Healium // self-management of stress using biofeedback and virtual reality [UP081]

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Sarah Hill 0:00
This technology and and content has the ability to improve media diets. It allows people to become more self aware of their emotions, and quickly escape their current reality and also train and create stored memories that are beautiful.

Jay Clouse 0:20
The startup investment landscape is changing. and world class companies are being built outside of Silicon Valley. We find them, talk with them and discuss the upside of investing in them. Welcome to Upside.

Eric Hornung 0:48
Hello, hello, hello, and welcome to the Upside podcast. first podcast finding upside outside of Silicon Valley. I’m Eric Warner, and I’m accompanied by my co host, Mr. Social dilemma himself, Jay Clouse. Jay, what’s going on?

Jay Clouse 1:02
Are you talking about the documentary or the tension inside my head every time a friend asked me to do something right now?

Eric Hornung 1:09
I don’t know. Well, let’s just take that where you want to.

Jay Clouse 1:11
I watched the documentary. I liked it. I agree. I think it was, I think it was Bo Burnham that I heard say this first where he was like, I think social media is probably our generation smoking. Does like Hmm, that’s an interesting thought. And, you know, we didn’t get social media until we were in high school. You know, really, I can’t imagine I don’t have a kid, you don’t have a kid, we got I got a cat, you got a dog, we have friends of the podcast. But I can’t imagine having a kid whose friends are on Snapchat and Tiktok and Instagram, and they’re like 10 years old, I would hate the idea of giving them these things. But,

Eric Hornung 1:49

Jay Clouse 1:49
It almost makes them a social outcast, not to give it to them.

Eric Hornung 1:52
I think my goal in life is to be is to, I think everybody’s goal in life is to have a few money. But mine is to have a few money so that I don’t need to have a cell phone. There’s like, I’ve told Colleen that for like the last three years, I want to not have a cell phone. And I think you know, you’ve made it when you don’t have one.

Jay Clouse 2:10
In some ways for sure. Your FU money is clearly based not around having an audience then

Eric Hornung 2:17
Why? Why don’t why can’t I have an audience and no cell phone?

Jay Clouse 2:20
It’d be really hard to do. Well, I guess it depends where you build the audience. But like, if you were active on Instagram, Twitter, yeah, you could do stuff from the web. But I think it’d be hard to build and sustain an audience where you are the person on those platforms and not have a cell phone.

Eric Hornung 2:39
I think there’s a point where it flips and people start reporting on you. And that’s the point that when you get to you don’t have to worry about building your own audience.

Jay Clouse 2:46
I hope that by the time I procreate and have a child who is thinking about this type of stuff, that we just don’t really care as a society about social media anymore.

Eric Hornung 2:55
Oh, that would be great, but it’s not gonna happen.

Jay Clouse 2:57
I don’t know. I feel like I feel like the pendulum is gonna swing in some direction and part of the problem will be taken care of because unfortunately, the guinea pig kids right now are going to have an issue.

Eric Hornung 3:07
I think you are much more optimistic about the future than I am, even though that was a very pessimistic sentence.

Jay Clouse 3:13
If I want to go totally pessimistic, I think we’re going to destroy ourselves as a human race. But I don’t know what timeframe.

Eric Hornung 3:19
So this is a this is a thought that probably keeps you up at night huh.

Jay Clouse 3:22
No, I sleep very well. But speaking of thoughts that keep people up at night. Today we are speaking with Sarah Hill, the CEO and Chief storyteller of Healium. Healium is a virtual and augmented reality tool for the self management of stress, powered by the user’s own brainwaves and heart rate, Eric, and to tie in the point you made about keeping us up at night. Healium was started by Sarah because after 20 years as a TV reporter covering trauma, her media diet of reporting the day’s headlines ultimately made her sick. And so she developed this as her own method of treatment.

Eric Hornung 3:57
I feel like our media diets are getting worse and worse and worse. It’s like in the 90s, when our actual diets were getting worse. It was like everyone was eating McDonald’s. Maybe that was just like the world that I grew up in. But it’s, it seems like, maybe I’m wrong here. The 80s and 90s were like all about eating way worse. And then the thought the thousands games that we call them the mills, there is a term for the 00s and I forget what it is.

Jay Clouse 4:18

Eric Hornung 4:19
Oh, that sounds nice. The oughts and knows. I don’t know why I did that accent for it. But then that came and it was like, well, maybe we should eat healthy. And then everyone was like no healthiest for derogatory term people. And then all of a sudden everybody’s eating healthy now. So maybe that’s what we need to go through with social media.

Jay Clouse 4:37
I think it’ll happen. I think there will be a little bit of a cleansing. And I’m really interested in what Sarah has built here because you’re right, I see so many people around me more anxious than ever before. Partially because we are literally stuck at home still for many of us. Partially because 2020 has just been a petri dish or a melting pot of horrible things. And it’s really stressing people out. So I have been bullish on augmented reality, less bullish on virtual reality. But this is a really interesting application of both, in my opinion that I’m really interested to learn more about.

Eric Hornung 5:14
Yeah, I want to learn more about the history and I think we’re gonna learn a ton about how augmented reality can help us live the one life we have the best way we can.

Jay Clouse 5:24
Just like our friends at Ethos Wealth Management can help you live the one life you have to live the best way you can. If you wanna learn more about our friends over at ethos, go to upside.FM/ethos. Eric, Healium was founded in 2015. It’s based in Columbia, Missouri, a city we haven’t spent much time in at all, although I did go there in person for Capital Camp, which you did not.

Eric Hornung 5:45
I love when you wrote that in my, when you’re done my face.

Jay Clouse 5:49
They’ve raised about $1.3 million in funding to date, which doesn’t seem like a lot for something that feels pretty technology intensive. So maybe we’ll get into some of that too.

Eric Hornung 5:59
They also won Procter and Gamble ventures competition this year. So.

Jay Clouse 6:04
I didn’t know that.

Eric Hornung 6:05
You didn’t know that our we’ve had P&G ventures on the podcast. They had a pitch competition earlier this year, and Healium was crowned the victor.

