Giuliana Kotikela is one of the most brilliant founders I’ve ever spoken to. Her brand, Chikeey, is going to change the future of mental health. In this podcast, we talk about her founder journey and hear from a visionary who knows exactly where she needs to go. Mark my words, Chikeey is a product to watch.
TAMAR:Hi, everybody. Today we are with Giuliana, aka Giuls, Kotikela. She comes and she hails from the Bay Area on the West Coast. And thank you so very much for coming.
GIULIANA KOTIKELA: Thanks for having me. Hey, everybody, I’m Giuls Kotikela, I’m the founder and CEO of ChiKeey. ChiKeey is a smart wearable system where we manage and monitor your mental health and your emotions in real time. But a little bit about that, right? How did I kind of come here from that? I’m originally from consulting. So back in the day, about a decade. Back in the early 2000s, I worked for a big four management consulting firm and loved it. I actually got to create my first startup within a big four. And that was wonderful. So, I got to create a studio, I created five studios across the US. And I really loved my job. And I loved being in consulting. I have two small children, which is a nice fact, as well as a three-legged cat named Little Bear that I rescued. And being on the road four or five days out of the week, every week was definitely tiresome and trying on family life. But it really started hitting home when I would be talking with my girls at night on Skype, and “Hi, girls, how are you? What’s going on?” And everything was always fine. Everything’s fine, fine. And I’m like, wow, what is this? And then going into a parent-teacher conference for my oldest daughter, Jia, I found that she’s having issues at school, and she’s being bullied by another girl in another grade. And what really hit home to me was understanding “how did find” became synonymous with “I need help.” And I’m having a problem that never came out. Right. So of course, it was all about me, I blamed myself. But I started thinking about sharing our emotions and being really open and honest and having that with everybody. And what I realized is that children, and most adults actually lack the ability to articulate how they feel at any given point in time. And we project sometimes not necessarily who we are, but who we want people to think we are. And everything was always great. You look a lot of social media, and it’s very difficult to really say, “Hey, I’m having a bad time, or I’m not okay.” So, I really wanted to switch that and change the way that people understood knowledge, mental health, but their emotions in real time and be able to give them the tools and techniques to adjust that. And to live the life that really made them happy.
TAMAR: I love that. I love that. How old are your girls?
GIULIANA KOTIKELA: My oldest is 10. And my youngest is three.
TAMAR: Wow, I have a four-year-old and an 11-year-old boy, I also have two in the middle. So, I get it, I get it, I totally understand that the challenges of trying to understand what my children are dealing with. I have some that are just very things are okay. Like they won’t say anything, I can’t even get a fine, you’re lucky you got the fine. I’m lucky if I get you know, a smile. I don’t even know the facial expression lack is lacking in one child. Another child won’t say a word. Another child talks way too much. It’s very interesting dynamic, that children are so different in terms of how they articulate what is going on. Some really want the acceptance and they’ll say whatever. And they’ll be very open. And others, it’s just like who they are. And let me talk to my friends. And yeah, it’s hard. It’s also like, you don’t want to ever have your child be bullied. And to possibly think that you’re in denial until you actually hear about it in a different context. Unfortunately, you find out in a different context. You don’t ever find out from your children. It’s a challenge. Especially now bullying is such a widely recognized thing that you’re trying to curb. So, you’re like, oh, that can never be my child. And then that happens and you’re just like, what? And then all of a sudden, you just have to get into like, as a parent, all of a sudden you have to get very serious about what you need to do. And it changes the entire game for you. It’s hard. Yeah. I lost it. But explain to me what is ChiKeey. And was it an output of this particular family dynamic that you’re describing right now? Or was it more and I don’t want to call it the family dynamic. It’s just the parent-child dynamic in general? Or was it related to that tangentially. Tell me a little bit more about the products?
GIULIANA KOTIKELA: Yeah, so it was definitely related to the problem. But I looked at that problem and took a step back. And I looked at it even wider than just my daughter. And I looked at myself, I looked at my friends, I looked at my family, I looked at my community and my tribe. And the problem didn’t change. It was still the same problem. And in fact, you see it widespread everywhere. Not only is it a problem with children, but look at adults, right? Everybody is perfect on social media. You do see something like that Kardashian effect where it’s always that best moment, the best selfie the best second. It doesn’t give you the real understanding of what somebody’s going through at any given point in time. And when people really need help, they don’t ask for it. It’s like, what happens when you go, “Hey, how are you doing?” And they don’t say good if they started saying, “Oh, it’s a really terrible day, blah, blah, blah, you’re like, “Whoa, I wasn’t expecting that.” And people kind of back up a little bit. So, how we came up with the name for ChiKeey was cheese your inner energy force and key is how do we give you the key to unlocking your actual full potential?
TAMAR: That is very cool. I am into the running community a little bit. I talk about this a little bit. I don’t consider myself someone who’s really part of it. But I’m fully familiar with that just because I think all runners are in denial unless they’re marathoners. But I’m fully aware that there’s a big Bible in the runners’ community called ChiRunning. So, it’s nice to be able to harness that. So, tell me how this whole thing works. What exactly does ChiKeey do? How is it like as service? What is the offering?
