Geoffrey Woo

Founder of Nootrobox

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON April 07, 2016

Discussion

Geoffrey Woo@geoffreywoo · CEO @HVMN. Created HVMN Ketone Ester.
Hello! I'm Geoffrey Woo, cofounder & CEO of Nootrobox, a nootropics and biohacking company. Ask me about anything; I'm game. Some fun topics could be about how we created GO CUBES Chewable Coffee, nootropics, winning SXSW this year, working with Andreessen Horowitz, or not eating 36 hours weekly. Or we can talk about why humans are the next platform. http://techcrunch.com/2015/03/18... Or what's it like behind the scenes on Bloomberg West TV. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/vi...
Niv Dror@nivo0o0 · Words @ProductHunt & @AngelList
Hey @geoffreywoo thanks for joining us! Can you talk about how yourself and the team use the RISE pills in the office? Does everyone take them? What benefits do you see? etc.
Geoffrey Woo@geoffreywoo · CEO @HVMN. Created HVMN Ketone Ester.
@stephentbiz @nivo0o0 Like many of my favorite Silicon Valley companies, we dogfood our own products. Currently, YAWN, RISE, and GO CUBES are team-wide favorites. We use SPRINT on fasting days when eating GO CUBES would break it. We do cycle off our of our stacks when we have new alpha-stage stacks to test, and we use ourselves as a bit of guinea pigs before we open up to wider beta testing. This article is a great sneak peek what it's like at Nootrobox: https://www.inverse.com/article/... In terms of output, we have one of the highest revenue + cultural impact to headcount ratios in Silicon Valley today. And that's a testament to our work ethic and ability to maintain high-quality output. While I don't have hard data to give you (can't really do a placebo-controlled RCT), our results may be able to speak for themselves.
Daniel Lee@dleesta · Product Manager
Do you view cannabis as a nootropic? When cannabis is legalized, how do you see it impacting the nootropics space?
Geoffrey Woo@geoffreywoo · CEO @HVMN. Created HVMN Ketone Ester.
@dleesta The term nootropic originated in the 70s when researchers discovered psychoactive compounds (i.e. consumables that modulate one's mental state) with a set of characteristics that weren't covered by classic categories like stimulants or depressants. The distinctive characteristics include learning and memory enhancement, low side effect profiles, and not working through typical stimulant pathways such as caffeine. So in that sense, cannabis in the strictest definitions isn't considered a classic nootropic. That said, language and science is a living and evolving corpus, and the term nootropic today is colloquially synonymous with 'smart drug' or 'cognitive enhancer.' Cognition is made up of a number of cognitive domains including creativity and curiosity, and there's plenty of anecdotal and some early and somewhat conflicting clinical data on marijuana's effects on creativity and divergent thinking. I believe it's inevitable that cannabis will be recreationally legal and be regulated much like alcohol, and I'm excited to run rigorous double-blind RCTs on marijuana and its effects on different. Obviously, there's not much to do today beyond theorycrafting while cannabis is still scheduled as an illegal drug by the Feds. But assuming full legalization and that the data backs out that cannabis has unique efficacy on enhancing certain areas of cognitive function, then yes, this would very much be an area of exploration for Nootrobox.
Nate Smoyer@natesmoyer
Hey Geoffrey. First, GO CUBES are delicious! They are a fantastic post-lunch energy shot. How much of the current supplement industry is just packaging and marketing? I often compare products and the supposed benefits they provide and see nothing different but the price? (If you have time for two questions) Did you ever think chewable coffee would offend coffee lovers? I'd have to assume you agree the art and ritual that goes into brewing a delicious cup of coffee can't be replaced by a chewable, so how do you navigate pitching chewables in place of coffee? Last note: to help offset my purchase of a box of chewables, I was successful in selling 3 packs for $10. Will you consider making that a thing at 7-11's everywhere?
Geoffrey Woo@geoffreywoo · CEO @HVMN. Created HVMN Ketone Ester.