Jay Clouse 6:16
Love that. Well, we’d love to hear your thoughts on this episode. As you listen, dear listener, you can email us hello@upside.fm, or tweet at us @upside.fm. And we’ll get that conversation right after this. Hey, listener, have you ever wanted to get a message in front of the upside audience but weren’t sure how to sponsor the show or weren’t able to do a long term sponsorship? Well, now you can just go to upside.fm/classifieds. And let our audience know anything that’s going on in your world, whether it’s an event, an application, a special coupon, or deal, or just letting them know who you are, what your company does, all you have to do is go to upside.FM/classifieds. And you can place an ad on this show that’s upside.FM/classifieds.

Sarah Hill 7:10
I grew up in a small town in Missouri, and got into journalism, writing for my high school newspaper, got into television spent decades in television and interactive media. And to make an incredibly long story short, I created a company that uses virtual and augmented reality as a Digi pseudo cool. It’s the world’s first VR AR platform that’s powered by consumer wearables. And we allow people to control virtual environments, with their brain patterns and their heartrate as a reminder that their thoughts have power to control things not only in the virtual world, but the real world as well.

Jay Clouse 7:51
Well, we’re excited to dig into Healium. But I want to hear a little bit more about this experience in journalism and broadcasting. And how that led up to Healium because it seems like those two things feel worlds apart. So help us bridge that gap a little bit.

Sarah Hill 8:07
Yeah, absolutely. And ultimately, they’re closer journalism and virtual and augmented reality are closer than people think they’re both media. And my background is then immersive media in the 2d world, and this is just, you know, media in the 3d world. So I was a television journalist for decades covered a lot of trauma as reporter as an anchor, rapes, homicides, murders, we covered the worst days of people’s lives day after day, we went in with the trauma teams in the aftermath of the tsunami in Sri Lanka and Indonesia, covered a lot of poverty in Zambia and Guatemala. And to make a long story short, that diet, that media diet of all that negativity that I had consumed for decades, ultimately made me sick. I had developed an inability to sleep. I started having panic attacks, and my mental health and my well being suffered. I married a wonderful man who’s who’s a psychologist, and he said, Sarah, what you’re experiencing is is anxiety. I didn’t want to take medication. I was looking for a drug list, non harmful coping mechanism that would allow me to escape my current reality. And quickly downshift my nervous system. And I turned to neurofeedback, a friend of mine who was actually my husband’s business partner at the time, Dr. Jeff Tarrant had a neurofeedback device where you know, this was 10 years ago, you had to glue electrodes to your forehead, like literally you had to glue these three sensors to your forehead, and you’d sit in front of a computer and you would do these boring exercises to try to keep train your brain patterns to respond differently. And so I was a storyteller, I would make up these stories about these experiences that you are powering with with your brain. And ultimately, while they were not engaging, they did work. I had the ability to sleep. I eventually got out of television. It was a wonderful career and job that I that I loved and developed Healium for me, as well as the, you know, 47 million people who struggle with anxiety. And the way we got from journalism to virtual and augmented reality as an entrepreneur’s path is never linear, was through veterans. As a reporter I covered a lot of veterans stories, veterans were my beat for some time. And I would go on these honor flights, physical flights for veterans to see their memorials in Washington, DC, a, sadly, a lot of these men and women specifically now in the wake of COVID. But even before the pandemic, they weren’t able to physically travel to see their memorials because they were on too much oxygen, or they had a heart condition where their doctors thought that they could actually pass away if they made the trip. So as a technologist, we were trying to find ways to bring these immersive stories to those veterans that would allow them to feel like they were there, even though they couldn’t physically travel. We started with augmented reality and Google Glass, then Google pulled the glass program. So we pivoted to virtual reality. And what we noticed in these thousands of virtual tours that we did with these veterans, was that VR wasn’t just entertaining. It appeared to us as if it was affecting their physiology. They weren’t just watching these experiences, they were feeling them, we started to do clinical testing brain maps to see how is this media impact impacting the user and found very quickly that it down shifted their nervous system, it you could see in, you know, real time, their brain temporarily changing when they were immersed in some of these experiences. So that is a very incredibly long story as to how does a journalist come to form a virtual and augmented reality company. But ultimately, I was seeking a solution for myself, as well as for a group of people who didn’t have the ability to physically travel that Veterans Program. Healium is Veterans Program is called Honor Everywhere. It’s a free program for aging and terminally ill veterans in augmented and virtual reality that exists today, free downloads on iOS and Android is or company social purpose. And then our paid products, our Healium, which are stress management products, powered by consumer wearables, in virtual and augmented reality.

Jay Clouse 12:36
One of the phrases that you use, I think it’s gonna be really important to the rest of this conversation, so I wanted to get a little bit more behind it. Neurofeedback, it’s probably a little intuitive for people listening, but if they haven’t heard of neurofeedback before, can you give us some more context as to what that means?

Sarah Hill 12:51
Yeah, it is just having the ability to know, am I doing it right? You know, that’s the part of the struggle that I had, and others had as well with traditional meditation, if you have an established mind body connection. And you’ve learned how to do that either. In many years of practice, you’re good to go, you already know what you think about and what your mind is doing it in a different time. But if you don’t have that established Mind Body connection, if you haven’t done you know, years of training, then you need some assistive tools. And Healium is that assistive tool, it provides you feedback in these virtual environments to know Am I doing it right. So for instance, if your brain patterns are meeting a certain mark or threshold for either calm or focus, the higher you float up the side of a beautiful waterfall in virtual reality, or in augmented reality, the more you increase your minds focus, or you focus on a sense, an object or sensation, and you’re meeting the mark for that sensation that’s been set from from a baseline, then the more flowers grow around you in augmented reality, the thing with stress is how are you supposed to learn to control your stress if you can’t see it, or interact with it. And so Healium is that feeling near that allows you to not only see it, but not just track the data from your wearables as a number or a dot on, a dashboard, but actually interact with your own bodies, electricity, your brain patterns, your heart rate, you have a relationship with it, you’re experiencing a story with that biometric data and story is very important because story is how we learn and it’s also visual, and ultimately the brain believes what it what it sees. So neurofeedback, biofeedback is simply giving you a barometer to know whether I’m doing it right. And Healium’s technology adds unique layer to that, that allows you to control some of these spatial environments with different brain patterns, heart rate and future skin conductance, blood pressure, whatever data that comes from your wearables.

Eric Hornung 15:07
Do you think as a society, we’re lacking that skill more so than we have been in the past? Or is this something we’ve always lacked? And there’s just more awareness and understanding around it now?