GIULIANA KOTIKELA: So ChiKeey is actually a smart wearable mood ring, coupled with an app that allows you to change your feelings instantly. So, within the mood ring itself, the smart wearable ring, we take, we have your temperature, your heart rate variability, your blood oxygenation, your sweat, and your vocal biomarkers, so your speech patterns, and all of those different things, we use your bio- physiological signals, and we use those to determine your emotional state, which then corresponds to your mood. So, with that information, you think, okay, so what? It’s not only understanding and monitoring where you are right now, but it’s also kind of forward thinking of where do you want to be or where do you want to go? Right? Sometimes people say, “Oh, you are just about making you happy.” No, because happiness to me is different happiness to you. Happiness, to me might be calmness or serenity, right. And there’s different things and recommendations that are provided at each of those different things. So, if I’m feeling a little sad, but I want to be calm and serene, the distance between where I’m at right now my current emotional state, and my target is going to be the intensity of the recommendation that we provide you. So right now, I’m working with UCSD on our second clinical trial to address anxiety and depression and young adults. And also, we’re working with the National Institute of Health on making Chikeey a monitoring gold standard for smart wearables.
TAMAR: That’s so cool. Okay, so I’m here to talk to you separately and offline about that, because you talk about mental health in a different capacity. My story is actually sort of similar and I kind of talks about the impetus to launch the Common Scents podcast for myself is that I came from the tech world, I’m actually very big on wearables, I’m definitely going to check out the Tiki ring. But one of my wish list items on top of that is the ordering because I totally want to see how like and I think as you can tell, reflects the fact that I got no sleep last night so, I want to know this. I want to see all the data that it garnered off me and it’s the challenges of launching a business in the middle of a pandemic, which is what I did. So, the short 32nd version of this I’m going to actually put a timer on myself right now. I was depressed and the thing that brought me out of depression was a fragrance, and I am coming from the tech world. And seeing fragrance as a non-sexualized product, I got super excited. And I decided I was going to launch my own personal fragrance brands based on my anecdotal experience of feeling that fragrance actually brought me out of a low place in mental health. I was on a cocktail of medications. Life was crappy for me. So that’s the 32nd version. Now I want to commission a study in some ways to show the validity of my anecdotal experience. And so, I would love to hear about that experience. Again, this is more of an offline thing, but at the same time, I’m saying and I’m going to say it, I’ll probably keep the recording in the podcast, because I think that it’s so important to validate these, these experiences, these claims, and I think it’s amazing, and it’s very cool that you’re doing this. So, you said this is your second trial?
GIULIANA KOTIKELA: Yes.
TAMAR: Let me hear, give me a little bit about your life cycle, how you got to where you are today?
GIULIANA KOTIKELA: Well, where do we start? That’s a big, open-ended question there. Being in management consulting, I was in tech, I used to do back-end development, coding, and moved on, within my career to a major advocate and teacher of design thinking, then creating the studio incorporating the creative side and the scientific, as well as my backgrounds in mathematics and economics, and with that focus being on Game Theory. So, kind of bringing both of the left and the right side of the brain together, collectively, more of not just having the technical back end and the wherewithal in the know how, but also marrying that up with the creative elements to design anything and everything. It really sparked a lot of my interest. And so, it was always, not can it be, it’s not, it was nothing was ever impossible. Possibility was always there, it was just how do you imagine it to be and then making sure that what we design, develop is practical, feasible, and then valuable, right. So that kind of led into doing that for hundreds of companies in consulting, created kind of like a SWAT team arsenal of five different core skill sets, data science, developers, designers, industry experts, and business experts as well, depending on what function of the business that we would be going into, and basically dropping in and within four to six weeks producing a prototype that would produce impactful results and value immediately. So, using kind of like that skill set. And also, I used to do the strategy for analytics for all of Deloitte Consulting, taking those different components with me in my new bag, because I started my own company. I saw the problem, I validated the need, did some initial user testing and grew that out. It was just about understanding the problem, verifying that there was an actual market opportunity, understand the SWOT analysis of it, and then executing on what you wanted to do, ensuring that it was feasible, into it was viable and valuable at the price point and determination that you were looking at.
TAMAR: Cool. So, tell me a little bit about your launch. I’m very, very curious to hear like, bringing that to market. I mean, obviously, you’re in the process of extraordinarily doing thorough research with researchers, you’re really validating what you have going on. Obviously, I know that’s a part of making sure this product speaks to its promises, if you will. Yeah, tell me a little bit of the process of what you did and how people got to learn about you.
GIULIANA KOTIKELA: So far, in terms of the commercialization aspect we’re working in beta. So, the beta is really with confirming doing the clinical trials, ensuring the validity of our sensor package and our technology, that goes into pretty heavily after this and the end of this year, then we’re going to be actually launching in the market for all consumers. Right now, we’re only giving them the actual beta participants. And the reason why, is because we’re actually also working with the FDA, in that whole process to make this a medical class two device. Now, why? There’s a lot of different reasons behind that. But essentially, one, we have the clinical trial and the validity of our results behind us. And then secondly, there is no like class two devices for what we do, especially around mental health. And the accuracy especially around the wearables department is kludgy at best. It’s not very accurate for the most part of many things. And I know that there’s other parties that are out there that have some different sensors and such, but they don’t have the sensor package in the robustness that we do, or the ability to capture mental health.
TAMAR: I think this is one of the most amazing products ever, as I am so excited to follow this. I think that there’s so much potential and just hearing it from your voice, hearing your storytelling, hearing what you have going on. I mean, this is going to be a game changer. I’m like speechless just talking to you. I’m not the smartest person in the room, by any stretch. But this is like, wow, wow. I am so excited to learn more about this and follow your progress as you go along and make this happen. I want to ask you a little bit about what you had mentioned earlier and how the product page talks about choosing and kind of changing your emotional state. How is that? What is the science behind that, and how does that work?
