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Developing new treatments from Autism and ADHD - Interview with Christof Goetz, Founder of Brainhero

"The founding of Brainhero was a search for home therapy for my daughter who was diagnosed with autism. The idea was not to replace existing therapies but to support the limited availability of intensive therapies."

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Christof Goetz is a serial entrepreneur with more than 20+ years of experience in managing complex business, software and hardware development projects. He started his career in the mid-nineties building webshops and AI-based analytics for retailers and insurance companies. He later moved to IBM, where he developed and delivered international training courses while working as a project manager.

Now he's running a late seed round for Brainhero, Medtech product that aims to help autism and ADHD patients using neurofeedback. But for more on his story, hear from the man himself.

What's the story behind Brainhero?

The founding of Brainhero was a search for home therapy for my daughter who was diagnosed with autism. The idea was not to replace existing therapies but to support the limited availability of intensive therapies.

Neurofeedback was initially a sort of straw to help her with her problems. We were always a bit experimental - we tried everything we heard in the parents' support group or in scientific papers, such as gluten-free diets or removing sugar from her diet.

When our therapists suggested trying neurofeedback, we investigated how it worked and found that it was not really autism-friendly. It took too long to set up, it was very irritating to the mind, but the biggest problem was that you had to be in a clinic twice a week in addition to other therapies - that was just too many logistics - and I looked for ways to do it at home. Since I could not find a solution, I teamed up with students from the Vienna University of Technology and we researched neurofeedback and with the help of the Medical University of Vienna, we developed a prototype that my daughter has been using since mid-2018.

After 3 months we could see the first improvement: Sleep, intense eye contact, improved social interaction - and this led to the creation of a company dedicated to helping people with autism and, more broadly, people with neurological problems.

What problem does Brainhero solve and how would you say it eases your customers' pain?

Autism is complex - most cases overlap with other neurological problems such as epilepsy, IQ, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Tourette's, anxiety, or depression. A highly individualized approach is needed to help these children and parents, as these problems produce very different brain signals. For example, in low IQ cases, there are large areas of low brain activity.

These brain problems manifest in the child's behavior, i.e., he or she cannot calm down, has trouble sleeping, cannot speak, has no social interaction - in ADHD, sleep, focus, or concentration times are disrupted.

Our therapy aims to train the brain activity towards the typical level of a healthy brain - leading to behavioral changes and improved mood control.

Overall, we can use the therapy to improve the quality of life for parents and children and also support existing behavioral therapies. Parents and their children become more active and better integrated into social life due to improved mood control and behavioral changes.

How many people could use your solution? What are the European statistics for ADHD and autism?

We have developed very rigorous onboarding and training within the software so that parents or affected patients can learn and understand how to use the therapy at home. This is done without anyone having to do the onboarding and has worked very well in our usability testing. This means that we do not have to rely on specialist help to learn how the therapy works at home. In the beginning, we will have an additional introductory conversation, and the therapy will be supported by our Brainhero Care Team, a specialized team that has experience caring for children with neurological problems. But overall, we have seen that the therapy can be sent to many patients at the same time.

In terms of patient numbers, we did a survey of about 1,000 parents in Germany and Austria. It turned out that every 10th parent has a child with either autism or ADHD. There are 68 million children in the EU, 54 million of them in the age group we targeted between 6 and 18 years, which corresponds to about 5.4 million affected children in the EU. The official scientific figures are somewhat lower: 2.7% of children are affected by autism and about 5% by ADHD.

Beyond autism or ADHD, we are working on the treatment of dementia and early diagnosis of dementia. About 90% of all cases of dementia are diagnosed too late - that is, by the time dementia is normally detected, a significant part of the brain has been affected, and the effects of dementia cannot be reversed to get better. There are 90 million people in the EU over the age of 60 who are at risk of developing dementia and could use our platform for early detection. 9.1 million people in the EU are affected by dementia, which is about 10% of the elderly population.

What is happening in the health tech industry in which you are active? What are the most important trends?

In general, the digitization of the healthcare industry is a big topic and there is a lot of technology being introduced to either improve the healthcare situation or create more quality of life - also to enable treatment at home. COVID19 showed us how important technology is and those new technologies are needed to provide care for patients who can not be with a therapist as often.

A lot is happening in neuroscience as EEGs become more available for research, but also studies with brain stimulation show that these therapies can contribute to a healthier brain.

We are already involved in many research programs that will allow us to use our technology for more use cases in the future.

How has your experience so far impacted Brainhero's pilots?

COVID was a huge challenge for everyone in our society. It forced society as a whole to take a crash course in technology, and that has helped Brainhero, as many more patients and users are accustomed to using this type of technology as part of their daily routine.

Startups grow from failure. Have you ever had to change your product or service to better meet the needs of your customers?

We first developed a simple concentration and relaxation game that was not limited to a neurological problem. In addition, we used Brainhero in a clinical trial where we received feedback and saw what worked and what did not. That is, it is important to understand the home environment and stress levels of parents to see if home therapy can be successful. We are constantly learning from this experience and that is a big reason why we are not launching our product with a big boom. We want to grow slowly and improve our product.

We encourage concerned children to be part of the creative process and we learn from them what we need to do to improve the product. This is something we hope to do more of as the situation improves at COVID.

Where do you see Brainhero and your company in 3-5 years?

I see Brainhero as a platform. The technology is very flexible and what we need is clinical proof of whether the technology supports certain neurological problems. Once that proof is established, we will expand our target audience in the area of therapy and even diagnostics, as EEG signals can be a key element in understanding the brain and making the right diagnosis.

Brainhero can help many patients with different needs: In diagnostics, we see an opportunity to detect dementia early and monitor epilepsy at home; in therapy, we are working to help ADHD in adults as well as dementia. But even as we approach a consumer device, we can use our technology to keep your brain healthy by combining it with the entertaining aspects of VR play.

What makes Brainhero so special? Why should investors choose you?

We have built a strong foundation in the last 3 years. We have built a quality management system and developed 4 medical products with a small team in a very short time. Our team's mission is to help patients with neurological problems and we see an urgent need for affected children. COVID has been an additional burden in recent years, therapists are in high demand and there is a need for additional help for affected patients.

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More than 90 SeedBlink investors have already shown their trust in Brainhero by MyMind vision, investing along with IST cube and primeCROWD in the technology solution with social impact and a broad spectrum of applications, from autism and ADHD to depression, anxiety, burnout, and dementia.

The investment opportunity is open until the maximum amount of € 1,650,000 is reached or until Friday, April 15 at the latest. Learn more here.

By Bianca Iulia Simion

PublishedApril 05, 2022


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