Sarah Hill 15:18
I would say the answer to that goes two different ways. Because we as consumers are hyper focused on our own data, right? We have smartwatches, wearable fabrics are coming out, Eg is being baked into earbuds, we have never been more tracked than we are now. But what are we going to do with all of that biometric data? Right? And Healium is something that allows you to do more do more with that data. That said, there’s a great documentary out there that if you all haven’t watched it yet called the Social Dilemma, it’s on Netflix, everybody, you know, I think it is watching it now and talking about it. But our media diet is broken, as illustrated, you know, in that that documentary, and if we’re not finding tools that allow us to better not just track it, but better leverage the power of the biometric data, and to know that we have agency as humans to control not only a virtual world, but but virtual about the real world as well. You know, that’s very important. And so, you know, we think this technology and content has the ability to improve media diets. It allows people to become more self aware of their emotions, and quickly escape their current reality and also train and create stored memories that are beautiful, beautiful places that we’re not able to physically travel right now. But yet we can recall in a stressful situation.

Jay Clouse 16:54
You hear stories of people who have gotten extremely good at neurofeedback, or biofeedback guys, like Wim Hof, who hike up a mountain in the cold wearing nothing but shorts, extreme stories like that. But before there were tools like Healium, how were people creating these mind-body connections? And in listening to or fueling biofeedback?

Sarah Hill 17:19
Yeah, through traditional meditation, which traditional meditation has great value for people. And if that is what tool that you’re using, keep going and doing that. And you know, really, I think we should have a variety of different tools in our in our toolbox, not only traditional meditation, but new ways, active ways, 2d apps, 3d apps, just as you have a variety of physical health hygiene products in your medicine cabinet, you should also have a plethora of mental health hygiene products. Because if you’re not doing something regularly to get out life’s dirt in your brain, much as you wash your hands. And if you weren’t able to wash your hands, it would make you sick. It’s the same thing with stress and immunity. You don’t wash your brain, you don’t get out those life’s toxins. And in some ways, ultimately, that’s going to build up in the form of insomnia, you know, panic attacks, ruminating thoughts that you’re not able to able to quiet at night.

Jay Clouse 18:19
You know, I, there was a time in college when I got really interested in this idea. And I’ve started to tune into like when I’m starting to feel sick, and I think, okay, I feel like this little something, I’m going to take some vitamin C, and I can’t really explain what that feeling is or how to further cultivate it. But it feels like something I’ve cultivated a little bit over time. And I was curious if there are methods that people have found that are a little bit more straightforward and explainable than me feeling like oh, there’s something I should take vitamin C.

Sarah Hill 18:50
Yeah. So this is called neuro meditation. And so you know, traditional meditation certainly has has value. And you know, the the new layer that we use in Healium is neuro meditation. My co founder is Dr. Jeff Tarrant of the neuro meditation Institute. And our products are based on his brain pattern algorithms, and would really encourage you to to look at the neuro meditation Institute site and see how not every flavor of meditation is the same. Some people need more open heart or positivity meditation, they need more quiet mind or calm, they need more focus, or they need more mindfulness. And because every meditation is different, it’s helpful for people to be able to not only figure out what they need, but also to be able to train with those brain patterns or heart rate as it as an input that allows them to become to become more more self aware. But that would be how you would describe what we’re doing. Sort of neurofeedback, but not really. But neuro meditation, yes. allowing the user to See that mind-body connection and have agency to know they can control it. And that’s the difference between what we’re doing and any other 2d, you know, meditation app out there. And we’re seeing that shift, Healium is the tip of the spear and leading that shift in allowing people to have agency in the experiences in their escape experiences in their their drugless coping mechanism mechanisms. So instead of being a backseat participant, and watching the world go by or closing your eyes and listening to a song or watching a video, you are actively controlling that video, that audio that spatial computing environment with a biometric input,

Eric Hornung 20:48
I want to pivot a bit to Healium, rather than introducing Healium. So we kind of talked about it a little bit, I’d like to hear how it works, almost from a contrast from which listeners might understand already. I’m very familiar with Headspace or Calm. How is this different than a Headspace or Calm experience?

Sarah Hill 21:09
Yeah, so it’s a sensory powered headspace or calm set inside virtual and augmented reality computing environments. So just how I explained it before in a Headspace or Calm or a 2d, you know, meditation app, those experiences, you’re being guided through them, someone else is guiding you through them. And with Healium, you are guiding yourself through them, and almost like a flight simulator that you are controlling with your own brain patterns and a heart rate. So it’s not lean back. It’s lean forward. And it’s not just picture us, you know, relaxation, it’s training. And it’s it’s mental fitness. And just like you work out your body, these tools also allow you to mark workout your mind, and also have the ability to track that progress over time. You know exactly what your BMI is, you know, all of that data as it relates to your HRV and heart rate. But do you know, what your brain patterns are doing? I mean, you think, you know, we think we know. But for people who lack that historical mind-body connection as I did, I needed something visual to show me that was memorable that I can then recall in a stressful situation or, or at any time when I needed some virtual piece. And let’s be honest, right now, in this mental health emergency, that is the stress olympics, not everybody has trained for it. So we need some new tools beyond do nothing, you know, for 30 seconds, because not everybody natively has that ability to quiet to quiet their mind. And again, nothing against 2d meditation apps, they have great value and continue using them. This is just another flavor in your medicine cabinet where you should have those as well as dozens of others as many flavors of soap that you have, you should have digi pseudo goals, VR pseudo goals, AR pseudo goals.

Eric Hornung 23:18
Is my brain fatigued or relaxed after a Healium session?

Sarah Hill 23:25
It depends on whether or not you are using it episodically to try to downshift your nervous system or whether you’re using it to train. And so inside Healium, you have the ability to toggle much like gears on a bicycle and shift your own brain pattern inputs between calm and focus. So imagine that you were on a bicycle and you’re powering that bicycle with your feelings of calm and quiet in quieting your mind if you quieting quieted your mind, that’s the fuel that’s that’s powering that that bicycle but you also have the ability to shift gears and say, Okay, now I want to power it with focus. So it depends on how you want to train. That’s just how people think of traditional meditation that they think oh, well, that these are all relaxing. No, not all of these experiences are relaxing. You inside Healium, you will hear EDM music that is specifically you know, meant for training and to serve as a cross training tool tool for the user that you know, even though you’re hearing this, you know, pumping environment you need the ability to to quiet your mind. And not everybody responds to soft, you know, music or hushed tones and all of that there are some people who need a very different flavor of meditation, I use meditation in quotes experience.

