CEO Marko Ahtisaari brings a rich background of design and music to a new quest to identify music that can actually help people maintain or regain their health. In this interview, Ahtisaari references a few websites, including go.syncproject.com where you can offer your song suggestions. You can find out more about project advisor Dr. Robert Zatorre in this interview and hear Ahtisaari’s view on company culture.
Tom Salemi: Hi, everybody, welcome back to the Breaking Health Podcast. I’m here with our great and esteemed host, Steve Krupa of the Psilos Group.
Steve Krupa: Hi, Tom. How are you doing?
TS: Good. You’re learning Boston words, huh?
SK: I am. Learning how to say “Uben.”
TS: You’re blending right in, Steve.
SK: Spell “Uben”. WOBURN.
TS: That’s right.
TS: We’ll get you to “Lester” and “Wooster” in a little while.
SK: Yeah, yeah. I can’t spell Worchester.
TS: Don’t try.
SK: I have no idea. No clue.
TS: But you did find your way to the Sync Project, a Boston area company. You have another one. So happy to have you find a local connection. You spoke with Marko Ahtisaari, the CEO of the Sync Project, who is a music guy, just like you. I was getting a little jealous. You guys were having a real good music bro conversation. And I know I just can’t participate at the level you both were at.
SK: That’s because we listen to things other than like REO Speedwagon and Foreigner.
TS: What’s your point? That’s just my aerobics mix. What are you talking about?
SK: Yeah, that’s your running mix, I know.
TS: So let’s talk about the Sync Project a bit. What are they trying to do?
SK: Well, remember we sort of touched on this company when we talked to Daphne Zohar over at PureTech, right? And she talked about it a little bit, but I wasn’t going to let go of it because it’s about music. It’s the only chance for me to talk about music in a healthcare podcast. So we went and Marko was good enough to come back on. And really we get into some things. First of all, the Sync Project is cool. You should go on the website. You have the opportunity to present songs that relate to certain activities like sleeping, running, getting – relaxing and things like that.
TS: It’s go.syncproject.co.
SK: Yeah, exactly. So one of the things that they’re doing is they’re trying to build out that knowledge from consumers of music in terms of what they use their music for. That’s one piece of it. And the other piece of it is to begin to develop digital therapeutics with music as a core component. So all of that comes together into a fairly unique idea, and I think an interesting thing to talk about, given most people enjoy music for some portion of their day. Except maybe for you, Tom, I’m not sure. But I feel like –
TS: I do, I do. I probably lean on Pandora a little too heavily to make my suggestions.
SK: So what is your Pandora go-to station?
TS: Oh, my gosh. Well, I’m a 90s, 80s guy. So when I’m at the gym, it’s a Pat Benatar station, and I know it’s completely cheesy –
TS: – but makes me feel young again.
SK: Reminds you of the spandex pants, I imagine.
TS: That’s right, and the headband which I wear proudly. And then I get into 90s with some Letters to Cleo or might do some Billy Joel kind of stuff if I’m just sitting around the office. So I’m not a complete lame-o, but I’m on the way for sure.
TS: So what are we going to do with music? Is it going to heal our wounds? Is it going to improve our moods? It was an interesting conversation about making an impact on pain relief. What can music do for us in a health capacity?
SK: You know, it seems like there’s a relationship between music and cognition. It seems like there’s a relationship between certainly stress and music, right? And we may be able to use it as a way to uncover disease in people. But I think really what it will ultimately be is it will be part of the consumer experience around health applications. My bet is that in the medium term, as we see these digital therapeutics and these engagement applications become more and more prevalent, one of the tools that programmers are going to try to use is music as a cue, music as part of a therapeutic, and that would be very much a personalized attribute to the user. So it will become a component part of personalized therapies over time, as they begin to collect more data and as they begin to understand the exact types of music that really have an impact.
TS: I really love that this is an actual project, an actual company that’s trying to put this all together. So I’m glad –
SK: Yeah, I don’t want to steal Marko’s thunder, but –
TS: Nope, let’s go.