GIULIANA KOTIKELA: So, it’s pretty intense, I don’t know, if I’ve got how much time to tell you about emotional classification, and using Wavelet, or Fast Fourier transformations. And essentially, it’s understanding where you’re at and doing a feature extraction. So having the signals come in understanding and classifying that each individual has a different baseline or normal, right, you might resonate at a very different level on your spectrum than to me, right, each individual has to, so everybody’s completely hyper personalized with where they sit, but at the end of the day, it’s still a spectrum. And it’s understanding that as well as moving it forward to your target state, where do you want to go, and it’s all relative to where you’re at right now. So, if your happiness though, sits at a much lower level, just because of how you might operate your body and your physiological needs, that’s fine. And if you want to go to a different space, it’s just going to take the change, or the Delta, the movement between your current to your target, to ascertain that.
TAMAR: This is going to be the coolest thing to follow. I cannot wait until you get the CNN, CNET headlines technology to follow in the 2020s. Yeah, this new millennial, whatever you call this is I will say that this podcast is blowing me away. And what you’re working on absolutely blew me away. I’ve spoken to a lot of women founders; I’ve spoken to a lot of doers. But you have this whole science in aggregate, you’re working with the FDA, you’re doing this and that. And I will say I’m really honored to be able to talk to you about this.
GIULIANA KOTIKELA: If you think your family and your friends and your life, quality is non-negotiable for us. Where people say that they’re accurate this and that I put my money where my mouth is. If your child or your family member or your best friend, that’s a lot of trust that people instill in you. And I think that you have to take that seriously and judiciously and ensure that you’re making those attempts to ensure the validation and the movement forward. And I’m really trying to break that stigma. I’ve had a lot of friends who committed suicide over the years, and it’s always hindsight 2020. And why didn’t I reach out? Or why didn’t I know? Or why didn’t I see that clue? It’s just it allows people in a virtual environment and world that we live in today to bridge that gap between their current emotional state and you have the ability now, like I could see that other people are not doing so well. I can reach out preemptively because depression, as we know is like any type of mental health and illness, a slippery slope. There’s a time when people’s sadness is totally okay, fine to have. But what happens when it’s three months of sadness? And when do you start having the ability or see this going on or there’s some sort of a large emotional swing left or right. It’s good to be able to be aware of that so that you can do those things. So, you can reach out. What I have is, in the app we have, it’s called karma points. And it’s about just getting connected with other people, and there’s different levels of connectivity in a person, via email or text. So, it’s not about just always shooting somebody a text, it might be actually like talking to somebody and being in in front of somebody, or on maybe a video call, or a zoom call is even better, right? If you can’t be in person. So, it’s just trying to connect all those different things. So really, it’s not about you or me, it’s about we, and it takes a village is an understatement. But that’s what’s going to have to happen if we want to change and really save the world. We’re not here to change it, we’re here to save it.
TAMAR: Yeah, that’s, that’s great. And I love how you did that COVID, you integrated the COVID-19 in there, because these days, we have to go on zoom calls. Unfortunately, face to face is a lot more challenging. But you know, you’re being mindful of the connectivity, we have to stay connected. And as humans, it’s such human nature to require that.
GIULIANA KOTIKELA: Yeah.
TAMAR: Yet, it’s not the most easy, it’s not the most practical thing these days, it’s unfortunate that we just can’t do it. But that’s obviously a core component, making sure that we maintain connection with our friends to make sure that they’re safe, that they don’t die by suicide or anything else. And we can support them in whatever way.
GIULIANA KOTIKELA: Yeah. When we all start returning to work how do we know what people’s preferences and what they’re okay or comfortable with? So, I’m working on that right now actually, is giving people just a signal. Green, I’m good to go. Like, high five it, yellow, back up. Red, don’t get close to me. You got to have some fun with it, too. The other thing is that that what was so great about the original mood ring from the 70s. Right, even though it totally wasn’t accurate. It was fun. And it’s a really serious time that we’re living in. But there’s such an awesomeness to and playfulness that can be incorporated, where it doesn’t have to be such a stigma and a Debbie Downer about how you feel if it’s sad or bad or glad like Dr. Seuss. Another thing that we’re working on also is just definitely making, taking that playful aspect and incorporating that into who we are and what we do. And it’s okay to not be okay.
TAMAR: Right. That’s so cool. Yeah, and the mood rings are fun. And I still find them fun when I pick them up. And yeah, I never understood what it means. But it’s cool. You have these numbers, these red, yellow, green, blue, all the things here. And again, it’s just hearing you talk about this to myself, like I’m just in awe, because you’re really like crossing your eyes crossing your T’s and dotting your eyes. So, you’re covering this is I would say a groundbreaking experience and just hearing the passion in your voice and like how you are really thinking through this. It’s incredible. Yeah. Is there anything that I haven’t asked you about this in your journey that I should probably tackle?
GIULIANA KOTIKELA: I think there’s a lot of different aspects to hardware versus software. Right. So, I think the devils in the details, a lot of that. I don’t know if people would be interested in hearing so much about that. But there’s definitely a lot of complexity with electrical components,
TAMAR: Right. I mean you’re doing something, you talk about how you’re from mathematics, and now you’re doing this, like, hardware software stuff. Yeah. I mean, let me simplify the question, or maybe make it a little more basic. What is the size of the team working on this right now? And what component, how many people are working on the hardware side versus the software side? Maybe that is a better question.
