PSYT aims to be the Headspace of self-development books

PSYT aims to be the Headspace of self-development books

How can you help readers turn self-development books into self-development reality? London-based startup PSYT believes it has the answer...


Give me the PSYT pitch

PSYT (Psychological Technologies) is an app that turns self-development books into digital, action-based summaries designed to help individuals put the advice into practice.

"Think Headspace, but using content from leading self-development books," says co-founder and c.e.o. Nick Begley. "The courses have been designed based on the latest in psychological research and persuasive technology, and the core of our mission is to collaborate with authors and publishers to help self-development authors maximise the impact and reach of their books."

Who's the team behind it?

The PSYT team includes a mixture of psychologists and technologists who specialise in measuring and improving wellbeing for both individuals and organisations.

Nick Begley is an expert in improving psychological wellbeing who helped start mindfulness company Headspace as head of research. Chief technology officer, Dr. George MacKerron, specialises in measuring wellbeing through technology and previously ran Mappiness, the world’s largest study into happiness. Chief science officer, Paul Krueger, is completing his PhD at Princeton, specialising in the intersection of machine learning, big data and self-improvement. And the company's c.o.o., Chris Ibell, spent over 20 years as group vice-president at Oracle, focusing on the sales and delivery of health sciences IT services. 

The advisory board includes Shona Mitchell, the founding general manager at Headspace, who built and grew the business to create a household brand which now boasts over 17m users.

What's the gap in the market?

Self-development books are inspiring and informative, but the challenge lies in actually changing our behaviours based on the knowledge they impart. In order to master a new mindset, lifestyle or habit you need practice - and that's where PSYT hopes to help.

"Within Millennials and Generation Z, 94% are committed to making personal improvements and they’re looking to digest self-development content in new formats," Begley explains. "For example, the audiobook market grew by 30% from 2016 Q1 to 2017 Q1, and Blinkist, a company that summarises non-fiction books, is one of the fastest growing European startups in the last 3 years.

"Users are not only looking for more digestible ways to absorb content but they are also looking for practice-based technology. With our experience at Headspace, we know that people are looking for digital products to help put information into practice to create meaningful change in their lives."

The PSYT team is clear that the trend towards digital, digestible mediums does not have to represent a threat to traditional books. "The core of PSYT’s mission is to work with authors and publishers to extend and enhance their content into other mediums," Begley asserts.

He believes the app will solve a number of problems that self-development readers are facing today: the need to practise the exercises outlined in the books; the lack of time they have to digest information; and the overwhelming volume of choice in the genre. "We solve this by collecting valuable psychological and physiological data so readers can see the changes the courses are making in their own lives, which we will then use to help give guidance to new readers on what courses will work best for them," he says.

Success so far?

The team has already had success with the Mappiness and Rebalance with Mindfulness apps, and believe that the lessons they've learned from those projects have put them in a good position for launch.

"The self-development courses app is designed and developed and we’ve conducted two very positive rounds of user testing which demonstrated user demand and willingness to buy," Begley reports. "We were amazed at how quickly the testers grasped the concept and understood its value. After a few minutes interacting with the app, one woman explained, 'It’s all very well and good reading all these books but unless you actually regularly try to practice it’s kind of pointless. This is how you input this into practise'."

They're in discussions with several leading publishers and authors in mindfulness, emotional intelligence, confidence and persuasion to create digital courses for their books, and are actively looking for more.

Biggest challenges?

"One of our biggest challenges was the realisation that changing behaviour itself is challenging!" Begley laughs. "Especially getting people to engage in wellbeing behaviours, as they require effort. In modern day society we’re used to indulging in quick, short-term fixes, often to the detriment of our longer-term health."

He's hoping the app's 10-minute content chunks will make this challenge more accessible and less daunting.

Ultimate ambition?

The team has a clear and ambitious goal: to measurably improve the wellbeing of 10,000,000 people by January 2022.

Advice to other publishing entrepreneurs?

"The publishing industry is far more complex than one might think!  There are a number of different types of rights, and sometimes authors hold these rights, sometimes the publishers, and sometimes only for a specific territory. So gaining rights for a global app can be complex, and you often need to talk to multiple publishers for a single title, or the same publisher but in multiple regions. I would recommend that entrepreneurs allow ample time to work through these complexities."