Podcast Episode 28 Transcript

Interview with Ria Rustagi (Neuphony)

Ria Rustagi, Founder of Neuphony

Ria’s vision is to simplify the human brain for people and provide them with tools to track and improve their mental health.

About Neuphony: Neuphony believes in unlimited potential of human mind and strives toward unlocking it to bring out the best in them. Neurofeedback has been scientifically proven to be a powerful tool to improve the overall health of your brain including improving memory, sleep quality and reducing stress and anxiety. Neuphony brings you the benefits of neurofeedback at the comfort of your home with the help of our headband and a mobile application. The headband measures the electrical activity of your brain and the mobile app based on the sensor data recommends you meditation techniques to achieve your desired state. Over sessions it trains your brain on how to achieve the desired state itself.


Ria Rustagi

Interview with Ria Rustagi (Neuphony)

Show notes

Katerina: Hi, Ria. Glad to have you on the podcast and to have a chat with you. Ria, could you please tell us a little bit about your background. How did you become an entrepreneur? 

Ria: So I’m 26 years old. I come from India. I travelled from India to Singapore to complete my masters in Electronics, I’m an engineer. And then I came to Germany to pursue my job and career. While working for the other company I’m still working at, I discovered that there is a need for a device which kind of helps us the brain. So in 2016, my sister had a brain disease. And when she was going through that, she went into paralysis and I realised that it’s very difficult for a common person to really know what’s happening in the brain. We are very familiar with the other parts of our body, with our heads, with our heart, with our cholesterol. But with the brain, we are, it’s like a black box. We really don’t know much.

Since 2016, I started learning about brain and working on it, like understanding it from a very common person’s perspective. And in 2018, along with my fiance, we decided that we wanted to understand it more and we want to create a device which has people kind of understand what is going on in the brain. And since 2018 winter, I became an entrepreneur. So, that’s my, that’s how I became an entrepreneur basically.

Katerina: Yeah. So you’ve been doing this for two years and you’ve created a device called Neuphony, right? That can help people to help them with managing better their mental health. Is that correct?

Ria: Yes. So what it does is it tracks your brain activity. So it’s like a smartwatch. With a smartwatch, we figure out our heartbeats. But with this device, you’ll see your brain. Your brain is the central nervous system. It’s the head. It controls everything in your body — your mental health, stress, anxiety, everything, even sleep comes from your brain. And nowadays for mental health, we have a very reactive approach. Then we have depression. We then start working on it and it’s too late for them, you know? Then it’s like, oh, I have it forever. I cannot get rid of it. But there are, your brain feels the depression state way before you actually start feeling and seeing the symptoms. So we want to go back and make it a proactive approach towards mental health.

Katerina: Right. Okay, well it’s a fascinating, no I tell you, I’ve never seen anything like it but then I understand how it could work. So could you just tell us a little bit about the science behind this device. 

Ria: Yes, definitely. So, there is a concept called neuroplasticity. That word in itself means that your brain has the ability to change, irrespective of your age. Like generally, people think that this is me and I cannot change as a person. I am having this problem, I cannot change any behavioural aspect about me. But that is wrong. This research was conducted like decades ago, and it says that you have the ability to change your brain, that’s the first part. Then the second part is neurofeedback. We have to listen to our brain. There are brain waves based on the frequencies and we can listen to that brainwave and which lobe they are coming from.

So our brain has four lobes, basically four sections. Each section, and basically even the right and the left parts are responsible for some things, you know? Like, based on where that activity or wave is increased, you can determine aspects about yourself. Like your prefrontal cortex, which is your forehand basically, is responsible for your conscious mind. Increased activity in that region means basically I have a lot on my mind right now. Like, I have a big to do list. It’s possible that at that time, the activity is high. Like for a person like me, I have very high beta all the time in my forehead.

