SaaS Founder Interview with Jessica Maslin, CEO & Co-Founder of Mieron
Tony Zayas 0:02
Hey everybody, its Tony Zayas. We’re here with another SaaS Founder Show. We have some fascinating conversations with founders who are doing some amazing things hearing about their journey. things they’ve learned the things that you can take away and maybe leap frog some of those obstacles that they’re able to figure out for you. So, Andy, how are you doing?
Andy Halko 0:25
Good, just trying to leap frog obstacles every day. Yeah. You know, as a founder myself, so it’s, it’s good to hear how other people do it as well, right?
Tony Zayas 0:36
Yeah, for sure. We have an exciting guest here. today. We’re gonna dive into some cool technology. So Jessica Maslin. She’s the co founder and president at Mieron and Mieron is the world’s first virtual reality neuro, neuro therapy program designed for healthcare working and rehabilitation, physical therapy, and occupational therapy, pain management and mental illness. So doing some really cool stuff. Let me bring her on. Hey, Jessica.
Jessica Maslin 1:07
Hi. Thank you guys for having me. Very excited to be here today.
Tony Zayas 1:11
That’s awesome. Well, thank you for joining us. We’re excited to have you on. So go ahead and tell us a little bit. I mean, I, I gave a little overview. But tell us all about Mieron what you guys are all about what you’re up to. It sounds pretty exciting. So
Jessica Maslin 1:27
yeah, definitely. And I’m so excited that you got the name Mieron, right. There’s a little mispronunciation in there. But once you learn where the name come from, it’s actually easy to remember. So Mieron is a combination of the words mirror and neurons. And that is, our goal is to be the brains mirror neurons, which are responsible for all we need is motor actions. And I can explain that more later on. But basically, the easiest example is, you know, if you’re throwing a baseball back and forth between trying to capture, eventually your eyes will go to the mitt before the ball gets there, because your brain knows the outcome of the pattern. That’s your mirror neurons, basically taking control for you. So you know, we’re trying to activate the brain, the new ways. We’re trying to make your brain remember different patterns and recognition. And also, like you said, make physical therapy and occupational therapy more fun and more engaging. You know, there’s so many amazing ways I’m you’re on busy lives around the world. And so I’m looking forward to sharing more about that too.
Tony Zayas 2:29
Jheri curl, I would just like to hear what is your background? I mean, this is all very complex, deep stuff. So what is your background? Yeah,
Jessica Maslin 2:38
I have a very zigzag background, which I think a lot of founders probably do. You know, I started in dentistry in medical research. I was using bone morphogenic proteins to regrow bone post trauma to make it suitable for implants. We had a really phenomenal case where like groundbreaking Lee able to grow six millimeters of bone after a woman got into a car accident. And I love the scientific application, especially, you know, majoring in chemistry going into medical research. It was really fascinating. But I soon realized that I need more social interaction than, you know, staring into someone’s mouth or talking to people that come into an office and in dentistry, usually all the patients have preconceived notions of pain and discomfort. So, you know, it wasn’t necessarily the right eye every day, 40 year roadmap fit for me. And in that meantime, I was helping friends open restaurants in New York City, I was painting murals for their stores, I was helping them design their websites. And I kind of had this moment to myself, I was like, You know what, I’ve lived in New York my entire life. I love New York very dearly. I miss going back during the pandemic. But I wanted something different. So I actually just up and moved to California, found myself working for another startup, which was really exciting. I was the third person brought on by the team. And I learned a lot in every single you know, position I’ve ever been in from summer jobs, doing catering, lifeguarding event planning, you know, to the medical research, then jumping back into a creative role. And while I was in LA, I had an opportunity to become a partner in the creative agency. And so I took that opportunity and we started working with VR about you know, six or seven years ago, and we did Black Friday doorbuster activations for Tillys. So you know, a way to get people to choose Tilly store we created the Black Friday er activation, the first 100 people in line that any tele store got the cardboard viewer, they have first access to the VR experience, which was very fantastical we had animations real footage scripted a time traveler in there and so, you know, we saw all the amazing things that you can do. With VR, and my partner and I were talking about ways to make it more impactful, you know, building your own man cave with AR was a really cool activation that we had Black Friday, we did different music festivals, kind of like a scavenger hunt, combining real life and your mobile VR AR likes to explore the ground floor. But in all reality, VR is such a powerful tool that that’s very low hanging fruit. And so we brainstorm different ways to use VR, you know, we looked at the industrial industry, how can we showcase you know, machinery or components that are tons in weight, and now be able to bring them into someone’s office. So as we are exploring these different verticals, we did a narrative experience with this famous artists out here in LA. And it basically covered like his his process, what he looks for, in art, how he decides how his murals are going to go up. And that experience got us a lot of recognition just in the industry as a whole. Because we had these walking scenes in VR, where you couldn’t see any tracking, there’s no parallax, you couldn’t see tracking. And a lot of people couldn’t believe how we did it. Well, really how we did it was we spent hours on the floor of Home Depot, just engineering rigs together to be able to make it happen. And so being a founder, you know, you have to be questioning how to do things, looking for different verticals, sometimes being an engineer, even if that’s not your trade, and making it work. But at the end of this experience that we did with this artist, he called us and told us this really, you know, deep and heartbreaking story about his niece, who at five years old was doing a backbend in her living room and had a spinal stroke and became paralyzed from the waist down. And her family upgraded from California to go all over the country to different pediatric intensive programs for her spinal cord injury. And they ultimately landed in Kentucky where they still live today. And they called us and they’re like, hey, our daughter saw this experience with her Uncle Greg. I mean, I see artists, and she’s tricked. There’s no telling her that she was not back in LA, with her Uncle Greg, when she talks to us at the dinner table. She’s like, remember, we’re back in LA doing that art mural with Uncle Greg. So is there anything you can do to help her daughter? And you know, Josh, my