Episode 47 - Well-being, digital health, and startup jobs, with startup entrepreneur, Co-Founder & CEO of Mindset Health Alex Naoumidis
Alex Naoumidis is the CEO of Mindset Health, a startup he founded with his brother Chris in Melbourne, Australia. It now has 2 apps on the market: Mindset (for mental health) and Nerva (for irritable bowel syndrome, which is often triggered by stress and anxiety), but its ambitions are much higher.
Mindset Health is a company brand with the vision of managing multiple products addressing chronic conditions with app-based hypnotherapy. Since its inception in 2018, Mindset has been building a loyal following of fans, like yours indeed, featured in the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Tech Crunch, and other news outlets, interested in their digital health innovation and hypnotherapy programs. It has also attracted the interest of investors: In May this year, the startup announced it had raised $1.1 million in funding from investors across the U.S. and Australia.
The first half of our conversation was about the startup world: how Alex landed in the world of innovation and entrepreneurialism, about working in startups and building a team of diverse professionals. Then we focused on wellbeing in 2020, what/how and if COVID has influenced Mindset’s next steps and growth, and what Alex can tell us to help us perform at our best during the lockdown.
This episode was the first-ever episode of The Job Hunting Podcast recorded LIVE with an audience. It was one of four special episodes designed to be part of the Victorian 2020 Digital Innovation Festival or DIF2020. DIF is an initiative of the Department of Jobs, Precincts, and Regions. In Melbourne, we are very proud of our innovation precincts, especially regarding health innovation. And Mindset is in a league of its own.
Timestamps to guide your listening
7:54 – Alex tells us how he became a startup entrepreneur.
12:36 – His strengths as a leader and as a professional to pursue a career as an entrepreneur.
14.38 – How has it changed having people working with and for him.
16:15 – How Alex chooses people to work with him.
18:09 – The differences in leadership styles: Alex and his brother and Co-Founder Chris.
18:57 – People coming from traditional sectors to work for startups.
22:18 – How is a hypnotherapy app perceived in Australia?
24:20 – Statistics of places in the world with the most downloads of Mindset App.
25:11 – How does hypnotherapy by app works?
27:18 – Has the pandemic changed the plans for Mindset Health and digital health in general?
30:20 – Mindset growth plans.
33:13 – Tips for job hunters who are feeling very anxious about how to manage their mental health.
37:49 – How do Mindset Health apps work, and what is the most popular program?
38:50 – What’s next for Mindset Health?
41:30 – Where Alex’ sees himself 20 years from now.
42:35 – Is it viable to be based in Australia with the kind of startup business they created?
Transcript of this episode
Renata: Alex, thanks for your patience in waiting for our guests to come in. So, hello everybody for those who are going to be listening to this later, my name is Renata Bernarde and this is The Job Hunting Podcast. This podcast does what it says on the tin and together with some awesome guests, I help you get your next job and have the career that you want. Today, we're recording live for the very first time here in Melbourne during the Victorian 2020 Digital Innovation Festival, or as we call it, DIF. DIF is an initiative of the Departments of Jobs, Precincts, and Regions. Precincts for those who are listening overseas, and I do have listeners in over 50 countries, precinct here in Australia folks is our innovation hubs. Okay. It's not our jails. I once had to explain this to a tech Indian delegation after a few awful odd meetings.
Renata: I had to explain to them, I was not talking about jails. I was talking about innovation and I never had the opportunity to give that feedback to my colleagues in government. So I'm glad that Kelly Hutchinson, who organizes DIF is attending today. So Kelly, now you know, if you ever have any international delegation, make sure that you explain to them what precincts actually mean to Victorians. We're very proud of our innovation precinct in Victoria, especially the health ones. And we will be discussing that in more detail with our guest today. If this is the type of content for you, and if you're currently on the market looking for a job or you're just keen to advance your career, have great career plans and make sure that you subscribe by clicking on the subscribe button, wherever you have found us on iTunes, Spotify, YouTube, Google podcast, Amazon, wherever else you found us.