Like I’m very anxious, and I’m thinking of like, “Oh my God, I have to do this, I have to do that, I have to run.” And you know it kind of  decreases my efficiency as well. Because I’m always thinking of five things at a time. My mind is not hundred percent on one topic. So it reduces my efficiency and similarly, every person has some reason or some distractions in their life. And this is how you can determine what is basically causing that and how you can change that. So this was like the verification and the validation part. And there comes how we help you become a better person. So, coming from India, we have a very deep, we are very deep in touch with meditation and yoga and we truly believe that this is not something psychological. It is actually science. Meditation is basically a scientific technique to help different regions of your brain activate.

So we use music techniques and meditation techniques. We recommend them to you based on your brain state. So for example for me, there is a particular range of music which I should listen to for different applications. Like for sleep, I have one music, for a focus work, I have another music. So we recommend you that music, you can listen to the music, and over a period of four to six weeks, you start seeing changes in the mobile application. You’ll see that, oh my god, like today, I am able to focus for let’s say 30 seconds at a stretch in a minute. But maybe after four weeks, it increases to 45 seconds and then eventually 60 seconds and that’s how I challenged my brain to become a better version of it.

Katerina: Wow, it’s fascinating. But do you have to meditate to be able to have the full benefit from using this device, from wearing this device? Do you have to meditate? Do you have to know how to meditate?

Ria: No, no. So it’s, generally a lot of people in the Western world confused about meditation, you know? It’s like, I have to feel very cultural and religious to meditate, or I have to like, you know, go to a very calm, silent place to do that. So what is meditation? Meditation is the ability to focus on anything. It can be your breath. It can be music. It can be for me, cooking is very therapeutic because I am able to kind of get rid of every distraction in the outer world and just think how I can make my recipe perfect.

So that is also a kind of meditation. That’s why people say when you are walking, that is also a kind of meditation because then you are thinking about your steps, you’re thinking about the environment around you. You don’t have to be cultural or religious. You don’t really have to ‘meditate, meditate’, like how we perceive it. But meditation as a technique, you know? Like just sit somewhere, and just sit, relax, and listen to the music, listen to whatever is playing on the device for you. And it will recommend your music which works for you. And all you have to do is just listen to it and then whatever is happening just follow it. 

Katerina: So absolutely fascinating but thank you for explaining what meditation is because again, like for me, when someone suggests that you have to meditate, this is exactly what I have in mind. I have this picture of me going away, finding a quiet place and it’s never a quiet place in my house. And then trying to kind of focus on something for a period of time and it’s hard. Yeah, walking or just listening to music can also be a form of meditation. 

Ria: Yes, definitely. So for me also, sitting in a quiet place is difficult since I have a lot of activity in my prefrontal cortex. I am always thinking of 10 things. For me, it is a very big challenge to not think of anything. So, what I do for meditation is I play calming music and I just sit and I let like my, I do a lot of breath work. So for me, I just take deep breaths, and then listen to the music and let the music do the talking. So music has the ability to drive your brain. All you have to do is listen to it and let it work. 

Katerina: Yeah. Fascinating. And, yeah, this device is actually backed up by science. And I looked at your website and it’s, for an average person to understand what it says on the website, especially about the neurofeedback, it’s quite complex. 

Ria: Yes, I can understand that. So a few years back, even I wouldn’t have kind of imagined I was working in this domain so I was like, for me, entrepreneurship is just destiny. 

Katerina: Yeah. How would you explain to a non scientific person how it all works? Because again it’s a little bit, you know, on the part where, I guess Elon Musk… 

Ria: Yes. This is technology. I actually like to give examples a lot, so how I explain it is it’s a smartwatch, okay? And what a smartwatch does, let’s take the example of your smartwatch. It tracks your steps, which tracks your breath rate. Okay. Similarly, my device tracks your brain activity, how many steps your brain has taken. Let me say it like in a very layman language. The next step is I do a lot of physical workout, so there is cardio, there is exercising, there is weightlifting, right? Every physical activity has a different impact on your body. Similarly, there are different techniques for your brain training. It can be meditation, it can be music, it can be breath work. Similarly, now how do you figure out which is the best physical workout for you? 

