In the vast expanse of the modern wellness landscape, where technology often intertwines with age-old natural remedies, a new beacon emerges, casting a unique light on holistic well-being. This beacon, named sofi, is not just another product in the crowded market of wellness solutions. It’s a paradigm shift, a movement that redefines our relationship with nature, championing the timeless power of plants to offer a tailored approach to calmness and sleep. As we embark on this exploration of sofi’s journey, we’ll uncover the inspirations, the challenges, and the groundbreaking science that propels this venture. Dive in with us to discover how sofi is reshaping the future of a $1.5 trillion wellness market whose three driving forces McKinsey foreshadowed as natural, personal and digital – cue sofi!
The Genesis of sofi
Every groundbreaking idea often stems from a personal narrative. For the founder of sofi, Kaveh Memari, it was a deeply personal journey that began in experiencing the crippling effect of anxiety within his family. “My daughter has grappled to overcome her anxiety since she was little, and I’ve firsthand felt the profound powerlessness of watching someone you love struggle,” the founder shares. So the journey began, to harness the potent properties of plants, tapping into nature’s inherent power to provide relief and balance without the tolerance, dependance and addiction that may of the prescribed options carried. This is a way where people can get access to a fresh approach to well-being without depending only on conventional medications. The founder recalls the profound requisite of this space, emphasizing the need for differentiation and genuine efficacy.
Founder Kaveh Memari with sofi in the background, London Health Summit (November 2023).
When asked about the mission of sofi, Kaveh replied, “sofi was born from a clear mission: to bridge the gap between the individual and the botanical world, unlocking the profound power of natural chemistry. Before sofi, those seeking plant remedies often waded through countless products, each making similar claims. The wellness market is saturated with products with unknown provenance, questionable efficacy, greater differentiated by their packaging and lifestyle positioning than their ability to truly make and measure a difference for to how they impact me.”
To address this, sofi developed a smart spray technology, and an innovative journalling mechanism paired with intelligent machine learning, to help uncover one’s personal and unique experience with a specific plant. This approach moves us forward from making generic claims into precise, personalised insights. You no longer need to be a botanist to benefit from plants. And the technology of sofi allows us to take one step closer to our mission to naturally improve and enhance calm, sleep, and quality of life for our Pioneers.”
Challenges and Triumphs
sofi pod proto 1.0 – first proof of concept assembly of the sofi pod, October 2020.
sofi’s ambition wasn’t a gentle walk in the park. The founder delves deep into the initial challenges, “Developing sofi required an ability to generate a signal of use by a Pioneer for a specific formulation, without any effort. This had to be paired with a feedback mechanism that would enable sofi’s mathematics to determine, beyond a 95% level of certainty, a response to a particular formulation. The sofi product roadmap is truly multidisciplinary. It encompasses hardware, electronics, and mechanical engineering in the sofi pod; biochemistry and formulation in the sofi capsules; user experience and interface in the sofi app, and mathematical modeling and machine learning in the sofi brain to essentially process fragmented time series data and generate valid signals of one plant’s effect on a single Pioneer.” Added Memari.
But Kaveh is the first the point out that this wasn’t a solo journey. sofi required a symphony of engineers, scientists, clinicians, herbalists, user experience, industrial designers, and medical professionals in a truly multi-versed collaboration, with over 500 publsihed scientific papers, 200 patented innovations, and a dozen PhDs and MDs across the team. Each brought their own mastery and world view, crafting a product that seamlessly melded the physical and digital realms, ensuring a unique and personalised experience for every user.
The founder even mentioned, “While sofi.health is a consumer platform, we are extremely conscious to avoid making generic medical claims. However, we can confidently state that sofi possesses a unique capability to discern individual responses to a range of formulations in a way that has never been possible before. In this way we are adding perhaps the most significant missing piece to traditional plant-based, natural wellness – you!”
In our enlightening conversation with the founder, we delved into the remarkable technical achievements that sofi has accomplished in her journey thus far (it’s interesting that the Founder and team always refer to sofi as “she”). Impressively, they’ve advanced through 4.0 generations of hardware development in just over two-and-a-half years. Their dedication to perfection is evident with the creation of 96 pre-tooling versions and the implementation of 604 engineering improvements. The tangible impact of their efforts is clear, with over 2.4 thousand pods now activated and a staggering 18.1 thousand apps installed. Perhaps the greatest evidence that their platform is alive is that across their four global studies they have generated over 9.7 million real-world data points and journalling inputs, validating sofi end-to-end.