partner and I were like, Let’s this is kind of that moment that we’ve been looking for is a more meaningful way to do VR. So we flocked to Kentucky and spent almost a month there. And you know, her parents were very gracious and also adamant about, you know, spinal cord injury is so much more than just walking again, he didn’t may never walk again. But she has to grow into an adult body with five year olds bones. You don’t think of everything that the paralysis affects your organ function, your digestive movements, you know, if she is sitting on something underneath her for an extended period of time, that can cause a pressure sore, which is one of the leading causes of death for people with spinal cord injuries. So how can we ingrain different patterns in her to help her remember to do her pressure releases every 15 minutes, especially going back to school? So we in that course of you know, two, two and a half weeks, we went to rehab with her every single day for two hours in the morning before school, did her after school program with her and learned everything we could What are her practitioners doing? What’s the desired outcome? What’s the secondary outcome? And how can you prevent secondary injury? And before we even got to that point, you know, we just had to try VR with her. She’s five years old, she has a little head, like, will the will the headset hit her? Is it going into her nauseous? Is she going to be able to participate fully or will it Throw her remaining balance off so greatly. And we had a VR experience that we had done for vans Shoe Company of Christian Hosoi. He’s like this legendary California skateboarder, swimming as skateboarding in the band swimming pool. And so she was doing this assistant crawling exercise where someone supports her hips and she has to try to use her hips to pull her knees. And usually she hates the exercise. You know, at five years old, every you know, kids that age are no longer babies. They’re big kids now. And so she felt like crawling was a very baby activity for her to be participating in. She doesn’t like it. She complains about the pain, her stomach and spine droop when she’s supposed to be trying to engage those core muscles. But when we put the headset on her, you know, she was having fun. She was trying to swipe his skateboard out from underneath me. She was crawling and laughing and you know, Josh Meyer, like, okay, great. She can wear the headset, it’s not falling off. You know, maybe we have to put a little towel or something there to fill the gap. But it’s working and she’s laughing. This is wonderful. And her parents pulled us aside and they’re like, this is what we see. She’s exerting herself with much more intensity. She’s having fun, she’s not complaining. She’s participating more fully in the exercise, and she’s doing it for longer. So we’re like, okay, there’s more here than just having a good time. If you can increase your intensity and increase your reps, you can get more gains, which ultimately leads to more mobility and independence at all ages. So that was really how neuron was formed, we took that initial information that we gained from that trip, put together a library of experiences that focus on different parts of mobility, whether it’s head and neck, upper body, Quorn trunk, lower body gait training, pain management. And since then, which was about four years ago, we continue to collaborate with the healthcare providers that use neuron to continually grow and expand the library. So we started from that point. And now we have over 50 experiences in the library. And they’re used for all sorts of conditions from spinal cord injury, brain injury, stroke, rehab, Parkinson’s, MS, and other Musculoskeletal and neurodegenerative disorders.
Andy Halko 10:51
That’s amazing. I. So that was such a great run up to the challenge and doing something amazing. I’m kind of curious, what did the first year look like, of trying to really bring it to reality and take it to more people? And, you know, really turn it from a great idea that solved a problem. And you know, more to okay, this is a true reality. Yeah,
Jessica Maslin 11:23
that, you know, we were just talking amongst our team the other day about, you know, from day one, what was our five year plan, because we’re halfway through year four. And, you know, we’ve hit a lot of landmarks that we didn’t anticipate hitting. And then of course, cause COVID threw things into the mix. But looking back on that first year, you know, it was my partner, and I were fortunate that we have a large network of creatives from our work with our creative agency, I think without that, it would have been much more challenging to launch a new product that not only is with a technology that’s not fully mainstream adopted yet, but really requires showing people firsthand what it is, so many of the providers and users that we have have never even tried VR before, especially four years ago. You know, if they had they had done the roller coaster, in a Cardboard headset, which is probably like the worst example of VR that you could put someone through even though it was entertaining at the time, you know, those things cause nausea, because the experience is moving, but the person’s not moving. And so there’s a lot of disconnect in that regard. But the first year, I think, you know, we really focus on how can we get stay focus on this vertical? Because, you know, you start talking to doctors, and they want to use it for training, or they want to use it for another application, or they you know, how can we keep it focus to our vertical and be able to create a framework to expand eventually, which we’ve done since then? And also, how can we build the right team, because everything comes down to teamwork, you know, you can be a technical founder, or you could be a marketing founder, or you can just be a phenomenal leader. But at the end of the day, there’s just not enough hours to be able to code test, you know, put the messaging out there. And then of course, working in healthcare, there’s, you know, HIPAA, so how can you even create imagery that showcases all the wonderful things that you’re doing? So I think those were the biggest initiatives that we undertook in year one was, first of all, we need to get them at least at working data product, that we can get out to what we called our Pioneer program facilities, healthcare providers that were interested and eager to try VR implemented, and also give feedback to our program. And how can we get our messaging on the right page and right, because we don’t want to make false hopes for spinal cord injuries, you know, a lot of people until until stem cell technology until other implantable technologies really are able to accelerate. And I think there’s going to be a huge combination effects when we can pair VR with those recoveries. But, you know, until there is a multitude of technologies that aren’t as available today, you know, unfortunately, many people with spinal cord injuries won’t walk again. So we don’t want to make promises that way. And that was very important to us, you know, training our team to be sure that we’re on the same page about what we’re trying to accomplish with this product, and also getting the message to providers.
