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Expanding Employees’ Minds, One Pod At A Time

By Rob Wile The Miami Herald

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) What does the ideal meditation space look like to you?  To one entrepreneur it is a closed-off space, small enough to fit in an office but large enough to fit a human.

The Miami Herald

Jonathan Marcoschamer had hit rock bottom.

As a "recovering entrepreneur" from previous, largely unsuccessful startup attempts, he was searching for a way to clear his mind and start fresh.

A friend suggested he look into a 10-day Vipassanna silent meditation, something that's become increasingly common among individuals seeking to escape the plugged-in frenzy of the 21st century. (Twitter founder Jack Dorsey recently tried it and, of course, Tweeted about it.)

The experience was life-changing, Marcoschamer said. It got him back on his feet professionally -- and also made him realize that, somehow, the rest of the world needed to experience what he'd gone through.

"The biggest takeaway was, everyone should be able to access this," he said.

That realization eventually resulted in a win in the Health / Bioscience vertical of the 2019 Miami Herald Startup Pitch Competition's Community Track.

After landing a job at Local Measure, a Miami data firm, Marcoschamer tried to find places to meditate that weren't too hot or too noisy. It wasn't easy.

Undeterred by his past failures, he began designing what the ideal meditation space would look like -- and how to form a business around it. He began thinking of a closed-off space, small enough to fit in an office but large enough to fit a human.

He eventually settled on the idea of a large seed-like pod. And OpenSeed was born.

By July 2017, Marcoschamer had raised $40,000 to build a prototype. He persuaded the Cambridge Innovation Center-Miami, a co-working space and startup facilitator, that it would be a value-add to the environment.

Natalia Martinez-Kalinina, CIC Miami director, said it has paid dividends.

"Folks have generally been confused (in a positive way) and delighted," she said in an email. People ask about the pod-shaped chamber all the time, "and those who use it are definitely repeat customers. Adoption has been great and we consider it an asset!"

OpenSeed's connection to the burgeoning market for mindfulness and wellness helped it win, said judge Norma Kenyon, chief innovation officer at the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine. Marcoschamer's pitch was well-planned and covered key aspects of finance and marketing. "And the product is interesting," she said.

Indeed, the mindfulness movement shows no sign of slowing down. Calm, a meditation app, has now been downloaded approximately 10 million times.

"A lot of inexplicable things that happen," when you're able to properly meditate, he said. "You enter a heightened state of alertness, and also experience a sense of gratefulness and appreciation."

Marcoschamer is now developing a second prototype that will be released in the coming weeks, one that will provide even more comfort while offering what he calls additional "modalities" of meditation, including incorporating sounds and even smells (otherwise known as aroma therapy -- people swear by it).

He has signed a 100-pod licensing deal with a Japanese company to manufacture and distribute the units and is finalizing two more deals, he said. The company is working to raise $750,000. The business pitch is simple: happier, more productive employees.

"That's really the bottom line," he said.

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