I love spending time outdoors, doing anything high-adrenaline – my dad is a very outdoorsy person, so I have always loved hiking and camping since a very young age. I love exploring the national parks in the US because they have such amazing wildlife. It doesn’t always have to be a big trip or expedition; I even love just going for a short day hike in any local trails!
My name is Will Ben Sims (I go by Will Ben, my first and middle name) and I am the co-founder and COO of KeepAppy. KeepAppy is a personalized mental health and wellness app. KeepAppy has over 10 features ranging from journaling and goal-setting to behaviour counters and weekly and monthly health reports. KeepAppy tracks the 8 vitals that most impact your daily wellbeing (mood, sleep, hydration, productivity, stress, etc.), KeepAppy then takes your historically lowest-performing vital and gives you prompts and content across the range of features to most effectively improve your mood on a daily basis. Our mission is to normalize the conversation around mental health, de-stigmatize mental illness, and to show the world that your mental health is just as natural as your physical health (and they are also very intertwined!).
I am from Kansas City originally. This is the start of my 7th year in Dublin. I wanted to do something different from my peers; I always wanted to live in a different country, so I figured I might as well make the leap when going to college. I first came to Dublin in 2014 to attend Trinity College Dublin for my undergrad (and to play rugby).
Growing up, mental health wasn’t something I thought about much. But towards the end of 2013, my uncle took his own life. It was very sudden and took my family by surprise. Overnight, I went from someone who didn’t think much about mental health to seeing the huge negative consequences that mental illness can have on an individual, family, and community as a whole. I started to research and saw just how big of a problem this is. 1 in 4 people worldwide will have a mental illness at some point in their life (according to the World Health Organization), but everyone has mental health the same way everyone has physical health. It is completely normal to go to the doctor for a physical injury and receive treatment or medication, but it’s completely stigmatized to go to the doctor and be treated for something related to your mental health. Our mind is our greatest asset, so why is it so ‘un-cool’ or ‘weird’ to take care of it? It made no sense to me.
The WHO has predicted that by 2030, mental illnesses will be the leading cause of chronic disease worldwide. I saw how big of an issue this was and wanted to do something about it. It has always been my dream to be an entrepreneur and own my own business. I met my now co-founder, Aimee, in my Masters in Entrepreneurship, and we created KeepAppy from there.
Outside of my job, I love hiking & camping. There are a lot of things I love about these activities. But the main things are:
- Being in nature: I love hiking someplace far from ‘normal life’ and being surrounded by nature. I love seeing animals in their natural habitat, and I think it’s a good reminder that we are a part of a larger ecosystem (beyond just humans) that depends on each other.
- Disconnecting: I am a huge fan of tech and love having the newest gadgets and the fastest internet connection. But I also really love going out into nature and disconnecting from the fast-paced life and just enjoying the present moment. Camping is also a great reminder for me that we need much less than we think we do. I don’t need my laptop all the time, or access to my emails, or the newest Xbox. Living simply can be a very fulfilling life, and camping is a great reminder of that for me.
- Exploring and the freedom of it: I love going for hikes and just going in whatever direction interests me. “I wonder what the view is like on top of that hill?” has been the start of some great hikes for me. When on a camping trip, you have lots of freedom, you can choose to make camp where you want, how far or short you want to go, or what you want to do for the day. It is nice to take a step back from normal life and running a business and all of the responsibilities and obligations that come with it.
I don’t carry too much hiking/camping equipment with me on my trips. It depends on where and how long we are going for, but the main necessities are a tent with a rain fly, sleeping bag and mat, enough food to last the trip, a good pair of hiking shoes, and lots of socks.
I luckily haven’t had any scary experiences of getting lost or anything. However, one time we were camping out in the woods and there was a very loud thunder-and-lightning storm happening in the middle of the night – we had to pack up and move to a safer spot because we saw lightning touching the ground a little too close for our comfort.
This year, I haven’t been able to do as much as I would have liked due to Covid 19. But I think it has renewed my sense of adventure. I will definitely be going on as big of a hiking and camping trip as I can once things are more settled. In the near future, I would love to plan a camping and fishing trip canoeing down a river, maybe somewhere in Canada.
I do see similarities between Hiking & Camping and my work at KeepAppy. If 2020 has taught us anything, it is just how important hobbies are to our quality of life. At KeepAppy, we really try to highlight the fact that everyone is different, and so their mental health needs are different – everyone has slightly different methods of finding happiness and satisfaction. I have always found camping to be much more than a camping trip for me. It is a pause from the normal fast-paced life and also a great way to connect with friends or family; some of my favourite conversations with people have been late at night by a campfire. For me, camping and hiking have always been a way to take a break from normal life and to ‘reset’ if I am feeling too stressed or overwhelmed by what’s going on in my life.
I definitely think that hiking and camping have been helpful in my career. I like to think of myself as someone who is quite driven and ambitious. When I first started camping and going on long hikes, I was always trying to be the fastest up the mountain, or the one who could carry the most weight on my back. If I over-exerted myself, I sometimes wouldn’t be able to finish the hike, would not have as much fun as I could, or I would be too tired the next day and miss out on something fun. I really learned that the process of hiking up the mountain is just as fun and important as it is being at the top and enjoying the view. Starting a business is a very similar experience – if you don’t enjoy the journey (or process), then you won’t be fulfilled when you ‘make it to the top.’ Sometimes, with my start-up, I have to do things that aren’t always my favourite tasks or things to do. Whenever I get too frustrated, I make sure to take a step back and to make changes so that I am enjoying the process, and not just working without any passion or drive.
My advice to anyone interested in hiking or camping is to go at your own pace. If you don’t make it to the summit on your first try, that’s ok! Hiking and camping are all about the process. Sure, sleeping indoors in a temperature-controlled environment in a bed is much comfier than sleeping on the ground in a tent, but it is all the other things that come with camping that make it so enjoyable for me. And most importantly, make sure you are with good company, and you’ll have a great time no matter what.
There is always more than tech. I think we place too much emphasis on our careers defining us. One of the first questions we ask new acquaintances is “what do you do?”. I think that an important factor of happiness and satisfaction is having a well-rounded lifestyle. I really love KeepAppy and being able to create it from the ground up with my co-founder. But at the same time, I am much more than my career choice. We are seeing now more than ever in 2020 just how fragile things in life are, whether it be a career, business, or anything else. So I think it is even more important now to find multiple passions across a variety of different aspects of life to find fulfillment, and not put all your eggs in one basket (your career).
To download the app for KeepAppy and read more about their mission statement, be sure to check out the following link: