Arosha Brouwer on the importance of understanding wellbeing
If you are looking for a single way to describe Arosha Brouwer, we bet you won’t be able to find it. Arosha is an expert on well-being, a devoted wife and mother of two, and a keen traveller. She also happens to be a successful entrepreneur and the co-founder of Quan, a digital well-being assessment platform.
Born in Sri Lanka, raised in Australia and now living in the Netherlands. Arosha knows how important it is to live among and work with people from different backgrounds and cultures. That is also perhaps what has been fueling her love for travel all along. So far she has visited 55 countries. And this does not just begin and end with her personal life.
As the co-founder of Quan, she is proud to be working with a diverse and dedicated team. “With 17 employees and five amazing interns, we are spread across five time zones. We are proud of the fact that we have 14 different nationalities onboard. ”And while it was not a conscious strategy to build such a diverse team from the get-go, it simply happened. “That’s how we are.”
What drives well-being?
Starting Quan was a natural next step for Arosha after working for years as a well-being consultant to companies like PwC, DSM and TNT. She co-founded the company with a friend and fellow entrepreneur Lucy Howie and that, too, was a move meant to happen.
“Our story is unique and fitting with the business we started together,” Arosha says. “I was working with an organizational psychologist during my time as a consultant. It was she who introduced me to Lucy. Interestingly enough, Lucy was already the CEO of a tech startup at that time. We met for a coffee, we clicked and we left with the conclusion that we have to work together one day.
When the idea of Quan came about, Lucy was the first person I thought of. ”Lucy is the type of person who knows how to turn a great idea into a product. That – combined with Arosha’s expertise in well-being, was the perfect match for this new venture.
Understanding a complex problem
It all started when Arosha thought there should be a better way to handle attrition at work. “Before a single line of code was written, we spoke to more than 500 people. We wanted to get to know their understanding of well-being. Where the gaps are, and how we can help their ability to improve themselves. We talked to students, people in employment, and retirees, and spent time building the science behind Quan.
We did that with over 60 therapists and psychologists.”There are more than 200 dimensions that contribute to a person’s well-being, Arosha explains – and in that, it certainly is a complex topic to tackle. “At Quan, we start at the highest level. We recognize five key dimensions: body, mind, meaning, self-fulfilment and social connectedness.
We have identified 38 sub-dimensions and we have totalled it to about 240 predictors of well-being.
”So for instance, while sleeplessness may be a symptom of an underlying (mental) health concern, it alone is not enough to explain why that is happening to a person. It is first important to look at and understand its causes or predictors.
“What is really important to understand – and we have a team of both organizational and clinical psychologists to help us with that. Wellbeing is hugely complex and interconnected and there are many ways to pick up when you’re not OK,” Arosha says.
”With burnout, in particular, we have seen it in people’s connectedness with family and friends; the fact that they are not engaging in the activities that they used to engage in; in high levels of anxiety and stress.”All those pieces put together are what paint the picture of one’s level of well-being, or the lack thereof.
Listening to the market and setting your goals high
While Quan started off as a solution for individuals to take their well-being into their own hands, it soon became a platform tailored towards companies and larger organizations.
The team’s original hypothesis was that once people have a better understanding of what well-being is and become aware of the possible interventions, they would be able to manage their own improvement. That, too, however, turned out to be more complex than anticipated.
Work culture vs. well-being
“We found out that this is not enough,” Arosha says. “Context matters. If you send someone to therapy and then send them back to the environment in which they got sick, they would still burn out. That’s when we learned that we cannot just do this on an individual level, but on a team and even organizational level instead.
”Quan’s go-to-market strategy, thus, went quickly from a solution for individuals to something much bigger. Arosha, Lucy and the team worked closely with an agency to build a minimum viable product (MVP) and started working with various organizations to validate it. They soon had more than 1,000 paying users and 92% engagement.
Successful product-to-market fit and road through Y Combinator
Quan’s digital platform has not only gained traction in the market, but it has already raised over a million euros from a number of angels and investors, including US startup accelerator Y Combinator (YC).
Getting accepted into YC has been a key milestone of its own: On the one hand, only a select few startups make it into the final batch in the first place, but on the other, Arosha happens to be the first Dutch female founder to join the program.
Over the course of it, the team has learned heaps in terms of what it takes to further grow their company. “The greatest value is that we get to have direct contact with incredible founders that have set up very impactful businesses. They share insights that make it all relatable,” Arosha says. “Before YC, we were hard pressed who to approach for investment, now we get two or three emails a day. The game has changed.”
“Quan is a movement wrapped up in self-worth.”
And so indeed, the team has set its sights on new heights. If you ask Arosha where she sees her company in 10 years time, she will tell you that its solution has turned into a catalyst for change. “In 10 years’ time, we are impacting millions of lives… and we are all starting to see wellbeing as a holistic thing. We want to change the way organizations are run.” The goal is to have companies and individuals alike understand well-being and take it into their own hands.
Listen to the Up!Rotterdam podcast with Arosha below, or check all the episodes of the Up!Rotterdam podcast here.