Stress levels rose with the number of Coronavirus cases over the past few months — and neither seem headed for decline any time soon, said Sarah Hill, the recently announced winner of the P&G Ventures Innovation Challenge.
“This is the stress olympics. Not everyone has trained for it. Not only are we trapped in our homes, but there’s a huge amount of uncertainty,” said Hill, founder of Columbia-based health tech startup Healium. “Suicide and calls to mental health hotlines have doubled. We need to be thinking about some more engaging ways to downshift our nervous system.”
Healium — the first drugless solution to stress that is powered by augmented reality and consumer wearables — allows users to track and interact with their heart rate and brain patterns.
Click here to read why Healium was selected as one of Startland News’ Kansas City Startups to Watch in 2020.
“In the wake of COVID-19, Healium has been deployed to the front lines to fight burnout and compassion fatigue among frontline health care workers, corporations looking to give their remote employees some virtual peace, addiction centers, mental health therapists, counseling centers and wellness centers,” Hill said.
That effort — and the strategy behind it — helped Healium win the P&G Ventures Innovation Challenge in June, garnering $10,000 and the opportunity to join Brandery, a nationally recognized accelerator. The startup won an additional $200,000 in other benefits.
“We pitched the idea of a digiceuticals aisle to sell our mental health products right alongside physical hygiene products in drugstores or other retailers,” Hill said.
Healium’s success in the innovation challenge was attributed to the startup’s ability to provide a unique solution to a problem impacting many people during the COVID-19 pandemic, said Lauren Thaman, director of communication for P&G Ventures, a startup studio within Procter & Gamble.
“Sarah and Healium were definitely a really breakthrough way of solving a consumer pain point right now that is only solved through drugs,” she said. “This whole digiceuticals area we think is gonna be really hot and growing and she has a very unique and proven solution.”
One judge of the innovation challenge, Pete Blackshaw, echoed the sentiment on Twitter.
Congrats to @HealiumXR for winning the @ProcterGamble Ventures (@PGVstudio) “Virtual Pitch” competitions. I served as a of judge. Was inspired by all three presenters. Healium meets a critical need (especially NOW) and represents the new “experiential” storytelling. Congrats! pic.twitter.com/zEbGxAdKJh
— Pete Blackshaw (@pblackshaw) June 24, 2020
Looking forward, Hill plans to press the idea of bringing digiceutical aisles to drugstores, she said.
“Stress is incredibly tangentially related to a variety of products that you would find in a drugstore,” Hill said. “To have a quick affordable tool that for less than $1 a day you can improve your mood and quickly downshift your nervous system, that’s a valuable tool in the middle of the pandemic. We are in a mental wellness emergency.”
Click here to read about another way Healium recently used its tech to respond in a crisis situation.
This story was produced through a collaboration between Missouri Business Alert and Startland News.
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.