@natesmoyer Let's not dance around it - the supplements industry has a shady reputation. And as you identified, it is largely due to the fact that most supplements are heavily driven by marketing and packaging. Hence, for some businesses it's become a nuclear arms race to make the boldest, strongest claims, which often end up being misguided at best and fraudulent at worst. While the FDA has clear guidance for industry, it's probably under-staffed and under-resourced on the enforcement side. I'm optimistic though on this changing for the better. The supplements division of the FDA was upgraded to its own "office" a few months ago, which should mean that they'll have more resources to increase transparency in the market. I've gotten to know many people in this industry (and it's a huge industry where half of all Americans take some sort of supplement every day). In general, they're high integrity folks who have seen all the 'fly-by-night' folks come and go. The only way to build a sustainable business is to be high-quality, high-transparency, and be a straight shooter which we live and die by at Nootrobox. Protip: always be skeptical of "proprietary blends". It's most often industry speak for "whatever's on the shelf that we have in inventory, let's dump it in and call it 'special'." I believe you should know exactly what you're taking into your body - industry people, list everything explicitly! It's not that hard.
Mike Coutermarsh@mscccc · Code @ GitHub
Hey! I'd be interested in knowing what you eat everyday. Do you "hack"/optimize your own nutrition as well?
Geoffrey Woo@geoffreywoo · CEO @HVMN. Created HVMN Ketone Ester.
@mscccc I've found intermittent fasting (IF) as a simple and sustainable diet hack. In fact, I started a Slack group around IF called @wefastclub and we have almost 600 people in there now. Read about the science and data behind this concept at www.wefa.st and https://nootrobox.com/biohacker-.... Also, @nitashatiku from Buzzfeed recently wrote a great overview about the fasting and the culture of it here: http://www.buzzfeed.com/nitashat... I personally do a weekly 36 hour "monk fast." I have my last meal on Monday evening and break fast Wednesday morning. I do it for increasing adult neurogenesis (new neuron growth) and boosting various biomarkers for longevity. At first, not eating for 36 hours every week sucked, but my body quickly adapted within the first 2-3 fasts and Tuesdays are one of my most productive days of the week. I also have a lot more discipline and control over what and how I consume food. Most people snack when they're bored or stressed and not actually hungry. IF helped me break those connections and get clarity on what my body actually wanted. On regular days, I eat a diet of what I imagine would be similar to most somewhat health conscious SF / California natives. From a societal perspective, arguably the largest, most insidious problem in America today is our own diet. 35.7% of Americans are obese and 68.8% of Americans are overweight according to NIH statistics. Weight is linked to virtually every condition that kills Americans (heart disease, cancer, etc.). If more of us stopped stuffing our faces with pizza and soda and practiced some discipline with our diet and exercise, we'd literally save millions of lives and save billions of dollars in healthcare costs. This is probably the single easiest societal change we can do with such high impact to cost ratio. And this is aside from all the performance benefits.
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Community and Marketing, Product Hunt
What was your game plan for SXSW?
Geoffrey Woo@geoffreywoo · CEO @HVMN. Created HVMN Ketone Ester.
@ems_hodge Before the actual event, we blasted our community with an invitation to come hang out with us in Austin and we worked with our friends at @a16z and @amazon to be highlighted at a number of high-profile parties and events they hosted for the community. Our whole team headed out to Austin for SXSW with a whole bunch of @gocubes in tow. The key factor that made our SXSW launch a massive success was that we had a genuine presence at the events and that the product spoke for itself. We didn't hire mercs to go push product. It was our core team and our immediate community that stepped up and shared our passion and excitement around GO CUBES. Credit to @bdm_tastemakers, @benigeri, @gavinmbanks and our friends who literally met thousands of people that weekend.
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Community and Marketing, Product Hunt
As a bit of a nootropics newbie, can you explain a little (in simple terms please!) how they are meant to work?
Geoffrey Woo@geoffreywoo · CEO @HVMN. Created HVMN Ketone Ester.
@ems_hodge Everything we eat or drink affects our mental and physical state in some way. Alcohol does something, recreational drugs do something, protein powder does something. It stands to reason that there are compounds that enhance your mood and mental state in positive ways. That's what nootropics are. Different nootropics work via different pathways. Some are precursors to neurotransmitters which is how your brain cells communicate, some can increase how fast your neurons grow, some are protective of neurons and other cells. The human is similar to a computer in a lot of ways. Input helps determine output. We want to optimize your inputs.