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Renata: They're already in the show notes, if you're listening and they are also if you're live now here today, they are in the chatbox so check them out. I'd like to thank everybody that attended today. We have one-fifth of the people that have registered the others will be hopefully waiting to get the recording later on. So it's a very manageable number of people. We are recording this podcast. So if you want to be on video, you're very welcome to be on video, but you will be later on, on my YouTube channel. It's up to you. Remember you can have control of that. You can also ask questions. You can let me know that you want to ask questions by posting a note to me on the chatbox and I will be looking through, and you can also let me know if you want to ask the question yourself, or you would like me to ask the question on your behalf, okay.
Renata: That's enough about us, the podcast, and the admin of this recording. Now let's talk about Alex. Alex Naoumidis is the Co-founder and CEO of Mindset Health, a start-up founded here in Melbourne Australia, which now has two apps on the market, Mindset for mental health, and Nerva for irritable bowel syndrome, which is often triggered by stress and anxiety. Mindset Health is a company brand with a vision of managing multiple products, addressing chronic conditions with app-based hypnotherapy. We will include the links to the company and the app websites to the episode show notes as I said before. Since its inception Mindset has been building a loyal following of fans, including myself, has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Tech Crunch, and other news outlets interested in the digital health innovation and hypnotherapy programs. It has also attracted the interest of investors.
Renata: In May this year, it raised 1.1 million in funding from investors across the US and Australia. The first half of our conversation today will be about the start-up world. How Alex landed in this world of innovation and entrepreneurialism, about working in start-ups and building a team of diverse professionals. Then we will focus on the wellbeing factor, especially now during COVID times pandemic and lockdown. And, you know, what are the next steps for Mindset health and its growth, considering all of the things that we have experienced in 2020. Okay. So that's it from me.
Renata: Hi there, Alex.
Alex: Hi. How's it going?
Renata: I'm good. How are you?
Alex: I’m doing well, thank you. Nice to be here.
Renata: Nice to meet you too. You know, we've met before you won't remember this. But I used to work for Ken Sloan at Monash uni when you went through the incubator.
Alex: Right. Yeah. The generator program. And did you say it like, did we, so we, did we chat or did you just watch us pitch?
Renata: No, I chatted and I fanned clubbed on you, like pretty high, like, ‘Oh, I really love this.’ And then I went home and I downloaded it on the, like the free trial, because it was the, I went to that presentation that you guys did. And then that hooked me and I, I just loved it. I still do. I use it every week.
Alex: Oh, awesome. That's great to hear. Thank you.
Renata: I do. And on the podcast a couple of times I've mentioned it because people that are in between jobs go through a lot, you know, if they've been made redundant or got terminated or whatever, it's really, it's hard. It makes you really anxious and you know, the financial issues, the family.
Alex: Yeah. That's understandable.
Renata: But I've used it to lose weight. Tell me about how you, are you working from home?
Alex: Uh, at the moment? Yeah. So at the moment like Chris and I actually live together as well. So, I work from my bedroom and Chris works downstairs, but before that we were, we just moved into an office that we leased and our first office, and then the shutdown, it's a bit frustrating that we can't work from there, but I mean c'mon.
Renata: Where is it?
Alex: In Cremorne, so like a two-minute walk from Richmond station.
Renata: Nice. Oh, that's so trendy. Tell me a little bit, tell us all how you came about to become this start-up entrepreneur. What happened?
Alex: Yeah, so I actually started Mindset with my brother Chris. I've always been, I guess, entrepreneurial, but always trying to make money and solve problems, probably driven through our dad who also is an entrepreneur and, dinner late night dinner chats around business and fundraise and all of that probably influenced it. But when we were 15, we were making apps for like, copy apps that were just essentially web views that linked to Facebook and eBay, but Facebook and branded Facebook for the tablets. And we made thousands of dollars before we were shut down for privacy, breaching copyright. So, but since then we actually started working on a previous app called Covered, which was a peer to peer dress rental app. But before that, like we identified a problem that women had a lot of clothes, but when I couldn't wear them due to social media, but we didn't know how to code.
Alex: And when knew like to build a digital business that way I wanted to build, we needed to be able to operate fast and iterate, and we didn't have any money because we were at that time 20 or 21 and 19. And so we spent uni break, locked in our basement, teaching ourselves to code from a $15 a year Udemy course, and then actually built it. So we'd spent like six months building this, this massive dress rental app, fixing all these problems that we didn't know because we're not women. And then went through, the generator, the Monash accelerated program. But halfway through Kish who ran the program, asked us, ‘do you want to work on a dress rental app for the next 10 years?’ And we didn't, we didn't want to work on it. It wasn't passionate. It wasn't working out.