You see a combination of which gives you the best calorie burn, you see which gives you the most sweat, and which makes you feel good. So there is generally a combination of physical workout. And you always have to challenge your body physically. So you cannot just do cardio for like a month and still see impact, you know? You always have to mix it up a little bit. Similarly with your brain, you have to kind of play and fool your brain a little bit. So you have to give them one kind of meditation which is easier for you. Because, like, as an emotional person, open heart meditation is easy for me.

For me, it is difficult to calm my brain. So I always challenge my brain by trying to calm it and then whenever it feels a little overwhelmed, oh my god, my heartbeat is racing, then I try to give an open heart meditation. Like in the mix basically to, you know, give it a feeling of achievement and gratitude. So the brain is just like you’re, just treat your brain like you treat your physical body. 

Katerina: Yeah. Now this is a proactive way to manage your mental health, I guess it’s the way forward because we are very reactive. We only start taking pills or do something about our mental health after we experience some mental health problems, right? But this device can actually help people to be more proactive about their mental health. And before something bad happens to them, to try to manage their state of mind and help them focus and so on. Cause definitely I, in the future we’ll try one of those devices. So, did you come up with this device? Did you have a team, scientific team behind you?

Ria: Yes. So, it’s me and my fiance who have founded this company. And we came up with this device because we wanted to create something which could like, help bedridden patients, kind of, basically as a dedication to my sister, who could help bedridden patients kind of understand, kind of express their feelings and emotions to their family. So we kind of started digging up how you can determine emotions from your brain. And then we figured out and we wrote down that you know, with mental health, it’s like a big problem.

So nowadays, stress, mental health, especially with COVID, everybody’s talking about it. We have a lot of people from the field of neuroscience who are supporting us and who actually, because we both are engineers, so we kind of reached out to the experts here in Munich. We have a collaboration with Dr. Thomas Feiner. He is the director of the Institute for EEG- Neurofeedback. So he is the one who kind of helped us understand this and he is one of the best in Europe. 

Katerina: Wow. I mean, I’m sure this will be a success. It’s, it’s looking very, it’s looking like a scientific device on your website. But like I said, you’ve been working with neuroscientists, right? But have you had any mental health struggles in the past or since you started your entrepreneurial journey?

Ria: So since I started, so before my entrepreneurial journey, I had gone through trauma in my life. And there was a phase, unfortunately, my sister is not with us anymore, she passed away in 2016, and the whole of 2016 to 2017, I was just a different person, you know? At that particular time I didn’t know and couldn’t relate the words trauma to it. But now when I study about it I know that it was trauma because it has changed me completely as a person. The person I was four years back, I cannot even relate to that person anymore. The way I work, the way I deal with my relationships, with my emotions, has changed drastically. And now when we come to this entrepreneurial journey of mine in the past two years, yes, it’s very overwhelming and there is, I started to have anxiety or maybe I have started to recognise the anxiety I always had, you know?

For me, uncertainty is a very big challenge. I don’t like uncertainty in my life, I like a plan. I’ve always been like this since I was a kid. And with entrepreneurship, there you can have as many plans as you want, but there is always uncertainty attached to it. So until like this very month until September, everything was in my plan, everything was in my control.

Company registration marketing, all of those different aspects. But now, it comes to the customer end and you know there is a lot of anxiety because we are seeing a lot of traction from the States. But we were planning to kind of sell the device in India and Europe first. So there’s a lot of uncertainty which challenges me. And I always have to kind of think of one day at a time. That’s my kind of dealing or coping mechanism. 

Katerina: Yeah, well, if you look at the statistics for mental health problems, it’s on the rise. I mean even in children, it’s on the rise. So no matter what, I guess, country or continent you’re looking at, there’ll be an increase in demand and I kind of predicted in the future, there’ll be more demand for devices like this that can help you manage your mental health better. But are you wearing this device as well?

Ria: No, I’m wearing my headphones but yes, I use the device. I use it very often. So I’m a person, before this two year, three year journey of the startup, I never liked listening to music. So for me, music has always pushed me in a state of too much emotion and I don’t like that, especially after the trauma. So people who have trauma, they should be very careful to the music they listen to. Because there are particular frequencies which can push you into that state, which will push you into the state where everything is coming back. And you should not.

