My Startup: BioBeats

Charlie Spargo's picture

HealthTech startup BioBeats was launched to help users take control of their mental wellbeing through its digital products.

The company provides wearable technology and advanced mobile tech, alongside AI and machine learning, to track inputs like breathing, heart rate, mood, sleep and activity.

Once it understands the user's nature, feelings and experiences, it recommends therapy options - including cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and coaching courses.

Founded: 2013

Founders: David Plans, Davide Morelli, and Nadeem Kassam

Website: biobeats.com

David Plans, Co-founder and CEO, with COO Constanza Di Gennaro

David Plans explained some of the motivations behind founding BioBeats.

Why did you start BioBeats? 

What prompted me to start the research that eventually led me to form BioBeats was having a heart attack at Brussels Airport 15 years ago, triggered by stress, exhaustion and burnout. At the time, even though I was told there was nothing physically wrong with me, I did every test under the sun and found that there was indeed nothing physically wrong.

Since my background was in AI, I began to build algorithms that could have predicted that event, that could have helped me lead a better life in order to avoid it. Now, I'd like us to be able to do that at scale, helping hundreds of millions of people who suffer from unmanaged mental health conditions and badly designed working lives.

Tell us more about the tech behind the product.

BioBase is a digital workplace wellbeing programme, targeting mental health. Through the BioBase app and wearable device, we track biometric and psychometric data to give individuals unique insights into their mental wellbeing.

AI is really at the heart of what we do; and over time, BioBase learns how one’s behaviours, interactions and environments impact their mental wellbeing. Then to help individuals cope with stress, anxiety, depression and more, BioBase offers digital coaching courses that incorporate proven techniques, such as CBT.

Courses are personalised for you based on results from clinically-validated questionnaires in the app, such as the WHO-5 and HSE, as well as clinical measures of anxiety and depression such as PHQ9 and GAD7. 

Where are you at right now?

Right now we are operating in the B2B landscape, and working with organisations across industries to roll-out BioBase. Our most recent is with WPP Health Practice. 

BioBase wearable and app

What are your aims for the next year? 

Our goal is to completely change the perception of mental health worldwide towards an informed, data-driven part of overall health, and to offer the world a platform that can work across services, school systems, healthcare delivery platforms, and workforce management. In other words, to prevent mental suffering globally using real-time data and artificial intelligence.

What's been the hardest thing about getting BioBeats off the ground? 

When we started our research, almost no-one outside of computational psychiatry even spoke about the AI-driven assessment of mental health and the potential of it one day becoming a real-time pursuit. The sensors weren't there. Technology that could have helped was confined to neuroscience labs.

This meant that overall, our biggest challenge back then was technology. We spent several years just writing algorithms that could take off-the-shelf technology such as wearable sensors designed to measure athletic fitness and harvesting their data to better understand autonomous nervous system activity and its relationship to stress, for example.

The second-largest challenge we faced was stigma. No one wanted to talk about, never mind engage with, the idea that you could measure mental health in situ, within the workplace, in real-time. That has changed over the years.

We are now finding that corporations have wellbeing strategies in place, partly because Millennial churn has changed attitudes towards what a healthy workplace should be in order to retain staff, but also partly because there is a deeper, greater conversation happening at this point as to how we should treat mental health globally.

Why should more people be using BioBeats? 

We are already interacting with national health systems and large (and smaller) corporations, as well as public sector and government agencies, and we feel that ultimately, we are helping all those types of organisations rethink the future of the workplace. Most of the world's organisations still measure productivity in terms of the only data available: P&L and output.

Because of platforms like ours, they are beginning to see data they didn't have before, and this data will inform job design/redesign, introduce new measures of productivity such as flow - from positive psychology tenets - and change occupational health from a purely reactive profession to a proactive one. 

How much will it cost users - and why is it worth the investment?

The BioBase programme is designed to be subsidised by employers so it should not cost the end-user anything at all.