Tony Zayas 14:25
So I’d be curious, how did you approach those providers early on? I would imagine that would have been challenging, like you said, there’s HIPAA, and you’re dealing with these organizations that there’s a lot to them, complexity wise. How did how did you go about that? And what were some of the challenges and how did you make it happen?
Jessica Maslin 14:47
Yeah, I think I’m very, you know, I always when I talk about my family story, I’m always so incredibly fortunate that I did work in medicine before and medical research because, you know, I had a patient interactions charting, you know, working with insurance providers doing reimbursements. And, you know, if you’re, if you’re just a regular person outside of health care, you know, even for me when I go to the dermatologist, you know, like, does my insurance cover this, I’m not exactly sure is this even the right insurance card, and so, but being able to work on it from a back end perspective, you know, is definitely a huge value for our team. So, um, you know, knowing some of the language that providers are already accustomed to, because VR is a whole other set of language, especially when I’m talking to my developers, you know, sometimes even with them will have a disconnect over one word, because in their world, that means one thing in my everyday latency turns, it means another. But I think that the, you know, the biggest, the biggest way that we were really able to effectively enter the scene was presenting it in a way that providers were already familiar with. So you know, these are the tools that you’re using to accomplish your tasks that you’re billing for, whether it’s a Lokomat machine that does assisted gait training, or robotic exoskeleton or something as simple as a Bossy ball, you have these tools in your practice that make it engaging for your patients. Marijuana is another tool that does that, but just boost the level of immersion so much more. You know, also talking pain perception is there right now in the US, especially with the ongoing opioid epidemic, providers for chronic conditions are very wary of prescribing opioid pain treatments, especially if you’re going to be taking it for months, three years, it actually has a really detrimental effect on your digestive system as well, you can get septic build up, especially if you have any paralysis. So pain was also a big point that we emphasize. Because when you enter VR, your pain perception is reduced by up to 90%. And some research says that that has a lasting effect for weeks or even longer outside of the VR session, we definitely see it lasts for at least you know, minutes to hours, which helps. So talking in ways that the providers are already used to you know, you’re bringing a new technology to a very well established existing industry. So you have to adapt your ends to meet there. And
Andy Halko 17:17
so was was the development of this a very capital intensive process? And did you raise money? Did you bootstrap? And, you know, how was that side of building something that, you know, has a lot of technical requirements to get it launched?
Jessica Maslin 17:38
Yeah, that’s a really great question. And, you know, sometimes founders will be like, Well, I have to raise money right away. Raising money is very energy intensive, it’s very time intensive, you know, you’re doing a lot of context switching as a founder throughout the day as it is, whether you’re focusing on marketing, focusing on the product, focusing on where you’re getting your money from, and how you’re gonna, you know, if it’s not your side, hustle, you don’t have a paycheck that you’re necessarily able to depend on yet, if you make it your full time gig. So you know, funding I think comes to the top of people’s minds very often, we were able to bootstrap the company up until this year, we actually just closed our first round of funding two days ago. So yeah, we’re really excited about that. And, you know, the reason that we opened up the series seed that we did was to bring in strategic capital, because like I said, you need more heads on things, more minds, you know, more fingertips at the keyboards more networks to really make it expand in the way that you want to. But looking at the beginning of the founders journey, you know, we didn’t bootstrap the heck out of this thing. And we a lot of it comes down to, you know, planning, but also rolling with the punches. You can try to plan and roadmap extensively. But you know, we don’t create the hardware. So, you know, we had a wonderful partnership with Lenovo and Google, Google sunsetted, the Daydream program, and Lenovo is headsets dependent on daydream. Well, now our preferred hardware is no longer going to exist, what do we do so we had, you know, plan six months or years where the content surrounding that, you know, might look outdated. So you have to be willing to roll the punches, you have to be willing to bootstrap our team. Luckily, we have created backgrounds. So we have skills in photo video editing, post production. We have we built really exciting tradeshow booths with that creativity, you know, to really get people to be able to try me around at the different events that we were at. Everyone wants to try VR anyway, but we wanted to also make it work for our company. And then, you know, there are times when capital is going to be, you know, an excellent choice. There’s certain startups where you might have angel investors that are eager or VC money that’s very eager. They know that industry, they see how it scales. are in some other industries, you know, you’re innovating and not everyone’s going to understand your vision right off the bat. VCs want exponential growth, even before they sign on. You know, and I always think to myself, you know, we’re fortunate, we brought in some really amazing angel investors that have amazing qualifications in healthcare and with, you know, software applications and software as a service. So we didn’t have VC involvement yet. And, you know, it’s, it’s one of those double edged swords, you kind of lose some of your freedoms as a founder, if you’re taking venture capital from day one, you don’t really have time to explore which niche within your vertical might be the best fit for your product, because you have people on your team that are really looking at those sales and growth numbers every day, every quarter, and you have to live up to that. So my advice would be to bootstrap as long as you can, you know, you can learn anything on the internet, we, I learned that, you know, a little bit of coding a little bit of building, but we were able to establish a team use some money that we have from our other businesses to be able to, you know, put some into this like startup fund that we created for our businesses here, and really bootstrap the heck out of it.
Tony Zayas 21:18
So Jessica, what do you guys have planned now that you have some funding, you have that capital? I believe you said it was going to be, you know, strategic, what are the plans that are in place? And I’d imagine that’s pretty exciting. And congrats on raising the funds.
