founder

Sensate Co-founder Anna Gudmundson on Mental Health and Wellness

Introduction

In the last two years, mental health concerns have been on the rise. From 2019 to 2021, more than 5.4 million people participated in mental health screens. Depression and anxiety were the most common screens, at 32% and 20% respectively. Vagus nerve stimulation, a process in which a bundle of nerves is targeted by a small electric pulse, has become popular recently as a treatment for these and other concerns. 

Sensate’s is aiming to make this treatment more accessible and help people live healthier, happier lives. The company has develop a device that emits low frequency resonant vibrations to stimulate the vagus nerve and help relieve stress. It’s small enough to be worn around users’ necks and partners with a mobile app. We spoke with Sensate co-founder and CEO Anna Gudmundson about the company’s goal to bring mental health treatment to everyone. 

Note: This interview was conducted over phone and email. It has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Yasmin Sharbaf

In your own words, how would you describe Sensate?

Anna Gudmundson

Sensate’s mission is to bring stress resilience and well-being to people from all walks of life, using powerful methods and groundbreaking technology. Based on decades of experience working with stress and trauma-related conditions, Sensate is bringing a Vagus nerve toning device and app to the mass market that will empower consumers to improve conditions like anxiety, insomnia, and migraines. 

The team is dedicated to helping everyone improve their ability to self-regulate their stress response, not just those affluent enough to visit clinics for specialist treatment. Sensate is an idea whose time has come — never before has the need for reduced anxiety, better sleep, stress resilience, and improved immune systems been greater. 

We have a product that genuinely works, a very healthy hardware and subscription model, good traction, outstanding usage/engagement numbers, and a very strong global growth plan.

Yasmin Sharbaf

What inspired you to take the leap and start this company?

Anna Gudmundson

My co-founder Stefan had the incredible foresight on starting to work on this technology a few years ago. He could see that so many people were unable to calm their nervous system, which is very important for any recovery and long-term well-being. 

Initially I was just an advisor. I wanted to help Stefan and I was incredibly interested in this type of therapy which I believe is a new paradigm of science and treatment. It was when we got the first product to market and I could see the incredible usage numbers I realized this product really had the potential to change lives and have global impact. 

Neither Stefan nor I made the leap because we wanted to start a company. We did it because we knew we needed to get this product out to the world.

Yasmin Sharbaf

Who is on your team and how did you come together?

Anna Gudmundson

My background is in tech. I’ve worked in large multinational tech companies, in startups, and anything in between. I’ve had the chance to drive innovation in a number of exponential technology fields. I’ve also been a turnaround CEO and worked as an independent consultant for venture-backed companies. I have a huge passion for solving big problems and for exploring the human potential. 

Stefan pioneered Integrated Healthcare and was founder of New Medicine Group where he created a world-class team with 300 years of combined clinical excellence. His specialty in treating complex stress and mental health issues led him to create Sensate. 

Our team is a remote hybrid team with a mix of full-time employees and part-time expert contractors. We’re tightly integrated, transparent, and collaborative, and we’re all driven by the mission we’re on. It makes a big difference to work long hours when you know you’re genuinely helping people who really need your product. 

Yasmin Sharbaf

How is Sensate transforming the wellness industry?

Anna Gudmundson

Sensate is on a mission to make rest and relaxation convenient for all. Our goal is to bring as many people as possible out of a stressed state of mind and into a relaxed state of mind and body — that’s the biggest impact we can have on the world. 

The use of infrasonic resonance really seems to be a game-changer. People need a way to get into a relaxed state without professional guidance or discipline and when they’re not in a good state to start with. 

For us, the journey matters as much as the destination, which is why we’re on track to bring Sensate to 100 million people by 2025. This will not only make Sensate into a strong consumer wellness brand, but it will spread peace and calm to people around the world. 

Yasmin Sharbaf

What is the scientific data behind the use of infrasonic resonance technology? What percentage of Sensate users show stress and mental health improvement?

Anna Gudmundson

Sensate doesn’t make medical claims, but as a “general wellness device” for relaxation here are a few statistics from our user questionnaires and research.

