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August 30, 2020 | Tom Ballard

“HealthTech Accelerator” participant MindCotine focused on smoking cessation

(EDITOR’S NOTE: The second annual edition of the “HealthTech Accelerator,” sponsored by Erlanger Health System and Unum and coordinated by CO.LAB, is finished but we continue to spotlight participants. Today’s feature focuses on MindCotine.)

Three Argentinian natives who had pursued different career paths but remained in contact reconnected in their native country over the 2016 Christmas holiday. During a series of brainstorming sessions, they developed the idea for what is now a Bay Area company focused on helping people kick their addiction to smoking.

“Smoking is the number one preventable death,” says Cristian Waitman, one of the three Co-Founders of MindCotine and the start-up’s Chief Operating Officer. “It’s a huge, huge black hole. You have to help the smoker recognize the addiction and then give them the support and tools to overcome it.”

The company’s patented and evidence-based solution combines virtual reality and mindfulness in a way that immerses individuals in real-life situations that make them recognize and overcome their daily cravings. To further advance the start-up, MindCotine applied to be a participant in the second cohort of the “HealthTech Accelerator” in Chattanooga. Coordinated by CO.LAB, the program is sponsored by Erlanger Health System and Unum.

The Co-Founders see great value in the 10-week effort.

“We are from Argentina,” Waitman explains. “We grew-up there. To have a breakthrough in the U.S. market, you need to understand the U.S. healthcare system.” MindCotine hopes that partnerships with one or both of the sponsors might occur.

The Co-Founders bring very complementary skills and experiences to the company.

“I have a background in advertising, virtual reality and digital media,” Waitman told us during a recent interview. His two Co-Founders are Nicholas Rosencovich, Chief Executive Officer with a science and engineering background, and Emilio Goldenhersch, Chief Scientific Officer whose background includes professional training in psychology.

“I was a smoker and asthmatic at the time we started the company,” Waitman says, adding, “They (his Co-Founders) were big on the hookah pipe.”

After their Christmas brainstorming sessions, the trio got serious about the idea, coming to Mexico, where Waitman lived, and spending 40 days developing their minimum viable product. Their break came during a presentation at the “South By Southwest” conference in 2018 (click for a video here) where an investor offered them funding if the team would come to San Francisco and begin the “Google Launchpad Accelerator.”

“Four days later, we were in San Francisco,” Waitman said. They initially sold 700 licenses in 19 different countries through a crowdfunding campaign. Fast forward to today, and MindCotine has sold 1,400 licenses, mostly to corporations.

“We also just closed our first global partnership,” he added.

Waitman says the MindCotine approach is self-paced . . . “very related to the individual’s level of motivation. Most smokers try to quit from five to seven times. We give them the tools to quit, (help them) set the date to quit, and help them actually quit.”

There’s a free app available in the Apple Store and Google Play. It includes 70 minutes of experiences in virtual reality (Cue Exposure Therapy), 200 minutes of mindfulness (guided meditations), statistics on an individual’s consumption (what you spend or save according to your tobacco consumption habits), a lifesaver section (emergency activities to do in those moments where anxiety attacks), and an arena (chat room for community support).

In addition, the company offers the MindCotine Kit, which sells for $350. It includes virtual reality sessions (cardboard included), access to an engaging mobile app, personal statistics dashboard, weekly coach check-ups, and a booklet to increase an individual’s chances to succeed in this quest

The company’s path forward clearly involves working with healthcare providers, insurance companies, and businesses. To illustrate the value proposition that MindCotine offers, Waitman says the cost to a company for every smoker on its payroll is about $6,000, so there’s an incentive for employers and payers to embrace the product.

And, in a recent update, Waitman tells us the company just had its first clinical research document published. Here’s the link.

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