10 Wellness & Intimate Tech Trends going into 2021

  1. Peloton for the Mind: Connected Mental Health
  2. Cohort-based Group Therapy across every possible user segment
  3. Finding Friends and Romantic Partners becomes Authentic and Serendipitous
  4. Audio Lowering the Barriers to Spontaneous Intimacy
  5. Mindful Productivity in response to the Attention Economy
  6. Rise of Sleep Tech: Physical and Digital
  7. D2C Personalized Psychiatric Medicine
  8. Alternative “medicine” coming into the Mainstream: Psychedelics, Acupuncture, Adaptogens & Aromatherapy
  9. Social Networks: Closed & Trust-driven > Open & Ad-driven
  10. Mental health for polar ends of the age spectrum: children & the elderly

01. Peloton for the Mind: Connected Mental Health

Peloton addressed physical fitness by combining smart stationary bikes with live classes and community features to create an engaging experience.

A similar approach will be applied to mental wellness.

As application of EEG brain activity sensors & HRV to mental health becomes more rampant, consumer adoption will increase.

Because mental improvement is hard to see, devices that close this loop through bio-feedback will make mental wellness as measurable as physical fitness.

Players in the space

  • MindLabs - Building the world’s first live mental health platform
  • Muse - brain-sensing headband that tracks sleep & meditation
  • Open & Chorus - Live / synchronous virtual meditation, breathwork, and yoga sessions
  • Apollo - wearable wellness device that uses gentle vibrations to help your body recover from stress.
  • Core - meditation trainer that uses dynamic vibrations and feedback to help you relax, focus and stay consistent.
  • breath with b - uses patent-pending technology to guide in breathing.
  • Deep VR - is a meditative virtual reality game controlled by breathing.
  • Mimerse - A VR platform for evidence based apps that can improve, manage and treat the minds of millions.
  • Applied VR - the 1st company to make VR widely available in clinical care.
  • Flow - brain stimulation headset used to reduce depression.

02. Cohort-based Group Therapy across every possible user segment

For many, individual 1-1 therapy is financially inaccessible. Group therapy lowers the cost of access, while combining the therapeutic benefits of authentically connecting to a community.

Start-ups will play both a role in the creating the underlying tech stack for these online gatherings (payments, scheduling, etc.), and enabling the discovery and pairing of patient to other patients and practitioners.

Furthermore, we’ll begin to see group-based cohorts aimed at every demographic, stage in life, mental health illness, occupation, etc.

Players in the space

  • Pace Group - cohort-based therapy for moms, career changers, dating, divorce, and founders.
  • Marigold Health - infrastructure powering chat-based mental health peer groups
  • The Grand World - peer-based cohorts aimed at career transitions
  • Coa - emotionally fit leadership group series
  • Octave - discovering group-based therapy in SF and NYC
  • Be Maximus - group program to make better men in mind & body

03. Finding Friends and Romantic Partners becomes Authentic and Serendipitous

Social media has morphed our digital presence into manicured status boxes and pixel-perfect filtered squares.

We’re now more ready than ever to connect with others authentically (with all our idiosyncrasies) and serendipitously (outside our immediate social graph).

Finding friends

  • Ahoi - live video chat app to meet new people with the same interests from all over the world.
  • Friended - meet new people through authentic icebreakers
  • The Breakfast - app that connects you to an awesome human to have breakfast with, only once a day.
  • Yubo - social discovery app for teens that feels like an internet forum
  • LunchClub - AI-driven networking

Finding romantic partners

  • Teleport - connecting people through video-first dates
  • Blindlee - connect over 3-min blurred video calls
  • Monet - finding love through drawing
  • Kippo - dating app for gamers
  • Stuck - astrology-based matchmaking app
  • Inyn & Taffy - gradually shows you the profile of the person as you converse more
  • S’more Date - indexes towards self-expression: hear voice, favorite music, etc.

04. Audio Lowering the Barriers to Spontaneous Intimacy

Clubhouse is similar to Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok
via Stratechery

Some of the most groundbreaking consumer products in the past decade won through successfully lowering the barrier to creation, so that anyone could be a photographer (Instagram), Videographer (TikTok), and Writer (Substack).

Through the recent rise of podcasts and Clubhouse, the voice has now lowered the barriers for connection and intimacy.

The immediacy of someone’s voice may be far more meaningful than words on a screen. Instantaneous audio will become the love language of the digital realm.

Players in the space

  • 7cups & Happy -  connects you to caring listeners for free emotional support
  • Cappuccino - A daily personal audio show featuring your friends
  • Gentle - A social app to send and receive messages of compassion.
  • The Gossip - create and share voice stories
  • Airtime - audio rooms with friends

05. Mindful Productivity in response to the Attention Economy

an illustration showing a person, looking up, surrounded by a crowd of people all looking down at their phones
via humane

With the neutral POV of many tech platforms, the burden to prune ones digital consumption diet and limit its pervasiveness falls upon the consumer.

As a result, more tools will emerge to help us reclaim our time and give us psychological freedom. These include digital wellness trackers, mindfulness apps, and programmable attention tools.