Jay Clouse 24:52
So take me for example. I’m interested in this. This is something that sounds like something I’d really enjoy and something that I would benefit from, I don’t have any type of VR device in my home today. So if I’m listening to this, I’m saying I want to try Healium. What are my steps to getting from sitting here with no VR device to Okay, now I’m actively training using this tool.

Sarah Hill 25:16
So you don’t need virtual reality goggles, just with your mobile device, you can download our free app right now. And even without a wearable, if you click on not using a wearable, you have the ability to bring these augmented reality assets into the world. And then you’re using your imagination that you are growing flowers, illuminating the solar system, hatching butterflies with with these thoughts, and some people use the wearable as a training tool. And then after they use it for a while there, they just use it without a wearable. But the lowest form of entry, you don’t need VR goggles. VR goggles are obviously the most immersive and in our research have been shown to have the greatest shifts in brain patterns. But in the Healium app, you have the ability to open up a magic portal inside your living room. You see all of these rocks, fly around your living room, and then they assemble into a giant circle that you can then walk through or if you lack mobility, teleport through, and then you’re able to move the phone around the screen and you’re inside these picturesque landscapes. In the aftermath of remote work, and COVID. Our augmented reality products are popular, because it can provide people just on their mobile device, a window to the world and that walk in the park, when they physically can’t take that will take a walk in the park. So we’re using AR to get horses in the barn, so to speak, to discover our virtual reality products that are the most immersive. But either one, you can choose to power with the wearable or without a wearable. And as a first step, we encourage people to download our free app, see what it’s like to do some AR meditations and play with some of the content.

Eric Hornung 27:06
When you say wearable, is there anything besides VR goggles that would count in that wearable component that work with Healium?

Sarah Hill 27:13
Yeah, so Healium is wearable agnostic. So eventually, anywhere herbal that captures biometric data, you should be able to use with Healium right now we have two compatible wearables on our platform, an EEG headband as well as a smartwatch. So your Apple Watch, you can use heart rate to control Healium. And then with a brain sensing headband, either virtual or augmented reality, you have the ability to control these experiences with your brain patterns. And with your heart rate. So wearable agnostic eventually, but for right now we have two, or you can choose to power Healium without a wearable. And just use your imagination that you are controlling these virtual worlds. And some people do that as well, they use the wearable as training wheels of sorts. And then once they learn how their brain patterns and heart rate are reacting, then they’re able to use it without a wearable because they’ve created a stored memory, that they’re then able to go back to that that muscle memory in the physical body and in the brain are equally important.

Eric Hornung 28:15
What are some of the most exciting new technologies that are going to evolve to make Healium an even better product.

Sarah Hill 28:24
We are excited about the addition of wearable fabrics and all of the sensors that will eventually be in our fabrics we’re excited about EEG being baked into earbuds and lowered barriers to entry for people to capture biometric data. We’re also excited about a variety of different trends that are rising all at the same time, not only from the rise of spatial computing environments, the rise of wearables the rise of 5g which enables more real time data capture, as well as the rise of you know, sadly, the the mental health emergency, but the rise of mental fitness and people focusing more on that that mind body connection, pair that with themes in like the social dilemma with people recognizing more that their media diets are broken. And helium is one way that you have the ability to inject positivity into your media diet.

Eric Hornung 29:23
You brought up this concept of a media diet, and I think it’s fairly implicit what it is. But where have our media diets changed as as individuals in we’ll stick with American Society for now over the last 20 years? And where do you think they’re changing as someone who’s been in the belly of the beast as a broadcaster, as a journalist?

Sarah Hill 29:47
Yeah, in the belly of the beast is certainly correct because because for 20 years, I covered the worst day of everyone’s lives a lot of times. When you spend that much time immersed by that covering other people’s trauma is there’s something called secondary trauma. And it can absolutely make you sick. So I want to be clear to say that I’m not saying cut off your social media, but you need that information from the news media, from your social media, to keep you safe to know who to vote for, to know whether or not there’s a child molester, who’s living next door to you, to inform you about what products you should purchase, like, you absolutely need social media and the news media. But like anything else, if you were to eat candy all day long, that diet would make you physically sick. It’s the same thing with your mental health and your media diet, we need to be more cognizant about what we’re consuming with our minds, and ensuring that there are some fruits and vegetables, there is some positivity and some some reminders in the world that our thoughts do have power to control things not only in the virtual world, but but the real world as well.

Eric Hornung 31:06
How much of that responsibility is on the individual versus the entities that are putting information out?

Sarah Hill 31:14
I think in the coming years, we will see entities news media and social media entities, we’re already seeing it, taking more ownership of the responsibility that they are deciding what they put what kind of digital nutrition they put inside in front of users. And I think you will see them more and more embrace technologies, new media channels like Healium, that seek to balance that, that that media diet, it’s not happening in mass yet. But I think sadly, because now we’re in a mental health emergency, people are recognizing that there is a cause and effect relationship on what you watch, and what you consume, and telling people to cut it out, you know, all entirely well, that works for some and you could make an argument that has value, is it realistic? And are you doing harm in not allowing people to know that there’s a tornado in their neighborhood because they didn’t see somebody post about it on Facebook? I mean, these are real issues, you need information to keep you safe. So you know, to me, I think those answers aren’t in just unplugging media, social media, news media, totally but tempering it again, with something that can better balance your your your well being your mental well being.

Eric Hornung 32:46
Who’s the team at Healium who’s helping everyone better balanced their media diet?

Sarah Hill 32:51
Yeah, so we all on our team, even us, you know, we need help with that. Busy company, entrepreneurs, scrappy, pre COVID we were traveling all around the world and you know, continue to operate in states of, I don’t want to say franticness but you know, busy worlds, right? Regardless of whether or not you’re at a at a well being company or not. But ultimately, it is up to you know, the own our own. We are the kings of our own castle, right. And we have command and control over our own bodies. And so at Healium, we really tried to, you know, ensure that people empower them to not only use Healium in a in a place of a workplace, but also at home, and to self manage their own their own stress or to self manage their own anxiety. We have an initiative it comes from the disability community of nothing about us without us. So in addition to myself, who you know, more than a decade ago struggled with insomnia and, and panic attacks. A lot of the individuals, artists, creators, the people who are building our products and marketing our products selling our products are people who struggle with anxiety themselves. And we love that because they have a we have a very unique insight into what people who are going through stress and anxiety need, what might work and what what, what doesn’t work. We don’t have all the answers, but we do know that we definitely want to build these products with people who have those unique perspectives.

