SuperBetter Improves Mental Health Using the Psychology of Gameplay by@keithwakeman

SuperBetter Improves Mental Health Using the Psychology of Gameplay

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Keith Wakeman

CEO & Co-Founder, SuperBetter.

HackerNoon Reporter: Please tell us briefly about your background.

I'm an innovator and brand builder who has led organizations to develop and launch over $1 billion of new products and businesses. I spent nearly 20 years in the food industry growing brand portfolios, managing P&Ls, leading innovation teams and directing new venture development for top companies including Kellogg, Keebler and Nabisco. I am now the general manager leading the global expansion of SuperBetter as a scalable evidence-based digital platform to tackle the youth mental health crisis. Our mission is to unlock the heroic potential of 50 million youth in the next 5 years.

What's your startup called? And in a sentence or two, what does it do?

SuperBetter is a digital mental health & wellbeing company. Our unique methodology empowers people to overcome obstacles and achieve success by bringing the mindset and psychology of game play to real life. Over 1 million people have played SuperBetter.

What is the origin story?

SuperBetter was invented by our Chief Science Officer Jane McGonigal. Jane is a researcher and world-renowned game designer. One day Jane hit her head and got a concussion. Although under medical care, the concussion did not heal properly. Over time she experienced anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation. Her damaged brain was telling her she had no reason to live. Jane created a game to help herself heal and it helped her recover. She shared the game on her blog and it became a grass-roots phenomenon. The rest is history. Jane’s TED Talk with her story that led to creating SuperBetter has now been watched by a global audience of over 7 million viewers.

What do you love about your team, and why are you the ones to solve this problem?

My Co-Founder Jane McGonigal is the global thought leader for using the science of games to improve real lives and solve real problems. She’s brilliant and caring. Jane’s expertise in game science complements my extensive experience growing businesses and scaling innovation. I love that our team culture is focused on intersection of purpose, science and smart business practices. The combination is the winning formula for an impact venture that scales and generates investor returns.

If you weren’t building your startup, what would you be doing?

I love championing science-based innovations that solve big thorny problems in the world. If I wasn’t building the SuperBetter business I would be building something else.

At the moment, how do you measure success? What are your core metrics?

During this company phase our focus is building the foundation for scaling a global business. The foundation includes a compelling brand, a passionate community, a competitively differentiated product, strong science and a world-class team. Our core metrics fall into these areas.

Over 1 million people have played SuperBetter. It's found on media lists of best apps for mental health & wellbeing alongside industry unicorns Calm and Headspace. SuperBetter receives great reviews on the App Store (4.7/5.0 stars) and is recommended by teachers, K-12 schools, colleges & universities, counselors and psychologists.

Media loves SuperBetter. The press page of our website includes over 75 stories featuring SuperBetter so far in 2021.

The book SuperBetter, The Power of Living Gamefully is New York Times best-seller.

SuperBetter is backed by science. In randomized controlled & clinical trials SuperBetter players improved resilience, mental health and social-emotional skills. Published meta-analyses show it is among the most effective mobile apps validated in randomized controlled trials for reducing anxiety & depression.

What’s most exciting about your traction to date?

SuperBetter has attracted over 1 million players and lots of media attention. What’s most exciting about this traction is that it is achieved without any paid advertising or PR outreach.

Our community grows organically because people love SuperBetter, how well it works and the way it makes them feel. They find our app through word of mouth referrals, media stories, the TED Talk, the SuperBetter book and recommendations from schools, colleges, therapists and other allies.

We are also excited to find researchers feature SuperBetter in articles published in respected journals including the Journal of Pediatric Psychology and the British Journal of Guidance & Counseling.

What technologies are you currently most excited about, and most worried about? And why?

We’re super excited about the possibilities of AI and augmented reality. Applied ethically, AI has incredible potential to personalize experiences to make them more intuitive, engaging and effective. Augmented reality is a fitting technology for the way SuperBetter spans the virtual and real worlds.

We’re most concerned about algorithms. When when combined with advertising models, algorithms optimized to maximize only revenue can lead to people consuming online media in ways that negatively impact mental health & wellbeing. The risk is especially high among youth.

What drew you to get published on HackerNoon? What do you like most about our platform?

We really appreciate the local focus of HackerNoon and that the platform recognizes the best startups by city. We love all the resources available on the platform.

What advice would you give to the 21-year-old version of yourself?

Let me be vulnerable and share something personal. When I was young I believed that my value as a person was defined only by my achievements. Today I would tell the 21-year old version of myself that he is 100% loved and valuable just for being. My advice would be that achieving success is great but that success (or failure) is not what defines your identity or your worth.

What is something surprising you've learned this year that your contemporaries would benefit from knowing?

Published in 2012 the book Pendulum predicted the extreme polarization and tribalism that we see in America today. Through their research the authors discovered a historical pattern of 40-year swings between a ‘we’-oriented and a ‘me’-oriented society. Historically the 10 years before and after the peak of the ‘we’ cycle is noted for extreme polarization and a posture of “my tribe is ok, your tribe is not ok.’ The peak of the ‘we’ cycle will occur in 2023. The bad news - if the Pendulum model holds - is that we’re in for another decade or so of hyper polarization in America.


Thanks for reading!

VOTE FOR SuperBetter on the Chicago Startups of the Year Page.

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