And after that, like, I think I never listened to music. And using this device, actually, I was able to find few sets of music which helps me sleep easier. Like, there is one particular music which really helps me calm all my brain activity because, you know, for people with high beta activity, sleeping is the biggest challenge, you know? Because you have 10, 15 thoughts. You could have said that, you should have said this, tomorrow have to do this, all that kind of stuff coming to you right before your bed, you know? 

Katerina: Call it a busy brain. I’m like this.

Ria: Oh, you’re also like this then? For me, sleeping was like a very big challenge. Like, especially I was alone here in Europe, after I came back from India in 2016 and my family was in India, so it was very lonely for me. In India, people are very proactive with respect to relationships and friendship and culture. Here, it’s not like that so it was very lonely for me initially. And I always had this habit of kind of watching TV, under my eyes got tired and I know that this is not good. But that is what I used to do at that particular point of time.

And now I don’t have to do that anymore. I have found a music which kind of relaxes me a lot. And it gives me a very, my heartbeat is relaxing, my brain is relaxing and I sleep very calmly, like within a few minutes, I’m able to get into that zone where I can sleep nicely and get up without feeling tired basically. Because earlier, even sleep wasn’t doing what it’s supposed to do, you know? It wasn’t relaxing. Even after getting up, I used to feel, like tired and lethargic. So this is what I use the device for. The second, I use it in my office. So I also work for another company and sometimes it’s too crowded, and sometimes you have deliverables which you have to do. And sometimes you’re not in the zone — emotionally, mentally or physically.

And I use this device to kind of calm the noise in my brain. And let me focus on thoughts because there are so many distractions around especially with this COVID time, right? Somebody shouting out the door, somebody is working, somebody messaging you, somebody is calling you. So for me getting rid of distractions when I work is really important you know?  My mind has, like, it can take a detour very fast and very easy. So, I generally use my device when I work a lot. 

Katerina: Okay, now it’s it’s fascinating. We actually discussed, you know, you mentioned listening to music and music evoking different negative emotions sometimes with people. Yeah, we discussed this on one of the shows weeks ago. And I guess the question I have, I’m always very careful when it comes to say, listening to music or you know, you have a lot of apps with white noise that sometimes, I kind of, I’m sure I’m not the only one thinking this way. Sometimes I think, well, what if this, you know, listening to this white noise or some kind of calming noise will do more damage to my brain than good? Because you can see, well, there’s different YouTube videos with white noise and some others. And so, how can people be sure that this device is not gonna do more damage to their brain because again, you put something on your brain and you just don’t know what’s happening there, right? A lot of people obviously going, oh my god, you know? Is it safe? Do you have any, I mean, is it going to be certified or easy to register a certified device that people can say, well, it’s actually quite safe for me to wear. 

Ria: Yes, definitely. There are certifications. So we have started taking pre-orders so when we deliver it to you, it will be certified in the US. In Europe right now we are looking for CE certification and there is MDR class one certification, which we will be applying for and the second is to come to the US. We will be applying for the FDA certificate as well. So these will be certified and it will be safer for people to wear. And when it comes to the things you were talking to me about the music, the white noise, and then there is, there is another thing called binaural beats, and a lot of people, it’s definitely good to try and challenge your brain and try new things, it’s good.

It can also be harmful. I have an example here. A friend of mine, she went through a lot of traumatic incidents in her life and she was a kid like, four years old. And now she was listening to binaural beats and supposedly binaural beats is supposed to help you. But what was happening with her was after listening to binaural beats, she used to have dreams and very spooky dreams, okay? Like she used to wake up, like with an anxiety attack. I wasn’t aware of it, until she posted it as a story on Instagram. And then I texted her like straight away that as far as I know you have gone through some things in your life in the past, and people with traumatic experiences, or who have gone through tough times should never randomly listen to music.

And if they think, even if they do, they should try, but if they think that, then there is a music and they should do this correlation. I listened to this and I had a bad dream, you know? And then tried to go back and do another thing, because this was happening, because she was listening to low frequency binaural beats. And what low frequency does is it relaxes your brain to the extent that it accesses memories from the past. And this is not good. Because then, more than helping you, it is kind of harming you. 

