Amanda Johnstone lost too many friends to suicide. Now she’s dedicated her life to helping prevent others from facing the same tragedy.
As a pioneer in the emotion AI and mental wellness space, the Transhuman Founder and CEO uses state-of-the-art technology to positively benefit mental health, breaking boundaries no-one else has dared to face.
It’s her tireless efforts spent building and nurturing the human-to-computer relationship – preventing suicides in more than 87 countries – that cemented Amanda as The CEO Magazine’s 2020 Startup Executive of the Year.
"It is an honour to receive the award. It brings our team warmth to know our hard work touches the lives of many and a pleasure to be recognised for our long term efforts by The CEO Magazine," Amanda shares. "It is a privilege to work alongside my co-founders, Dr Roy Sugarman, Nabil Barakat and (former co-founder) Oliver Rozynski – who have instilled their confidence and support in my leadership and vision for the company and our products.
"It’s refreshing to be awarded Start-up Executive of the Year, as I go about running the business in a way that is non-traditional and outside of the box."
The technologist founded the world’s first daily mental health check-in app – Be A Looper – a concept born from a texting system she created in 2004 before it was developed into an app in 2017.
By using your phone to rank your emotions on a score between zero and 10 – zero to three being dark thoughts, 10 being the happiest – Amanda created a positive program by building on technology the world was already using daily.
"Australia is a hub of innovation and home to some of the brightest minds in the world." – Amanda Johnstone
About 20,000 people have flagged suicidal feelings on the app, allowing their chosen networks of up to five people to flock behind and show support.
The revolutionary app has critically saved lives with no Be A Looper users taking their lives.
Striving to increase the wellbeing and health of the world’s population, the investor is committed to lowering the global suicide rate – nearly 800,000 people die to suicide each year according to the World Health Organization.
With 35 staff members with professional backgrounds scoping from Google, Apple, Wamar Technologies and Cisco Networking Academy Program, the app has spread to more than 87 countries with Australia, the US and the UK being the top users.
"As a social enterprise, our unique approach to business has us focusing on creating new, innovative technologies and saving lives, over immediate financial returns," Amanda says. "Uniquely, we measure our growth by feedback from our users on how our product has enhanced their lives or prevented a possible death of a loved one due to the crippling disease of depression.
"I am appreciative to lead a team of experts, investors and industry partners who support wholeheartedly our global ambitions of preventing suicide at scale, by using existing technologies alongside creating our own proprietary portfolio of inventions that we will roll out in the next decade."
Following on from her first invention, Amanda is working to further explore the relationship between the emotion AI brain-to-computer interfaces to change the way mental ill health is self-managed.
Through using the most sought after thought leaders in the industry, Transhuman created .emotion – a new file format for electronic protected health data. It can also be programmed into a series of content and human experiences and, therefore, in a world first, provides individuals with their own protected health data.
Celebrating astonishing achievements like this during a period of unpredictable challenges proves the annual awards are all the more important in highlighting and recognising the inspiring accomplishments of Australia’s corporate world.
Crowned the 2020 Startup Executive of the Year during The CEO Magazine’s first-ever virtual Executive of the Year Awards, the prestigious achievement adds to Amanda’s ever-growing list of accolades.
"Australia is a hub of innovation and home to some of the brightest minds in the world," Amanda says. "We need to continue to inspire and shape a future and sense of belonging for those who are pushing the boundaries now, and also the next generation.
"Highlighting how Australians have the ability to create global change will only create a positive environment for Australia’s business community."
The esteemed award is made all the more impressive when you learn that traditionally venture capitalism has been a men’s club. In fact, less than 3% of investor funding has gone to female-led startups.
Of the finalists for the 2020 Startup Executive of the Year category, just one was male.
"I am honoured the esteemed judges see the value in social support and profit for purpose and trust it will encourage others to lean into social impact business models," Amanda shared with The CEO Magazine. "This year has been difficult for many due to COVID, with people experiencing new types of isolation, anxiety and uncertainty of the future.
"In what has been a lonesome scene for many, it’s a privilege to be able to provide a free app at global level to keep people connected daily and/or to seek help with a single swipe of the finger."
With Amanda’s trailblazing ethos, which was recognised by Time magazine’s Next Generation Leaders under 35 globally, it is teen activist Greta Thunberg’s charisma and courageous leadership she admires.
"She’s a tenacious young leader who has been vocal about changing the narrative of the way we interact with the world," Amanda shares. "As an activist, she has the ability to render opinion by observing linear data and then amplify the key messages to an entire planet, placing pressure on regulatory bodies, leaders and change-makers.
"Her charming call to action empowers everyday citizens to make adjustments to their life to help the entire planet at scale."
Armed with influential thought-leadership skills and a tenacious drive to transform the role of technology, it is Amanda who is propelling the future wellbeing of the human race.