  • 90.5% of users state that Sensate is equally or more effective than meditation, prescribed drugs, diet, exercise, or other technology for stress, anxiety and insomnia 
  • Use of Sensate was associated with a significant reduction in anxiety disorders and/or depression and a reduction in the duration of these feelings
  • More than 65% of those with anxiety disorder report an improvement in their anxiety

Personally, I think the most important part is the fact that people keep using the product. That for me is what makes this interesting and what means it’ll have positive impact on the individual and globally. There are products that show great outcomes, but if people don’t continuously use them they have no impact at all. The sweet spot is that it’s so easy to do a Sensate session and that people generally feel calmer already from the first session. And that’s why we use it.

Yasmin Sharbaf

What does the competitive landscape look like, and how do you differentiate?

Anna Gudmundson

There is product innovation to solve stress which is fantastic. There are also medical applications using electrical stimulation of the Vagus nerve stimulation. 

Again, Sensate works from first use with no prior experience necessary. Meditation and wellness apps are good but tend to require the user to be able to follow the instructions and require prolonged use to be effective. And the retention is typically low. 

We stand out in the marketplace for several reasons. First, Sensate is an all-natural tool that uses infrasonic frequencies and sound to relax and reduce stress and anxiety. Second, it’s easy to use and designed for repeated use. Third, we are consistently working to make this technology more accessible. We’ve brought it out of the elite Harley Street clinic by miniaturizing the tech and creating a consumer product, which means that we can truly help a lot of people.

Yasmin Sharbaf

How do you intend to use the money you raise this round to scale the business?

Anna Gudmundson

We already have a mature product in the market. About 50% of funds will go to marketing and getting the product out to more people, about 25% to R&D primarily to evolve our subscription service, and about 25% for working capital to support our growth. 

Yasmin Sharbaf

What do you want potential investors to know about you and/or your company? Have you set any future goals for the company?

Anna Gudmundson

We’re really on a mission to touch 100 million lives by 2025 through our products and services. By then we’ll be a multi-product consumer subscription wellness brand with global distribution. We’re growing rapidly, and our margins are also growing. We set quarterly Objectives and Key Results that help us move towards our long-term goals. 

We’re very excited about the diversity of investors we’re seeing through Wefunder, and that’s also very motivating for us. We’re working very hard to ensure an amazing return to our investors, both financially and in terms of the positive impact their investment will have.

Yasmin Sharbaf

As an underrepresented and woman founder, what difficulties have you encountered working on your company? What advice would you give to women founders?

Anna Gudmundson

I think things are changing with more attention to the funding gap and more founders from diverse backgrounds. This also needs to be reflected in the venture world to shift the stats. I’ve definitely felt like an oddball many times in my tech career and often been the only woman. It has been great to meet other women in the industry, and very early in my career, role models were especially important.

I have a product background and also worked as an advisor. It always surprises me how many people invest a lot of money in developing products (software or hardware) without any level of validation. My advice would be to have incredible curiosity around all aspects of the business idea; the technology, the market, your potential users and their needs and behaviors, about price models and financials, you name it. Be an explorer! 

And another piece of advice would be to “do it anyway.” Life is about growing and by definition it is “uncomfortable” outside your comfort zone! So even if it feels scary and like it’s a big challenge — do it anyway. Then learn, learn, learn, and do it with a smile on your face!

We look forward to seeing where Anna and her team take the company. Sensate is currently raising on Wefunder.

31
About: Yasmin Sharbaf

Yasmin is passionate about the intersection of business, art, and science. Prior to KingsCrowd, Yasmin worked on a cryptocurrency investing research project for Wellesley College Investment Office where she assessed the risks and rewards for university endowment investment into cryptocurrency. She has also previously worked in a neuroscience lab studying language and memory of songbirds. Yasmin’s dream is to make investing and financial education accessible to everyone. In her free time, Yasmin enjoys going on adventures, learning new languages, and exploring different cultures. Yasmin studied Neuroscience and Studio Art at Wellesley College.

View Yasmin Sharbaf's founders