Q&A with Yigal Sharon, Co-Founder and CEO of Moodify

Toyota Ventures
Sep 22, 2020 · 5 min read
Moodify founder and CEO Yigal Sharon

Founded in 2017 by CEO Yigal Sharon and CTO Yaniv Mama, Moodify develops software-designed scents. With the use of advanced algorithms, the resulting scents are effective and precise in improving people’s sense of well-being and positively influencing human behavior. The company’s technology, based on more than a decade of neurobiology research at Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science, uses safe, non-intrusive signals to temporarily affect how your brain interprets certain smells — which includes masking less pleasant odors. The primary product, Moodify White, has potential applications in rideshare vehicles, used cars, hotel rooms, and more.

We announced our investment in Moodify in the fall of 2019. In this Q&A, we chat with Yigal Sharon about why he launched the company, how Moodify’s active scent technology works, and what’s next for the startup.

Tell us about your background and what led you to start Moodify.

I am an enthusiastic entrepreneur with a strong background in the Israeli startup ecosystem. I originally come from the world of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). I used to be the director, lecturer, and supervisor in a college program I founded at the Wingate Academic College in Tel Aviv. During my time there, I met Dr. Yaniv Mama, who was a student of mine in the low-intensity cognitive behavior therapy (LiCBT) program.

One of the lessons I was teaching discussed human empathy as a technique with five elements. After the lecture, Yaniv had a great idea about how these five elements could be turned into an algorithm. After that conversation, we started working together to develop a type of artificial empathy, which laid the groundwork for Moodify.

What is Moodify’s main value proposition?

Our main value proposition is the ability to mathematically predict the perception of smell — thus being able to reformulate perfumes and recreate smells using a set of given molecules (primaries).

This know-how — among others — allows us to design dedicated scents that can calm you down. Moodify Blue creates psychological well-being for busy, stressed, distracted humans. I believe our emotional system in modern times is out of tune. In the 21st century, we live in a very artificial environment that interrupts our biological rhythm by regulating environmental elements, such as weather and day and night cycles. This is inducing chaos in our hormonal system. For example, humans who do not sleep properly are stressed and often upset. We try to relieve this general tension and exhaustion through targeted chemically-synthesized chemosignals that influence synapses in the amygdala.

Our goal at Moodify is to safely influence the power of smell to eliminate unwanted odors, improve sleep, energize people when needed, and reduce harmful stress. We are building Moodify as a company able to take fragrances to their next technological level by developing efficient functional perfumes. The same underlying technology will allow us in the future to attempt to digitize scent and to create the RGB (red green blue) protocol of scent.

Can you share details about your primary product, Moodify White?

Moodify White is named so because, similar to “white noise” masking noise, a white smell can mask malodors. It is created as a perfume and could be incorporated into almost any kind of diffuser.

The porous ceramic product (left) can also include an air vent clip (center) or hanging clip (right).

How can Moodify White improve the user experience in cars?

Shared mobility sometimes has the downside of a co-rider, driver, or previous vehicle user creating a malodor. This bad smell could be body odor, cigarettes, stale food, a pet, baby diapers, mold, or strong perfume. This malodor, or sometimes the hint of that unpleasant fragrance, may cause most people an inconvenience, and many may even feel sick.

The Moodify White perfume creates a clean, known, and pleasant low-intensity smell during the entire ride, improving the customer experience and wellbeing. In COVID times, people are much more alert and sensitive to bad smells, increasing the need for such a solution.

You demonstrated Moodify in public for the first time at the 2019 IAA Conference, and then followed up by sharing Moodify White at CES 2020. What were those experiences like?

We raised a lot of interest from most visitors. It was super to have people admire and appreciate our work. We received much positive feedback regarding the product.

What is Moodify’s relationship with the Weizmann Institute of Science?

The Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel is a close partner of ours and is where much of the research that Moodify is based on was originally conducted. Our relationship with the institute is incredibly important, and we are working closely with the researchers in the olfactory lab of Weizmann’s neuroscience department. We have exclusive ownership of the ground-breaking IP developed in the lab.

How do you ensure that the fragrances work only when needed, and without any side effects?

We are always considering user addiction, adverse allergic reactions, and other side effects during our research and product development. However, over the last few years of testing and monitoring, we haven’t recorded any side effects during and after the use of Moodify active fragrances. Whether someone is actively or passively using Moodify products, their experience only lasts as long as expected, with no long-term effects.

What’s next for Moodify?

First, we are solving malodor issues that are not being solved by human-designed perfumes, by developing dedicated software-designed versions of Moodify Whites for several Fortune 500 companies. We are also doing consumer testing of Moodify Blue.

Finally, we are continuing to get positive results from our machine learning project attempting to describe smells in a mathematical manner. We have proven an 80% correlation between a mathematical description of a single fragrance molecule and its perceived intensity (this has never been done before). This will allow us in the future to attempt to digitize scents utilizing our unique database to find the smell primaries, the RGB of smell.

Visit the Toyota AI Ventures site to learn more about Moodify and the rest of the TAIV portfolio.

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