The Fund Founder Spotlight Interview: Stephen Sokoler of Journey
The Fund is a founder community and early stage fund, by founders for founders.
Welcome to The Founder Spotlight where we highlight the incredible people behind the companies we’ve backed at The Fund. This week the spotlight is on Stephen Sokoler, founder and CEO of Journey, the leading preventative mental health solution for modern companies.
Life is stressful! This is particularly true in the workplace. Employees are suffering and many companies are facing absenteeism, employee burn-out and high turnover rates. Stephen Sokoler recognized that mental health isn’t just important, but essential for employees to live happier and healthier lives. He is the CEO and founder of Journey, the leading preventative mental health solution for companies of all sizes. They have three core pillars that include: live group learning, peer support, and proactive health. They are putting the fundamental principle “prevention is better than cure” into practice.
Stephen was born and raised in New York City and graduated Cum Laude from the Stern School of Business at New York University. With a background in business, he has always cared deeply about employees and their wellbeing. Prior to Journey, he founded and led multiple companies that helped organizations celebrate and inspire employees. In his personal time he serves on various non-profit boards that are dedicated to education and human rights.
What’s the story behind Journey?
I started the company 6 years ago with the mission of helping all people live happier, healthier, less-stressed lives. It was really about democratizing mental health and it’s very important for us to meet people where they are physically, emotionally, spiritually, and financially. I put together experts on the mental health side and the workplace wellness side and created this program and then took it out into the world.
What makes Journey a “must-have” as opposed to a “nice-to-have”?
I think the world has probably always been stressful, but we are living in unprecedented times. We provide employees with the tools, resources, and perhaps most importantly, support, to better navigate both work and life. It's a “must have” because whether you see it on your P&L or not, mental health is costing companies a lot of money because people aren't showing up to work, they’re physically there but not present, or they’re leaving. We built the leading preventative mental health product that people use when it comes to de-stressing, being more present, and being more balanced - both at work and at home.
What's Journey’s “Northstar''?
We have this Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal that by 2030 the world will view mental health the same way they do physical health - with an understanding of it and without any stigmas. You come to work with a cast and somebody says, "Oh, I'm so sorry about what happened!" But if you're just having a bad day emotionally, there's really no way of communicating about that or even sharing. So, it's really bringing a certain level of acceptance and awareness to mental health.
Do you have a favorite startup focused book or podcast?
There is a book that I really, really like called The Great CEO Within: The Tactical Guide to Company Building by Matt Mochary. It's the best book I've read on building a business.
In terms of day-to-day stuff I read the newsletters from StrictlyVC and Morning Brew. For podcasts, How I Built This is great.
Does Journey have any CSR projects?
We donate Journey Live memberships to various non-profit organizations. We have the ability to put in the hands of people who could really benefit from the product, so we have a number of partnerships.