Jessica Maslin 21:32
Thank you. Yes, it’s, it is really exciting, especially for me, as one of the leaders of the team, you know, I’m, I, the capital is exciting for me, because I know that I can set up the team, the infrastructure and the resources. You know, for the next two years, or, you know, you plan for two, you budget for two, you kind of plan for one and a half, that’s the rule of thumb. But being bootstrappers, we have a really good idea of how long this will get us to, and the road marks and landmarks that we want to hit with it. But our biggest focus, you know, is what we call the top of the tree. And that’s our customer base. So, you know, Mike Jones, who is well known in tech, he’s one of our co founders as well at neuron. And he has this great analogy about the top of the tree and the bottom of the tree, the bottom of the tree being your roots, your infrastructure, you know, you can always expand that you can always make it bigger, but nobody’s going to see it if you don’t have the leafs at the top, which are your customers or your users. So, you know, we put a tremendous amount of effort into making sure that the murang app has experiences that are versatile that practitioners are using, that have analytics that they can utilize in their charting features that patients are enjoying. And that’s above all else easy to use, and easy to implement. You know, our roots of the tree are extremely strong. We have over a dozen facilities around the world that use neuron in their hospitals every single day. They provided us amazing feedback and growth over the past three or four years. And now the biggest initiatives that we have is just getting it out there more. So really making sure that we can introduce this not only to major hospital networks, but also smaller rehab programs, outpatient centers, and adopted exercise programs as well.
Andy Halko 23:20
So you’ve you’ve mentioned co founders a couple times, what’s two pieces? What’s the team look like? Now? How is it evolved? And, you know, what’s the relationship between you and the co founders who handles what and how do you distribute responsibilities and all that fun stuff?
Jessica Maslin 23:39
Yeah, that’s a question. I also asked some other co founders too, just to see how their teams are structured. You know, it’s it’s very interesting to see what roles people take on and being from such diverse backgrounds, you know, our, our CO founding team as myself, my partner, Josh bond, who were also partners at the Creative Agency, and Mike Jones. So Mike, acts as an advisory role. You know, we we talked to him quite frequently about different landmarks, that we’re hitting different roadblocks, that we may have different connections that we’re looking to gain and he’s always an incredible invaluable resource in those ways. He’s had so much experience, you know, with this, and Josh and I both have diverse backgrounds. You know, he comes from a very multimedia backgrounds, doing, you know, from action sports to commercial activations, so, we kind of combined our heads on how can we make neuron fit into the lifestyle of people that have disabilities, you know, be easy to use marketable for healthcare providers and also a product that we’re of course proud to stand behind. So, our current team has grown. We have three developers that are in house here in Long Beach, California. We have a marketing person that I work with another sales associate that I work with. And we try to keep our team as small, nimble and multi headed as possible. You know, there was a time even a few years ago that we did try using a third party sales group that sold medical devices for years. And it just didn’t work out because they’ve never even though they’ve been selling the hospitals for decades. They sell diabetes supplies, they sell, you know, consumable hospital supplies. And VR was just not within their explanatory wheelhouse, you know, they understood it, we dealt with it with them, they got it when they are with us, but it just wasn’t working. So I think the most important thing is not necessarily here, who is on your team? Or how many people are on your team, but being able to identify for each person what’s working, what are they working well on what’s not working, because you don’t want to invest tons of time into training your lowest performing employee in that column, you want to spend your time training your highest performing employee, because they’re going to add so much more value to your organization.
Andy Halko 26:06
So what’s the role that you play within the organization? Mainly what you know, as one of the founders, what do you focus on day to day and and, you know, even some of the challenges of that I think we all know, for founders, whatever your role is, is not what it truly is. And then there’s a lot of distractions that come in. So how do you handle your your kind of role and responsibilities in day to day?
Jessica Maslin 26:32
You had? That’s another great question. So I think it would be very difficult for me to identify my role and all the things I do. And you know, so closing this round, that’s something that one of our investors asked like, well, what are your tasks every day, my tasks, our customer service, you know, making sure we’re getting the right information, working with our developers translating healthcare provider ideas, to developer notes, to be able to make those changes and implement those features into the app. I’m doing sales demos, I’m training our sales associate, and also creating marketing material and logs along the way, managing our CRM, doing back end, making sure that all of our leads are being engaged with. And it’s, it’s a lot and I said the word context switching earlier, because there’s certain days where all as a founder feel like, okay, I set out to do these 10 goals, 10 items, and I only made it through three, I only got to scratch out three of them, where did the rest of my day go. But it’s not that the rest of my day was wasted in any way, it just was being pulled in directions that I didn’t necessarily anticipate for that day. So the way that I managed it that, you know, COVID especially has really helped me hone in on the best way to be available for my team, and manage my time effectively. I have three different planners. One is a daily leadership planner, so kind of you, you go into it the night before and set out what do I want to accomplish tomorrow, which is always big been a big thing of mine. So I can go to bed with an easy head, okay, I know what I’m gonna be trying to accomplish tomorrow. That way, when I wake up, drink my coffee, get into work, I already know what’s on my table doesn’t always turn out to be what ends up on my table, but at least I have the idea going in, then you do I like to do a lunch break, walking hours. So I have a dog, a large dog can either walk mid day. And so I’ve kind of implemented that as my, you know what, let me not just take a quick, you know, little to the corner back, I have to do a lunch hour walking out, I can talk on the phone, I can reach out to clients, I can, you know, maybe answer a few emails. But as a leader, you have to also put yourself first which I think a lot of people don’t do. And I see a lot of burnout, especially in our industry in tech. Because it’s so easy just to sit in front of your computer for hours on end and work away, work away work away without really coming up for air and getting that refresh even if just a little quick midday walk. So I try to block out my schedule in chunks, you know, this chunk is going to be used to talk with our developers that way they can get to work without me afterwards, this chunk is going to be used for sales because the people that I’m trying to connect with are likely able to pick up the phone during these hours. And then later in the day, I’ll do marketing and content planning. So as long as I can break the day into manageable chunks, it’s a lot more efficient for me and for the rest of our team.