Katerina: Yeah, this is exactly what I was referring to. Because sometimes, yeah, it can actually make you feel worse. So you have to be very careful.

Ria: That’s the same with meditation techniques as well. So people with traumatic experiences should not do mindfulness techniques. Because for me, my paper, my theory, as a person with a high beta frequency, I shouldn’t try mindfulness. But I have gone through traumatic experiences. I tried mindfulness meditation once I, and I tried it when I was going to sleep. And instead of relaxing, I woke up with an irritated mood. 

Katerina: Yeah. 

Ria: And that is why it’s like, it’s like, you should not go just to the gym and pick up 80 kg dumbbells, you know? You can harm your physical body. Why are you doing this to your brain? You cannot see it, doesn’t mean that you can try and test and you know, do anything. Like for me, white noise doesn’t work. 

Katerina: Yeah. 

Ria: So it’s very important to be aware when you are experimenting, you know? Don’t just do it blindly. Try to figure out the science behind it as well. And that’s how we want this device to work. We want this device to work as your brain trainer, you know? It’s not putting anything into your brain. We are just guiding you to help you understand your brain and your behaviour and the feelings you are having a little better. 

Katerina: Yeah. Yeah, I agree with it because, I don’t know, I read somewhere that we only like, know 10, our brain is like 10% activated or… There’s a lot of that brain which is gone now. Why is it happening? How is it happening? You know, you mentioned neuroplasticity. We, we just don’t know what, what are we capable of, right? And sometimes we can just activate with this beats or whatever the music device. We can activate some areas of the brain that can potentially lead to more harm than good. But thinking about your entrepreneurial journey, have you, what would you say biggest failure in, in the last say year?

Ria: For me forming the team was a very, very big challenge. So it was since the very beginning of this idea, it was me and my fiance. So that is a very good compatibility over there, okay? And we tried, I think we went, we tried five to six co founders, and none of them worked. We tried different age, we tried different genders, we tried different ethnicities, we tried Indian people, we tried European people. Forming a team for us was one of the biggest challenges, you know? Since we both are 26, we always wanted to, okay, we are just two. Generally, three or four, three is the ideal number as to have co founders because it was getting a lot of it was getting very overwhelming for us. We both come from engineering backgrounds. And he has to go totally to the technical plus negotiation side and I go now as an engineer to operations — marketing, sales and finance.

And this is not what we have started for. So we always wanted to try have a person with a managerial degree and experience in the team, and it was, it’s very difficult to find the right person for your startup, you know, who has the same passion, who has the same ‘why’, has the same vision for your startup. Especially since we both started, there is definitely a good chemistry, there is a good understanding. So now to have between a couple, a third person who can understand us and respect us. Because we were always welcoming. We always treated the third person as the priority because he or she should not feel kind of left out in this, you know? Oh, they are a couple and that’s why we always made sure that we made the third person feel more than welcome. But you know, one thing which I saw was nobody can work as hard as you for your dream, because they have another way, and I have a very emotional ‘why’..

I am not in this for the money. I was doing pretty good, I am still doing pretty good at my other job. So for me, money is not the reason why I’m doing this. My reason is I surely wanna help people with this. And everybody had a different ‘why’. Somebody fame, somebody wanted money, somebody wanted recognition. And then that passion still doesn’t come. 

Katerina: So, this is your side hustle right? Because you’re also working as an engineer. 

Ria: Yes, yes I work full time 40 hours at another company and I work x hours. 

Katerina: I think you don’t have kids yet.

Ria: Yes, no kids. This is the baby.

Katerina: Yeah, it’s true. But, so it’s kind of just three of you are trying to promote this product? 

Ria: It’s just me and my fiance.

Katerina: Just you and your fiance? Because it’s very hard to find the right team. Right, okay. But what do you think is the biggest mistake that entrepreneurs make when they start their businesses? 