Eric Hornung 34:39
And how big is that team and where are they located? What are they doing?

Sarah Hill 34:43
So we’re a small team right now. We are growing by leaps and bounds specifically before the end of this year, but we’re about a half a dozen full time employees located all over the world. You know in today’s remote workplace, the core of our full time employees are located in Columbia, Missouri and the Silicon Prairie in between Kansas city and state St. Louis. I came to Missouri to study at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, the oldest and best unbiased journalism school in the world. Ultimately, that’s where I learned about media. So Healium is uniquely located in a digital media belt. There are other video and media companies and ultimately at its core, Healium is is a media company. It’s just an immersive media company for stress management.

Eric Hornung 35:36
You’ve called Healium, a media company, you’ve also called it a digiceutical, what is a digiceutical?

Sarah Hill 35:44
So a digiceutical is simply a digital products for the self management of something, not necessarily a full blown digital therapeutic, that is prescribed by a doctor. Healium is not a replacement for psychotropic medication. We’re not making medical claims. It’s kind of like a nutraceutical. But it’s, it’s a digiceutical, we also call them VRceuticals, or ARceuticals. Mediaceuticals equals I mean, they’re a bunch of different terms that are that are rolling out there. But ultimately, it’s a drugless digital solution that allows the user to self manage something.

Eric Hornung 36:24
How big do you see that market? Not just for Healium? But digiceuticals in general? How big do you see that getting in the next 5, 10 years?

Sarah Hill 36:34
Huge. So you know, looking at our market of wearables, there are 200 and 50 million wearables in the market right now that are currently capturing 2d data. And so Healium, we have a couple different wearables, there are 81 million compatible wearables that have the ability to be powered by Healium. That’s a $9 billion Tam. So these are huge markets. And that’s just you know, a one sector when you have the rise of wearables, each wearable that you add adds adds more more market share as people in the wake of the opioid epidemic. And, you know, that’s, that’s another trend, people are looking more towards drugless non harmful coping mechanisms that allow them to escape. So with that, you know, the VRceuticals, ARceuticals market will increase greatly over the coming years.

Eric Hornung 37:30
You mentioned that the team is going to be growing by leaps and bounds heading into the end of this year. When you think about the next things you’re going to hire for a director or C suite level, what are the areas of the business that you’re most excited, and you see the most need for another individual?

Sarah Hill 37:46
Yeah, so we take an individual’s privacy very seriously. And so you know, the first hires, when we add to our team are with data protection, we have a data protection officer, but you need obviously, in today’s climate, more and more focus needs needs to be on that. So it’s, it’s a need, certainly, and also additional creators, artists, we work with artists, game designers, sales, individual product, all the you know, the usual places in the business. But as companies, media companies operating in those spaces that are collecting sensitive data sets, it’s very important that our users know that they’re we’re not selling their data, and that we are being responsible stewards that allows them to retain control of their own data, and also track that that progress over time with different data, data dashboards. But I think our company and a lot of companies will be seeing increasing focus on that, again, in the wake of, you know, documentaries, like the social, social intimate, and what we’re seeing play out with very validated concerns about from users of, you know, what are you doing with with my data? We think that that has great value of ensuring that not only are we educating ourselves, because that law and privacy policies change constantly. But you know, in order to stay up with that, that requires dedicated individuals who are focusing on those areas.

Eric Hornung 39:26
When you’re making a new game or exercise or session or whatever the term as you use it Healium, how do you come up with that how to is that just, hey, artists, creators, game designers, here’s the objectives and you go for it, or is there a more robust framework? How does that work?

Sarah Hill 39:42
So in the early days of our company, it was whatever we had in the kitchen. So whatever assets that we had, either from video that we had shot on projects or 3d assets that we had from other projects, you know, what’s in the kitchen? Well, let’s you know, can we make this butterfly, you know, move or something like that. And now that’s evolved in order to be not only informed content from our users who say, I would like to be in a grove of a peaceful forest, I would like to be on a sunflower farm, I would like to be in front of a big burrow tree and command the blossoms to bloom with my brain patterns in my heart rate. And so that’s really been exciting for us to get that user feedback on what they want in their platforms. And also to it’s also informed from the people within our company, and not just people who are involved in content, but other people in sales and marketing and data. And everywhere else that collectively we come up, come up with these ideas. We always love to work with other artists, other digital artists out there. So if there any of them listening has a neat idea for a story or an experience. We do commissioned artists and would love to have have a conversation with them on how they could bring their art to light life with a biometric input.

Eric Hornung 41:15
How does Healium make money.

Sarah Hill 41:17
So we sell software subscriptions, on different tiers for augmented reality and virtual reality. So if you download our apps, you’ll see you have the ability to toggle between AR and VR because these two mediums are converging into one, or endure dexterous and so we create products for both different spaces. Because ultimately, you’re not going to have to have separate apps like most most companies have now it’s going to be all in one. So there is one software subscription for augmented reality, without a wearable, which is free. So at its lowest form, you can get Healium for free by downloading it right now and play with some of the content without a wearable. If you want to add augmented reality with wearables, you want to add a wearable interaction to power it with a brain pattern or a heart rate. There’s a software subscription. And we have consumer licenses and enterprise licenses, we also license our IP, we also do a bit of custom content creation for our enterprise partners. And so those are the three ways that that we make money.

Eric Hornung 42:22
Are enterprise partners, corporations, or they somebody else.

Sarah Hill 42:26
Yes, corporations, areas of acute situational confined stress, anything that sucks that you have to go through from giving blood at the American Red Cross to I’ve had a bad day at the office, I have job stress, corporate wellness, hospice, mental health professionals, and even fitness centers.

Eric Hornung 42:49
And when you think about your revenue or potential revenue, how do you see that breaking down between individual app sales and enterprise sales?

Sarah Hill 42:58
That depends on which medium you’re talking about augmented or virtual reality. So the bulk of our virtual reality customers, our enterprise customers, the bulk of our consumer customers are augmented reality because they’re able to access it just from from from their phones. And as you see VR penetration, kick up, where more consumers has virtual reality headsets? Well, you might see that flip. But for right now, the bulk of our enterprise customers are have virtual reality headsets. And consumers are accessing our products, just with augmented reality on their mobile device.