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
If you were sentenced to the chair (sorry) and you got to have one last meal but were not allowed any supplements etc. What would you have? 3 courses, you can go all out.
Geoffrey Woo@geoffreywoo · CEO @HVMN. Created HVMN Ketone Ester.
@bentossell sashimi + oysters platter as a starter, a medium-rare bone-in rib-eye steak with all the fixings for the main, and warm chocolate cake + vanilla ice cream for dessert.
Paul Benigeri@paul_benigeri
@geoffreywoo @bentossell what if it was on a tuesday?
Jacob Anstey@jacob_anstey2
Are people ever discouraged that your background isn't in biochemistry or psychology, but instead engineering? I ask, because I'm an economics student, with an interest in biotechnology and chronic illnesses. At the end of the day, I'm a strong believer that a great founder is one that learns quickly (brushes aside his/her ego) and puts together the right experts to deliver quality service and product.
Geoffrey Woo@geoffreywoo · CEO @HVMN. Created HVMN Ketone Ester.
@jacob_anstey2 Credentials, for better or for worse, are an important signal not just for Nootrobox but for virtually every career. It's reality and it's understandable because credentials are a quick way to get signal amidst the noise. End of the day, knowledge and know-how is what matters and what delivers results. My engineering / CS training at Stanford taught me to be a good systems thinker, and I've always been a quick learner, so I've been able to grok the immediately relevant areas. But as you hinted at, entrepreneurship is not just being a solo wizard. I'm lucky enough to be working with 3 MD/PhD candidates from world-class institutions and neuroscience, pharmacology, and machine learning backgrounds along with excellent engineering, operations, and marketing professionals.
Track My Stack@trackmystack · Track My Stack
How are you measuring the efficacy of your product on consumers?
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
I know loads of people take supplements but I'm just not convinced they are better than eating actual good food. Im sure there is plenty of science that may prove me wrong but do you think you will be able to sway people with this mindset? Or are you catering for a specific subset of people?
Geoffrey Woo@geoffreywoo · CEO @HVMN. Created HVMN Ketone Ester.
@bentossell Good food is great! Supplements by definition are "supplementary" because it's often hard to get certain nutrients or compounds regularly in a typical diet.
Eric Salazar@eric_salazar · Software Developer, Petnostics
Greetings Geoffrey, I've stumbled upon your products and it's the first time I've come across nootropics. Very interesting and intriguing. Can your products, such as the SPRINT be used for those with ADHD as an alternative to prescribed drugs such as adderall? Thanks. Best, Eric
Elaheh@elahehdavari · PhD student, Edmonton, Alberta
Hi Geoffrey, I love YAWN, they are great. I get 8 hrs sleep with no trouble. The SPRINT pills, however, do not really work. I tried to take 2 pills but I still need Ritalin to stay focus. Do you have comments?
Geoffrey Woo@geoffreywoo · CEO @HVMN. Created HVMN Ketone Ester.
I have a lunch meeting now, but will have some time afterwards to answer more of your questions. This has been great so far. Keep asking, and I promise to get to as many as I can this afternoon!!
Gianna Moglino@deleted-514119 · Director of Operations, CHEKD
@geoffreywoo Hi Geoffrey :) Love everything about your brand. Ever consider offering blood testing?
GankStars@deleted-515289 · Best in esports
Hi Geoffrey! Are there products you offer that don't contain caffeine but improve focus, stamina, or help stay in good mood? For people who already take stimulants such as Adderall due to ADHD, or for people who just don't jive well with caffeine?
Geoffrey Woo@geoffreywoo · CEO @HVMN. Created HVMN Ketone Ester.
@vggankstars Our RISE product is a great product for that use case. There's no caffeine or other acute stimulants and the core ingredients are noted for their effects on anti-fatigue and stamina. Check it out here: nootrobox.com/rise
Justin Schafer@justinschafer
How do you plan on democratizing the benefits of nootropics? Do you have a Muskian not-so-secret plan for starting with expensive products and working your way down the market once you achieve economies of scale?