Ria: So for me, I can say that I am a very optimistic person, you know? I love my product and I am in love with this and I cannot even think of one person who should not use this device. This could be a mistake. This can be one of the biggest mistakes, if there are two people like this in the team. But my fiance slash co-founder, he is the total opposite. He is a person who is very pessimistic. He does risk analysis for everything. No, he is like, negative for everything so it kind of works where I am too optimistic, he is pessimistic. And then we kind of have a good combination around. But if there are two people who love their product and think everybody in the world needs it, this is a problem. 

Katerina: Yeah. Yeah, I guess it’s not for everyone because, again, like you said, there’s some people will choose medication, maybe, to help them with their… And then some people will use a more proactive approach to managing their mental health. 

Ria: Even though this product, like therapy, everybody should go for therapy. But everybody doesn’t go for therapy, you know? This product, I personally see that I have a use case for everybody. I can, if I sit one on one with every person in the world, I can explain them how this device is useful. But sometimes you know it’s difficult to explain to people that this is the way to go. Everybody has their own perception of it. Everybody has their own journey, and something that we’re like fit. Everybody might need it, but everybody might not be your customer. These are two different things. And that is very important to understand and accept. 

Katerina: Yeah, so what was your biggest challenges since the beginning, since you’ve started working on this project and promoting your Neuphony?

Ria: Awareness. Awareness about this concept because neurofeedback and neuroscience, so it’s not like a smartphone. People are ready to spend a thousand euros or dollars for a mobile phone. But to convince people that this is a device which is backed by science and this is how it works, you know? So basically it’s difficult. It’s not that easy, you know? I could have just created a mobile phone. People know it, there is no awareness involved around the mobile phone.

All you have to do is say, I am this brand and I’m selling this. I have to create awareness. For the past one year, I’ve been trying to explain to people how the brain works, what are the four lobes, what are the different frequencies, how one frequency in one part, what it really means. And this is how I determine and this is how it helps. In Europe, while a lot of people are into meditation, meditation is something like black and white. Either people love it or they don’t just get it, you know? There is no gray in meditation. So we have to, you know, kind of explain to people firstly how mental health works. Mental health is a subsection of brain health and brain something like normal, it’s real. So mental health is not something which is just in your mind or in your heart, it’s a real issue, it’s a real problem. And it’s associated to your brain. So whatever you feel in our brain, there is a chemical reaction happening in your brain associated with it. So it can be love, it can be hate, it can be, anger, it can be frustration, everything is a chemical reaction. So, all these things, meditation, brain, it’s difficult to explain to people. 

Katerina: Yeah. Yeah. I guess you’re right. I mean, just, you know, whilst you were explaining, I kind of, my mind, my brain wandered to neurolink and Elon Musk’s idea of putting something in your brain. And I guess this is like a step before that, right? He didn’t actually have to drill a hole in your brain. You can just wear something on your head. But then again, you know, you go out and you wear something on your head, people will  start wondering what’s going on, what’s happening because you have something on your head. 

Ria: Yes. So with neurolink, what happens is it changes your circuitry. It changes the way your brain functions. I believe in holistic approaches. I want to train your brain so that after six weeks, let’s see what happens with trauma. You have an emotional response, you feel like crying and frustration, and then you go through a loop of thoughts. It’s okay, it happens, I’m okay, everything will be okay. So there’s this loop of thoughts which happen. Similarly with your brain, you can actually train your brain to go a certain path, to feel a certain emotion. And we want to train your brain. We don’t want to give any electromagnetic waves, we don’t want to change your brain by external stimulus, but by internally making you feel and accept yourself. We don’t want to increase the dependency of humans on anything else. You are your biggest motivator and critique and you should be able to deal with it within yourself. This is just a tool to help you do that. 

Katerina: No, definitely. It’s something to check out. I’ll put the link to your website in the podcast notes and I’m sure some of the listeners will find this really fascinating and will check out your company and the actual device because again, it’s backed by science. It’s a proactive approach to managing mental health. And like you said, you know, you can do something. I mean it’s not just managing your health, mental health. It can help you stay focused and motivated. Is your partner wearing this device as well?

