Meet the Entrepreneur: Shrenik Jain is Increasing Access to Mental Health Care
Working as an EMT within multiple fire departments and rescue squads, Shrenik Jain has seen first-hand the unfortunate effects of untreated mental illness. From these tragedies, Jain was inspired to create Sunrise Health, a mobile app for anonymous, text-based group therapy that increases mental health support for patients and maximizes health care providers’ efficiency.
Founded in 2016, Sunrise Health, under Jain’s guidance as the company’s business lead, has received a number of accolades, including “Most Disruptive Startup” from the American Psychiatric Association and the “Judge’s Choice Award” at the Harvard Kennedy and Business School Social Enterprise Competition.
Sunrise Health, formerly known as Beacon Health, has also taken advantage of opportunities at Johns Hopkins that help startups reach their potential, joining the Social Innovation Lab, winning business plan and pitch competitions, and receiving awards from the Ralph S. O’Connor Undergraduate Entrepreneurship Fund and the Whiting Student Initiatives Fund.
The success extends outside of Baltimore, too. The young startup has received grant funding from the NIH and currently has more than 10 signed letters of intent from fire and police departments and health care systems.
Below, Jain, a junior applied math and German major at The Johns Hopkins University, discusses his startup, the support he receives from the university, and why Baltimore is an ideal place to live and grow a business.
In five words, what does your company do?
We make psychotherapy smarter.
What are your goals, and how will you get there?
Our main goal right now is to change how therapy is delivered. The traditional one-on-one, face-to-face model of therapy leaves so many people without help. Approximately, one-quarter of the American population has a mental health condition, and two-thirds of them receive zero treatment whatsoever.
By incorporating peer support, anonymity and the accessibility of a mobile app with a B2B model, we remove many current barriers to care centered around retention in care, social stigma, accessibility, and cost.
Our larger goal, simply put, is to make therapy better. So many of the studies done today have a very low power (statistically speaking), and only focus on very limited subjects. Our application of natural language processing technology will take a quantitative approach to behavioral health that has never been seen in history.
Aggregating this data from different populations and cross-referencing different interventions will lead to insights that will allow effective mental health care to exist for everyone.
Why have you chosen Baltimore as your startup’s home?
Our founding team, which is me, my co-founder Ravi, and our chief data scientist Satya, met as students at Johns Hopkins, and we all quickly became enamored with the city for all its quirks and history. The fit was so natural, we didn’t really consider relocating as we went full-time on Sunrise.
What opportunities make it a good place for growing a business?
Easy access to D.C., New York City, Philadelphia and Boston (but lower costs), and a strong infrastructure of health care and research.
In terms of startups and innovation, what’s one thing that separates Baltimore from other tech hotbeds?
Community and friendliness. Everything is so close: from the city government to nonprofits to other tech companies. We’ve had a particularly good experience with TEDCO. Everyone seems to focus on real problems and genuinely wants to see others around them succeed.
If you could give your past self-one piece of advice for creating a startup, what would it be?
Move fast and extract value from everything you do. Instilling a sense of urgency is critical, otherwise you can bleed months without realizing it.
What has been the most beneficial part of your work with Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures?
Connections to experienced healthcare executives and providers. Feedback, mentoring and pitch advice when we were just at the idea stage.
What book are you currently reading?
I’m re-reading House of God by Samuel Schem. Think Catch-22 meets the dysfunctionality within health care. Takes you in with evocative language, while leaving behind a lot of lingering ethical questions.
What innovator do you look up to? Why?
Alex Karp, founder & CEO of Palantir. I admire his courage in tackling huge problems with massive impact within the public sector. I think too many tech companies ignore the government unless it is to lobby for their own interests, while the government itself can (and should) be a powerful instrument of change. From the tech side, any company that creates artificial intelligence solutions for both the CIA and the CDC seems inherently cool.
It’s after a long day of work, and you don’t feel like cooking. What is your go-to Baltimore restaurant?
The Bun Shop on Light Street. It’s like stepping in another world, from the bustle of downtown into a mellow, neo-renaissance feeling den with a regal yet subtle color scheme of gold and black. Good pastries, too.
What’s your favorite non-work-related thing to do in Baltimore?
The aquarium and surrounding history ships. The research focus of the National Aquarium means you learn something every time you go. The animals themselves are beyond fascinating up-close, and a powerful reminder of the staggering diversity of life on Earth. The history ships are a cool portal into Baltimore’s nautical history. The USS Torsk is my favorite. It’s hard to fathom almost 12,000 dives from when its keel was laid down in 1944, even as you walk on it.