Unveiling the Technology Behind the sofi Pod
After delving into our research and engaging with the founder, we’ve unraveled the intricacies of the sofi pod. This compact, rechargeable spray is meticulously designed for sofi’s plant and fragrance capsules, ensuring on-the-go convenience. Its dual functionality employs RFID to recognise the capsules and Bluetooth to communicate usage to the sofi app. Notably, the introduction of the sofi ‘lock’ feature showcases the brand’s thoughtful design, preventing accidental sprays and ensuring the potent plant formulations are consumed as intended.
The Science Behind sofi
The sofi app isn’t just another wellness app. It’s a testament to the power of data and personalisation. The founder elaborates on the “N-of-1” approach, where discovery is built around a sample size of one person. This isn’t just about data; it’s about self-awareness, about understanding oneself better, and about finding the right natural remedy tailored for each individual.
The sofi algorithms are designed to learn by comparing a Pioneer’s data against their own over time. This approach, termed “N-of-1”, is revolutionary. Instead of seeking a generic answer for the average person in the classic randomised trial, it focuses on hundreds of observations of a single person across time. The founder explains, “To initiate this process, each Pioneer establishes a baseline using the sofi app by journaling their feelings and sleep patterns for a minimum of five to ten days. This phase is pivotal when starting with sofi, as it introduces two essential elements: the Pioneer becoming self-aware of their feelings and sleep through the unique interactions on the sofi app, and sofi understanding the Pioneer’s natural state before introducing a plant.”
The sofi “pod” is a smart spray, equipped with built-in RFID sensor technology and a Bluetooth connectivity. It automatically identifies the formulation of each plant capsule using RFID and communicates all spraying activity to the sofi app via Bluetooth. In doing so, the system actually identifies each sofi capsule uniquely across all 100k sofi capsules currently in circulation in over a dozen countries. This feedback system is perpetually active, employing several machine learning algorithms to generate a signal of effect. A recent discovery revealed that for every one second a Pioneer spends journaling their feelings and sleep with sofi, they gain 156 seconds of sleep. The Founder of sofi told us, “This average is derived from 2,480 pioneers across four global studies. Dr Stephen Dahmer, MD, on our Scientific Advisory Board, refers to this as the ” journaling ” intervention. The adage that self-awareness is the first step to improving how we feel turns out to be highly valid, and sofi taps into this. That’s why more recently we have started to refer to our sofi journalling app as our “time machine.”
One more intelligent thing we learned about sofi while discussing it was that it analyses the data collection through the sofi pod. How? Well, it constructs mathematical models that can help in describing the relationship between sleep, mood, and spraying activity. What’s more is that sofi updates this model every time a Pioneer journals or sprays and communicates the results once the model certainty reaches +95%. To boot, sofi have developed mathematical models that allow her to differentiate between improvements due to placebo (the effect of simply having the sofi pod in your hand) versus an impact that can be distinctly attributed to spraying a specific dosage of a formulation.
The founder also told us about the many “target states” which sofi measures the direct impact on for each experience of a plant-based formulation, including:
- sleep duration
- sleep consistency
- sleep quality
Each result is exclusive to individual user experience, thanks to the N-of-1 approach of sofi’s learning, allowing them to understand which formulation works best for them – not simply the average effect for everyone! Across the first three global studies with medicinal plants, sofi discovered a highly significant impact for each plant-based formulations on those who responded to them:
- S1 valerian: +31min sleep time | +59% sleep quality | -62% tiredness
- S2 passiflora: +20min sleep time | +54% sleep quality | +48% calm
- S3 ashwagandha: +28min sleep time | +76% sleep quality | +80% happy
The average result, of course, masks the profoundly unique responses that sofi was able to generate. Each plant was transformative for about one third to half of our Pioneers and had limited effect on the remainder of the group. By discerning which Pioneers respond best to which plant, sofi’s learning algorithms aim to identify the right plant for each Pioneer, transitioning them from plants they aren’t responding to, to ones they will.”