Andy Halko 29:36
We always talk about people here, how have you, you know, looked at culture and building the team and you know, creating not only the alignment, but you know, getting everybody behind the vision how have you really approach that culture side of the business?
Jessica Maslin 29:56
Yeah, yeah. Um, we call our team the United Nations. because we have a little this something of every background in our team, it’s, it’s exciting, especially, you know, we did work in person together throughout a portion of the pandemic, we didn’t the adjusted work schedule, but especially while there was a lot of social unrest in the world, we had days of working together that, you know, sometimes we would throw on animais for a few hours, just to break up all of the news that was going on in the world and the alerts that you’re getting on your phone, and, you know, driving to our office, and the rest of the streets being boarded up and barbed wired. And, um, you know, that part of, I really had like a moment during the pandemic prize, like, wow, we really did assemble such a phenomenal team, you know, everyone’s very talented, they’re eager to learn, they take courses on their free time to bring new skills to the table. And, you know, pre pandemic, when you’re going to trade shows, Josh, my partner, and I joke like, hey, once you every software developer talking about PMF patterns across body movements and pressure releases, usually the coders are so focused on their side. But you know, we’re at a trade show. And we, you know, here out of the back of our year, senior developer rock is talking to a healthcare provider using all the terminology that we use every day. So finding a team that is willing to learn, you know, nobody knows everything, even if you’re an accomplished animator, or coder or software developer, there’s new skills coming out every day, there’s new features, you can learn to integrate or invent. So finding a team that was young and willing to learn, um, you know, motivated by our mission, and looking to really create technology that helps people, those are all important things for us. And you know, just generally speaking, you want to work with people that you mesh well with your Jive well with and get along well with people that you want to eat lunch with the people that you’re not like, oh, it’s five o’clock, I gotta get out of here. You know, sometimes we’ll be playing video games at 10pm in our office, because we’re working, we take a little break, we’re having fun together. And so I’m really proud about that part of our team is that we’ve really created friendships out of our team as well.
Andy Halko 32:11
It’s become a big discussion point, are you and your team remote and looking to stay remote? Are you going back to the office? How do you see that aspect of it? Because I think a lot of companies right now are really trying to think about that. And figure out, you know, how will they go forward?
Jessica Maslin 32:31
Yeah, it’s, and it’s definitely industry specific, you know, I think, for us, our team, we work really well, when we can pass the headset back and forth, talk about ideas, like get our bodies moving together, which is ironic, you know, our goal is to get people’s bodies moving. So, you know, it’s when we can get moving together, we we work better. And I think that’s probably for every industry, that there’s that collaborative effort. And that energy, when you’re all in together, we have been working remote lately. And it’s been you know, it’s it’s an adjustment. And unfortunately, you know, even healthcare providers are still adjusting to COVID. And it’s, it does change the way that your everyday works, the way that you get your processes done. I like having a hybrid model. I think having the freedom to come into the office when you’re feeling it, and having the freedom to just stay posted up on your laptop at home when you’re you know, maybe up early and on a roll is is ideal for me. And so I don’t want to hold anyone from my team back from doing that either. So and then we have some people on our team that don’t even live in the area. So one of our animators lives in Ohio. So you know, it’s a, we have been working remotely for years with some of the people in our creative agency. So we have a process for managing tasks, making sure that deadlines are met. I’m finding landmarks along the way that we can all tune in to so it’s like, well, what do you mean, you haven’t gotten to this part yet? You know, we assume that usually that will take two weeks, and it’s been three weeks. Um, you know, so because it’s hard to know, it’s hard for your developers, your employees to know, when you’re necessarily accessible if they don’t see you in your office on a phone call, you know, so or, you know, sitting next to them. So I think it obviously depends on how your people work, how you’re willing to work. Some people are night owls. Some people are early risers. And I think working from home you have to adjust to everyone’s preferred method, but I personally like the hybrid model being in the office Sundays working from home other days.
Tony Zayas 34:40
Aside from the remote work, how did the pandemic affect the business, whether that be introduced certain challenges or new opportunities? I’d love to hear a little bit.
Jessica Maslin 34:51
Yeah, so at the beginning of the pandemic, which we can pretty much now identify as like December, January. wasn’t the US pandemic but globally, it was starting to emerge. You know, in January, our team was in Las Vegas at CES, we had won an award there for creating technology that helps improve the lives of people with disabilities and the elderly. And so we had 1000s of people coming to our booth, shaking hands trying headsets, we were running around CES, trying all the different technology and really not thinking twice about getting sick, washing hands, talking to people this close shouting to be able to hear each other. And so when we came back, and over the next like three months until March, really started making headlines. You know, we had our group of going to trade shows showing the technology, getting it introduced visiting hospitals, the pandemic, you know, we realized right off the bat, okay, well, trade shows are canceled, conferences are cancelled, there’s no way that hospitals are going to let us in for inservices right now. So we actually all signed up for a bunch of Harvard edX courses, because we thought that there might be a little bit of law and that we would have some free time when that absolutely was not the case. So when the Cares Act was announced, we pored through those 1000s of pages of documents outlining the changes to healthcare and telehealth specifically, and we realized that, you know, the Cares Act introduced any five new codes that were never eligible for telehealth before, and made them telehealth eligible. And the majority of those were focused on physical therapy and occupational therapy. And so, you know, imagine that you’ve been going to physical therapy two or three times a week for the past six months, and now all of a sudden, you’re supposed to do it while you’re in your living room. And a lot of people have a hard time adjusting as a physical therapist, and also as a patient, like, are they doing the homework that you’re assigning them? You can’t? If you know, it’s usually such a literally hands on medical practice? How can you do it through a computer screen? And so we saw that need there and we developed a telehealth Ready program. So COVID, really, you know, kind of shifted our focus we were about to, you know, go full into a consumer market product, because we have a lot of people that, you know, your insurance only covers about eight weeks of rehab. Well, if you have a lifelong injury, what is that eight weeks is basically teaching you how to use your adaptive equipment, you know, maybe selfie and self dress, if you can, and take, you know, it’s teaching you the basics, you have a lifetime of recovery and goals that you can do to achieve more. So how can we help people after that part when they’re getting out of the hospital when they’re home? Now? How can we help them maintain and improve their mobility from there. So we have been at the beginning of the year focusing on consumer products, and when COVID hit, it really became abundantly clear that okay, maybe the consumer product is not necessarily right time at place right now. But we can take some of those features, plus some of our healthcare provider features and push them into a telehealth product. So we really push that initiative, we have some telehealth kits that are out there being utilized. A lot of practitioners right now are transitioning back into seeing their patients in person, especially for physical therapists you’re doing we see a lot of providers in their facilities with masks on and their patients and clients have masks on. So we’re happy to see that because you do get the best quality of intervention when it providers working hands on with you. But we made that tool for for virtual medicines to try to help alleviate some of those growing pains, that you know, providers and even insurance companies were having.