Alex: It wasn't interesting to us and so we killed it, but we sort of fell into this period of like self-doubt and anxiety, which made us look like inwards about mental health. And, these automatic thoughts and like how you can train them, put us on a journey to explore different types of therapy. We came across hypnosis, through a podcast actually called Science versus Hypnosis. And it was like a surprising amount of evidence behind it as a therapeutic tool. And we're like, ‘Oh, that's super interesting.’ There's so much stigma around, so many misconceptions, but turns out there's a whole heap of evidence supporting it. And it gave us an idea like we just learned how to build apps. Could we use that new skill set to take hypnosis into the mainstream is it was essentially our original thought, and do what Headspace and Calm had done for meditation and bring something that was a little bit woohoo and meditation was like a woohoo science for hippies.
Alex: But now it's like a massive global phenomenon that everyone is doing. And that’s actually what triggered our first idea. And so we built Mindset for mental health off the back of that, which essentially it's helping people learn coping skills through focused attention and absorption, which is hypnosis. And then we went through, the sitemap program in May, 2018, which is another accelerator program which really helped us like upskill and drive and, and grow our business. And then in 2019, we went through Y Combinator. And so that's a global side of the accelerator with alumni like Airbnb, Stripe, Dropbox, Reddit all started through that program. And that's when we launched our second program, which is Nerva. Along that journey we realized that where hypnotherapy is really powerful is in less of a broad wellness product, like mindset, which is still, I'm now more focusing on the mental health side, but in specific conditions, specific mind, and body conditions.
Alex: And so we launched Nerva for IBS, which is a massive condition affects 15% of the population, but turns out hypnotherapy is just as effective as the gold standard elimination diet low-FODMAP, but it doesn't require you to change what you eat. And so we worked with a researcher from Monash University to take her research and similar to what you're talking about, making something more accessible. And, but she can only see a certain amount of people, and make it more accessible, will make it like help thousands, tens of thousands, millions of people across the world.
Renata: That's amazing. Hypnotherapy is like another level, you know, to the wellbeing apps isn’t it? We're going to talk about that later. I'm really excited to hear the response that you get when you walk into, you know, a room full of VCs and say, ‘Oh, we have a hypnotherapy app’. And, but what do you think are your strengths as a leader and as a professional that led you to pursue this career as an entrepreneur? Because it's tough, isn't it?
Alex: Yeah. So I think like the primary one is just having a growth mindset. Like we're know we're pretty young. We don't like, we're not pharma executives, we’re not doctors. And so we have to like, just learn as much as we can. And I think knowing that we can grow and knowing that we can just learn fast is a massive advantage because we can move faster and learn more and approach problems in a different way. From first principles, then existing incumbents who think this is the way things are done, but because we come from a fresh set of eyes and always looking for learning and, it means we can sort of finding unique solutions that no one has ever thought of. Another, I think another skill that we have is just thinking big. We like, it's quite uncommon in Australia to think like this like tall poppy syndrome and thinking small when thinking Australia only like we would global from day one, we were looking for let's build a billion-dollar business.
Alex: Let's build the, what at the, initially it was Headspace for hypnosis and that's a billion-dollar business, but now we're looking, let's build the over the counter app-based therapy for Pfizer, and be a multibillion-dollar business. And I think like having that thinking big attracts investors and attract employees and, that has been something that I think is quite valuable. And I think another one is just persistence. Like we applied for the generator and we got in first, but we were the first application, but for the start mate, we applied twice before we got in for Y Combinator. It took us three times. We flew over for a 10-minute interview and got rejected by San Francisco. Sorry. And, but that persistence of keep trying and when things fail I think is like a key part of making success. No one knows. And like, if you get knocked down for the first time you don't get up, then like you missed out on a massive opportunity.
Renata: And Alex, I think there's, I don't know how long you've been a leader of people, but now you have a team. How has it changed having people working with you and for you?