Geoffrey Woo@geoffreywoo · CEO @HVMN. Created HVMN Ketone Ester.
@justinfschafer Yes. Our goal is human enhancement and helping people self-actualize and become better versions of themselves. We've already starting to have stronger buying power and leverage and we hope to continue that at scale. Nootropics should be as ubiquitous as the cookies, chips, and Coke in your office kitchen right now.
Jack Kaufman@kaufman_jack · Entrepreneur
What does the manufacturing process look like for Go Cubes and other Nootrobox supplements? How did you go about setting up the supply chain and manufacturing for your company's supplements?
Geoffrey Woo@geoffreywoo · CEO @HVMN. Created HVMN Ketone Ester.
@kaufman_jack We currently have three different facilities where we manufacture Nootrobox products. GO CUBES are made right here in California and our nootropic stacks are manufactured across two sites: one in California and one on the East Coast. Setting up the supply chain and our becoming experts in manufacturing is a great story. My cofounder @bdm_tastemakers and I are engineers by training, and I'll be the first to admit that we did not know much about physical goods a couple years ago - though I would venture to say that I absorbed some good instincts from watching my father build a large physical product business in Los Angeles / Hong Kong / China. In those early days, after doing as much learning as one possibly can from Google and jumping on a bunch phone calls with folks in the space, @bdm_tastemakers and I hit the road. We flew all around the country on red eye flights and crashing at Motel 6's to conserve capital. We saw close and built relationships with over 2 dozen different facilities that covered all aspects of our supply chain - from raw materials to manufacturing to packaging. We befriended and soaked up knowledge from operators and facilities that made pharmaceuticals for Pfizer and Merck's of the world to the confectionary that produces your favorite jelly beans. We had good operator instincts, the ability to think and reason from first principles, and an internal confidence that allowed us to question and optimize how things were done. Fast forward the montage for a couple years, and now we're here. I'm proud of the organization we've created and the quality of the end products speaks for itself!
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Community and Marketing, Product Hunt
Hi Geoff thanks for being here. What are your 3 top tips for new founders just starting out?
Geoffrey Woo@geoffreywoo · CEO @HVMN. Created HVMN Ketone Ester.
@ems_hodge There's a lot of good startup advice out there. I'll suggest some that are more off the beaten track: 1.) Don't be afraid of controversy, pursue it. The most interesting things are the most controversial. 2.) Polarize. Make people love or hate you. 3.) Usually there's some big assumption or bet you make with a new venture. Try to make your business fail as soon and as fast as you can by taking that assumption on sooner rather than later.
Track My Stack@trackmystack · Track My Stack
Will you be branching out to offer supplements that go beyond nootropics for total body optimization?
Geoffrey Woo@geoffreywoo · CEO @HVMN. Created HVMN Ketone Ester.
@trackmystack we're look at supplements that have really strong signal based on clinical data and where we see a weakness or dearth in the existing market. Our focus is always going to be cognitive enhancement where we're now the leaders in the market. If we think we can truly elevate the game and become #1 on other human performance metrics, we will do it.
Aashay Mody@aashaymody · Growth @ Astro
hey @geoffreywoo, considering the success of GO CUBES, can you tell us a little about other types of form factors that you and your team at Nootrobox are experimenting with or thinking about? What are the biggest challenges you see with bringing nootropics to the mainstream and when do you think this will happen?
Geoffrey Woo@geoffreywoo · CEO @HVMN. Created HVMN Ketone Ester.
@aashaymody The response for GO CUBES really has been phenomenal! We like the chewable cube form factor. I'll take your question and answer it on a different dimension: we're thinking a lot about software and physical spaces as exciting areas to incorporate our biohacking principles to. I think nootropics and biohacking will be mainstream much like how foot-step tracking has now become mainstream. 5 years ago tracking foot steps would have been hardcore. Now footstep tracking is built into jewelry and your phone. I see nootropics heading in that same trajectory in the next 5 years.