SK: – but there’s other consumer applications that maybe are less strenuous than, say, trying to create a therapeutic and more along the lines of alternative medicine type applications for music as well. So I think he’s got a lot to say. A very interesting guy, former designer, and I think it’s a cool interview.
TS: Great. And I think for our fifty-second podcast, we should let DJ Scoop Krupa kind of make a mix tape for us here on the Breaking Health Podcast, and get everybody grooving right. What do you think?
SK: Yeah. We can put it up as a podcast in the download, and then people can have my playlist.
TS: I think they’ll love that. All right, let’s get into this conversation with Marko Ahtisaari, CEO of Sync Project.
SK: Welcome to the Breaking Health Podcast. I’m here with Marko Ahtisaari, from the Sync Project. Welcome to the show, Marko.
Marko Ahtisaari: Thanks for having me.
SK: So we alluded to your company a little bit in a past show with Daphne Zohar from PureTech. And your company is all about designing and creating a science about how music can directly impact people’s health. And I can’t wait to talk about that because everybody wants to talk about music. But I do want to talk about you. I mean I’ve sort of read a little bit about your background as a designer, and I know you’re a musician for a little while. Tell me how things came together that stimulated your interest in health and music as a combined project.
MA: Yeah. Sometimes things come together in a kind of remarkable way, things in your life that you didn’t think would fit together. In the case of my background, in consumer products, technology, and then music, and an increasing interest in health. I had a product design at Nokia until Nokia sold the business to Microsoft. And I was taking a bit of a sabbatical and the director of the MIT Media Lab here in Boston, Cambridge, called me, Joey Ito. And he said, why don’t you join the Media Lab as a Directors Fellow? And so I was coming to MIT a lot, and through this process I met Daphne Zohar from PureTech and Ketki Karanam, my science cofounder in Sync Project. And we started – the first thing is we started going through all of the recent scientific research and directional evidence on the health effects of music. And you know, like a good melody, it just didn’t leave me alone. And then ended up cofounding the company together with another MIT recent PhD, Yadid Ayzenberg, who’s our technology and product lead. And so I hadn’t thought, frankly, that these areas could be combined. I think in general, I had worked on consumer products and smart phones at kind of massive industrial scale, 1.3 billion devices during the 4 years I was there. And I felt like I had seen that path to a point, and something I think at the Media Lab really brought together like the overlap in the future – I think the future of design has to do with an intersection with science, so really, there’s even a new journal of design and science coming out of the Media Lab and MIT Press now. So applying the crafted design services prototyping in very close collaboration with science and scientists I think is what I wanted to do. And then this ability to do it in the domain of music just lit me up.
SK: That’s cool. I want to take a little sidetrack on design because design is, I don’t know, it feels to me like it’s becoming a very big deal in the world in terms of trying to design products that people want to use and design, software that people want to use. And I’m reminded of a book I read a while back called The Design of Everyday Things. Did you – do you know this guy, Don Norman, by any chance?
MA: Sure, absolutely. I’ve met him many times and I’ve read the book as well.
SK: Well, I would imagine – it seems to me that the thinking of that book is influencing a lot of design today when it comes to software and mobile devices. Just give our audience a sense for what design is and why it’s different than, say, engineering, if you will.
MA: Well, I think maybe a fundamental thing is designers build to think clearly. So essentially, you prototype and make things that are physical objects or services, systems. So you build something rough, and then by interacting with that thing, you think more clearly about it. And fundamentally, I think it’s about taking a very human perspective on things. I’d say that the big evolution, and this relates to this overlap between design and science, is more and more we live in a kind of age of networks and networked power, if you think about the companies like Airbnb, Facebook, all of those. So these are increasingly systems. So I think designers are really – another area where design practice can be applied is in these systems, and in participants in these systems. I don’t mean to sound too abstract, but I think right now if you’re talking about physical objects, none of the – almost all physical objects will be connected in some way, and being connected changes them. And so understanding those dynamics is very important. But fundamentally, it’s about building things so that we can think more clearly, prototyping them, and through that, having a sort of human perspective on everyday things and engagement with services, something you’ve talked a lot about on the Podcast.
