Interview by Marija Butkovic @MarijaButkovic
Stefan Chmelik MSc, is medical entrepreneur, innovator and healthcare visionary. He is founder of New Medicine Group, Thrive Health and Zen Now. After 25 years of clinical experience of Mindfulness and 40 years of experience of meditation he founded BioSelf Technology Limited. Being a life-long meditator, Stefan has a long-established stress management and mindfulness practice and is the UK’s leading provider of technology-assisted relaxation. The BioSelf vision is driven by his experience of the last decade that ‘modern people can’t easily meditate’, as the skills required are too hard and few have the time to learn them. His solution to this critical problem was to investigate technological shortcuts to the benefits of meditation, and result is Sensate Pebble - a world-first wearable device which tracks and decelerates stress in real-time.
What is the idea behind Sensate and how did you come up with it?
I was finding that fewer people were able to learn or practice effective relaxation and meditation techniques. I am a technology optimist and believe that technology will save us, so naturally began to explore solving ‘the meditation problem’ / ‘the busy disease’ using technology.
We have a unique in-clinic technology that has been proven highly effective over many years, and I wanted something that provided the same benefits but was a consumer well being wearable.
When did all start and do you have other members in your team?
I formed the company in 2015 and initiated the patent application process in 2016. Our international PCT was filed in February this year. I then brought together a top level Board including our ex-Google Chair and co-founder / CTO Dr Jacob Skinner. We now also have an amazing advisory board of experts and are talking to people now about the next stage of the company’s team needs, which will include operational, marketing and scaling technology experience. I’d be happy to hear from people who are interested in our vision in fact.
How long did it take you to be where you are now?
We started Alpha and then Beta prototype development two years ago and ran a successful paid Beta trial last year. The technical and UX data from this has been used to develop and focus the spec and design for the Sensate Pebble which is being ordered right now. This will be a limited edition and only available on forward order as it will sell out before the delivery date later this year.
What was the biggest obstacle?
Initially, understanding how to compose the special audio soundscapes we use so that they were both effective and highly enjoyable; then the challenge of miniaturising something the size of a sofa into a small wearable device! Over the last twelve months the challenges have been more about raising capital – the UK can be a difficult environment for startups at the moment.
What are your biggest achievements to date?
The thing I am most impressed by and proud of so far is our first use approval rating, which is over 95%. Virtually everybody that tries Sensate falls in love with immediately – that was your experience as well yes? We designed Sensate with this as an objective and this is really important – behaviour change can’t happen if what people need to do to achieve it is too onerous or not directly enjoyable.
What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur in the niche you are in?
We are in the consumer smart wellness segment, and with a therapy` that has been in the medical sector until now, so we are creating and driving change in this niche. This is both challenging and exciting of course!
Are you supporters of #WomenInTech movement?
Totally! We need as much female power in the tech world to humanise it. Our users and early adopters are 75% female, which is unusual for a wearable technology I think.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to all founders and entrepreneurs in wearable tech and health tech out there?
Efficacy is important, but the user experience is just as important, or people will abandon the product. A device sitting in a drawer doesn’t do anyone any good. So make the UX, the design and the use case thoroughly enjoyable.
What will be the key trends in the wearable tech and health tech industry in the next 5 years and where do you see it heading?
Striving to reduce friction in the user experience, rebuilding people’s trust around data capture and use, rewarding people for their data, blending the natural world into the technology space.
Who are your 3 inspirational people in wearable tech and health tech?
Valerian (from the long-running comic series and recent film) – a great example of how cool wearable tech could be.
Tim Antos, CEO and founder of Kokoon Technology. I think they are trying to do something innovative for a critical problem.
Abdullah Muhammad bin Musa al-Khwarizmi, the Persian scientist, astronomer and mathematician, often cited as “The father of Algebra”, and where the term “Algorithm” originates, because where would we be without algorithms?
Meet Sensate Pebble
We have a special discount, £20 off, for the Woman of Wearables community. Use the code WOW179 when placing the order!
This interview was conducted by Marija Butkovic, Digital Marketing and PR strategist, founder and CEO of Women of Wearables and co-founder of Kisha Smart Umbrella. She regularly writes and speaks on topics of wearable tech, fashion tech, IoT, entrepreneurship and diversity. Visit marijabutkovic.co.uk or follow Marija on Twitter @MarijaButkovic @Women_Wearables @GetKisha.