Alex: It's really changed and it's super exciting, but like, for the most of the ouch, any like for two years, it was just Chris and I like working on it and like with my brother and like, we have a way of communication. We were documenting things, we’re just like communicated through our minds. And which is great and fun, but like, we were handicapped at how much we can do personally. And now we've got a team of 10 people, some part-time, but it sort of has changed how we operate and what the sort of work we do, but also leverage that. And so we can just move so much faster and accomplish so much more things, but it has provided a new, like a new set of huddles around like, okay, we've had us worked in a certain way of not documented things and not having like historical evidence to look back to, but now we have a team that required documentation to communicate with each other.
Alex: And it has all those, especially now in COVID like doing it remotely and trying to set up those meetings and set up like routines for the company and information sharing. And I think something we have struggled in the past and we're getting better at is context sharing. So we were across everything in the business, but it's hard to like then remember that some people don't have a certain slice of information. And then so our responsibility as leaders is to communicate the context needed to make proper decisions and accurate decisions. And I think we're getting better at that as well as documentation processes.
Renata: How do you choose people to work with you? I had a business when I was your age. I mean, I don't know how old you are, but I had, you know, my first business I was in my twenties and as I was growing, I remember thinking, ‘Oh, I can't wait to grow just a little bit more so I can afford you’. So I used to kind of, you know, keep hoping I was growing enough to actually bring the people that I wanted to work with me. And I never actually advertise roles. I just, you know, as soon as I could afford, I would find people and bring them on board. Or would, are the skills so specific that you have to advertise to find the right people for the roles?
Alex: So I think the primary way for an early stage start-up to hire people is through referrals. It's through your own network, it's through who you know, and who your new teammates know. And ideally that's what we would do. Just because Chris and I aren't technical and we didn't study computer science, especially for those sort of roles where we didn't need to advertise or at least go through our external network. But because we came from a place of, once we raised, we have raised our, there was 1.1 million us. So like 1.7 Australia, we could hire everyone we wanted, but we wanted, it gave us a point where like, we wanted to take the time to hire the right people. This is a marriage like the first like five, 10 people that you hire, set the culture for the entire organisation.
Alex: If we get to 200 people. And so we wanted to make sure we made the right decisions and hired the right people at the right time. And so I think that it's, it's sometimes it's easy when you raise money to then spend money and spend it fast on the wrong people or hiring too many people before they're needed and then run out of money and burn and then have to lay people off. And especially in, during this time, you want to be in a safe position. And I think something we've done well is to spend the time to look for the right people at the right time, and then get them.
Renata: Have you and Chris have the like similar leadership styles? Are you complimentary or very different from each other?
Alex: We're probably similar in some ways and then complimentary as well. Chris is probably more of a, like a patient leader, which is something I need to learn as well. I get like frustrated getting distracted sometimes. And, but I think like we definitely compliment, I sometimes can be more of like thinking big and Chris is more like good organisational stuff. And so complimenting each other in that way, like has been really, really good. And having like, obviously being brothers means we can operate in a certain way that other cofounder teams just can't.
Renata: That's amazing. I was, that's what I was thinking. I was thinking, wow, how can they, you know, work on this together? That's excellent. And, I wanted to ask you something that I get asked all the time and I help clients all the time with. Clients that have worked in the corporate environment, like the traditional bricks and mortar corporate public environment, but are super keen to work for start-ups. You know, there's this romantic idea that it's cool to work for start-ups, or they really want to have a second career and, you know, a different experience. Some of them have made a very successful transition, I'm happy to say that I have helped a few, others not so much. So what do you think have you experienced, or do you have in your team, people that have come from a more traditional sector and are now working for you?
Alex: Yeah, so I think there's a lot of value in bringing people with experience in a certain thing like, and we have people who have come from bigger organisations and their processes they can bring in their experience has really levelled us up, but I think it's important for them as well. Like they come into a business that is like 10 people instead of a thousand people, 500 people and things are going to be different. We're going to, we move much faster. We aim for 80% instead of a hundred percent quality like we would get, and so we need to sort of take back some of that. Like, there's a middle ground of bringing some of that expertise and that processes without like slowing us down. Because our advantage as a start-up is we move quickly and people have lots of responsibility.