SK: Yeah. And what’s interesting is to me, one of the theories of design is that you ought to be able to sort of look at something and understand how it ought to work by the way you interact with it. And what’s interesting about your new company to me is when I heard the name and I heard its purpose, I immediately started to imagine the ways in which I might interact with music to help me with my health, right? It’s almost like the concept is built for us naturally, and now we’ve just got to go sort of get the details and make it work. Does that make sense?
MA: Yeah, it certainly makes sense. I mean music is such a – it’s like a wondrous, powerful thing. You know if you’ve played music, listened to music, I think intuitively we know the power that music has over us. We all self-medicate with music to some degree. We use music to get pumped up, to get motivated, to calm down, to relax. And so that’s in our favor, in a way, that people are open to the idea. Anyone that has felt chills from music will understand that this thing moves us deeply. On the other hand, that intuition is not enough. It’s been core to us to partner with leading scientists in the world and really build on the scientific advances of the last 10, 20 years. And there’s been a lot of this basically in 2 areas. There’s fundamental, basic research in neurological function in music. So what’s firing in the brain when we listen to music, we play music? And there’s advances there. And as well then, strong directional evidence in some clinical cases. And we can talk about both those areas. But we felt like combining those 2 things, the intuition, the strong directional evidence and science. What we didn’t see and when we were talking with the scientists was that no one has built a way to collect data on this phenomenon at scale. And that’s been the first phase of the company, to really build a platform where we can collect data in a range of conditions. I can talk about where we’re focusing there, but essentially, three broad areas. We’re looking at music’s effect on movement, so how music makes us move. That has application in athletics, athletic performance, but also in movement disorders, including gait in Parkinson’s and areas like that. And relaxation, more relaxation response side of the axis, relaxation, sleep. Flip side is anxiety. And then third, which is perhaps more surprising, but pain and dealing with pain, postoperative pain. So in all of these areas, collecting data on different scales. But what the data consists of is a range of things. But examples of music that has worked for people, so just even self-reports, or if I can talk a bit more about that, but on the most focused side it’s been sensors, analyzing the biometric effect of music listening on an individual level, as well as acoustically analyzing the music. So the acoustic properties, beat, the depth of the groove of music, key, the color or timbre of the music, which instruments are used, and those things. And build this unique data set mapping these two things, the biometric effect to the properties of the music. And by mining this data set and applying machine learning techniques to that, the goal is to do these algorithmic music therapeutics. And we felt that this platform hadn’t been done. The researchers said we’d need it, and so we partner with them and to collect the data. And that’s really the state we’re right now at. And it’s very exciting to see the data come in.
SK: So I jumped on the website and like a good music fan, I decided to submit a couple of recommendations to you guys. So I did the sleeping recommendation was Miles Davis, “In a Silent Way,” which –
SK: – yeah, it’s pretty, but I find if I put it on at night, I’ll fall asleep.
SK: And interesting, the running one. I think there was a running thing. And I did that “Walking on Sunshine,” which is whatever, for whatever reason makes me want to run.
MA: Very good. Thank you for that. And anyone listening to the Podcast, it’s at go.syncproject.co. And really, it’s a good example of the kind of different scales across which we are gathering data. So we’ve analyzed over 10 million public playlists that have health related terms in their names, and looked at what kind of acoustic properties are characteristic in different worked out contexts, for example, relationship context. So that’s in a way passive, large, and lots of people participating without knowing it. These are public playlists. We mine them. Then there’s the more thoughtful thing that you did, a thoughtful recommendation. This track has actually worked for me. And as you said, for whatever reason – we may not always know; we may have some idea – and by collecting that, we’re again analyzing these. These are thoughtful self-report, which are very important. And then more biometric, so not just reporting that this thing worked, but really looking at the biometric effect. So later this year we’ll open up more just on a smart phone application the ability to contribute data in these different areas, as well as the very small-focused studies that we’re talking ends of tens, where we’re decked out with much more sensors, and where we’re really looking in detail. But I think it’s key to understand that we can gather data at all these scales and put that together to form a full picture.