Ria: Yes. So for him how it happens is, he is very focused. When he is into the zone, he is into the zone. But sometimes you have to, as an entrepreneur, multitask. You’re thinking of doing finances but somebody from the marketing is giving you a call. For an entrepreneur, not really multitasking like thinking of five things in one second, but being able to accept changes. Like if I am, I want to do this, somebody else wants to be something else. He also does this to kind of enhance a different part of his brain. A little more accepting, a little bored. Let’s say he’s too relaxed. Let me say it like that. He likes to challenge his brain.

So he kind of pushes his brain to an emotional part. For him, open heart meditation, emotions expression is difficult. He is using the device to improve gratitude and empathy. Because that’s also what you can actually achieve like you don’t have to just think about emotions. You can feel emotions, you can feel somebody scientifically. It’s not possible when I say I feel you, I really don’t feel you. I just think that I feel you, that’s what really happens. We want people to be more empathetic. Just imagine a world where people care about other people, people are more sensitive and accepting of other people. And this is what he is trying to build and change about himself. He’s building more gratitude and empathy. That’s what he’s using the device for. 

Katerina: I guess in the future when more and more jobs get replaced by automation, you know, and there’ll be a need for people who are empathetic. I guess this is something to consider. I didn’t even know you can make someone more empathetic. But yeah, it’s fascinating. 

Ria: The right, part of your brain and the right front part is for your social and emotional responses. So for me, I don’t, I am an introvert. As an entrepreneur you cannot really be an introvert. You cannot just sit at home and…

Katerina: I wouldn’t say that. I think you’ve very open.

Ria: I kind of changed my personality. I take on a different role, so I have an entrepreneurial role, and then I am there as a person, as a human. I am an introvert. I’ve been like this since I was a kid. I like staying home. I like being in my comfortable space, but I also like this because it challenges my brain. It is not something which comes naturally to me, I have this like, very high heartbeat before going on conversations like this. But you can actually train your brain to be more empathetic and open hearted, you know? We accept what the other people are saying and feeling.

And I can tell you this. This is one thing which my boyfriend is kind of working on. For him, when he did the open-heart meditation first that meditation gave him a negative response because that’s not the natural state of his brain. So it’s like, for me, physical workout or for me, weight training is easy, cardio is difficult. So when I do cardio, my heart beat goes up and I don’t like the feeling before it, and during it, but after, it is a little nice, sometimes good, sometimes not so good. 

Katerina: Yeah. 

Ria: Similarly happens with your brain. So for him after that meditation, open heart meditation, it wasn’t very rewarding. But we started tracking over a period of time, and this changed him as a person. This changed him as an entrepreneur. You know, he’s more open, you’re giving more feedback to your employees, you’re more accepting, you’re more sensitive, you’re smiling a little more. These changes can happen in your brain. There are paths, there are places of your brain which are responsible for specifically that part. And obviously, with a lot of lifestyle changes and accepting it. I am emotional, accepting that okay, let’s be a little sensitive. You should not be like, I am emotional and I hate that about myself. 

Katerina: Yeah.

Ria: Those kinds of things. Everything comes from your brain. You think about it, and it’s in your brain. 

Katerina: Yeah. I’m really enjoying myself talking about this, this whole subject. Because I think it’s the future. It’s definitely the future because the more we learn about the brain and how it works, the more we’ll be okay and  comfortable trying very innovative, you know, devices like Neuphony. But as an entrepreneur, how do you, because obviously there is so much and you mentioned multitasking and there’s so much going on, and especially you know, when you have a side hustle, you have to constantly, as an entrepreneur, keep learning about new things from marketing and you have to do so many things by yourself. How do you stay on top of things as a founder?

Ria: So for me, planning helps a lot. As I said I don’t like, uncertainty. I have a planner. I have a planner for the whole week. Every Sunday night, I sit through and plan my whole week. Basically the deliverables I want completed by the end of the week as my timeline can get shifted. For me, since I’m the Chief Operating Officer, my co-founder is working on the development of the product like now it’s in the production stage. So now he is in India working on the production part to see the right material is there, the right electronics, the right sizing and the right fitting. I have to kind of sell the device. So I have like, targets. I have targets, but I also kind of, you know, for me, music and meditation have now become my thing. Meditation is like the tool and music is the layer over. So music uses the technique. Different music and meditation techniques joined together helped me kind of calm myself. It’s very, very important for me to listen to my body.