Alex: And I think that's another thing as well. Like when you were in a big organisation, you have like a certain role and this is your skill set and this is the things you do because there's so many people, but in a start-up, like we have 10 people, you wear many hats and you might be doing things that you're uncomfortable with. You might be spread thin across multiple different areas. And it could take time to learn that. But if you're aware of that coming in and you're like willing to learn, and I think that's part of like our, one of our values is that growth mindset of learning and being like, no, one's an expert at everything at the start, but willing to like learn it and get your hands dirty. I think it's important there's programmes as well, that are helpful to start make fellowship. So summit is the accelerator programme that we went through, but they have another thing called the fellowship, which they take a cohort of 30 people from like McKinsey and big organisations. And for people like you were talking about and then help settle them into start-ups. So we had a fellow working with us, who's now worked, who now works at eucalyptus, another Australian start-up. And so it's like a, quite a valuable experience I would say.
Renata: You’re right, I need to find out when those opportunities are open to let my clients know, thanks for reminding me. Okay. Now let's talk about your app. So I used to fly to San Francisco a lot. I used to have family there. My cousin just moved out in fact. San Francisco during COVID is not a good place to be, but I also lived there when I was younger. And when I think about your offering for that Silicon Valley crowd, it's just the thing, you know, like the thing I love the most in San Francisco is just sitting in a coffee shop and just listen to other people talking about, you know, all the sort of funky things that are coming up with. And an app about hypnotherapy is just the thing that I think suits that environment so well. How was it perceived here in Australia though? Because I think Australians, as you said, have like the tall poppy syndrome, but they're much more averse to sort of what they would consider woo woo things. Are you agreeing with me or you think I'm being too pessimistic about my Australian fellows?
Alex: I would say, yeah, it's more, I don't know if it's woowoo necessarily.
Renata: It’s not because it works.
Alex: I mean, like, as in they're more risk averse and maybe like, so like something great about San Francisco and great about the Bay area as well is just that, like, they look towards the future. And so like one man's woohoo’s one man's like cutting edge. And so, like they're more open to new experiences, I would say in that way. Um, more of the difference in the investor perspective is that Australia is much more, like metric focused early on, and much more about like, we need to know the numbers, like essentially a risk averse trying to de-risk their investment from the get go versus in the U S it's much more about like, think big, is there a chance that this company is going to be a billion dollar company?
Alex: And then like, okay, if that's the case, like invest. And so seeing, like in a seed stage company that sort of like visionary thinking is something we really value as investors. And I think we got more of that in the U S but that doesn't say that there's investors in Australia. There's definitely investors that think that way a lot of great VCs that think that way, but I think generally that's the case. And just like mac, really, like I looked at a stat recently, that's $3, something per capita in angel funding, but in Australia, sorry, in the U S it's $25 per capita. So there's just a lot more capital available in the States, which means that there's more competition on the investor side to get into deals. And so, seeing that heat up can make it easier to raise money there.
Renata: What about downloads? Where is your, where are your apps more successful?
Alex: I would say, we have around 30 or 40% of our users in the States, another 30 to 40%, or maybe 30% in the UK and then 30% in Australia. So like Australia is like overrepresented, but the U S is our biggest market.
Renata: Our podcast is 40% U S, and then 20% Australia, which is ridiculous. I thought it was going to be way more Australia than U S. And then the rest of the world is like the rest 10%, but it's funny, isn't it? Because it's, I find the content so Aussie of what we're talking about, not today, but most of the time. So let's talk about hypnotherapy and how can you work hypnotherapy via an app? How was that, how did you enable that to happen?
Alex: So essentially all hypnotherapy is, is hypnosis plus therapeutic techniques. Hypnosis isn’t a therapy. It's essentially focused attention, absorption and relaxation that help you become more receptive to new ideas and perspectives. And so when you couple that with therapeutic techniques like visualisation, learning coping skills, CBT, it actually amplifies those therapies. And the mode of delivery is actually quite similar to what you would see with an app like Headspace, it's guided audio sessions, where you shut your eyes, the hypnotherapists bring helps guide you into a state of focused and relaxed attention, and then goes through visualisations. Or as I was saying, teaching you coping mechanisms and techniques and skills, while you're in this relaxed state. And then they just wake you up. So it's very similar if you think of like an app like Headspace, or Calm, how that operates, but it's much more structured, much more about what the hypnotherapists is saying versus looking inward onto yourself and self-reflecting.
