Support services in the startup ecosystem get wacky

Startups that support other startup entrepreneurs. Support services in the startup ecosystem get wacky.

Times of India reports that people made and lost money in the 1848 California Gold Rush, but only one man made a fortune that survives to this day. The man was Levi Strauss, and his business was not mining gold, but making hardy clothes for miners – the denim overalls which launched a $60 billion industry and a brand name that still has value. Something similar is happening in Silicon Valley, contends David V Johnson at The Baffler. “Sure, most coders are frenetically chasing down the next Pok√©mon Go – but the real innovation is taking root at the companies exploiting the desperation of tech’s gold hunters,” he writes. And one group that’s poised to make a killing off Silicon Valley insecurities are the nootropicists, the makers of ‘creativity and brain-boosting supplements’ called nootropics. The idea is packaged in a way that would appeal to the tech-savvy coders of the valley. These aren’t just ‘drugs’ or ‘foods’ – they’re ‘brain hacks’.

“Once restricted to shopping ad hoc on Amazon and shadowy websites on the dark web, would-be “psychonauts” can now turn to one-stop shopping at companies such as Nootroo, Trubrain, and Nootrobrain,” writes Johnson. One of the biggest of these ‘brainhack makers’ is Nootrobox, a company with a mission statement that reads “To create a better society through smarter, better brains” Nootrobos was founded by Geoffrey Woo and Michael Brandt, both Stanford alumni, and it’s been funded by A-list Valley luminaries like the legendary VC fir m Andreessen Horowitz and executives Mark Pincus, of gaming company Zynga, and Marissa Mayer, lately of Yahoo! The company sells canisters of ‘supplement stacks’ – the bodybuilding term for synergistic combinations of supplements optimized to produce specific outcomes—for improving cognitive performance. There’s ‘Rise’, which improves ‘memory, stamina and resilience’. ‘Sprint’ – to meet those deadlines, and even chewable caffeine.

Despite a lack of clinical evidence, sales are booming. It sounds like the Valley is looking for western equivalents of the old ayurvedic folk remedies Bramhi, and Sankhpushpi to us, though.


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