As sofi completes data bridges with Apple Watch, FitBit, Garmin, Strava, Whoop, Aura Ring, and over 400 wearable devices, the platform grows increasingly sophisticated, with an added 14 “sensed/measured” considerations such as sleep measures, light/deep/rem, heart and respiratory rate and level of activity, further unlocking the comparative effect of a natural formulation pre, during and post use via a smart sofi spray.
Quality and Sustainability
In a world where these words are often thrown around as mere buzzwords, sofi takes them seriously. The founder assures, “Each sofi plant capsule is 100% natural, vegan, and cruelty-free. We collaborate closely with herbalists, conservationists, and botanical gardens to ensure the quality and sustainability of all our plants.” This isn’t just about selling a product; it’s about a commitment to nature, to quality, and to the well-being of every Pioneer.
This made us curious about understanding more about sofi and its formulations. After research and discussion with the sofi team, we learned that sofi formulations are 10-20x more concentrated than the typical ethanol plant tinctures found on most health food store or supermarket shelves. This expert-formulated concentration facilitates unique personal discoveries within as little as 10 days of use. Naturally, to optimize their formulation strength, sofi exclusively uses plants with robust safety data and a long history of traditional use for each of the well-being areas targeted.
Community at the Heart
The sofi “surprise” was a collection of thousands of pebbles shipped across the world, both as a method of validating that sofi Pioneers could be reached anywhere in the world to receive their sofi pod and formulations, but also a lovely family collage of the thousands of hands that received a sofi pod and helped shape the product over each successive generation.
For sofi, community isn’t an afterthought; it’s central to its mission. The sofi ‘treehouse’ is more than just a forum; it’s a sanctuary. The founder speaks passionately about the role of community, “‘Empathy’ is a crucial step on the path to feeling better. Our community plays a far more significant role in the success and sense of belonging of our Pioneers than almost any user experience we could craft in the sofi app.” It’s a space of shared experiences, of mutual support, and of collective growth.
Setting sofi Apart
The wellness industry is booming, but sofi isn’t just another name in the crowd. The founder confidently states, “We have the first feedback mechanism that allows us to map a user’s unique responses to each plant formulation, guiding them towards finding more calm and sleep, naturally.” This isn’t about generic solutions; it’s about understanding each Pioneer’s unique needs and responding to them.
sofi’s Chief Medical Officer, David Casarett MD MA, Professor of Medicine and Head of Palliative Care at Duke University, adds “I’m excited about sofi’s technology and capabilities, but I’m really enthusiastic about sofi’s mission. sofi offers a unique opportunity to human beings to take control over their health. Using sofi’s brain, we can all seek out plant-based alternatives, determine whether those options are helping us, and make informed decisions about which plants work best for us. The sofi brain is any health seeker’s best friend.”
Our research and discussions with the founder have shed light on the exciting roadmap ahead for sofi. sofi is relentlessly innovating to enhance the Pioneer experience. Pioneers can soon expect integrations with popular wearable tech, and an expansion of the formulation range to include mood-modulating functional fragrances that target novel states such as “focus”. Additionally, the introduction of the sofi shop promises exclusive products and a unique rewards system using sofi seeds to promote projects aligned with the mantra of the company – purity of plants, power of people and preservation of planet. Collaborations with global health and wellness leaders are on the horizon, and the Spring/Summer 2024 collection pledges the introduction of three new power plants to the sofi formulation repertoire.
Advice for Aspiring Wellness Entrepreneurs
For those looking to carve a niche in the world of natural remedies and wellness products, the founder offers a treasure trove of advice. “Wellness is a journey. Our current state of being didn’t manifest overnight. It is a product of generations of experimentation. So patience is key. There’s no more significant or rewarding adventure than pioneering your own journey for ever more calm, sleep, health, and ultimate realisation of your best self.”
As we wrap up our deep dive into the world of sofi, one thing is clear: this isn’t just another wellness product. It’s a movement, a revolution in understanding ourselves, our needs, and the incredible power of nature. The future of wellness is here, and it’s personalised, sustainable, and deeply rooted in our being.
Find more about sofi at https://sofi.health/