SK: So I want to just dig into what the product might be, and then I do want to talk about the science, because the science interests me quite a bit. But I pulled a quite that said “a dynamic playlist tuned to your body for specific health outcomes.” Is that a good description of what a part of the product would be?
MA: Yeah. So imagine – our hypothesis is that the biometric effects of music are personalize, and so the health effects are personalized. And personalization and being personal to you may be many things. It starts with your preference and your history with music, the music that you’ve heard in the past and liked in the past, as well as your body’s reaction to certain acoustic parameters, how you respond to certain tempo ranges or depth of groove and so on. And then third is actually where your body is currently, what your cadence is, how are you walking or running at the moment, or what your heart rate is. Heart rate variability. And so in all these cases, the idea is that it’s like biometric music recommendation. What to play you if you’d like to relax, given those aspects about you. And I think when we say it’s dynamic, it means it’s not a static playlist. It’s not like Relax Playlist, same for everybody, all these songs in this order. But there’ll be different songs for different people, and the order may change depending on your physiology.
SK: Interesting. And when you think of this as a product, do you think of it as ultimately obtaining a medical prescriptive label? Or do you think of it as more of a wellness product. Where there is some evidence of success and using the product will help you sort of tune to a particular outcome, but it isn’t like a medicine?
MA: It’s a really good question. And it really depends on the effect sizes we will and are discovering. So let’s take the case of pain, for example. It’s not maybe so familiar to people, but there have been studies showing that playing music post-operation objectively decreases the need for opioids.
MA: And so there’s a self-administered analgesic, so you’re administering yourself. And in this case, post anesthesia, one hour after arrival with your played music, and in those groups that were played music, they administered less opioid. Now, given the kind of opioid epidemic that’s in this country, if a music therapeutic administered in these contexts could play a role in reducing the amount of opioid need post operation, and as a consequence of opioid addiction that results from that and so on, that’s a big thing. And then I’d say that it’s instrumental to that, like do – what kind of approval do we need for that. And so of course this is a new thing. You’ve discussed some of these on your podcast in the case of like video games that Akili Interactive Labs is pioneering them, you know, FDA approval path. We haven’t yet decided, and we want to be open to it. What I do believe, though, is that music is such a human universal that we do want at least part of our product to be very, very broadly available. So we don’t want to lock it up and only confine it to perhaps very effective, but clinical cases. Music is also safe, so we don’t have a safety issue. It’s mainly about the efficacy and the effect sizes that we’re witnessing.
SK: Interesting. So the pain thing, frankly, I hadn’t known that. I didn’t realize that was the case. But I do know that music can either have beneficial or sometimes detrimental effect on the way people retain information. Is that a correct statement? Or cognition, maybe, might be the word I think of.
MA: Yes. And particularly the area – you’re a musician, so in terms of music for focus and productivity, people that have played more music versus not react quite differently in those cases. Overall, if you look at the fundamental neurological function underlying music listening, so what’s been shown and brain imaging studies as well is that music listening fires many of the same pathways. It’s not only limited to auditory cortex, but it’s dopaminurgic circuitry, emotion, motivation, reward, and pain. Also memory, stress, arousal, autonomic responses. And then I think there’s a broad other area which has to do with social affiliation and empathy. We’re not looking at that so much, but we all know what it is like to have together listen to a piece of music and how that can both affect us emotionally, but then increase empathy and ability to collaborate, for example. So there’s broad areas where it has application. Now the fact that we’re seeing similar pathways fire, of course not all the dots are connected towards behavior. But like the pain showed, that that’s actual behavior that’s changing. And that is quite, as you know, difficult to do, and that’s in a way a challenge for many digital therapeutics: engagement, sticking with it, but then also the behavior change that results from it. One example which you may find also, which is kind of – speaks to your point on the cognition side is there’s been research by Teppo Särkämö and Helsinki University in my native Finland, music support for stroke recovery. And this was cerebral artery stroke. There was a sort of positive control which is an audio book. And this was for one hour daily for 2 months post the traumatic brain event. So there was audio book, so just testing if it’s just the auditory cortex and sound, and control with standard of care. And what that study showed was improvement and sustained improvement in verbal memory and focused attention. And this is sustained. So once you’ve stopped after the 2 months, those improvements remained. So to your point about cognition, this is one study that has shown it in this clinical context.