Andy Halko 38:45
I’m always interested in, you know, the story with founders. And it’s always interesting for others that are trying to start a business about adapting. You know, we hear from founders where they get in three months, and it’s a it’s a 180 turn to a completely different business. Sometimes there’s little changes, how, what type of you know, what type of ways have you had to adapt or pivot throughout this journey? And, you know, how did you handle those situations?
Jessica Maslin 39:19
Yeah, I the, the biggest thing for us specifically being in VR was how can we showcase the product that the wow factor is trying it is putting it on your face trying it, you have to be there to see it? You know, it’s like, even if you have a VR headset at home, which for our population is highly unlikely, um, you know, I can’t just send you the mural on that for you to try and then take it away because we’re not on one of the main stores. You know, we’re not on Oculus Store, Google Play Store, you know, so, um, we do provide it as a full service with the hardware and software included in the package. So how can we really showcase the product that we know can help during these times, to providers, that was the biggest hurdle that we really had to, you know, pivot through with COVID. And a lot of that came down to creating more online materials, you know, you can, you can demonstrate a lot through video and animations. And we created a new way through our back end to be able to host more online sales demos, online informational demos online showcases. And so you know, it’s definitely not the same energy as being at these trade shows that we were at almost every weekend. But it definitely freed up more time to be able to work with our developers, and it freed up more time to be able to focus on some other initiatives that we’ve kind of had on the backburner, one of them being a mental wellness program. So with COVID, not only did we you know, find a new way to showcase our products virtually, find a way to help the Cares Act and help providers utilize the Cares Act. But we also create a new programming that’s called well in 20, to 20 day mental wellness program. So just five minutes a day for 20 days is designed to reset your mental health and mental wellness. And we have a lot of exercises in gratitude and positive thinking in forgiveness, things that people generally whether you’re disabled or healthy, or, or somewhere in between, need help with. And we saw this a lot with not only our mere users, but providers and caregivers, especially, you know, they’ve been not only just bored in the house, but it is safer at home for someone that has an immunocompromised, or a disability, because you know, going to the store is COVID has such a highly likelihood of deeply affecting someone with a disability. So we created this wellness program so that people could get out of their house without having to do the exercise without having to physically necessarily exert themselves, but they could get out of the house, put the headset on be guided through a great mental wellness exercise be given some homework, whether it’s journaling homework or a thought process, one of them is to sit by your window, a wave outside wave to five people passing by. So just simple tasks that can help reframe someone’s mental wellness. And that was one of the other candidates that we took was really not just to expand our programming, but to offer something that’s, you know, available for more people and also new to our program.
Andy Halko 42:31
It’s cool. Yeah, I’m curious about your viewpoint on the current state of virtual reality and where are you think it’s going? Talking about tech and the trends right now?
Jessica Maslin 42:48
Yeah, it’s, um, you know, I’m, I’m on clubhouse a lot, but the audio app, and the reason I that I enjoy it, you know, in my with my morning coffee, or I’m working late is, because there’s so many people talking about next gen technology in VR, where, you know, I think four years ago, people expected VR to just skyrocket and be in everyone’s home by Christmas. And that wasn’t necessarily the case. You know, it’s it was a higher price point back then. Now, Facebook has really made consumer VR a bit more accessible by bringing the Oculus quest twos price point down. And that’s ultimately going to help us you know, we’re not necessarily operating on the Oculus platform, especially for healthcare providers, we use different headsets on that. But generally speaking, the more that the consumer population at large is involved, the better it is for everyone in VR, because then chances have it that if you’re meeting with an industrial clients, or if you’re meeting with a doctor, or if you’re meeting with, you know, a commercial real estate group, their kid or their grandkid has one of these headsets and they’ve seen it in action or tried it before, but they have a basic understanding of it. So I think you know, right now, especially with the way that VR games are being developed and pushed out, you know, I’m personally hoping that Oculus opens up their store to more, you know, less triple A studios and more indie developers because it’s very difficult for people to get games onto the Oculus platform. And there’s a lot of really talented developers out there that are creating very exciting games and games that you can network with other people. So you know, VR is not necessarily the solitary experience, you can be in it with your friends that are across the country or across the world and be participating in the same game together being on a team together. So you know, I have this feeling that especially you know, 2020 21 NF T’s are a hot topic. You know, you can enjoy your NF T in VR, probably more so than you can through your phone screen. You can manipulate it you can move the rounds, you know, depending on how Artists builds their their, you know, the token in their artwork. But I think you know, the way that society is kind of transitioning more to these virtual tools is definitely going to help VR at large, you know, cryptocurrency, you can in the metaverse and VR and this can go into a whole other wormhole. But you know, there’s a Metaverse within VR. And you can buy clothes, you can buy property, you can buy, specifically geo tagged property, you can commission people in VR to, to do artwork for you or to help you with, you know, different different items, different development items that you have, and people are interacting in that whole other world that exists. So between crypto and NF T’s making headlines every single day, that’s only going to boost VR, especially with more consumers having access to VR hardware.