GIULIANA KOTIKELA: Hardware is eight. But that’s not full time. When you think about a mix myriad of team members, it comes and goes depending on where you’re at, in your product life cycles, what’s being used, so where we’re right now, everything’s in manufacturing, we’re waiting for some different PCBs to come over. And so, the team instead switched gears and they’re working on the QA scripts or something else. So, you kind of switch gears. From a software perspective, we only have three people. And it’s not so much needed until everything’s out full, like post launch. We’re looking at having a team of 37. Total.
TAMAR: Very cool. And yes, where do you sit in that team structure?
GIULIANA KOTIKELA: Oh, I’m the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker (laughter).
TAMAR: Look at this. She’s so well prepared, no pauses with some of my questions and answers. This is amazing. Yeah, yeah. So, you got it?
GIULIANA KOTIKELA: Oh, no. I had to just read up. I mean, you want to trust other people. But at the end of the day, you have to understand when somebody comes to you with a problem, and they say that they can’t do it, because most people will say they can’t do it. The analogy of the story of Steve Jobs when they handed him the first phone and they said we can’t make it smaller than this, he takes the phone and he puts it in a fish tank, and there’s bubbles that come out of it. He goes, “There’s air, of course, you have more room. You can make this smaller.” That is the same kind of approach that I take with this because people come back and they always say it can’t be done. And so, I have to do a good amount of research and due diligence myself to be able to understand. It’s not that I have to have a hand on everything. But you have to understand the overarching picture in the holistic solution itself, of what you’re trying to do, and what’s the overarching objective and outcome that you’re looking to have. And ensure that all these moving pieces are coming together, like nobody else can understand your vision and what you want to do better than you. I guarantee it, right? I mean, over time, you bring on more people, and you start delegating a lot more of these things. But initially, it’s same thing with creating content as well. It’s really difficult from what I designed, like the logo, the ring, I mean, like actually designed from ground zero all of these things. So, you have a lot of other people that work with you. But at the end of the day, you have to kind of steer the ship and lead them to what you’re trying to see and what you truly view as a vision for the company.
TAMAR: Right, right. Absolutely. When you gave that example of the iPhone being dropped into the fish tank and the bubbles coming out, it mimics a story that I also read. I think it was Henry Ford, and how he wanted a certain engine a certain size, and or some sort of production capacity that needed to be met. And everybody kept saying to him, it can’t be done, it can’t be done, it can’t be done. And he said, it can be done, it can be done, it can be done. I mean, there are very few people that come back to their quote unquote, hired employees. And they, they’re trying to prove them. They’re saying that with my expertise, I can do it. Like, this is the only way it can be done. And you’re like, it’s going to happen. So, like I said, having this conversation and I’m going to keep throwing these amazing praises at you, I feel like I am talking to potentially the next Steve Jobs, Henry Ford person here. I don’t say it’s high praise, but just seeing what you’re saying, your perspective, I mean, there’s no pauses, I’m not going to have to edit much of what you’re saying right now. I always have like, a lot of eyes, but you’re just like, I’m snapping my fingers here. You just know what you want. And your vision is so clear in there. It’s just inspiring. It’s amazing. And I’m so excited to follow this journey.
GIULIANA KOTIKELA: Thank you so much. I really appreciate that. Yeah, it’s bringing everybody together to really understand that vision and be on board with it. Like I said, it takes a village and it really does because forever for all of this and for this to like actually do really well the product, it’s going to take everybody getting on board, right?
TAMAR: Yeah, absolutely. So let me ask you a question if you’re okay with this. First of all, how many years has it been since you started doing this, like ideating to today? And number two, this is a little bit outside the beaten path of usually what I cover but because of your story and what you’re doing, this is not something that you can easily just come out and do it. I mean, you are going to have 37 people in the future. What exactly has your hope and hopefully this is okay to ask, what has the rest been? How are you doing? Did you do it? Any type of crowdfunding or are you just like going outside with angels? How have you been supporting the finances of this organization today?
GIULIANA KOTIKELA: Great question. So, since inception and ideation, it’s been two years, two months, and three days. So not that long of a time. But then again when you know what you want, and you can execute, that’s what happens. The race today is actually been bootstrapped. And we are raising currently, we’re looking for two and a half million for our initial raise. And what we’re doing actually is working with grants right now. So, the NIH is National Institute of Health. We’re going through the whole grant process with them and UCSD as an STTR. And with the FDA, the FDA does have different if you’re a small business, or micro small business, they have reduced fees, even though it’s still a lot of money. Don’t get me wrong, but it’s reduced. So, I used to live in India. And so, my team is actually onshore- offshore model. So, we have a collective small few here in the US, and the rest of the team is actually International. So, from India, China and Taiwan.
TAMAR: That’s very cool. Very, very cool. And you hired everybody face-to-face? Or is there, was it a remote element, because you clearly got this global workforce.
GIULIANA KOTIKELA: It was all remote.
TAMAR: Yeah, I think as much . I didn’t know, if you were hiring them remotely, though. Nowadays, you’re kind of happier.
