PsychU is a Virtual Assistant for Psychedelic Experiences that enables people to enhance creativity + reduce negative emotionality through psychedelics in a safe, guided manner through our app and increases the availability of data for research
- We did a deep dive and wrote a 47-page white paper on psychedelics, covering the history, science, and business opportunity.
- I learned a ton about the world of psychedelics, one that I knew absolutely nothing about previously. Now, I feel educated enough to have an opinion on both. Plus, it was a cool overlap in coursework between my Cyborg Psychology class and Race, Drugs, and Drug Policy class.
- Gained FASCINATING insight into the motivations and practices of current psychedelic users
- Working some PM muscles (similar to building WellPower or currently working on tech for radiologists) by researching a user with whom you do not identify and designing a product for them.
Current trends suggest that we are a society that’s willing to experiment and normalize these substances
No current solution addresses a need for both users (virtual guide, insight into experience) + researchers (unexplored metrics + data, prev. research = qualitative + occurs after a trip)
Before talking to users, I first had to understand science, current user experience, and how these users were segmented.
History of Psychedelics
From our research, we segmented our users into the 5 following personas:
Key findings from our user research
We polled psychedelic users on Reddit (check out our white paper for the questions, our analysis, and conclusions), finding:
How It Works
Goals, guiding questions, journal + guided reflecting
Apply NLP for sentiment analysis of journal entries, computer vision analysis of artwork, sync health apps + smart devices, and offer guided meditation/yoga/holotropic breathwork.
Uploading External Information
Involve Your Body
- Keep tabs on your body and biometrics before, during, and after a trip
- Engage your body and mind in your reflection
Users opt-in to sharing their health data with researchers
In defining our user, we must target a primary user that has a need, not a want, and has a propensity to pay for our app. Ideally, we will find the target user by analyzing users of similar mindfulness and therapeutic apps and their current methods of coping. Specifically, we can use a tool published by Facebook advertising in which we can feed in emails of users of similar apps and Facebook will share our online advertisements to users who match the profiles of the email addresses we provide.
Health + Mental Illness
As discussed in the class, there is tension between developing technology for assisting those with disabilities versus developing technology to enhance “normal” human capacity. Our app will first be marketed towards customers who use psychedelics to address mental health or end of life concerns. Then, we will market to the larger, recreational audience.
Our share of the market is the 1.31 million users between 18–25 who use psychedelics for mental health. Our serviceable addressable market is the 30 million psychedelic users, including recreational users, in the United States. Finally, our total available market is valued at more than $192 million, for the market of mindfulness apps. Ideally, our users will use our app when using psychedelics and when “sober.” (all sources from this paragraph are linked in the pitch deck)
We will be charging researchers a licensing fee for use of aggregated and anonymized user data. The app will be freemium for users. Version 1 will be free but certain features in version 2 can be acquired through in-app purchases. We take inspiration from 23 and Me’s business model. However, unlike 23 and Me, we will clearly notify users that their data will be shared with researchers and ask for explicit consent from users. If users want to continue using the app but do not want to share their data with researchers, we will offer this service at a small fee. If users choose to delete the app, they can request us to remove any of their personal data from our database at no cost.
Our product uniquely addresses a need for both users and researchers
Go To Market
We will use online marketing tools and grassroots marketing to go to market. As our survey indicated, most of our target customers are young, liberal, and frequent users of technology. Therefore, we will prefer digital over print advertising. Additionally, we will take advantage of grassroots marketing approaches, such as a referral and ambassador program. We want our app to provide true value to our users, so people are referring their friends to our app.
Current competitors include Lumenate: The Psychedelic Meditation App and Wavepath. Unlike current companies in the space, our product is rooted in neuroscience and our team is user obsessed. No competitor addresses a need for both users (virtual guide, insight into experience) and researchers (unexplored metrics and data, previous research is only qualitative and occurs after a trip).
Technological Precedence and Inspiration
- Vice clauses prevent many VCs from investing in anything related to psychedelics.
- I think the legality of these substances is a huge blocker to the success of this sort of application.
- I really enjoyed exploring this space and gained a lot of energy from learning about something totally new, I’m not going to try psychedelics anytime soon. It’s definitely possible, but more challenging, to build a consumer app for a user with whom you do not identify with.
The white paper, presentation, and idea for PsychU was developed by Bevin Benson, Naomi Shifrin, Ayushi Sinha, and Kara Steele.