Andy Halko 45:54
Just just a dig into that a little bit more. I always think in the 8020 rule. You know, what of those things? What do you think over the next few years, is where VR is really going to grow and hit? Is it more on the gaming side? Is it more on? You know, these types of things? Where would you see the big growth in the next, you know, 12 to 18? Months?
Jessica Maslin 46:19
That’s a great question. That’s a quite an I think it’s a question that, you know, companies as big as Facebook are trying to answer and as small as you know, a start up in someone’s garage are trying to answer and, um, you know, gaming always has, I think the biggest backing, there’s a lot of interest in gaming, there’s a lot of gamers out in the world that you know, are willing to drop a couple $100 on a headset, especially if it has games that they know that they can play with friends, it has games that they know, has consumable items in it, people always want different skins. They want different weapon choices. You know, when you’re playing Call of Duty, there’s a different, like map pack that comes out every few weeks, it seems, you know. So as long as gamers know that the experience is not going to be stagnant. They’re going to jump on board, which comes down to you know, yeah, triple A studios have to be putting out games, because they have the resources to continually be making all these big updates. But also indie studios are making games, they’re very creative. So I think once there’s more people with headsets and games is probably going to be the first one to skyrocket, VR gaming, consumer gaming. But there’s a tremendous amount of training that’s also going on. And we you know, as a women owned small business, we do different GSA bids, and we’re bidding on government contracts. And we’re working with different first responders to create training materials in VR. And I don’t think that’s going to be the the most exponential in the next 12 to 18 months. But in the next three to five years, especially with this remote and hybrid model. Training is going to be a really big way in which VR is utilized across the board. You know, Walmart and ups are to use VR for training their employees. VR is really great for low frequency high risk scenarios, whether that’s for drivers or whether that’s for, you know, if a news office building gets bombed, how do you respond to that? Well, that’s not going to happen every day. But what if and when you’re in a situation that you work in that industry, you have to be prepared for it? How do you train for it? So VR has a lot of applications in those ways that well, and we have a universal code base. So you know, our primary focus is health care. But we have been approached, and we have worked on using our code in other ways. You know, like I said, re skinning it for different applications, whether it’s training, or you know, different learning modules, because even Price Waterhouse Cooper came out with a study last year, VR learners are four times faster to learn than traditional learners, and they retain that they retain the information for longer and with less time, so training eventually will catch up.
Tony Zayas 49:08
Very cool. What’s just a brief one along those lines, what so far as the most interesting, or unique use case that you’ve seen VR used for?
Jessica Maslin 49:24
Well, I am a little bit biased here. I think the most interesting use cases are one because it it fundamentally can change someone’s everyday life. And I can give you an anecdote on this and and then you know, that will really solidify the difference between these targeted VR exercises and simply gaming. You know, we are in a facility that’s in Los Angeles and adaptive recovery exercise facility, so you know, it’s not necessarily covered by insurance, but people do go there. If they have disabilities, a lot of it spinal cord injuries. To do an adaptive workout programming team, their strength, their bone strength, their cardiovascular strength, use specialized equipment, to be able to maintain their mobility so that they can have some independence in their life. And there’s just one example of this 18 year old who was injured in a bicycle accident, he became a quadriplegic, you know, 1819 years old. So right at the peak of independence, I’m an adult, I’m going to move out, you know, start my own life, this young man is literally brought back to the point of wearing diapers. And so you know, not even being able to get out of bed for himself in the morning, not being able to lift his arm to brush his teeth or putting his shirt on. And, you know, a lot of quadriplegics will start with no mobility be below the neck or shoulders. But with the proper training with a lot of adaptive exercise, and programming, you can achieve more mobility than that. And so this one, this young man, he had been going in three times a week to his recovery program, he set out really ambitious goals for himself. And when he wasn’t necessarily meeting those goals, he got depressed about it, you know, you’re dealing with a life changing injury, you’re going to be depressed as it is. And so when he didn’t meet the goals, he was setting for himself, you know, he’s like, Oh, maybe this isn’t working, I’m spending too much time, I’m not paying these results. And instead of coming in three times a week, keep knockdowns. Only coming once per week? Well, that’s just like, if any able bodied person goes from training in the gym three times to one time, you’re gonna lose muscle mass, you’re gonna lose some of those gains. And so, you know, he was depressed about it, he started trying you’re on and he was more motivated to participate. He was challenging his friends in the rehab program, hey, let’s see if you can beat my score on this one. And so he got reengaged with his outcomes, then he wasn’t focusing on the pain as much, you know, when we were in there, he was telling us, you know, it’s very hard for him to activate his pectoral muscles. And as soon as he feels the burn, he’s like, Okay, I activated them, I got my reps, I’m good, he doesn’t push through it. But he wanted to finish the three to five minute experience. So then inherently, to get a higher score, or to finish the experience, he’s working out for those three to five minutes without stopping. After a couple months, you know, we were talking to his practitioner, and they’re like, Hey, he’s coming into three times a week again, he’s more motivated. And we came back into visit, you know, they’re just down the street from our office. And he was like, Jess, Josh, I cannot wait to see you guys. Again, I can put a shirt on again, for myself. And that level of achievement is not only from Iran, but if we were able to provide even a portion of the motivation that we can get back to work to take his recovery into his own hands, and be able to self dress in the morning and have that independence. Those are the things that like, through all of the badness of being a founder, those are the things that keep me motivated and me going. And so you know, it’s not often that you’ll see a technology truly have the ability to change someone’s everyday life. But we do believe that we have something pretty magical there with that.