GIULIANA KOTIKELA: Yeah, I’ve never hired actually any of the team that’s actually worked with me. I’ve hired everybody actually 100% remote. We have had like face-to-face calls and so forth. But the proof is in the, like tasting the pudding pretty quickly, and going through in vetting large teams, which I’ve done for considerable amount of time, like yours in my past life. And especially in an LIT, and in hardware, it’s very clearly, within five minutes, I know if somebody knows what they’re talking about or not, which is a good thing. And design, since I’ve done design for so many years, same thing with that. So, it’s more of ensuring the fit and the ability to have produced a cohesive team across a huge area, hardware, firmware, software. There’s a lot of different people in that. And a lot of people sometimes don’t really know what excellence looks like. And also, when you’re working with a class device, potentially, before you’re even on that you need to have your GxP. So, basically your good clinical practices for all your design items, your hardware, software, firmware, all of that in place, which is copious amounts of paperwork, I mean, huge paperwork, the audit, the traceability matrix, all of that stuff in line. And most people do not have a clue about producing a regulated medical device. I mean, that’s probably one of the hardest things. So, it’s working with people to get them and bring them up to speed as well as making sure that all your manufacturing partners are already on board and filed, and they have those certifications as well.
TAMAR: Yeah, wow. And I’m going to ask two questions about the product, and then I’ll probably move to the next part of the podcast, but just to satisfy my curiosity here. First of all, I know that the product is focused on women. Is there a reason for that? Is there a particular physiology that lends itself to be more relatable? Like, I guess the response from women is different from men, number one, and number two, which is completely unrelated to question number one is, where are you sourcing materials? Because I assume you also have to make sure that it meets high quality standards, especially knowing speaking to you, I know that you’re not going to do anything less than that. And plus, you’ve stated in on the product page that your quality is key and non-negotiable.
GIULIANA KOTIKELA: So, women do have actually different bio physiological signals like different heights, let’s say strength, intensity, other signals than men, which is why women are usually classified as being emotional.
GIULIANA KOTIKELA: So that’s a true statement. But no, the reason why we went with women first was one, I think I felt that it was a very underrepresented market for wearables for women. Everything that I actually tested in user tested in the marketplace that was out there was these horrifically utilitarian wedding band type of things that I honestly felt were for men, I felt that there was no fashion, no sense of elegance or class, I wanted something that was simple, timeless and unique. And also, women, if you look at the market research are the largest purchasers within a household and really have 85% of the purchasing power. And they’re the most unmet buyer. So, from those numbers, and really looking at that before, it just really kind of focused on the millennial and the Gen Z. Women first. And although I did create a men’s ring, the men’s ring is actually now the women’s ring. I call it the Z ring truthfully because it’s really kind of gender neutral. It’s very fluid, the ring that I thought initially would be for men, all of the women loved it. And that was the feedback that I received. And then the children’s ring that I actually designed, was loved by women as well and children. So, it was interesting, some of the overplay. And I really felt that the first ring coming out was not about being a man’s ring or a woman’s ring. I think it’s actually more for everybody’s what I found. And no, it’s not utilitarian. It’s not like straight band. That’s very simple to do. I didn’t want to create, recreate that wheel because I thought it just doesn’t align with who I am, what our brand is, and our values. Yeah, and attractive.
TAMAR: All right. Got it. So, the second question was sourcing materials. And I do have a third question. Sorry. I know in the picture online, it’s all about wearing it on your index finger. Is that just a recommendation? Or is there any particular finger you can wear it on.
GIULIANA KOTIKELA: So technically, there’s three different fingers that you could really wear it on. Your index finger, your middle finger, or your ring finger. The pinky is not supported, nor really is the thumb. And the reason why is because of the veins and also the size. It’s just not as strong of a signal. So, it’s not supported on your pinky and the thumb because of the bone and the strength of the thumb, the tendons around it. The signal strength is also different. So, we recommend the three fingers on either side of the hand is fine.
TAMAR: Okay, all right. Just curious. So, talking about and it’s amazing, I’m telling you, I ask a question, you don’t even have to think about it. It’s just amazing to hear that unlike so many people when I run these podcasts, I ask the questions, there’s tremendous pause, and I have to edit that silence just to consolidate. I don’t have to do any of that. So that’s great. So, the last question was about sourcing materials. And where you’re doing that right now and how you’re quality controlling.
GIULIANA KOTIKELA: So, we had to switch everything in our supply chain. And we were originally in China predominantly. And we moved that actually to Canada. And in Sunnyvale, surprisingly enough. And so, all of the companies that we work with now have sister companies. So, the manufacturers in Canada have sister companies in the United States, as well as in Taiwan. And so that’s kind of redirected our whole supply chain. And also given that our first primary target market is North America, it made sense from also a shipping and taxation standpoint, think about tariffs, and so forth, like that Import Export challenges. So, this kind of brings everything more holistically on the home ground and reduces the problems with one thing that we really got impacted by, especially in India when the whole country kind of shut down for how many weeks, they actually shut down the post office as well. So, nothing was in or out of that country that was problematic. We were in Wuhan in China in February, when that got shut down. Luckily we were able to pivot very quickly to ensure that we had the right connections and just starting up like Plan B, essentially. But still, even with that in place, it still took an additional eight to 10 weeks to get everything set up, redone. In getting things actually running through the system, right PCBs and the manufacturing doesn’t happen in an instant. It takes a couple of weeks for the materials for the PCB to be created, and then the assembly and then the QA, the testing and so forth, and then you have to load up the firmware, the hardware, all of that, subsequent to that. So, you’re looking at a timeline and that’s having parts in hand analysis. Trouble components in hand and there’s no delay from that standpoint, when trying to shut down for electrical components, and then everything shut down, literally. All you have is what you have ever on inventory and in stock. So that’s highly problematic, right? So, it really made you reevaluate just in time type of supply chain. And you have to go towards more of a mixed hybrid, which we had and which was some inventory on hand and the rest of it. So, you don’t have a huge amount of overhead. Because unlike software, hardware is expensive, and you usually place quarterly orders with your suppliers based on your forecast of what your expected demand is going to be.