TS: Hey, everybody, Tom here. Two quick things. The first is a sort of technical difficulty. At the end of this Podcast, Marko Ahtisaari from Sync, mentions Dr. Robert Zatorre. Unfortunately, we lost the audio for just the few moments that he was referencing Dr. Zatorre’s name. So we wanted to give you a heads up, and let you know that if you go on the website for the Breaking Health Podcast for this particular episode, we’ll have a link up on that Podcast with the interview that Dr. Zatorre had given. It’s on the Syncproject.co website. So if you want to find out more information about Dr. Zatorre, you can just to on the website. It’s on healthegy.com, and it’s affiliated with this Breaking Health Podcast. And while you’re there on the website, healthegy.com, the word health followed by the letters EGY.com, please don’t forget to register for the Digital Healthcare Innovation Summit. I’ve been warning you that it’s if going to sell it out – likely will – tickets are going very quickly. So please do register at healthegy.com and use the Breaking Health tag. It’s bit of a code that’ll save you a little bit of money, so when you’re registering, just type in Breaking Health when you have the opportunity to do so, and again, you’ll attend a wonderful conference and save a few bucks. Now back to this conversation.
SK: That’s awesome. That’s awesome. So we’ve gotten into a little bit of the science, and of course the other side of the coin is whether this is something that the medical community is prepared to embrace. So are you thinking of it as information that you’re going to deliver to physicians so that they can recognize that this can supplement any way in which they’re treating patients for these disorders? And I have a list, by the way: pain, anxiety, sort of sleep, right, fatigue, movement. Sounds like cognition in the stroke example. So you’re doing the studies for the purpose of going to the medical community? Or are you doing the studies for the purpose of going to the consumer marketplace?
MA: I think right now we’re really in the mode of gathering data. And we will go where the data takes us. Oddly, as you may know, in the medical community, in doctors, there are a lot of musicians. And so there’s a lot of playing music already, so in principle there’s an experience of music, and experience of being moved by music. And then really the data will speak, you know? So showing what the results are. And so we’re basically maintaining both paths open still. And what I said earlier is, though, I’m a consumer product person. I’m joined by very competent people with background in science and the deep sort of sensor tech. So I think music deserves to be broadly available. That doesn’t mean it’s free, by the way. I think we’re living a period of music – and this is important to, I think, recognize – the whole music industry is shifting into paid streaming services, leaders being Spotify, 30 million, Apple, 15 million subs. But that all – adding all those, maybe it’s about 90 million paid subscribers at the moment, depending on how you add the numbers in total, and that’s going to be a billion in 5, 6 years’ time. And this is a time when music is more exciting than ever because the industry is growing. And we are, to your point, we are like the biometric music recommendation engine on that. So how can music help you live a healthier life? And this question of how we discover music, what music is played, this is like fundamental. And we’re very, very early days. Even this whole idea of a playlist is very – and we are syncing it to your biophysiology, and doing that. So we want to maintain that openness to go and help people every day, even when they don’t – not in a case where someone’s had, for example, cerebral artery stroke. That’s important that ultimately it comes down to what those effect sizes are and how we decide to monetize it. But we want to make it accessible. Music is a universal thing around which people gather, and we’re also – you contributed data. Thank you. Thousands of people are contributing data. We want to take all those people along, and that means we can’t – we don’t intend to lock up that data. We want to make the benefits accessible broadly.
SK: Yeah, I’m going to give you more data. I just didn’t have time. I didn’t have – but I’ll go on there every now and then and see how things are going, and then try to add to it. But I could see, you know, a couple things. A couple things come to mind as you describe what you’re up to. First, I mean it sounds like you want to develop this playlist, if you will, or this set of personalized music, and then measure the bio effects of listening to the music, right? But that implies to me that I would be listening to music and I would have some sort of surveillance or some sensors on me that you’d be able to measure whether or not I was less anxious. I’m sure that correlates to heart rate or blood pressure or something. Or whether I was demonstrating higher levels of energy. Is that where a lot of your research is heading, in that direction?
