George Taktak is the founder of How Mental, a company that brings together mental health services for its community of over 800,000 members.
The London-based company runs virtual mental health check-ins and workshops, along with collating resources from across the mental health sector – from wellness apps to therapy – in one place.
Taktak, an artist, inventor and social entrepreneur, founded How Mental five years ago after experiencing depression and anxiety. How Mental counts the likes of Bella Hadid, Alanis Morissette and Emma Bunton among its members.
How Mental’s charity arm, The How Mental Foundation, helps people who cannot afford mental health support and provides free access to resources.
In this week’s Founder in Five Q&A, Taktak explains why founders shouldn’t make their startup their whole life, how building an app didn’t go to plan and why haptics is a “well of untapped potential”.
1. What one thing do you wish you’d done differently when launching your company?
George Taktak: Not started off by trying to make a bloody app! It’s so easy to shoot for the moon – but I was just coming out of university having studied economics. I didn’t have the resources to build it or the skills to really manage the process. So, I set myself up for a really tough time.
Entrepreneurship is always going to be tough, so why make it really tough? I wish I’d started my company by looking at my skills and resources and doing something with them, being realistic, as opposed to ‘wishing’ at all.
2. What’s a common mistake that you see founders make?
GT: Founders often overly identify with their company, to the point where life can pass them by. They pour limitless time and money into something so slippery; it could fail at any given moment. I say ‘limitless’ because there is always more to do. Knowing when to prioritise other dimensions of our lives is essential to maintaining respect for ourselves.
We are human, at the end of the day. The business may outlive us. It doesn’t need to eat or sleep, and it will certainly not have any regrets on its deathbed – but we will if we don’t listen to ourselves.
3. What are the best and worst parts of your job?
GT: I love having the space to connect with myself fully every single day. To push myself to create something that genuinely changes the world. To learn and grow constantly to make it happen. The worst part is that at times I feel the weight of the world’s mental health on my shoulders. It’s incredibly heavy and can take me to difficult emotional places. So, I have to constantly remind myself that this burden is not entirely mine to carry. That I can put it down. Because finding light in the dark does not mean I don’t take it seriously.
4. In another life you’d be?
GT: A dancer. I LOVE to dance. I do it all the time anyway. If I don’t have a proper dance for a while, I stop feeling human. But, I’ve never taken it seriously and I fear that my body is not quite as flexible/able as it would have been if I had made it a priority from a much earlier age. I’m an artist in this life. I draw, I paint, I write poetry, I make clothes… Dance is just another mode for self-expression. It’s one that I believe could have changed my orientation completely.
5. What’s the most misunderstood technology?
GT: Haptics. Haptics represent the intersection of touch and technology. We don’t really talk about our sense of touch very much. We take it for granted. But it has these incredible benefits for our physical health (it bolsters our immune system), mental health (it releases oxytocin and serotonin) and it improves our ability to communicate.
I spent five years creating new ways for us to share our emotions more effectively using this technology and patented a haptic language accordingly. Tech like this lives between the lines and I believe it still has much to teach us, a well of untapped potential…
Founder in Five – a UKTN Q&A series with the entrepreneurs behind the UK’s innovative tech startups, scaleups and unicorns – is published every Friday.