So like yesterday, I had a day when my body was physically and mentally tired. And I decided that in the morning itself, I’m not going to push myself. I took the whole day off, you know? There was one or two emails, obviously, which are urgent and you have to really work irrespective of that but other than that, there was no work I did yesterday. It was a complete off. And I think this is important for me because then in six days, I can do the work of 10 days. And if I don’t do my breaks, I am just sitting there in front of the computer, rolling, and thinking I’m working, but my brain is not working.

And my quality will not be up to the mark, my feedback to my teams will not be up to the mark. And I like being prepared. I always tell my teams, send me things three days in advance. I like to take it in, I like to play on different roles, different masks. As a customer, maybe as a techie, maybe as a person who is in pain. I go into those roles, and then feel the product. I don’t want to sell the product as a business owner. I want to sell the product being the customer because I know how much it helped me. 

Katerina: Yeah. I guess it’s, it’s not easy. But like you said, I think several guests on this podcast, they actually also said that you have to be aware of how you feel and sometimes just give yourself a break and take that time off. Because again, if you put yourself under too much pressure and stress, it can lead to overwhelm and toxic stress and it’s kind of, gonna make things worse. So yeah, pay attention to your body and how you feel. And sometimes, don’t feel too guilty for taking breaks. 

Ria: No, definitely. Last week, my co-founder moved to India for the production phase. And I had to take on additional roles here in Europe like meet people as well because it’s become better with respect to restrictions. Last week, I actually had a breakdown because I decided to take on Friday half an hour for myself. And in that half an hour, two people called me and I had to take that because they were from media. And I started from eight in the morning, like, I get up and there are calls until like, four o’clock. I was back to back in calls. I wasn’t able to have my breakfast, my lunch. I was just having like fruits, like quick pick ups. And even when I was home.

It’s not that I’m out in an office and I don’t have access to it. But I had a breakdown. I had a complete breakdown that it’s getting just too much and overwhelming. And then I ended up taking a one day break anyway. So now, after that I decided that I won’t let it come from that stage and I should have taken the break maybe on the Thursday evening itself. Because overwhelming feeling didn’t just came up all of a sudden. It was building up. And I have decided that I will never reach, never let my brain reach the level of 80% frustration. I stop right before it. I don’t want to have breakdowns. I want to be in control of my mood and my thoughts. And I can do that because I understand about it. So I want to control myself and not being controlled by my emotions. 

Katerina:But just  to wrap up, I could talk for ages. If I’m in Germany or in Munich…

Ria: Definitely.

Katerina: … promoting your device because I think it’s, it will do a lot of good for a lot of people. But just to wrap up, what’s your final sort of word to entrepreneurs and maybe specifically to female entrepreneurs because they are our audience? 

Ria: Definitely. I have heard a lot about female entrepreneurs, or female executives, sometimes being too emotional and not taking the right decision. That’s what I heard about myself, that you are too emotional and you take decisions by your heart. And I would like to tell this to everybody. Don’t apologise for what comes naturally to you. If you feel this is the way you want to lead, even if your way of dealing or leading is emotional, let it be. But it should not come in a manner that you don’t know why you’re feeling. Understand your body, respect your body, respect your mind. And I think you can do way better as a leader, as an entrepreneur if you just understand your thoughts and emotions and kind of compartmentalise like, you know, on that basis. It just do wonders to you. 

Katerina: Thank you, Ria. It’s been an absolute pleasure. And I’ll put the link to your website in the podcast notes and I wish your company to be very successful because you’re doing a lot of good, creating this innovative device that will help people to manage their mental health more proactively. Thank you so much for coming and sharing your story. 

Ria: Thank you so much, Katerina. Have a nice day. 

Katerina: Thank you.

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