Sarah Hill knew there had to be a better way to deal with stress and anxiety, but did not want to wait for someone else to create it. Enter, Healium, a mental fitness channel that uses virtual and augmented reality apps for the self-management of stress and anxiety. Last year, Sarah entered Healium in the P&G Venture’s Innovation Challenge, and won. As this years submissions draw to a close on November 29th, we wanted to speak with Sarah about her experience, how Healium is making a difference, and hopefully inspire some amazing founders to follow in her (virtual footsteps).
How and why did Healium begin?
I started Healium for me as well as the millions of others who struggle with sleep, anxiety and who want to feel better. I was a burned-out TV news reporter, and over the decades had covered a lot of trauma. I was giving virtual tours to a group of terminally-ill Veterans and noticed that VR appeared to be impacting the user’s physiology. It seemed to relax them. They weren’t just watching these experiences, they were feeling them. I teamed up with a psychologist to start doing research on how different kinds of immersive media impacted brain patterns and heart rate. Then, we started incorporating the body’s electricity into these experiences…so began a journey of telling biometrically-controlled stories that is now Healium.
In the past few years, there has been a growing acceptance of mental health, especially with athletes being vocal about the need to take time. What has the shift changed about the need for your work in more mainstream companies?
More companies are recognizing that being reactionary to mental health is no longer going to cut it. Companies need to be seeking out products that build *resilience ahead of time before there’s a stressor. Especially with “worker athletes” like nurses, or first responders or high stress occupations, these people need to train for what we call the “stress Olympics.” Just as an athlete works out their body, so too do they need to work out their mind to learn to *self-regulate their brain patterns and heart rate. Healium offers this training in a visual form that’s more engaging than flat 2D interventions and is more memorable as the brain believes what it sees.
Why did you enter the P&G Innovation Challenge and what has the process working with them been like so far?
A friend encouraged me to apply. We’d been working on a digiceutical product for pharmacies and I decided to pitch it to P & G. Since winning the P & G Innovation Challenge, we’ve had a bunch of doors open up to us for new opportunities and important strategic partnerships. Our customers now include the US military along with MLB and NFL teams. P & G Ventures has amplified our stories in its own influencer network, teed up important research relationships, and helped our product grow both in number of users and revenue.
During the pandemic, how did you shift your business and how did the shift help you grow, change, or focus your business?
During the pandemic, the mental health emergency began. Companies, schools, and health enterprises started reaching out as they were noticing the many stressors that were taking a toll on youth and adults. In addition, some of our enterprises that were on lock down didn’t have access to our VR headsets so our mobile augmented reality product had to take center stage. Healium AR doesn’t require the use of VR goggles. Now as the pandemic hopefully subsides, that AR product serves as a valuable, portable alternative for when people don’t have access to their VR goggles to train their resilience.
As a female founder, what do you want your legacy to be?
I want to learn as much as I can so that I can help be a bridge for other female founders over the deep, winding, and unpredictable caverns I had to cross.
What’s next from Healium and what can we look forward to?
We have some exciting news that we’ll announce after the first of the year! We just announced a new partnership with the American College of Lifestyle Medicine. In addition, Healium was just named a CES Innovation Award Honoree.
What’s the first thing you do every morning?
I take my two weims outside and breathe in real nature.
What’s the last thing you do every night?
I take a Healium. I practice self regulating my brain patterns before I go to sleep.
What app can’t you live without?
Healium of course!
What book do we need to read?
The Culture of Fear. It’s from 2010 but its message is even more relevant today.
What business or person should we have our eye on?
Samantha Rudolph, a female founder of a company called Babyation in St. Louis. She’s reinventing breast pumps and her patented pump technology has caught the eye of the US military. She’s one of those founders that has the high ability to execute.