MA: Yes. And but remember, more and more sensors are also included in the phone, and the phone has weird things like Health Kit, has a depository of your local health data coming together in the phone. So it’s not that for everything we need you to have a very powerful sensor. Those sensors are coming down in price. We’re just using and integrating with the ones that are currently in market and have good reach. Apple Watch is one example, a range of heart rate monitors, and even consumer EEG. All of this can bring data in. But we’re not reliant on it because even today, in the sensors tracking movement in accelerometer gyro in the phone itself can give us information in that category.
SK: And so how long do you think all of this research will take you? I mean we’ve got big computers. It’s a cool subject, right, so who’s not going to volunteer?
MA: Thank you for that. And we’re encouraged by the messages we receive every day, like how can I contribute data. And we’re trying to get different speed bumps and different easier and easier ways to do that. I wouldn’t really refer to it as research. We think of it as collecting data informed by already-done research and scientific research. And it’s going to be ongoing. And in fact, more like on consumer Internet, the data is gathered as people use the product. So I think it’ll be – we definitely said that for the next year we’re gathering data, and we’re going in the directions where the data takes us. But I wouldn’t think of it as – I do think the model is similar to a traditional big pharma model, like 5 years. We’re going to have people using some experience of the product and generating data back to us all the time.
SK: Yeah. I mean I could see I think I have both a Spotify and an iTunes subscription. And I could see a product coming out as an overlay to those services or separately, like a Pandora, that so this is your health sort of music app. You have to come up with a name for it, right, and maybe you already have, and I’ll get a scoop here, but we’ll see.
MA: Your mind is exactly going to the place where we want to have broad involvement, really. How can you use music in a mindful way during your day? And that’ll inform – and that data collection – you may wonder like OK, I shared a track about running. That’s telling us something about its effect on motivation and your movement and the rhythm, and that can have applications in other areas. So that’s exactly. And that’s why it’s so important what I said about the growth in the music industry because you constantly hear like the digitalization destroyed the music industry. It’s actually, right now, the market is turning because as people come to pay for streaming services like yourself and like myself, they actually spend, with the exception of major music heads that are buying, buying, buying music all the time, in terms of digital downloads, on average you pay that $9.99 a month for that entire celestial juke box. That’s 120 bucks a year. That is more than they would have spent on digital downloads alone in that year. So actually, the music market is growing now. And this whole area of discovery, what to play you next, where we stand in that intersection between health, your health and what music to play you, there’s so much innovation to come in that.
SK: Yeah. And I think your design background will begin, once you have the data collected and you begin to think about your first release of the product. The question I’ve always – like I look at the music services. I don’t think they’re differentiated from a design point of view. But if you can present something to the user where it’s credible, right, that this actually will have a health effect, I think people will have a significant interest in this. And of course, that’s all about presentation and usability at that point, right?
MA: Thank you. And I think we’ve taken the approach of while we’re gathering the data, and some people are waiting, like how can we be more involved, we’ve really taken the approach to embrace the best researchers in this field of music neuroscience and health, and actively involve them, so that we’re doing – I see it possible that some of the clinical applications, maybe ones where we generate the data, but for different commercial reasons we wouldn’t go after that. But together with scientists, they might interpret that data and go forward. So we really see ourselves as helping to create this new field of music therapeutics, done with data and machine learning. And the more we can do that, that doesn’t mean we have to make each therapeutic ourselves.
SK: Right. And you’ll enable a new revenue stream for the music industry, which I’m sure they’ll be happy about.
MA: And that is very important to us.
MA: We do think, like consumer Internet companies typically live by giving something away for free and making the money somewhere else. We don’t believe that music should be free, and we have scientific advisors like Robert Zatorre, one of the leading researchers on neuroscience and music, but also music advisors, so Peter Gabriel, St. Vincent, John Hopkins. And with them we’re really looking at how – what would be deeper ways that musicians can be involved. I don’t know if you’ve recently seen a bunch of stories around musicians being interested in having their fans sleep to their music.
