in a difficult situation, learning that failure is rare, but that if you fail, you can rebound. For people with mild anxiety, an activity might be to invite someone for coffee. For those with serious anxiety, going to the grocery store might create a success.”

Joyable accepted their first clients in March of 2015. They have a core therapy program in place and a clinical consulting group that guides its evolution. At present, no insurers provide reimbursement for services, nor has Joyable determined what therapies to offer next, though Peter sees opportunity in treating depression and PTSD.

Screen Shot 2015-12-04 at 4.45.55 PMAt the party celebrating the company’s first year in business, 30-year-old Peter realized joyfully, “I never impacted so many people in one year.” Like all San Francisco start-ups, growth is embedded in the Joyable business model, and as Joyable grows, Peter will impact more lives. “We want everyone to lead a better life through better mental health.”

How will we live tomorrow?

square-pete“I’ll speak to mental health, since that’s where I spend my time. Ten years from today, we will think of mental health at a social level, the same as physical health. Thirty years ago people did not talk about physical health. Now we share about cancer and talk about weight loss. We will get to the same place with mental health and evaluation of feelings.

“Joyable is part of that evolution. We start by normalizing a mental health experience, then we help people act on it.”


About paulefallon

Greetings reader. I am a writer, architect, cyclist and father from Cambridge, MA. My primary blog, is an archive of all my published writing. The title refers to a sequence of three yoga positions that increase focus and build strength by shifting the body’s center of gravity. The objective is balance without stability. My writing addresses opposing tension in our world, and my attempt to find balance through understanding that opposition. During 2015-2106 I am cycling through all 48 mainland United States and asking the question "How will we live tomorrow?" That journey is chronicled in a dedicated blog,, that includes personal writing related to my adventure as well as others' responses to my question. Thank you for visiting.
This entry was posted in Responses and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s