Cover Meet Joan Low, founder and CEO of ThoughtFull (Photo: Imran Sulaiman/Tatler Malaysia)

The Malaysian founder and CEO of Thoughtfull also sheds light on her mission to bridge the divide between mental health care and tech in Asia

As the CEO of a tech startup, Joan Low has learned to live with having a lot on her plate, sometimes attending up to 10 back-to-back calls and meetings in a single day.

Adding to this pressure is the fact that her company, ThoughtFull, is all about making end-to-end mental healthcare more accessible and affordable in Asia. Hearing her story, one might be tempted to ask if, paradoxically, Low’s work has ever taken a toll on her own mental health.   

“I’ll admit, it was tough at the beginning,” she says. “You start taking on the weight of other people's mental health stories. It’s ok with ten people, but then it becomes a hundred, then a thousand and then ten thousand and you realise it’s a lot.”

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Tatler Asia
Former banker Joan Low founded ThoughtFull, a digital mental health company in Asia (Photo: Imran Sulaiman/Tatler Malaysia)
Above Former banker Joan Low founded ThoughtFull, a digital mental health company in Asia (Photo: Imran Sulaiman/Tatler Malaysia)

“Being purposeful is important, otherwise as a founder and 'chief everything officer', you get pulled in all directions and your energy spreads so thin that you burnout. Being mindful of how I manage my energy and my time is something I definitely prioritise, but it’s still a work in progress. No one’s perfect.”    

Low is no stranger to high-performance environments, mind you. A former banker at J.P. Morgan in Hong Kong, she managed portfolios of over US$1.3 billion for clients across North Asia and was part of the pioneering team that expanded the bank’s hedge fund and private equity services in Asia for six years.

Today, Low works twice as hard to keep Thoughtfull on track to achieving its end-goal of helping more people to engage actively with their mental health and have direct access to professional support from anywhere at anytime. This is done through ThoughtFull Chat, a subscription-based app that links users with certified mental health professionals, providing daily bite-sized coaching from qualified counsellors and psychologists as well as mood-trackers, journaling and more curated tools and content developed by ThoughtFull’s in-house clinical team.    

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In October 2021, ThoughtFull successfully raised US$1.1 million in seed funding: a huge win for the small startup that’s also managed to secure exclusive partnerships with big names like Pfizer Singapore and frontier projects powered by Garmin in Singapore.

“There are a lot of things that technology can do for our wellbeing,” Low says. “It’s about zeroing in on what you want to target. The two holy grails that ThoughtFull is working towards are firstly, to deliver more precise care, eliminating some of the trial and errors that lead to people falling through the cracks. Secondly, we want to deliver more timely, predictive care. That’s where data analytics come in–the more we understand the landscape we operate in and the people we work with, the better we will be at delivering better, more personalised care.”

Low admits that balancing professional and personal priorities is still a learning process. Importantly, she’s been on this journey long enough to realise the difference between the two.  

“For my mental health, I’m very aware that founders are not always only rolled into their companies–there is a distinction. This year, I hope to get better at balancing between these exciting milestones for ThoughtFull and managing my personal wellbeing.”

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