VR & healthcare | Women leadership in startups | Returning to work
“If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old.” — Peter F. Drucker
Healing through virtual reality
How to pivot...and pivot...and pivot
Innovative bed sheets becomes a source for PPE
Returning to work
June 9, 2020
Local startup using virtual reality to heal
BehaVR founder and CEO Aaron Geni
Working virtually is all the rage in the COVID-19 era, but local tech startup BehaVR promises something more powerful: healing virtually through the medium of virtual reality. “We create digital wellness programs and digital therapeutics—the difference really being about levels of clinical evidence and FDA regulatory scrutiny,” said founder and CEO Aaron Geni. The four-year-old company offers products for chronic pain (developed with Louisville-based Confluent Health), chronic stress, and addiction, and it’s currently working with a large pharma company on a digital therapeutic for anxiety.
Linking all these products is VR, a burgeoning technology that’s good for more than just immersive gaming. “The unique ingredient is virtual reality, and we think that is important because of the very specific neurological and psychological power of the medium of VR,” Geni said.
The Pico Interactive headsets patients wear are the most visible aspect of BehaVR’s products, but the most important aspect is invisible. It’s the Dynamic eXperience Engine (DXE), the company’s cloud-based platform, which both collects patient data and determines in real time what happens next inside the headset. Geni knew from day one that securing the DXE would be critically important, given the potential for online mischief. “A Zoom-bomb of a 2-D screen is annoying,” he said. “Something like that in a multisensory experience could be traumatic.”
To guarantee the most secure environment possible, BehaVR partnered with Austin-based ClearDATA to handle data security and privacy. In May, the companies’ collaboration earned them one of the six Health Innovation Awards Microsoft presented this year. (These awards recognize “Microsoft customers and partners deploying solutions that deliver better experiences, insights and care.”)
BehaVR increasingly operates virtually (and has even held meetings in VR), but it remains firmly rooted in the Bluegrass State. Geni founded the company while he was chief technology officer at Humana, where he worked from 2006 to 2018, and leads the company from Elizabethtown, where he grew up. BehaVR also has an office in Nashville.
“When you look at what we’re doing, it’s healthcare-centric and we need to work with payers,” he said. “Well, you have a national company in the form of Humana here in Louisville. You have an aging-care innovation center here.”
What’s more, he said, the quality of life is better—and cheaper—than in hotspots like San Francisco and Boston. And he thinks the secret is getting out these days. “As people are realizing we really can work virtually, they’re going, ‘Why do I need to work virtually in my tiny little apartment for $4,000 in the city? Why don’t I move out where there’s a little bit of space and a better quality of life and my apartment is just $1,000—or I can afford a nice home with a backyard?’”
Depending on how the pandemic plays out, that reality may end up being even more powerful than the VR experiences BehaVR offers.
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WOMEN IN BUSINESS
Passion and pivots
Pam and Lauren Broadus
Pam Broadus had spent most of her career working in the corporate world of health insurance.
When she was laid off, she pivoted into the world of mortgage banking, which she did for six years until she was again laid off. After 26 years in the corporate world where her future seemed to always depend on another entity, Pam decided to become her own boss and pursue a lifelong passion: event planning.
“Fortunately, all the time I was employed, I was also doing event planning on the side. It was my passion.” she said.
March 2010. Pam then began pounding the pavement and “networking, networking, networking.” She joined the Convention of Visitors’ Bureau, Greater Louisville, Inc. and several local chambers, and launched her business, Splendid Events, in March of 2010. She was also introduced to a planner of the Derby Festival who made connections for her.
When Pam’s daughter Lauren graduated from college in 2012, she joined the company in 2012. Lauren said the company has grown consistently.
But then came COVID-19. “When the pandemic hit, we had to pivot. We launched our Virtual Event Services in about six weeks,” said Lauren.
The only thing that’s different from regular events is the tech and the manner in which they reach people.
For the two it was like starting from scratch. “We looked at a lot of webinars that talked about how to do virtual events and we partnered with some production and tech companies,” said Pam. “It was a steep learning curve, but with the baby boomer in me and the millennial in her, we figured it out.”
Company offers relief for night sweats sufferers
Ever heard of hyperhyrdosis? If you’ve ever endured night sweats to the point that you had to change into dry PJs, you know the condition, even if the name isn’t familiar.
Enter Wicked Sheets, a company selling breathable, moisture-wicking sheets that increase airflow, as well as cooling sheets that help with overheating.
Founded in Louisville, Wicked Sheets is the brainchild of former collegiate athlete Alli Truttmann, who launched the company to address the condition she suffers from herself. The bedding products are made from the material used in wicking athletic gear, and the company has grown from a “two-person cut and sew operation” to a global brand.
The company’s sheets and bedding products are certified as asthma and allergy friendly and are billed as “free of dyes, bleaching agents, and chemicals that can cause skin irritation.” Wicked Sheets is now producing washable face masks, too.
Wicked Sheets’s fabric certifications offer the unique opportunity to provide washable, hypoallergenic protective face masks with extreme particulate barrier levels. The company doubled the layers of the fabric (per CDC recommendations), yet still allowing the wearer to breathe easily.
RETURNING TO WORK
Baptist Health helps local businesses reopen safely
Reopening a business in the pandemic era is a dicey proposition for many local employers. But Baptist Health, Kentucky’s largest health system, is sharing its web-based screening and COVID-19 testing tools to help those businesses determine which workers can safely return to work. The health system has been using an online solution to comply with the state requirement that employees must be screened for the disease before they come back to work.
It goes like this: Employees log in, answer health questions, take their temperature, and log that information into the website. After that, they’re either green-lighted to report for work or referred for testing.
Michael Newkirk, MD, vice president of Physician Services, described the health system’s strategy for providing the solution. “We understand employers have specific, individualized needs that we will address together as they put our economy back on track while protecting the safety of employees, customers and our communities.”
KNOW YOUR CITY!
This week instead of asking you three questions about Louisville, we're going to tell you some trivia/not trivia that may surprise you. At least it surprised our staff!
Did you know that Louisville is one of only two cities (the other is Richmond, VA) that have whitewater in their urban areas? Louisville’s Class IV rapids attract people who do difficult “playboating” or “surfing,” particularly athletes from U.S. Olympic teams. (This video shows what we mean by playboating.)
Scott Martin, of the River Heritage Conservancy in southern Indiana, knows a lot about this. “Whitewater is what defined Louisville," he said. "It’s the reason we are here as a city. Commercial interests in the 1700s through early 1800s had to navigate the “Falls”—which were really rapids.”
The Falls complex has two structures: The “big” waves are in the upper run typically in the winter and spring. These are where people practice big wave techniques that you need for running big rivers like the Gauley in West Virginia. “These waves attract people from around the nation, including members of the U.S. national paddling teams —the playboaters,” Martin said.
The second complex is found at the lower section. It runs in late summer and early fall and is an area that shepherded beginners and low intermediate paddlers can use.
As Martin said, “It may be the region’s most untapped outdoor recreation resource.”