Pillrs Press Kit
A note from our CEO: Thank you for your interest in writing about Pillrs. Every new volunteer or addict that joins our system means another person may have their life drastically improved or saved. Your work and your words about us will almost certainly improve someone’s life.
So from the bottom of my heart, thank you.
Garrett Dunham, CEO
Founded in 2016, our mission is to make human behavioral change as simple as changing a shirt. We believe in the innate kindness of humans and its ability to affect both personal and social change. Pillrs couples social reinforcement with advanced technologies — such as precision brain stimulation through sound — to accelerate this shift in one of society’s most underserved populations: those with addictions and behavioral compulsions.
Corporate name: The Limbic Group, Inc.
Product name: Pillrs
Location: Menlo Park
Price: Free app, future premium features planned
For press inquiries: garrett@pillrs[dot]com
Cofounder, CTO, Neural Audio
“Could we create music that messes with people’s brains?”
In 1999, Lance was king of the jingle mountain having created the T-Mobile ringtone and audio branding for McDonalds. Never content to be just the best, Lance wanted to apply his musical talents in another direction: the human brain.
For nearly 20 years Lance has created neural sound patterns that can change your breathing patterns; make you happy, focused, tired, etc.; reduce chronic pain; and even make you vomit.
He’s also a senior full stack developer having worked for several mid stage startups. Now, he leads development and neural content creation on Pillrs.
Social links: Linkedin
In 2011 Garrett had an idea (with the help of a top Silicon Valley investor): What if we created an event where Venture Capitalists would pitch ideas they’d want to fund?
It turns out, not all ideas are good ideas.
Never someone to follow the standard path, Garrett went on to help found two startup accelerators: Prebacked and the Singularity University accelerator, and taught entrepreneurship internationally in Uruguay and Argentina before launching his first product-based startup: The Limbic Group.
Garrett leads product, marketing, and fundraising efforts for the company.
“That’s incredible Rob!”
In 2016, Garrett’s friend came to him with an admission. He’s been an alcoholic for 20 years. This admission was because Garrett was discussing his desire to create a company that helped with addictions.
For the next 16 weeks, Rob would text a group of 6 people announcing another week of sobriety at 3:30 each Friday. In reply the group would pour out love and encouragement on Rob.
10 weeks into this experiment, Garrett and Rob sat down again, and this time Rob admitted something else. He typically struggled at 4pm on Friday afternoons. By texting the group 30 minutes before that the ensuing love and encouragement would make him feel so filled-up, so happy that his desire to drink vanished.
This was the interaction that sparked the idea of Pillrs. Massive, preemptive encouragement to help break the desire to use.
March 2015: Prebacked has a $500k contract in final stages. Instead, the celebrity girlfriend of the CTO of Garrett’s potential client gets drunk at a movie premier, removes shirt, chaos ensues: Multiple firings, contract canned, Prebacked (Garrett’s first company) shuttered.
April 2015: Garrett spends 5 days journaling on a beach wondering “what next”. Determines life purpose is to help those with addictions, is terrified.
May 2015: Garrett becomes Entrepreneur in Residence at Singularity University, splits time between helping launch their startup accelerator and developing ideas to tackle addictions.
December 2015: Garrett begrudgingly declines dream job at Singularity University. Also moves to Tahoe for the winter. Manages to simultaneously ski and begin launching what would become The Limbic Group.
February 2016: Urgeless.com — Pillrs predecessor — launched.
August 2016: Lance Massey joins team. The Limbic Group, Inc. is born.
September 2016: Lance has his “Singularity Moment” — declines extremely well paying job to continue with The Limbic Group.
September 2016: Pillrs is privately launched as an SMS-only anonymous texting support app. Users love it but Twilio costs force a new direction.
March 2017: Pillrs iOS app private launch to several dozen people.
June 7th: Pillrs commercial launch on Android and iOS.
About the Pillrs product
Imagine you’re back in high school, it’s your first day of your Freshmen year, and you just moved to a new city.
You know no one. Great feeling, right?
Now imagine that this school is known for intense peer… support. Every student, every teacher, every staff member is aching to see you succeed.
Furthermore, on your first day a faculty member gathers several dozen other students, yourself, and dozens of teachers together. From now on, these are the only people you’ll see. You’ll eat lunch with them, go to class with them, learn from them, and get encouraged by them.
Sometimes someone will drop out but, when they do, they’re quickly replaced with a new person.
Together, you’ll work together on mastering the complexities of calculus as a group, always supportive, always helping, always encouraging.
Finally, imagine your school is pioneering a use of audio patterns that helps eliminate your stress, increase your energy, and reduce your anger in just 5 minutes solely through sound.
This is Pillrs in a nutshell: small communities of everyday people and addicts taking small steps and sending encouragement, ideas, and hope to each other in the battle for sobriety (plus some neuroscience to make it easier).
A true story from the app
“I’m sitting in my car arguing with myself not to go to the liquor store.”
My (Garrett) wife and I had just finished eating lunch when I got the above message on the Pillrs App on my phone.
Right away, Jennifer added,
“No one would know. My brain is telling me a million reasons why it would be ok. On vacation, no kid, submitted a chapter for a book. Argh…”
I’d been interacting with her for about a month. The only thing I knew was that she “Is not an alcoholic, but sometimes struggled to drive past the liquor store without stopping.”
So quickly I grabbed my phone and dashed off the only thing I could think might help . . .
“Hey Jennifer! Why did you want to quit in the first place?”