Players in the space

  • RescueTime & Opal - Automatically tracks the time you spend on websites and gives you the ability to block yourself from accessing them.
  • Flipd & Forest app- gamifies getting into flow by enabling you to track your productive minutes and competing on community leaderboards.
  • The Browser Company & InMotion- are building a better browsers that can help us stay in flow.
  • Tempo - minimalist email client.
  • Blloc - minimalist phone homescreen.
  • The Light Phone - minimalist phone.
  • Amie and Ready - minimalist calendars.
  • Centered - minimalist to-do tracker.
  • Hu.ma.ne - in stealth. aims to build tech to help humans get back in touch with ourselves and others.

06. Rise of Sleep Tech: Physical and Digital

Meditation is a vitamin, sleep is a pain-killer.

Meditation is aspirational. Sleep is foundational.

From hustle culture to the rise of holistic wellness, America is now woke (literally, heh) to the importance of sleep.

Sleep underlies overall wellbeing, yet as the saying goes.. you can’t improve what you can’t track. Tech is now rushing in to bolster our sleep practice with data, self-awareness, and tools.

Players in the space

  • Rise - sleep tracker that tracks sleep debt and your circadian rhythm
  • Calm - sleep stories to help you fall asleep
  • Wave Sleep - live guided sleep sessions every evening at 9pm
  • The Rest - sleep classes and live peer groups
  • Bioloop Sleep - 1-1 sleep coaching
  • Night-ware - leverages apple watch tech to help those suffering from traumatic nightmares
  • Loftie - redesign of the alarm clock
  • Oura Ring & Whoop - wearable that track sleep
  • EightSleep - iOT mattress that helps you sleep better

07. D2C Personalized Psychiatric Medicine

1 in 6 Americans take a psychiatric drug.

Think going to therapy is hard? Vetting psychiatrists (more stigmatized than therapy), staying on top of filling prescriptions, and adjusting medication amounts, is even harder.

Unlike other types of medication, psychiatric medication dosage, symptoms and efficacy, vary person to person.

Often times, patients are started on either the wrong type of medication or too high of a dosage. They subsequently discontinue the medication (and their recovery) due to easily-preventable side effects.

A new wave of tech companies will emerge to ease the painpoints throughout the medication titration and management process.

Players in the space

  • Moodhealth, Cerebral, & TryMinded - personalized quiz for psychiatrist matching and D2C medication delivered to your door.
  • Base - the 23&me for mental health (sleep, stress, energy, diet, sex drive)
  • Prairie Health - patients take a DNA test to help doctors determine the right psychiatric medication and dosage, followed by monthly video counseling.

08. Alternative “medicine” coming into the Mainstream: Psychedelics, Acupuncture, Adaptogens & Aromatherapy

pink and blue abstract painting

The efficacy of psychedelics towards mental health disorders have recently been brought more prominently into the public eye through books by Michael Pollan, Ayelet Waldman, and Tao Lin. FDA studies have shown their efficacy on depression and PTSD in controlled environments. More recently, Oregon legalized psilocybin in supervised and licensed therapy sessions.

Similar to cannabis, a new wave of start-ups will support its distribution and education. This also applies to traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture, traditional Indian medicine (Ayurveda), adaptogens and aromatherapy.

Players in the space

  • The Delic - curated online gallery that helps you find your experience
  • Field Trip - matching service of psychedelic-enhanced psychotherapy
  • Peak + Valley - adaptogens, herbs and medicinal mushrooms
  • Ora - acupuncture clinic
  • Deja - ayurveda supplements
  • Bodha, Aiden & Coco - D2C aromatherapy
  • Kensho - search engine for holistic health providers

09. Social Networks: Closed & Trust-driven > Open & Ad-driven

As the 2000’s have demonstrated, our digital social networks have a major impact on our mental health.

The major change between the social networks of the 90s and the social networks of today is capitalism. In the early social media days, you made money by creating a place where people felt like home.

Today social media is driven by ads and feels like an obligation.

The next decade of social media will move from:

  • open → exclusive/semi-private/niche
  • many connections → fewer, deeper connections
  • curated by algorithms → curated by trusted connections
  • ad-driven → community-owned
  • designed to collect data → designed for privacy
  • growth as key success metric → trust as key success metric

Players in the space

10. Mental health for polar ends of the age spectrum: children & the elderly

Verticalized wellness offerings for both children and the elderly will become crucial - especially as children become more vulnerable to mental health disorders and the elderly become increasingly isolated.

Players in the space

  • Moshi - sleep and mindfulness app for kids
  • Manatee, Brightline, & Limbix - digital therapeutics for adolescent mental health
  • OkPlay - personal development through story creation for kids
  • Weldon - (tangential) coaching for parents
  • Papa - pairs older adults with Papa Pals for companionship and assistance with everyday tasks.
  • Crikel - 1-1 connections between youth and the elderly
  • No Isolation - communication tech to help loneliness impacting children and the elderly.

In summary:

Overall, I’m hopeful for what’s to come and looking forward to seeing what you guys build.

Let’s put the intimate back into the internet and continue to increase the welcome in wellness.

Know any cool companies that should be on this list? email me@patriciamou.com.