Eric Hornung 43:35
If I was to look at the health of Healium as a company, what three metrics would I look at?

Sarah Hill 43:42
So impact, we have a double bottom bottom line, as I told you earlier, in this, this call, the revenue that we generate also helps to you know, support some of our social purpose programs like Honor Everywhere, and we certainly encourage you to share those free programs with any aging or terminally ill veteran who isn’t able to physically travel to their their memorial. Obviously, we are a for profit company. And revenue is a big KPI for us. In addition, we measure social media impressions, we measure keywords for SEO, those are probably the top three as well as usage, metrics, and also downloads.

Eric Hornung 44:25
Awesome, Sarah, this has been very cool. Appreciate you coming on. If people want to find out more about you or Healium, where should they go?

Sarah Hill 44:33
Go to tryhealium.com and a reminder that Healium is spelled like healing. That’s tryhealium.com. I’m also a lot on Twitter. You can reach me on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, but just encourage people to have a reminder that whatever product that you use, that you have more than one mental health hygiene product in your medicine cabinet, and that you don’t forget that Your thoughts do have power to control your virtual world and your real world.

Jay Clouse 45:09
All right, Eric, we just spoke with Sara hill of Healium. And actually, you took over the second half of the interview because my internet shut down.

Eric Hornung 45:16
You remember when we used to live about used to live above a bar and your internet would fail all the time? And then I was like, Can we just expense your internet to upside or something? Because this is ridiculous. There were so many failure points. Not only do I live above a bar that I was siphoning internet from. I was using somebody else’s. Well, two things happen. First, I was just siphoning their free internet for guests. Then, I was using an actual Time Warner Cable account from a friend of mine still using their internet though. And not only that, but I had like, this dongle that was not at all reliable. So that would fail because my mic would stop being part of it. I was on like a extra tall stool for every interview. I had no back support. Like it was a painful first year of the show.

Your your back. Actually, you were having problems. I remember that.

Jay Clouse 46:05
Yeah, I was.

Eric Hornung 46:07
Yeah, so I thought that was all fixed. I thought you move to Grandview. Oh, so fancy. So boozy. Oh, sorry, Upper Arlington, you’re you’re one street away from Grandview, you’re in the Jack Nicholas’, his hometown, the Golden Bears, kingdom.

Jay Clouse 46:20
That’s right.

Eric Hornung 46:21
The booziest neighborhood in Columbus, Ohio. And your internet goes out midway through an interview.

Jay Clouse 46:27
I was pretty upset about it. And not to get us too much off off track. But I had to call our provider the next day because we were getting 1 Mbps, 1 we’re paying for apparently, up to 100. But we were getting one, which is not enough to do a podcast. And they tried to send a technician out here. And I said no, because you’re going to charge me for that. And also, we don’t want a person in our home right now. And then she was like beep boop, boop, oh, I fixed it on my side without sending anybody. Why don’t you just do that all the time?

Eric Hornung 46:57
Because it’s all a farce.

Jay Clouse 47:00
Such a racket.

Eric Hornung 47:01
It is a racket that which is why and he tweeted about this. And I responded to it. And here’s what I think, before we get into Healium will go one quick second on cable. I think with all the capital in the system, someone should launch some sort of company that goes around buys up cable companies, and does the Walmart approach, always low prices except for always high speeds. And you guarantee a minimum threshold of speed as opposed to advertising on a maximum, I think your turnover will go down. I think your ARPU will go up. I think that it’s game changing.

Jay Clouse 47:34
The thing is you just don’t have any options. So even their turnover that goes down, like people are just jumping back and forth constantly.

Eric Hornung 47:41
It’s what costs the industry so much money. It’s why prices keep on going up because they keep on having to advertise more and more and more. But if you had always low prices, and your turnover was zero and people stuck around for forever, you could actually charge lower prices for higher speeds.

Jay Clouse 47:55
Well, let’s get back into our interview here with Sarah and Healium.

Eric Hornung 47:59
I am stressed out.

Jay Clouse 48:00
This is this is very stressful. I haven’t downloaded the app yet. I actually am very interested in doing this. Because I lost my connection halfway through. I feel like I have a lot of unanswered questions myself. But I’m really interested in the virtual reality element of this almost so much so that I want to like invest in a headset, because I think it would actually help Mallory quite a bit too. Tell me what you learned in the second half, or just give me give me a download.

Eric Hornung 48:27
Yeah, I played, I played with the Healium app. And I know that augmented reality is going to be big, like I understand that that’s going to happen. But for something like this, I feel like virtual reality is more where I would want to experience it. Like I felt like I was just missing something a little bit. And maybe I’m also not the right person for it. So like a lot of a lot of variables here. But I don’t remember exactly where you dropped off. We started talking about how a lot of this came from, like her work with veterans, veterans couldn’t travel to see their memorials. And they did the thousands of virtual tours with veterans using Google Glass. And they were monitoring that and it was as if they were actually there. So I think that there’s absolutely something to this. And maybe my first experience wasn’t perfect, but I also would like to try out the virtual reality side of things. So if you get the new Oculus, which just got announced, I think yesterday, you should let me come on up and try them out.

Jay Clouse 49:24
I am really interested in biofeedback, neurofeedback, biofeedback. This is really interesting to me, because I’ve just been a believer that over the years like I’ve developed part of that skill, like I am very aware of when I’m about to get sick. I’m very aware when something is off, and I’m getting better at identifying what that is and what I should do about it. And I do think that’s a very rare skill, but something that is so powerful if people could practice it, you know, it’s a next version in a way of like the meditation trend that was not very mainstream at all for a very long time, at least in the West. And now it’s a lot more common. And I think this is another way, as she said, of tapping into that. And it might be an easier stepping stone for people because it feels like an app or a game or something ancillary.