We chatted for a few minutes and other volunteers jumped in, offering support and encouragement, so I went back to lunch with my wife.
But I couldn’t stop thinking about her. I could feel the worry, heavy in my chest. Did I say enough? Did I say the right things? Was it going to make any difference at all?
Thankfully, twenty minutes later Jennifer sent a final message:
“Thank you all for the help! I was able to connect, find some rewards, and found a friend to go with me to my first meeting. I’m scared but you’ve all given me some strength!”
Core Features & Functions
Personalized support community
Pillrs generates a personalized, self-replenishing community of ~100 supporters the moment a user joins.
By creating small communities a user has repeat interactions with the same supporters, accelerating friendships between them and increasing the value of support to help reinforce positive behaviors for an addict.
Sounds for precision emotional control
Using neuroscience backed sound patterns, Pillrs allows users to reduce stress, anger, and tiredness in under 5 minutes through bioengineered audio disguised as music.
Think of it like Advil: shifting sound patters, frequencies, and tones are the medicine, music is the candy coating that makes it go down oh so smooth.
For the science buffs, we use a propriety process that builds on the learnings of isochronic tones and binaural beats to entrain and modulate the brain.
Micro behavioral change
One of the most difficult things to sustain is large scale behavior change. Pillrs breaks large steps down into micro steps that can be done in less than 5 minutes each day, including:
- Journal entries. Users post updates on their progress.
- Inspirations. Users favorite postings, comments, and quotes that motivate and inspire them.
- Behavioral training. Users can train their brain’s habit center to help them fight their addictions using habits, rather than willpower.
These are heavily integrated into a user’s Village (community) for reinforcement through encouragement and support.
The Pillrs logo can be presented in three colors: black, white, and yellow (#F9BA32). It should always have room to breathe as it likes to stand tall and proud.
Embed HTML: <iframe width=”560" height=”315" src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/TYy2tmzZ5ZM" frameborder=”0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
“The best part is I’m actually laughing. For the first time in days. It feels okay to let go of all the hurt I’ve been carrying around like an anchor in my heart and mind. THANK YOU!!!!!! I really, really, really needed this. Thank you again!”
I would never have imagined the feeling I get when I help someone and they respond back. I would never have dreamt how rewarding it is.
“The encouragement from everyone really helped. I’ve taken some really great advice and tips from the people in this community. It’s a game changer to have a flood of encouragement exactly when you need it.”
“I was surprised at how affecting the messages were. It’s good to be seen and praised for something I find hard that others find easy.”
“I was tired the other day and headed into a Long meeting and tried the energizer clip. At first I was like yeah yeah. Then I could feel my brain coming back on line”
“I think it’s great! I feel wonderful afterwords. It really boosts my mood.”
“I can’t stop bopping my head to the music, even if I wanted to!”
I really like that music man. I was falling asleep just now, and “re-energize” really woke me up!
Market size: magnitude
Alcoholics: 17.6M people addicted to alcohol. https://www.ncadd.org/about-addiction/alcohol/facts-about-alcohol
Smokers: 36.5M people. https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/adult_data/cig_smoking/
Drug addictions: 22.7M. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/nationwide-trends
Porn addictions / compulsions: 24M.
Food addictions / compulsions: 25M.
Source: “an arguably high proportion (up to approximately 10%) of under-, normal-, or overweight individuals can also be classified as food addicted.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3207274/
Gambling, problem gamblers: 5.5M.
Source: “approximately 2.5 million adults suffer from compulsive gambling, about 3 million are considered problem gamblers” http://rehab-international.org/gambling-addiction/gambling-addiction-statistics
Market size: money
$24BN spent managing addictions today.
85% of addicts don’t realize they have a problem.
Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Results from the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings, NSDUH Series H-48, HHS Publication No. (SMA) 14–4863. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2014. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUHresultsPDFWHTML2013/Web/NSDUHresults2013.pdf pg. 7
Only 16% of addicts both realize they have a problem and seek help.
Source: same as above.
Alcoholics Anonymous (1935) was created closer to the invention of sliced bread (1928) than the first vacuum tube computer (the ENIAC, 1946).
In 1964 the surgeon general said “The tobacco habit should be characterized as an habituation rather than an addiction.” Currently, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) does not currently list behaviors as potentially addictive.
 Source: National Institute of Health: Reports of the Surgeon General, page 34.
50% of young Christian men believe they’re addicted to porn.
Source: Christian Porn Survey, commissioned by Proven Men, conducted by the Barna Group
We’ve found no major competitors applying neural audio to addictions. But here’s a few competitive apps that have some similarity to our other core features.
Sober Grid: Facebook for addicts.
How we’re different: Pillrs social component creates micro communities of supporters around an addict consisting of both addicts and volunteer supporters. “Posting” is limited to sharing wins (Victories) and requests for help (SOS). Our community is primarily for positive reinforcement of valuable behaviors — we’re not concerned about what you’ve had for dinner.
7 Cups of Tea: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) on your phone
How we’re different: Both 7 cups and Pillrs focus on micro steps towards positive self-change. Pillrs uses a combination of CBT and Community Reinforcement Approach therapies to help addicts fight their addiction on the same brain pathways — the basal ganglia / habit center — as where their addictions occur.
Stigma: Anonymous journaling
How we’re different: Stigma and Pillrs take a similar approach to community reinforced journaling. Where Stigma maintains a general focus on mental health, Pillrs is focused on addictions and compulsions.