Tony Zayas 52:59
Yeah, that’s pretty amazing and great story. And I do agree with you know, your use case being pretty fantastic. I would like to ask, you know, 12 months from now, what are some goals that you have from Iran? Where would you guys like to be? What is the roadmap look like?
Jessica Maslin 53:16
Yeah, you know, 12 months from now, if you ask me this question a year ago, would have been a completely different answer. You know, so I think part of our team that and our planning progress has been, there’s a lot of unknowns out there. But we are, you know, as I mentioned, focusing on that top of the tree elements. And so we’re really, you know, looking forward to being more recognized throughout the healthcare provider networks, you know, we’re working with some major insurance groups right now to implement Virtual Reality neurotherapy into their offerings, packages, helping reduce the risk of secondary injury for their clients. We’re working with different hardware providers right now to have our programs and our different packages that we have is commercially available off the shelf events, so that, you know, you can buy a whole package of whether it’s OSHA training, whether it’s the rehab library, whether it’s first responder training, so we’re really looking to kind of have our products be more widely accessible. That’s our big goal for the next 12 months. And we have some awesome research partners. We’re doing research with Craig Hospital in California. They’re one of the leading spinal cord injury and brain injury hospitals in the world. And we’re also doing some exciting research with a with the Rockefeller Neurosciences Institute. And so the next 12 months is really going to be how can we leverage this hard data that we’re collecting, you know, these hypotheses and the data that we get from them and make sure that the masses understands the positive implications that these things have
Andy Halko 55:01
It’s great. Um, you know, I always like to, you know, we’re coming up towards the end, it’s it is always about lessons learned. And, you know, what have you found? I like to ask if you were able to go back and have coffee with yourself, three or four months before you started this business? What advice would you give yourself about, you know, starting or the future?
Jessica Maslin 55:27
Oh, this is a question I’m probably gonna think about all day, throughout the day. Um, but I think the first thing would be to, you know, tell myself that something I already know, but contracts matter. You can be working with people that you’ve worked with for years, but every idea is potentially a new company, and every new company needs its own contracts, contracts matter. If I could talk to myself for years ago, I think I would tell myself, like, maintain your ambition and your shoot to the moon mentality, but be prepared for things not to move as quickly as you want. Or as, as quickly as you’re even willing to put in all the effort and gas into, you can only control so much. So, you know, you might think, Oh, yes, we’ll make these amazing timelines, I’ll be able to meet with the same people. And I can set out this, you know, this goal and road that for myself, but you’re not in control of all those factors, whether you think you are not?
Andy Halko 56:32
Yeah, I think that’s great. It’s ironically, we’re working with a client that’s early stage building a product and has funding, you know, and they’re, there’s looking to launch in August, and in my head, I go, okay, October, we’re looking at October. And so, you know, it’s one of the things that I think after you’ve been through it a while, you realize that, you know, and there’s no set guarantee that timelines are what you want, and nothing’s as fast as you hope it will be. So that’s great.
Jessica Maslin 57:02
Definitely. And always building that padding, you know, whether it’s with developers are app developers, you know, you need a certain date, you know, build that padding in because I found an item of sometimes procrastinator, but like, work really well under deadlines. And there’s some people that wait until that last minute of a deadline. But you know, there’s a lot of other components that go in that the rest of your team might not necessarily be aware of. And I think that’s also just an important piece of advice is, don’t keep it all to yourself, because your developer may think, Okay, well, you need this by July 1. But I don’t need that by July 1, I need that plus, I need green screen videos, photos, marketing materials, and I need to have what’s inside the app to able to do all those things. But they have no way of knowing that unless I’m open and communicate. So I think that’s always my biggest piece of advice in general is, don’t keep it all to yourself, whether it’s the work the information, you know, the goals, you have to share those with your team to collaborate.
Andy Halko 58:05
Tony Zayas 58:07
So, Jessica, just before we conclude, tell us where viewers can learn more about Mieron. You follow? Pay attention.
Jessica Maslin 58:16
Yes, so our website is in mieronvr.com. But the best way to really see in your on an action and, you know, see how it’s used in real settings is to follow us on Instagram and Facebook at Mieron VR. And you know, we’re posting on there, that’s where you’ll get the like, the updates to our newsletter will try to incorporate as many real life photos as we can pull, whether it’s someone with, you know, spinal cord injury, stroke, Parkinson’s, you can see real bodies and real users in our program. So we split an Instagram at Mieron VR.
Tony Zayas 58:52
That’s awesome. Well, thank you so much, Jessica. This is really fascinating and fun conversation. We really appreciate your time spent here. Thank you so much.
Jessica Maslin 59:04
Likewise, thank you for having me. I really enjoyed this conversation. And Andy and Tony, you guys gave me some questions that are going to follow me throughout the day. And I’m going to share those with my team as well and get them thinking about some of these things.
Andy Halko 59:16
Yeah, thank you so much. It was fantastic. And hopefully we’ll be hearing some big amazing things for you guys coming up soon.
Jessica Maslin 59:26
Thank you guys. Have a great rest of the week.
Tony Zayas 59:30
Thank you everybody!