Eric Hornung 50:15
I asked the question specifically of how this is different than Headspace, or Calm, and I thought I had an inkling of it. But it really is that active versus passive. Now, Headspace, and Calm and meditation, in general are supposed to be an active experience. But I think a lot of people receive them passively. And it’s very hard to do a 30 minute meditation to do a 15 minute meditation and like, be actively passive, you know, like, you’re supposed to be focusing on that thing. But even on Headspace, like the first thing they tell you about is, you’re supposed to be sitting there. And like, imagine you’re on a busy road, and there’s cars passing by, you’re obviously gonna get distracted by those cars, but you’re not supposed to be paying attention to those cars. And it’s very hard, because every time you realize that you’re being you’re focusing on those cars, you’re supposed to focus on your breathing, which brings you back to not focusing on the cars that are in front of you. And it’s like this repeating loop. And it’s really is like training.

Jay Clouse 51:05

Eric Hornung 51:06
And it’s hard. So this if you can, if you can make training fun, which is generally what this is doing, make training, interesting, make training, engaging, make training fun, I think it’s a probably more likely to get people that don’t already have the skill onboard.

Jay Clouse 51:22
I like that it’s more, your success is more obvious. Like you know that two years ago, I did a 10 day meditation course, I used to call it a meditation retreat. But it was not a retreat, it was very much training. And it was it was the same, you’d sit there. And for the first three full days, all I did for 11 hours a day, was focused on the area, around my nose, and above my lip, in meditation actively for 11 hours a day, it was insane. But there was no real, it was hard to know, if I was being successful, and doing the things I was supposed to do. Because your only feedback is your own biofeedback. And you’re hearing from the instructor like what it should feel like, it’d be really easy to talk yourself into thinking that you are experiencing the thing you’re supposed to, I guess it’s very much in your head. But Healium, it seems like the promise here is you have a very clear external outcome, if you are being successful in what you’re trying to do, which makes it way more accessible to people, I think.

Eric Hornung 52:21
Yeah, she she gave this example of Imagine you’re on a bicycle, and you’re writing. So if you’re doing the thing correctly, the bicycle is going faster, or it’s pedaling, or you’re not falling over or whatever. And one of the things I really like is like, Yes, you were doing that retreat, and you were focusing on focus. And maybe you should have been focusing on calm, or you should have been focusing on mindfulness. And like to me, I don’t know the difference between those things. Because I don’t ever get feedback on me feeling those things. But she said, You can shift gears from calm to focus. And now you’re going to ride slower when you’re focusing on calms that have focus. So you’re because they’re using biofeedback, you’re now training your brain to say, Oh, this is focus, I thought, I thought that was focus. But it turns out, I was wrong.

Jay Clouse 53:06
I love this, because to me, it’s a different form of fitness, like the fitness market is huge. This is a different part of fitness that is a under represented, like under utilized part that is super important that I think something like Healium makes a lot more accessible. I’ll just use the same word. Again, I think it makes it more accessible. And we talked about the social dilemma at the beginning of this episode, like, I think we are going to come to find that we want to exercise more and more control over our brain because our lives have been engineered to take our attention from us, and we need to fight it, which is crazy.

Eric Hornung 53:41
And I think that’s the opportunity here. I think we have this bad media diet. And I love that phrase so much, I’m probably going to use that phrase going forward. But we have this bad media diet. And I think people are starting to recognize that we have this bad media diet, things like social dilemma coming out. And this isn’t like a political issue. Like this is a everybody on both sides of the aisles like after watching social dilemma, I’ve heard from people who are very different in their political opinions coming out and saying, Yeah, this is probably bad. We probably we probably didn’t do that as right as we should have. And I didn’t know all of this stuff, especially people who aren’t technical and are like not understanding what’s happening behind the scenes with ad sales. So I think that using technology for good is just a general trend over the next 20 years. And this seems to be one of the areas and she mentioned a couple other areas wearable fabrics. She said it’s going to be one area they’re really excited about. EEG in the earbuds.

Jay Clouse 54:35
Say wearable fabrics aren’t all fabrics. wearable, I’m wearing fabrics right now.

Eric Hornung 54:41
Yeah, wearable fabrics that give you feedback and like are probably lined with some sort of threading.

Jay Clouse 54:46
So you got to call it you got to call it fabric wearables then.

Eric Hornung 54:48
Okay, sorry, fabric wearables, Jay. She’s also really interested in trends in spatial computing just wearables in general, and what she calls the mental Health Emergency. So a lot of a lot of things that are directionally heading in a way that makes Healium, an ideal solution for when people recognize it needs to be a solution.

Jay Clouse 55:10
Well talk to me about this, Eric, because here’s my one shadow, you use the app store version of the app, it really seems to me like the magic here is in the virtual reality version. And it makes sense to have something that is free and even more accessible, but it feels like, I feel a lot of friction in getting to that point of trying this out. Because I need to get a device and to learn to the device, you feel comfortable the device, then I need to get Healium figure out how to put that on the device, which I’ve never done before. Like, there’s a lot of steps there that are new to me. And I’m fairly tech proficient, right. So my biggest shadow is market adoption, and on what timeframe? It seems like devices like Apple glasses are going to accelerate that. So maybe the timing is great. Where’s your head?

Eric Hornung 55:53
Yeah, there’s always that question of, if you’re too early, you’re wrong. I think what they’re doing there, too, I mean, the biggest barrier to entry is people purchasing VR headsets, right? Like 1800. dollars, or whatever it is, for an Oculus. It’s a big ask for people to buy, you know, I mean, you can get an Xbox for a couple hundred bucks online right now. But you can’t get an Oculus for a couple hundred bucks. So what they’re doing, I think, is a smart strategy of using corporate budgets and wellness budgets by using enterprise sales of the VR platform.

Jay Clouse 56:28
TThat’s their go to market they’re going,

Eric Hornung 56:30
They have to go to market strategies, or you are not for this part. So on the one side is the individual app subscriptions. And the other side, it’s enterprise sales, they say that all the enterprise sales happen are VR sales. So you know, you don’t need to use it all the time. But if you had a room with a VR headset, that was somewhere like you could use Healium, that’s a corporate perk, that’s an easier sale, because it’s not as expensive to that company, and it maybe lowers their insurance premiums. But she didn’t mention this, but there’s a lot of like benefits to giving employees better health care, you know, it’s attractive, it’s, it’s also the sexy thing right now with VR being sexy. So I can see that gaining some traction first in the interim, until we get to a place where VR is more saturated in the market. So I think that’s a good strategy to lower that barrier to entry for individuals is to first give them exposure through their workplace, and then they can get it themselves if they are interested in it. My question is, what other technologies have been successful in doing that, besides maybe Microsoft Excel? Yeah, start with a workplace. And then eventually, everyone buys it.

