Dr Bechara Saab is the CEO & Chief Scientist of Mobio Interactive. Mobio Interactive (MI) is a digital therapeutic and performance enhancement company empowering better living and faster healing. MI blends science and design with internally developed technology that remotely and objectively measures mind and body data (typically via computer vision enabled psychobiometrics). By partnering with medical and academic institutions worldwide, MI tests its digital therapeutic through multi-centre randomised controlled trials. By doing so, MI is able to develop an effective and clinically validated product that is accessible to everyone.
Until 2017, Dr Saab was a Principal Investigator at the Zurich Neuroscience Centre. His laboratory at the Psychiatry Hospital focused on understanding molecules and neural circuits that give rise to the motivation to explore. This avenue of research has shed light on the mechanisms underscoring the intimate relationships between exploration, efficient learning and cognitive disease. At the circuit level, the importance of curiosity for healthy living may parallel the beneficial effects of mindfulness that MI delivers to its customers through the digital therapeutic, Am Mindfulness.
In an exclusive interview with AsiaTechDaily, Dr Saab says:
The best advice I ever received was from my father when I was just 10 years old. I remember it vividly because it was a conceptual shift in my understanding of the universe and the human brain. “Remember,” he told me, “there is not one person out there that can be your hero, there are only certain aspects of any one person that you may strive to emulate. Your actual hero, the person you most want to be, is a composite of many role models.” This advice has led me to seek out mentorship from all types of people. Having mentors is the key to success. Just ask anyone that ever succeeded.
Read on to know more about Dr Bechara Saab and his journey.
Please tell me about your personal background and What motivated you to get started with your company?
Dr Saab: My career has been in academia, recently at the Zurich Psychiatric Hospital. After feeling I had already made enough of a contribution to basic science for a lifetime, I endeavoured to do something more meaningful. We started Mobio Interactive to help restructure the global healthcare economy to serve the needs of every human.
What is your current main product, and can you share any previous product pivot story to the current product?
Dr Saab: Am Mindfulness. It is the first meditation app shown to outperform placebo in clinical trials. It is currently the only meditation app that personalizes to each individual according to an objective measure of stress performed without a wearable.
How much money have you raised in total so far? When was the recent funding round?
Dr Saab: $2.4M. Most recently, $1.8M in a Seed round that closed 2020 Q3.
What were the internal decision processes in determining when to begin fund-raising, and what were the logistics for this? And how many investors have you met so far, and how did you meet these investors, and which channels worked best for you?
Dr Saab: We waited until we knew that we had a robust business foundation that could scale. We’ve met with hundreds of investors, most of whom would not have been appropriate for our company for one reason or another (i.e., didn’t fit all three: scope, ticket size, location). We probably had about 10 investors that looked at us seriously, and about half of these participated in the Seed. We meet most investors through our ever-expanding network. Shout out to OBIO, SOSV and WeWork Labs for key introductions.
What are the biggest challenges and obstacles that you have faced in the process of fund-raising? If you had to start over, what would you do differently?
Dr Saab: The greatest challenge – by far – was bringing the previous investors and incoming investors into alignment. As we now turn our attention to Series A, we aim for the entire process to be more transparent.
What are your milestones for the next round? And what are your goals for the future?
Dr Saab: We are working directly with our potential Series A investors to define core milestones that would trigger their investment. Some obvious milestones are ARR, clear demonstration of product-market fit, IP defensibility, and because we are in healthcare, regulatory approval, and reimbursement. Our goal is to become the largest provider of digital therapeutics on earth.
How have you attracted users, and with what strategy have you grown your company from the start to now?
Dr Saab: We are currently a B2B company. Therefore, our population of product users is highly correlated to our clients’ number and size in healthcare (insurance and pharma, and large multinationals). Eventually, we will directly engage in healthcare products, as resources and the business models allow.
Which has been the best marketing software tool for the growth of your startup, and why?
Dr Saab: For us, it is the product itself.
How do you plan to expand globally?
Dr Saab: Partners, partners, partners.
What are the most common mistakes companies make with global expansion?
Dr Saab: It is not having a local partner.
How are you handling the COVID-19 outbreak and what does it mean for your company’s survival in the future?
Dr Saab: While the pandemic has disrupted some of our clinical trials, our work situation has not changed much. We have always worked efficiently remotely from many corners of the world. Being a digital healthcare company, COVID-19 has helped accelerate the adoption of our products.
What are the most common mistakes founders make when they start a company?
Dr Saab: Probably either not securing enough cash or not starting off with the right team. A group of people that covers all the company’s core needs and enough funding to reach important milestones is essential for success. For this reason, Mark and I waited until after Avetis joined full time before we started seriously seeking Seed funding.
What are the top-three books or movies (TV series) that changed your life and why?
- The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Oliver Sacks. This book, along with others by Sacks, motivated me to become a neuroscientist
- Positive Disintegration, Kazimierz Dabrowski. This book, along with 15 years of studying the brain, showed me that destruction could be a growth form
- Thermodynamics or any second-year chemistry textbook. Within, I discovered that temporary assumptions could simplify complex problems to the point that part of a problem can be solved relatively easily, and when re-assembling these partial answers, the original assumptions can be removed to reveal a full solution. And as the saying goes, “what works for thermodynamics, also works for life”.
How do you keep yourself motivated every day?
Dr Saab: As a teenager, I realized that if I do one thing every day that has a good chance of making me smile the next day, then most mornings, I’ll have something to smile about.
What are the top three life lessons that you want instilled in your (future) children?
- There are more differences between the individuals in any given group than differences between any two groups
- The variety within our behaviour is what makes us most similar to our neighbours
- Do one thing every day that has a good chance to make you happy the next day, and then you’ll rise each morning with a reason to smile
What would you like to be remembered for?
Dr Saab: It doesn’t matter. However, what I’d like to do more than anything else in my life is help establish, first on a planet other than earth, a novel system of government that is more resistant to corruption than anything the world has experienced thus far.
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