TAMAR: Wow, wow, this is totally fascinating. And I will say that I’ve been talking to a lot of entrepreneurs who are working with specific products that are being developed, and there has been a tremendous amount of transition away from China, not necessarily for tariffs, sometimes it’s just a matter of quality control. You just are not allowed, you’re not able to have good quality, you need somebody on the ground, there’s tremendous amount of factors that lends itself to moving away from China. And a lot of people, it looks cheap on the outset but ends up being more expensive, especially because 25% of the product, once it arrives in America, have some problems with quality, you’re going to end up only paying for 75% of your product, because the other 25% is just going in the trash.
GIULIANA KOTIKELA: That’s not a good ratio. Right?
TAMAR: Exactly, exactly. I personally was going to have my perfume bottles made in China. And that was actually, I figured out, I’ll just take the gamble, and we’ll make it happen. And then the factory that I was working with decided to focus instead on PPE. And they said, “We can’t do your product right away, it’s going to have to take, we would take a ramp up rather, would take a couple months. And I said, “Well, I don’t know if I necessarily have that.” So, it forced me into thinking about the higher priced products here. But I know that when I have a higher price product here, I’m going to have a quality product. So yeah, moving to the United States for me was sort of like a forced decision. But at the same time, just knowing the types of vendors that I’m working with now, it just feels I’m happier that I’m there. And yeah, of course, supporting our locals is tremendously so rewarding process as well.
GIULIANA KOTIKELA: We went to the factories, we met all the teams, and when you make a medical device, you have to ensure that your manufacturers actually obtain and they maintain their Gx, GMP compliance, which just ensures that they have the ability. So, all the factories actually and the manufacturers, typically the ones that we worked with all manufacture other medical devices. So, the grade of quality and control is very high, because it has to be so slightly different, like when you don’t have that as a constraint. Price is very different.
TAMAR: Now, this whole thing is challenging especially when you have something that obviously needs to meet FDA criteria. I mean, that’s a rigorous QA right there. For me, my QC is very okay, a couple of bottles might not be good. All right, at the end of the day, I’ll cut my losses. But this is something God forbid; you get it into consumers hands and all of a sudden something fails. And it’s a reputation thing. So going back to your tenet of quality being a non-negotiable component, I think you did exactly the right thing. Well, moving for the products, I could talk about this forever. By the way, I think it’s fascinating, and I just wish I did. Like, I always tell my podcast listeners that I like to jump into these podcasts entirely blind. There usually is a lot of pros to that. But in this case, it’s a con because obviously you’re going to be one of my role models. I hope we don’t feel the pressure here.
GIULIANA KOTIKELA: The pressure is mounting.
TAMAR: Yeah, the pressure is mounting. Alright, we’re gonna be talking after this. I mean, it’s don’t feel pressured. Honestly, I’m laid back anyhow. Especially when I get forced. But at that same time, this is one of the coolest things I have really had. I mean, this is one of the coolest things I’ve heard about and I think this is definitely the product that’s going to be someone that you got to keep your eye on. And number two, this is the wearable space that I’ve always very been fascinated by. I mean I own a pebble; I own a Garmin, I own two Fitbit but Fitbit didn’t meet my criteria, I wore the Aspire. If you’re familiar with Aspire, it’s like something you wear on, probably I think it’s aligned with what your product has. It sort of tells you, it monitors your breath and your heart rate. It tells you when you’re not calm and it kind of tells you to calm down and to start taking deep breaths. It was a very interesting product. I owned a couple of the sense sleep pod. And that was like a thing that you put on your pillow and it told you your quality of sleep. I want I like I said, I want to own the other ring. But that’s something that right now I can’t justify it yet. I said to myself, when my business takes off, then I’ll be able to do it. I’ve always been fascinated by, so I own Google Glass. I mean, I would own wearable clothes, like any type of wearable, any electronic device product, I want to know about it. So, and I’ve been certainly familiar with others, I’m not even naming all the ones that I’ve been involved with. So, I am your target customer. I will tell you that. And I’m totally talking to you about beta testing. But yeah, moving on from that, because like I said, I could talk about this forever. I want to talk because I know that this is a very mental health ties, and it correlates pretty heavily with self-care. And I wanted to talk to you and get a little bit of insight about how you do that. And to a certain point, does your products help you gear your self-care routine? Like maybe how those ties in? I know we’re making it more product oriented here. But at the same time, I would be fascinated to hear how if there is some sort of integration that you have in terms of how you leverage that, or we’re in isolation? Either way.
GIULIANA KOTIKELA: So, say that again. Restate that question for me.
TAMAR: All right. So, the first part of the question is really the main question. What is your self-care routine? What are you doing right now to take care of yourself? The second part of the question is, does your product help you experience self-care in a more wholesome way? I guess you’ve explained the product use in that way. But I’m kind of curious in knowing how you leverage that, if that makes sense.