Renata: Yeah. It's really funny. I use it a lot to sleep, because I've done all the programmes that I could do, you know, I don't need to stop smoking, so I haven't done that bit of your app. And most of the time I sleep before it ends, but sometimes I listen to it until the end and then I get really upset, ‘Oh, it didn't work this time.’ And then a second later I'm asleep. You know, it always works, but I have this feeling, ‘Oh, no, it's not going to work. It's ending. And I haven't yet fallen asleep.’ And then as soon as I think that, I'm asleep. So I know it works. So it's been very well received. And that was before covid. Has COVID changed your future, you know, for this app and for digital health in general?
Alex: So like on an app level, we've seen, it's sort of a mixed bag where for current users, there's an increase in usage. So for obviously for mindset, for mental health and for IBS, were triggered by stress and anxiety. There's an increase in usage, but for, because it's needed, but for actually buyer spending has decreased, we've found it maybe a little bit more difficult to acquire users cost effectively. And so we've probably seen like levelled out and it's not being positive or negative to us. But I'm going to on a macro level, the changes that COVID are bringing to regulation and to thinking around digital health products, I think is pushing fast forward. And you can see that around like allowing telemedicine to be covered by Medicare in Australia and in the States, that sort of regulatory push is something that we think is going to be really helpful down the line as we try to get reimbursement. And so I think on that level, it's been really beneficial.
Renata: So in the U S you can get reimbursement from downloading the app?
Alex: Not for the app, but the telemedicine. So it's still a step like where you see a therapist on zoom, you can get that reimbursed now in Medicare, in Australia and in the States. But that's just one step forward towards like the end goal of our products being reimbursed by health insurance.
Renata: Okay. So what are, you know, this announcement of the investment that funds made on the app was very recent. It was May, I'm assuming some of that covid pandemic and the situation kind of played also in the minds of your investors, would you say?
Alex: So we actually raised around at the end of last year. So it probably didn't have an effect. We just announced it then, because yeah, just took that time and we thought that was the valuable time when we want to start hiring to give us some leverage. But yeah, so it didn't have an impact, but it definitely was super lucky. So we were the, we graduated from Y Combinator, the end of last year raised our seed around and then COVID happen. And there's definitely been an impact to the funding landscape. But I think if you like macro at a macro level, VCs have already raised their funds, they have a lot of dry powder to spend. They're going to have to spend it. You just might see larger rounds in fewer companies.
Renata: Okay. And with, so you're saying that the users that have your app are using it more often, but it's harder to get new users because of the cost. And people are being careful with funding and sorry with money. What are you and mindset are going to do to continue to grow during recession?
Alex: So with Mindset, we actually made it free during April. And then we've now offering the monthly subscription at a discount. For Nerva it's about finding that right price point. And it's interesting, you can see in Google trends with IBS, the search decreased during like the peak of COVID, it's now recovered a little bit. Our thesis is that in times of acute crisis, chronic conditions take a backseat. And so potentially it was a mix of buyer bias spending, consumer spending, but also just a decrease in their focus. So, but during a recession, their conditions still might flare up again, it's that COVID is less of an impact. And so that focuses back on to their condition and they might be willing to spend that amount of money, but long-term it's getting reimbursement.
Renata: Well my sample is much smaller than yours, but, you know, I have a lot of girlfriends have IBS and my girlfriends have all had their IBS has all had flared up during covid. So, maybe there are other bigger priorities, like kids at home and, you know, home schooling and loss of jobs. So the searches are different, but they're still struggling. So when I'm on the phone with them, they're still complaining about their IBS. I would say 50% of my girlfriends have IBS.
Alex: Really. Wow. It's a, yeah. It's like a huge, it's overrepresented and many suffer from it.
Renata: Yeah. Myself included. So I've had FODMAP for since 2012 I think, that I followed FODMAP. So maybe I need to download them as well.
Alex: Well, it's like, if you've found success with FODMAP, then maybe you don't need to, but it's for people who might not want to have to follow an elimination diet.
Renata: Oh I don’t. Give me back my ice cream. I want to eat watermelon. You know, it's all the mixing up that the FODMAP doesn't allow you to do. You know, you can't have beans and then eat watermelon, but I want to, you know, combine those two.
Alex: Beans and watermelon meals.