Jay Clouse 57:36
Interesting. What do you want to see in the next 6 to 18 months.

Eric Hornung 57:39
So one thing that you missed out on at the end here was we talked about their team. And just a couple of like, kind of quick facts. They think that everyone at Healium is kind of like on the content team. So because we’re the kings of our own castle, they empower people to do so. And they have this, they have this initiative called nothing about us, without us. And they’re building Healium, for those who are struggling. So a lot of their team members are also using Healium, they’re also the users. So I like that there’s this creative element to it as well. And that what they want to be working on next is more, creating more games, having more of a game designer, having more creators, having more artists having third party people come in and give them designs and games and ideas. Because she said that whatever they have, now, in the early days, and what they’ve been building, it was whatever assets were in the kitchen, you know, they had some assets they threw together, they had a bicycle kind of track, they said, Okay, we’ll put that together. And we’ll make that into a game. But now they’re getting people kind of writing to them and saying, hey, I want to be underneath a tree, and I want like, a pedal to be falling from the tree and me controlling that pedal on the way down slowly, right? Or I want this or I want that, and it’s creating all of these different worlds. And before we get to 6 to 18 months, I just feel like that level of creativity would be a really enticing place to work. And also, like, if you’re a game designer, this is kind of on the forefront of what games can be. I don’t know, super interesting to me, in general.

Jay Clouse 59:07
Yeah, my answer almost feels like, I don’t know, this is in their control, like the next 618 months, I want to see people’s adoption of the technology. That is virtual reality. I mean, I agree with everything you saying. But, you know, like I said, I think my biggest fear is just my biggest hesitancy is getting people to adopt the technology to get into that. And maybe it doesn’t matter, maybe maybe there’s enough demand at a good enough price point that this they can wait it out, essentially, and survive and build a lot of great games so that when it is mass adoption, they have all kinds of things you can try. But I want to understand that a little bit more. And of course, don’t forget that I missed half this interview. So a lot more to say.

Eric Hornung 59:46
I think my actual 6 to 18 months I was just kind of talking about some of the stuff with their team there and the last one but my actual 6 to 18 months is I think we’re we’ve we are and have been on the precipice of like a tech For good movement, and it hasn’t hit yet. Like it keeps on getting brought up. And it’s like, oh, we’re gonna do tech for good. And it feels like tech continuously. Maybe it’s because the advertising model and incentives and it probably is, but has continuously been getting more and more manipulative. And we haven’t overcorrected the other way yet. So maybe that needs to happen in the next six to 18 months as a society to say, tech for good. Probably probably time for that.

Jay Clouse 1:00:28
Yeah, it’s gonna be hard until there’s just so much market demand. I feel like this is capitalism, baby.

Eric Hornung 1:00:33
Yeah, but capitalism swings, just like we talked about with fast food. There was a eat healthy movement, that finally I mean, it started probably in the 90s when everything was being bad. And everyone was like, well, it’s probably gonna happen in the next couple years. And then it was a thousands and they’re like, well, it’s probably gonna happen in the next couple years. And that was 2010s. It was like, probably gonna happen next couple years. And then now it’s like, full on Amazon buys Whole Foods, right? It was just like, it was slowly slowly than all at once. And maybe I’m just a little early here. But it feels like in the next six, eight months, we’re going to have that kind of all at once moment. actually know what, maybe we don’t I don’t know. I don’t know. But I hope for Healium sake, we do.

Jay Clouse 1:01:10
All right, dear listener, we’d love to hear what you think about the future of VR and Healium and tech for good. You can email us Hello@upside.FM or tweeted us @upside.FM, or no, there’s no dot just @upsideFM. That’s all for this week. Thanks for listening. We’d love to hear your thoughts on today’s guest. So shoot us an email at hello@upside.fm or find us on Twitter @upsideFM. We’ll be back here next week at the same time talking to another founder and our quest to find upside outside of Silicon Valley. If you or someone you know would make a good guess for our show, please email us or find us on Twitter and let us know. And if you love our show, please leave us a review on iTunes. That goes a long way in helping us spread the word and continue to help bring high quality guests to the show. Eric and I decided there were a couple things we wanted to share with you at the end of the podcast. And so here we go. Eric Hornung and Jay Clouse are the founding parties of the upside podcast. At the time of this recording. We do not own equity or other financial interest in the companies which appear on this show. All opinions expressed by podcast participants are solely their own opinion and do not reflect the opinions of Duffin Phelps LLC and its affiliates under collective LLC and its affiliates or any entity which employ us. This podcast is for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a basis for investment decisions. We have not considered your specific financial situation nor provided any investment advice on this show. Thanks for listening and we’ll talk to you next week.

Interview begins: 7:01
Debrief: 45:09

Sarah Hill is the CEO and Chief Storyteller of Healium.

Healium is a virtual and augmented reality tool for the self-management of stress powered by the user’s own brainwaves and heart rate.

Healium is the world’s first biometrically-powered VR/AR immersive media channel controlled by the user’s brainwaves and heart rate via consumer wearables. Hill’s XR experiences are clinically validated in 3 peer-reviewed journals and have been viewed more than 7 million times.

After 20 years as a TV reporter covering trauma, Sarah’s media diet of reporting the day’s headlines ultimately made her sick. Sarah developed Healium for herself as well as the 41 million others who struggle with anxiety.

Healium was founded in 2015 in Columbia, Missouri.

Learn more about Healium: https://www.tryhealium.com/
Follow Sarah Hill: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sarahhill1/
Follow upside on Twitter: https://twitter.com/upsidefm

Key points:

  • From a TV reporter to being a CEO of Healium 7:51
  • Neurofeedback 12:36
  • Neuro meditation 18:50
  • How is Healium different from other apps 20:48
  • New upcoming technology 28:15
  • Media diet 29:34
  • Team at Healium 32:46
  • Digiceutical 35:36
  • Healium making money 41:15

This episode of upside is sponsored by Ethos Wealth Management. Managing wealth with an eye toward the future demands vigilance and skill in today’s global economy. Over the years, Ethos Wealth Management has worked with clients and their other professional advisors – including attorneys and accountants – to create comprehensive wealth management plans designed to make the best use of their wealth today and help ensure its endurance for future generations.

They can do the same for you.

Visit upside.fm/ethos to learn more.

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