This is the story of how I co-founded a neuroscience company.
First, some background.
I’ve wanted to make a difference for as long as I can remember.
Years ago, I started a conference called Brooklyn Beta with my friend Cameron Koczon. At the time, despite all of its promise, technology mostly served those working in technology. Even among startups — renowned for innovation — there was an abundance of SaaS companies providing tools for other startups.
We wanted to change that. We wanted to make a difference.
We hope to not only inspire you to work on your own ideas, but we also want to highlight problems that matter. Our speakers will inspire you and help you understand how your skills can help.
We had big ambitions but a modest approach: gather the best people we knew working in technology and inspire them with speakers they would not normally hear from, people working on problems outside of the technology bubble. By shining a spotlight on important problems, we hoped we could make a difference.
Maybe we did.
Shortly after moving from Brooklyn to Boulder, I started Faculty.
We’re a boutique web design and development studio. Some might call us an agency. Others might call us a product studio. We think Faculty is something altogether new.
At Faculty, we believe in:
- The limitless potential of technology
- The power of good work
- The joy in bringing good ideas to life
Good work is especially important to us. So important, in fact, that we carefully defined what good work means to us. (We even printed posters.) More and more people working in technology are taking shortcuts, or worse, overcomplicating solutions, finding joy in complexity rather than in bringing good ideas to life.
We know we can do better, and if we’re going to reach our collective potential, we have to.
We want Faculty to lead by example.
To succeed, we need good clients, people who recognize the importance of long-term thinking and doing things right — and who have good ideas.
And, to really make a difference, we need to reach beyond the world of technology.
Two years ago, I met a neuroscientist named Axel Bouchon. Among other things, he had figured out how to measure happiness, and he needed our help coming up with a product that could connect the science to people’s lives, helping them live longer, healthier, happier lives.
It was a dream project. Can an app actually help people? We had to find out.
The first few months flew by. I was learning a lot and brimming with ideas.
I learned that you can calculate neurotransmitter activity by assessing your emotions. (One of the first things we built was a neurotransmitter calculator.) I learned that we create memories — and learn — based on two criteria: repetition and emotional significance. I learned that more memories means more neuroplasticity. I learned that more neuroplasticity means you’re more creative, you’re more empathetic, and you live longer.
Imagine the impact we could have if we could increase everyone’s neuroplasticity!
I also learned that when you recall a memory, you recall the emotions — you literally feel how you felt when you created the memory, which means you activate the same neurotransmitters. You’ve probably noticed this when recalling a funny memory, particularly when telling others about it. A phrase that inevitably comes up is “you had to be there.” This is because your story is acting as a memory recall trigger for you and anyone else who was there.
This was the breakthrough.
We dreamed up an iOS app that you would carry with you. As you live your life, you take photos to mark the moments that are meaningful to you. Later, when you have time, you rate your emotions, turning the photos into digital memories. The app knows which neurotransmitters are activated for which memories, and which neurotransmitters you might be missing, so it can resurface the memories you need most. As you make memories, you learn more about yourself, so you can start to make changes to your life to improve your health and happiness.
With a solid product vision, we started building.
Along the way, we settled on a name for the company, did all of the branding (a process that deserves its own blog post), and hired an outstanding team. We weren’t just building a product; we were building a company.
Fast forward to today. A lot of hard work from a lot of good people has brought that product vision to life, and it’s now available as a public beta on TestFlight. Just sign up for the beta at matter.xyz, and we’ll email you instructions.
As for Faculty, we have a gorgeous new website designed by Simon Collison, and we’re ready for our next challenge.