Renata: So I might need to download Nerva so I can eat whatever I want. Okay. And tell me about, so people that are listening as well would probably want to get some of your thinking and ideas about managing wellbeing. I mean, how do you, you found this through your own journey and discovery of hypnotherapy to help you during a time when you had anxiety. Job hunters and people that are in what we call frictional unemployment in between job usually feel very anxious about being in between jobs. I'd love to hear, you know, because I'm assuming you're always reading and learning and talking to professionals that are experts in managing anxiety, what would your tips be and how they can manage it themselves?
Alex: Yeah. And I think that, especially during COVID, a lot of people are suffering from like mental health issues, anxiety, depression, or just stress in general. And there's like, there's a few ways that you can deal with it. First of all, like see a mental health professional there's, the government gives you 10 free sessions that you can see someone, if you'd go in to see your GP and get got get mental health…
Renata: That's in Australia, by the way folks, but yeah.
Alex: In Australia sorry, in Australia. But, and also there's now an extra 10. So if you've already gone to a mental health professional, and you've already used up that first ten, then they'll give you another 10 as well, so that's a first step.
Renata: And you can do that online these days. You can do that via zoom. Yeah.
Alex: Exactly. And another step is like something I do myself is I consume a lot of content, especially in news content. And that can help increase the level of stress, like seeing how many things are going wrong in the world. Things out of your control. It really like can make you anxious. And so avoid, like if you can avoid leaning into that and focus on like only consuming content that helps you practically and gives you skills that you need. Maybe it's watching Dan Andrew, our premier’s, being to help you know what you need to do today, but not seeing it every day when it doesn't actually change your life every day. Another thing is using healthy coping strategies. So like the basics, but like getting them right is important. So like getting enough sleep, I think a lot of people don't sleep enough. Eating healthy food, outdoor exercise has a huge number of stress and anxiety relieving properties, or using an app like Mindset that can help teach you those coping skills that can help you manage and feel better.
Alex: Something as well, especially with working from home for a lot of people who were in lockdown now is trying to keep up a daily routine. So I know, especially for me, I'm working from my bedroom, it's hard. It's hard when there's like work life balance is crossover so easily. So keeping a daily routine of waking up at the same time, going to work at the same time, eating at the same time. Science has shown that routines can actually help you feel less stressed because you're not always constantly uncertain about what's happening and it's much more familiar. So like recommend doing that while you're working at home. And then just like staying connected, like, especially during lockdown when you're like on, you're seeing the people in your house and you're not seeing your family and friends in person, like they're your traditional support network when you would normally be stressed. And so it can be even harder when you don't have access to them. And so using things like zoom, like FaceTime, like something I do with my family is like every Sunday we do scribblio like online, like a drawing game with my parents and like my family. And like, so staying connected in digital ways can help go a long way to replicating that existing social support system that you might've relied on in normal times.
Renata: Yeah, you're right. I have found when I moved to Australia, that people here are not as comfortable going to see a mental health professional as in my home country. So, depending on where you live, you might feel more comfortable going to see a mental health practitioner. And unfortunately I think that plays a role, but there is so much incentive in Australia to really push people out of their comfort zone and being someone who has done therapy for a few years. It's so good.
Renata: It’s wonderful. And more than those ten first sessions, plus the additional 10 sessions, anything that you do on a routine, you know, all of those things that you mentioned before, not just doing it one off, but doing it routinely, building a routine around it. I think that's where the real benefit comes from is to incorporate things on your day to day life. So whenever I use the mindset app, for example, I try to do the whole programme because you know, people that are listening may not know how it works, but can you explain how it works? Like let's go through one of the programmes that you have. What's the most popular one that people go through when they download the app.
Alex: So that'd be like the Calm down programme. And then for Nerva, it's like similar, but it's just one programme that goes over six weeks. And it's essentially like a series of six to eight sessions that you listen to, at each target a different coping mechanism, a different skill and teaches you that. And so you'd go through a session and some are more, might resonate more with you. Some might resonate less with you, but going through those, like learning those skills can help give you a sense of like internal control and self-regulation skills that can help you manage, manage your mental health or manage your IBS in a certain way.
Renata: Mm okay. What is the next step for mindset now what's coming up next? Are you coming up with a new app or is it just improving the existing ones?
