Los Angeles Business Journal

Startup Releases Software to Exercise Your Mind

By Tom Dotan Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Fitness apps have come around in a big way recently, with the success of tracking devices such as Fitbit and Fuelband.

But while these apps analyze the body and measure activity such as exercise and sleep patterns, they do little to track the mind.

That's where new software from mental wellness tech firm bLife fits in. The Santa Monica startup has released what it describes as a "personal fitness program for the mind." It was built as a Web app for computers that launched Tuesday, with an iPhone app set to be released next year. Membership to the site costs $14.95 a month.

BLife executives said the platform was designed in close collaboration with neuroscientists to measure and improve four categories: focus, positivity, sleep and relationships.

Users are first asked a series of questions to determine areas for improvement. The program then tailors a personalized mental exercise regimen, with techniques such as meditation and visualization that are supposed to decrease stress. The bLife platform also includes brain games to stimulate mental activity.

Co-founder and Chief Executive Paul Campbell said the idea is to continuously measure a users' mental progress and keep tailoring the regimen to encourage improvement. The goal is addressing what he said was a health crisis that couldn't be solved only through physical exercise.

"The American Medical Association claims that stress is the nation's No. 1 proxy killer," Campbell said. "There's now an awareness that we've got to focus on the mind as well as the body."

Mental wellness is an area that's seen increased attention not only from the medical community, but from investors. BLife, which has developed similar mental health software for Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra, has raised venture capital funding in "the single-digit millions." Its latest round was led by Palo Alto firm True Ventures.

The L.A. region has seen its share of activity in this realm. Melon, a Venice company that makes a brainwave-measuring headband has received investments from Santa Monica accelerator LaunchPad. Another local entrant is FocusatWill, a music site headquartered in Echo Park that plays music it says is scientifically proved to make someone relax and focus.

Campbell said it's all part of the recognition that a person's true fitness means thinking beyond just the body.

"The next frontier of health and wellness will be how we think and behave," Campbell said.