Local Startups Ride the Wellness Wave

Local Startups Ride the Wellness Wave Tarik Sultan Hawaii Business Magazine

Local Startups Ride the Wellness Wave

By Tarik Sultan for Hawaii Business Magazine

From Silicon Beach to Wall Street, health and wellness is the hottest new frontier for tech ventures.

Heavy-hitter companies like Amazon, JP Morgan, Berkshire Hathaway, Google, Apple and Uber are all hoping to disrupt a $4.2 trillion global wellness industry with new options and better value for consumers. There are also many startups in the field, including several local entrepreneurs who are focused on preventive and diagnostic care.

One trend is personalized health and wellness solutions optimized to meet the individual needs of customers. Hawai‘i-based startup LifeDNA is riding this wave by leveraging the power of genetics. The company first gathers information from your lifestyle goals, and then DNA to identify your nutritional requirements and then creates a custom multivitamin tailored to your body’s needs.

Co-founder and COO Jared Kushi says the company’s data-driven, curated approach to creating supplements not only improves preventive care for its customers but also eliminates a customer’s difficult guesswork in a market overcrowded with vitamin and supplement options.

“There is too much noise on the internet on how to be healthy with new diets, workouts and vitamins. We are all made differently and shouldn’t be addressing our health the same way. DNA is your genetic blueprint and can give you insight into your health and prevent many possible issues,” says Kushi.

Punahou School graduate Walter Roth helps people biohack their mental health and cultivate a thriving “Inward Mindset” with Inward, his San Francisco-based startup.

Roth says he has spent the past decade on a personal journey to learn how to breathe, be happy and be his best in all areas of work and life, and has learned best practices from leading psychologists, neurologists and mindfulness experts. Inward is the culmination of Roth’s journey and the beginning of his quest to use proven, evidence-based behavioral change principles to help transform individuals and the organizations they run from the inside out.

Above: Kyle Chang and Noe Foster founded the startup HealthTechApps.

The company’s first product is the Mindfulness Daily app, which offers customizable daily meditations, reminders and timers to help users stick to a mindfulness routine that works for them.

“A big takeaway from my personal research is that meditation is so beneficial to overall health,” says Roth. “It can help you reduce stress and anxiety, sleep better, manage pain and even increase your body’s performance. I wanted to help others experience all the positive benefits that I did, and because almost everyone has a smartphone now, creating an app was the perfect platform to do that at scale.”

One app is taking on injuries like concussions with its monitoring capabilities. Honolulu residents Kyle Chang and Noe Foster founded HealthTechApps after discovering firsthand the dangerous compounding effects that concussions can have over time, especially for young athletes. (Disclosure: XLR8UH is an investor in HealthTechApps.)

Anyone who suffers a concussion or other brain conditions can use the meprint app to track their symptoms with proprietary machine learning technology. But the meprint app may be especially suited to screenagers – 15- to 25-year-olds who grew up with smartphones – and can face a host of brain health challenges: concussions, anxiety, depression, suicide ideation and trauma including cyberbullying.

Chang says the app leverages video paired with artificial intelligence to capture, compute and communicate brain health symptoms and triggers, giving doctors better insight into a patient’s condition, and enabling them to create more customized treatment plans with the goal of reducing re-injuries.

The company worked with patients and physicians to identify gaps in communication and care, which meprint attempts to solve by providing a more holistic approach.

“Using meprint, physicians and specialists are now able to understand the external factors that are prolonging the recovery process,” says Chang. “Prescribing a proactive treatment plan will allow the patient to develop good foundational wellness habits that will result in reducing the likelihood of another episode or injury.”


Innovation Watch
Five Emerging Trends Transforming Healthcare As We Know It

1. Smart Devices
Detecting cancer from the human breath? It’s possible with a new generation of intelligent diagnostic devices.

2. Ingestibles
Not your standard capsule, smart pills like Abilify contain ingestible digital sensors that track medication inside you.

3. Implantables
Health care is about to get under your skin with tiny implanted devices that monitor the body’s organs and functions in real time.

4. Opioid Alternatives
From cannabis to virtual reality to neuromodulation, companies are battling the nationwide opioid epidemic with new ways to treat and manage pain.

5. Digital Therapeutics
ReSet is the first app approved by the FDA to treat substance abuse addiction, paving the way for more digital therapies to be approved for clinical use.


Each month, the team at Sultan Ventures and XLR8HI explores Hawai‘i’s growing innovation community, including Island startups, entrepreneurs, founders and the tech sector.