Alex: So our next step is to get the playbook of building in a single app condition, single condition app, scaling it and getting it to product market fit, or signs of product market fit, and then replicating it with another programme. And so our next programme will be relating to chronic pain. And so we want to essentially, yeah, which affects is massive about 20% of the population suffer from a type of chronic pain. It's driven the opioid crisis in the U S there's a big issue there. And a lot of people are looking for non-opioid pain management, and there's a huge amount of evidence supporting hypnosis as reducing pain and changing your perception of pain. And so that's our next programme and we are launching that early next year. And then after that, it's raising our series a, so we've done our seed round, end of last year, then mid next year, we want to raise a larger round to help take us from these three up, three programmes to 10 programmes or whatever number it is, and get us towards reimbursement and get us more evidence where like hopefully running a study into Nerva and building that evidence based to help us get towards more healthcare practitioners, more coverage from insurers and self-insured employers in the States.
Renata: Is it a coincidence that you're always working with researchers and academics from Monash University? Or do you have a partnership there?
Alex: So Dr. Yapko actually from Mindset is not from Monash, he's based in California. So he's just like a world leading expert in hypnosis. He actually wrote the textbook on clinical uses of hypnosis, but also in depression and mental health. With Monash the Monash link is Monash is the world leader in IBS research. They developed the low FODMAP diet. And so, and because we went through the Monash accelerator, we both attended Monash university. The link there is super strong. But maybe for our next programme, we'll have a different research. But I think the common thread between all this is, we want to build a evidence based business that we work with world leading researchers, and to take their research and help productize it and deliver it to millions of people.
Renata: Okay. Let me see if anyone has a question, would anyone attending would like to ask a question to Alex, happy for you to post something in the chat box and I'll keep looking. Okay. Alex, do you see yourself in this space 10, 20 years from now, do you think that that's the space that you want to be operating in? Do you think that that's going to be the future for you as opposed to dresses?
Alex: Definitely. Definitely. So like I said, like suffering from anxiety, and has I have celiac disease, so I have a gut chronic gut condition.
Renata: You’re basically building all these apps for you.
Alex: Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. Like I wish if ever I could get help with celiac, my stomach lining attacks itself, but I think like having that empathy for the consumer and having that for the user and like, it's something that I'm working on this for the rest of my life would be like building a Pfizer $200 billion company for helping people manage their conditions themselves, is super exciting. And I would not wish to not work on it for the next 10 years.
Renata: And what do you think about being based in Australia? Do you think that's viable?
Alex: For a digital product it shouldn't matter. Our thesis, like we sell to U S is the biggest market and we're not based there. And so it doesn't matter. There is some interest from investors just being near them so they can meet with you and attend board meetings and stuff like that. And so that's probably the bigger hurdle, but for us, there's a huge benefit to being based in Australia. Our family are here. We can get employees much more affordably. The cost of living is much cheaper than working in San Francisco. So I think the benefits outweigh the cost, but there is definitely a cost.
Renata: Yeah. All right. I think that's it for us. I think we've done a great session here. Thank you so much for your time. And you have been a fantastic guest. We don't have any sort of big questions from the attendees. Everybody's saying, thank you. Impressive story. Great session. They asked about the Mindset Health URL. So I put all the links in the chat box for everyone, and I will of course add it to the episode show notes as well. So Alex, thank you so much. And I hope that very soon I will come and visit you at your new office when you're able to go and use it. Have you furnished it? Does it have desks and tables and everything? It's just empty?
Alex: Yeah, it's all furnished. We had a brief period that we worked there when the lockdown ended and then it restarted, where people work together. So it's all furnished. We're just waiting to get back there.
Renata: Oh, okay. I'll come and visit you one day and we'll have a coffee.
Alex: Sounds good Renata.
Renata: Bye Alex. Thanks for your time.
Alex: Bye. Thanks for having me.
Renata: Bye everybody.
About the Host
Hello, I’m Renata Bernarde, the Host of The Job Hunting Podcast. I’m also an executive coach, job hunting expert, and career strategist. I teach professionals (corporate, non-profit, and public) the steps and frameworks to help them find great jobs, change, and advance their careers with confidence and less stress.
If you are an ambitious professional who is keen to develop a robust career plan, if you are looking to find your next job or promotion, or if you want to keep a finger on the pulse of the job market so that when you are ready, and an opportunity arises, you can hit the ground running, then this podcast is for you.
In addition to The Job Hunting Podcast, on my website, I have developed a range of courses and services for professionals in career or job transition. And, of course, I also coach private clients.
Contact Renata Bernarde
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