GIULIANA KOTIKELA: Totally, totally makes sense. So, my self-care routine is been, there’s different things that make me that just kind of increased my joy or my happiness, or take me to whatever state that I’m looking to be in, whether that’s calmness, serenity, or even rage, sometimes like screaming into a pillow. And the way that actually my ring, and the app have helped me is understanding when I’m at a certain state, and I want to change that. It shows me my before. So, my, what it was when I currently looked at it, and then during the event, and then the after. So, did I achieve my target mood expectations? And if I didn’t, then it changes, the algorithm starts recalibrating to increase or decrease the intensity and the likelihood of success for another event. Let me give you an example. In the morning, something that I really like to do is to go out and to get a coffee. But sometimes people work, it’s better mentally for people to kind of expand on novelty. So instead of me always going to the same place and having the same kind of experience, which isn’t a bad one is the app actually promotes alternative things that are similar veins to choose a little bit of a differentiated experience. So, it might send me to say I’m giving you an easy example of coffee. Instead of going to Starbucks, which I go to every morning, it says hey, there’s mom and pop shop down the road, same type of distance. But you know, it’s a little bit slightly different, a different experience to have. And it’ll give me a third option of something that’s completely green space, white whitespace or green field. So, think about like Boba tea or something like that, where I don’t ever go to those places. But it’s a whole new experience. And it’s about understanding that different experiences. If you think back in the past couple of years, the things that stick with you the most are the experiences that you have that are not the norm part of your routine. So, I incorporate that same type of logic into the app. I start to push people out of their safe boundaries of what we do when we do the same thing in a routine where you almost feel you’re in a rut to give them alternative options, but potentially better or enhanced after effects and results.
TAMAR: Wow. That’s very cool. I love the idea of treading new territory. Very cool. Looking forward to learning a little more about that from my personal experience in trying it all out. Let me ask, you talked about how you enjoy having coffee in the morning. Give me a little bit more, share about your self-care. What is your focus on yourself? What does that look like besides you’re working on a project? It’s funny because like I said, I can see or your articulated passion about this project. And I think this to you is probably self-care because I can hear it in your voice. And I can hear it in every single answer you have. But I assume that sometimes you do take a break from that. I know I have. I love my kids. But I love a break from kids that way. So, tell a little bit about that.
GIULIANA KOTIKELA: So, there’s different things where I think of self-care for myself. I’m a big fan of Stargazer lilies, I have them planted on the front of my house. And actually, they’re just starting to sprout. I love to read for 15 minutes. So, when I think about things that fill up my bucket, or that make me feel more like me, it’s some of these different things. I have a little electric bike that I love. It actually has a seat on the back for the two-by-two girls. And I love to take them on the bike. And actually, I just ride for like an hour, I just cruise around town everywhere. I love feeling the wind on my face. And having the girls with me like you’re the best mom ever. I love to actually put my feet in wet grass and move my toes around. It’s called grounding. And I enjoy getting dirty with planting flowers. It’s something that just feels earthy. And I really enjoy the physicality of that. And since with all the gyms and everything closed, I have not been so much of a runner on the streets or working out with weights, I usually was a very big weightlifter. And then I have the stuff at home but I’ve been kind of avoiding everything with that, which has been unfortunate because I really enjoyed my personal time of working out. But I don’t feel that I have necessarily that space where I’m comfortable to do so right now. So instead, I’ve been doing more hikes. I really love hiking in nature. And I like being in the outdoors a lot. So hiking, swimming; swimming in a waterfall with a hike. Love that. I just love being in that type of area.
TAMAR: Cool. Cool. Yeah. Personally, first of all, it’s great. You’re like shooting off all these different things. Again, very little pause, no pause. And for me personally, it’s funny, I mean having Coronavirus. Literally, I was in quarantine. I remember I called my Orange Theory Fitness gym and I told them I’m in quarantine. Because this was before I actually was in quarantine two weeks before the rest of the rest of the state. And I was in a cluster of 1000 people. And I remember calling my gym saying I’m in quarantine and they freaked out and they called the Department of Health and like, “Is there anything you need to worry about?” And I’m like, “No, you don’t have to worry about it.” But for some reason they never closed. Well, now we’re all closed. And I feel like thank God the world stops spinning because I was very frustrated that I didn’t have to. But that was a deterrent. Not going to the gym was definitely very difficult. And not having the transitions to take my kids to school so that I can go to the gym after I take them to school. Like that was something that was incredibly important to me. And it was only last week that I said to myself, I’m going to start getting very serious about doing this again. But it required a tremendous amount of discipline because once your world is shattered, and I think all of our worlds are shattered and with COVID-19 our normal is gone. And for me personally, my norm was definitely gone. I went to the gym four to five times a week; I would run on top of that. And these days are a lot rather until about last week. I’d walk and I’m trying to start running again. I’m also trying to make sure every single day daily and I just started this I think this is day seven actually, that I want to every single day I break a sweat. And that requires a little bit of weightlifting. But that’s it’s still new to me. I’m still trying to do it. I would say that for your sake, if you’re going to be lifting weights, you need to get back to it soon because it’s a lot harder to lift weights when you haven’t listed for a while.
GIULIANA KOTIKELA: Right.
TAMAR: My only advice.
GIULIANA KOTIKELA: Exactly right and I don’t have light weights like I used to do, like Olympic dead weightlifting.
TAMAR: Yeah, and that’s going to be hard. You got to go back to the dumbbells in the time.
GIULIANA KOTIKELA: Yeah, I just got the kettlebell. So I’m gonna have to work with that. It’ll be a work in progress. But that’s kind of you know what I mean? The first thing when I get up, I like to have my coffee. And I used to actually really like to ride my bike every morning, listen to music I really enjoy. Like, I listen to heavy rap. I love it. I like old school, like NWA stuff, I love it. And I would actually ride my bike, there’s a beautiful cemetery right down the street from me, I would ride my bike to the cemetery every day. And it’s the most peaceful place, I have to say, listening to my rap. And then I cruise around town and come back. And then usually I start the kind of me time that I have.