MA: And that was actually a Thom Yorke playlist and Moby and others. So we clearly see the – Max Richter wrote an 8-hour piece of music for you to sleep in. So there’s clearly musical interest, musician and artist interest in new models and creating functional music.
SK: Yeah. Brian Eno, right? He’s been doing that for years.
MA: Absolutely. And in that sense, in Brian Eno’s case, it’s actually – it’s funny that you point him out. It’s very relevant to us because he pioneered what he called generative music. But rule based music that you let run. And a piece called Thursday Afternoon, for example, for your listeners. It’s a good one to relax and some people say sleep in as well. But this kind of music, you could imagine that could that respond to your biophysiology. And we need to see. That’s of course not a mainstream thing yet, but listen, the idea that we listen to the same piece of music and it always sounds the same is of the period of recorded music. It’s a very short period in history. Before recorded music, music was always different because it was played live. And now we have this moment, and with the advent of computation, I think we’ll see a lot of innovation.
SK: Very cool. I’m here with Marko Ahtisaari, the CEO of the Sync Project. And I’ve got my last question for you –
SK: – which, if you’ve been listening to the Podcasts, will not surprise you. Look, you’ve got science, you’ve got computers, you’ve got the aesthetic of music all combined into one company, which makes it very interesting. I’m curious about how you’re going about building your company from a standpoint of creating a culture and how you’re going about finding people to come and join you on this sort of journey.
MA: It’s a great question. I’ve also written a little bit about what I believe about culture and teams on my blog. I’ll send you the link –
MA: – for the design studio I worked in before. Essentially, I think the mission that we would be able to find non-pharmacological means to have near-pharmacological effects and improve people’s health and well-being, that’s an inspiring vision. And I think we’re able to attract people in machine learning and software development that otherwise might have other options, like working in HapTech or something like that, but they feel like they’d rather use those skills for a cause like this. The other is a lot of listening to music and discussion about music. There are a lot of musicians in the people that have actively played or still play in the company. And finally, a kind of inherent curiosity, and with that comes I think a sense of humor, because you know startups, right? There’s a bomb every day that you need to defuse.
SK: Sure, absolutely.
MA: And so I find that’s leading to that humor. Also, finally, I have to say that to be really creative and to be able to make these creative breakthroughs, you also need to recover and take care of your own health. So it’s really, I think, using music ourselves while we’re at work and also when away is an important part of the culture.
SK: Very cool. Last question is how can my listeners find you? I know you’ve got a website. Are you on Twitter or Facebook or anything like that?
MA: Yeah, we’re on Twitter and Facebook. And our website is syncproject, SYNC project.co. And from there you can go straight also onto go.syncproject.co and that’s the best way. If your listeners, if you out there have used music to relax, to fall asleep, to enhance a run or a walk, please tell us what track has worked for you because this is this thoughtful recommendation that will help us get a better understanding of what’s working.
SK: Terrific. Marko, thank you for joining us. I really enjoyed talking with you.
MA: Thank you. Likewise.
TS: All right, well thank you Marko Ahtisaari for sharing Sync Project’s story. And it was really great rapport between you and our host, Steve Krupa. Steve, thanks for leading a great conversation. Marko had referenced a talk he had given on culture. We’ll put that URL up on the website as well in addition to that interview with Dr. Robert Zatorre. I’m sure you noticed the glitch there at the end. So you can find out a bit more about Sync’s culture and its heritage. So it’s a great story. Love the mixture of music and healthcare, and it’s wonderful to have so many different minds involved in trying to make people feel better and be better. So that’s it for this Podcast. Again, go to healthegy.com to register for the Digital Healthcare Innovation Summit. And when you’re on iTunes, if you’re in iTunes getting this Podcast through iTunes, if you have 3 seconds, just rate the Podcast. Love to know how we’re doing. If you have 20 seconds, fill out a bit of a comment, and we’d love to hear that as well. Always trying to make this better, always trying to find people to interview and to bring the best stories directly to you. So thanks again, Podcast listeners, and don’t forget to join us in Boston on November second at the Digital Healthcare Innovation Summit.