TAMAR: I get I get it. When things were normal, I would wake up, spend about an hour doing either language learning on Duolingo or I would just surf the internet, or I would answer emails. I take my kid to school. And it was annoying because school started at eight o’clock. And my gym was 15 minutes away, and there’d be an 888 that’d be an eight o’clock class. So, I get there at 8:15. And the next class was at 9:15. And I have to wait for an hour in the parking lot. And I ended up having to just work done. And that was my kind of like my very, very annoying transitions. Then I go to the gym and then I come home, and just start my day. And of course, things were shifted. That meant with school, I pick up my son again. And sometimes my other children, school is over. And then I have to get back to work because you just have to make it work, especially because you need that meantime.
GIULIANA KOTIKELA: Yeah, I’ve seen that. The biggest concern I have is the blending of the day. So now I’ve always work kind of odd hours, just whenever the inspiration hits, and getting stuff done and having deadlines. But now with this, it’s more of working almost throughout your day but at different times. So, the kids now especially with summertime, and nobody’s in school and schools’ kind of gone, who knows if it’s coming back, and kind of taking that time to play with them very hands on or doing homework or very specific things in the morning for a few hours. And then picking it that backup at like eight o’clock nine o’clock at night through on. So that’s kind of been a bigger shift not having much more of a clear-cut day. It’s more of, “Okay, what are the meetings for the day, let’s try to schedule what we can.” And then in between that, being with the kids and spending that quality time with them.
TAMAR: Yeah, I totally get it. I’m in the same boat. Honestly, like I said, I’ve gotten according to Garmin, two hours and 19 minutes of sleep last night. I worked until two o’clock in the morning, I went to bed about 2:25. And then I was up at 4:40 or whatever it was. And I have a startup. Thanks to me, now I have to tell you the startup things. And I’m sitting there and then I have my colleagues and team members from Pakistan messaging me and I’m just like, ”Okay, I guess my day started.” So, it’s just how it is. And sometimes you just got to work on unconventional schedule. There’s no normalcy especially when you’re in the startup world and you’re really kind of like doing your own thing. And you’re dictating what your future is like. It’s not you got to work around the kids, you got to work around yourself, you got to work or whatever, when the spark comes. So, I totally get it.
GIULIANA KOTIKELA: Yeah, and then you can also take into account that what happens if the small micro movements that you could take throughout your day could give you a better outcome with Leslie. So, what happens if you could get a Vitamin B shot or a shot of wheatgrass or something else? Or you could take a run in between that, could actually reconstitute the rest of your day? And you could be more productive? That’s what we do as well.
TAMAR: I’m not sure if at four o’clock in the morning, I thought to myself, I could probably run, but I think my body would kill me. So, I think I’d be punished to do that. But yes, in theory, it sounds great. Yeah, all right. Let me ask you the other question, and I’m sure there’s gonna be no pause in this answer. But there always is a pause. And I always have to minimize that pause because sometimes that pause could be really long. If you can give an earlier version of yourself a piece of advice, what would you tell her?
GIULIANA KOTIKELA: It’s a good question.
TAMAR: It’s a good surprise. No, I’m thinking that pause there.
GIULIANA KOTIKELA: All right, well, sorry.
TAMAR: No, no, it’s okay.
GIULIANA KOTIKELA: I think it’s don’t give up.
GIULIANA KOTIKELA: There’s so many times when I have to tell you how many different conversations I’ve had with different investors and different things. They look at me like I’m batshit crazy. It can’t be done; it won’t be done. And it’s so easy to just not do it right. And it comes down to grit. And I think, had I known what I know now when I was younger, I might have said, “Go software, go software. No, I mean, I think it’s just stick with it. And honestly, let me think now if I give advice to myself, let’s say when I was 18.
TAMAR: Oh, wow.
GIULIANA KOTIKELA: I mean, everything that I did along the way. And I had a lot of advice especially from my mom and my dad around a lot of this stuff as they got older. They said, “Hey, I wish I knew this at your age and we’re giving you this information.” I really took a lot of that advice and mentoring to help. I think the biggest advice I would tell myself is to ensure that I have mentors at every different stage of my life. And in finding that mentor and making that a really big priority versus barreling through, right with brute strength of getting it done. Having a mentor is not the same thing as somebody that works with you in your career or an advocate for you. A mentor in life that really can help guide you, as you go through different times and provide just a different perspective that can help challenge you, and offer alternative futures that you could take under consideration things that you just don’t know.
TAMAR: I think that’s very powerful. I think a lot of people underestimate the power of mentorships. And in general, and for me, it’s still something that I’m trying to find the right mentors. It’s very difficult and I think this is something you should tackle in your founder journey; you should talk about that. I think that would be a great piece to read about finding the right mentor, how, what kind of cadence, they should have all those things, because it’s hard. I haven’t figured it out for myself. And I’m still working my way. But I think it’s so important to have a mentor like you definitely need those people. You need to be able to get someone who offers in contrary and perspective who can truly give you honest feedback without hurting, no sugarcoating it and getting it, staring you on that path to success. I think that’s really, really helpful. I almost feel like I should ask you to be my mentor, because you clearly got it. You got it going on. And you just see, I just said to you everything you say exudes this personality, and like I see nothing but success coming in your future. So, yeah, thank you so much.
GIULIANA KOTIKELA: Oh, thank you for having me.
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