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Zak Williams, son of the late Robin Williams, is ready to work on everyone’s mental health

June 30, 2020

Read for 13 min


There is no perfect time to launch a new product. Zak Williams he knows better than most people. The 37-year-old series investor, entrepreneur, mental health lawyer and son of the late and legendary Robin Williams In recent years, he has financed or advised numerous startups in the area of ​​lifestyle and artificial intelligence (AI). But with PYM (also known as Prepare your mind), a kind of stress- and anxiety-reducing chewing gum with nutritional supplements that contributed to innovation and sales in August (the website is pre-ordered starting today). Williams is the face and name behind PYM in marketing and presentation. The product is an extension of his personal journey towards self-healing and sobriety after his father’s death in 2014. Its goal is to bring PYM directly to as many consumers as possible to counteract anxiety disorders and addictions.

Zak Williams, son of the late Robin Williams, is ready to work on everyone’s mental healthZak Williams, son of the late Robin Williams, is ready to work on everyone’s mental health

Unfortunately, he and his team were exposed to a global pandemic that continues to confuse scientific and economic experts and do incredible harm to countless people. This last consequence only adds to the urgency of William’s mission, and in extensive discussions from his Los Angeles home, we discussed how he is subject to public control and overcoming skepticism in order to find a healthy and economically viable way to feel simple Best.

Picture: PYM

ENTREPRENEUR (DE): What prepared you to be the face of a company after investing in so many companies?

ZAK WILLIAMS (ZW): Well, for me right now all roads lead to mental health. That’s pretty much all I do besides being parents and being present for my 1 year old. I have worked with various nonprofit mental health organizations and it was really important for me to focus on my life’s work in the private sector. And before I started PYM, I did things that I did passionately and with dedication, but it wasn’t the call of my life.

It is a dream for me to focus on giving people relief. The decision to start PYM was based on concentrating all my energy and effort on supporting mental health.

EN: The PYM press release suggests that you discovered the main chewing compounds and did some testing until you got the right formula. But I assume you received expert help in this area?

ZW: I worked with a food scientist to develop the end product that we market. Her name is Lena Kwak and she was director of research and development at French Laundry.

When integrating active ingredients, which are adaptogens and amino acids, we have used an easily available research and science structure and tried to find a way to integrate them into a delicious, effective and readily available product. So the lens we take is to use existing research to find out what is effective and create a simple solution.

EN: And of course you wouldn’t have introduced this to the market if you didn’t feel like you were doing it, but were there any drawbacks and setbacks along the way?

ZW: Oh yeah. There were certainly disadvantages and delays in the test phase. It would be uncomfortable for me to launch a product that I did not find effective for people. In the beginning, we shared the first version of the prototype with the people and they said, “Yeah, it’s fine.” Then we had to go back to the drawing board and find out what worked and what needs to be adjusted.

It turns out that we had to increase the dose for the active ingredients. The assets in our product are not new to the world. You’ve been in the consumer goods market for many, many years. L-theanine is an active ingredient in green tea. GABA is found in fermented foods such as kimchi and sauerkraut. Rhodiola has been around as a neuroprotective plant adaptogen for millennia. We wanted to use the existing connections that are available and available in nature and concentrate them to provide a product that supports anxiety, overwhelming and stress.

DE: As unique as the distillation of its compounds may be, PYM enters a market that mainly consists of wellness products. How did you manage to differentiate your brand from the competition?

ZW: There are some things that we feel are differentiated. We have a mission that is very focused on supporting mental health. We plan to allocate part of the proceeds to mental health initiatives that focus on developing community-based initiative programs at high schools and digital resources for young adults and adolescents.

Another important consideration is that based on what’s on the market and what was available, we haven’t seen a brand that represents mental health support in the consumer goods category. There is no Coca-Cola for mental health and we believe that this is an opportunity. It is a very specific system of values ​​that we all who work with everyone support. And when it comes to our product, it’s a dietary supplement, but we believe there is an opportunity to develop an easily available and widely available product that is CBD-free and provides effective relief in a way that people can feel. made. received an anchor of support around mental health.

We promote competition and awareness of adaptogenic products in public awareness. It’s an upward-looking category, and the more great entrepreneurs develop and sell great products, the more people can find natural relief.

EN: Are you ready for skeptics who tend to question the correctness of a dietary supplement?

ZW: Establishing scientific advice is a priority for us. We want an evidence-based approach to everything we do. Therefore, when developing future products, we believe it is essential to be based on science and research, to think ahead and to provide a safe, lawful, effective and calming product. .

EN: Have you considered that the introduction of PYM will lead to a closer examination of your personal life, which in turn could make your life more stressful?

ZW: In these times, we need to establish vulnerability as a strength rather than a weakness. Because of the work I do for mental health, I have to be prepared for the exam, and to agree to it, I have to agree, as this is a decision I made in terms of seeking mental health support have a mission

One of the reasons I started using PYM is that I couldn’t find effective solutions to my anxiety with products like alcohol and pharmaceutical prescriptions. The solution that was developing was something I wanted to share with the world. It felt like the right thing. And in terms of my personal story, I keep sharing it. I am talking about my difficulties with self-medication and substance abuse. What it was like for me to solve something that felt safe and effective without necessarily making me deaf.

DE: So do you see PYM as a potential replacement for drugs or more as an alternative or supplement? Because if there are reservations in research on PYM compounds, these can be volatile in combination with some antidepressants.

ZW: I firmly believe in the validity and importance of pharmacology. We do not attempt to replace prescription products in any way. If we can offer a simple and easy solution to help people with mild to moderate anxiety throughout the day, we will feel successful. But in no way would I suggest that drugs be replaced with our or any other product.

EN: You really invested in a cannabis company and many other diverse ventures. Is there a line afterwards that leads you to this moment and what you do with PYM?

ZW: I tend to invest in good people who, in my opinion, want to make a difference and address an important need in the market in which their companies operate. Talented people will finally find solutions as long as they are focused and agile when it comes to establishing new products, AND there is a bottom line in terms of investment to the point that I am now where I am focusing Investing in brands like cannabis is that I’ve learned about customer needs, customer attitudes, why people do what they do, and the data associated with shopping and the like.

And there is a whole subset of customers who appreciate and enjoy cannabis products, but may not be able to meet their underlying needs through ingestion. For those who don’t want to take cannabis products to relieve anxiety and stress, we wanted to create a simple and effective solution.

EN: Is it fair to say that you see PYM as part of a potentially holistic approach to mental health?

ZW: Oh yeah. I encourage other mental health support solutions for people to complement our activities: mindfulness practices, meditation, good nutrition, good exercise. If people are looking for other support-related solutions or products, we recommend it. We are not a substitute here either. We are a complementary support product.

EN: If you intend to improve people’s lives, how do you get real numbers for what makes success?

ZW: Well, in addition to sales data and understanding how metrics such as customer retention and underwriting work, it is also important for us to create supplementary consumer studies, understand the type of support we provide, and understand how this can have a positive impact on our lives affects customers. As customer needs change and the product landscape evolves, we want to meet these requirements. Therefore, it is important to focus on analysis and data to make our decisions.

At the same time, in the era of the coronavirus pandemic, we need to be very clear about how our products will be distributed and how we will signal sales, especially when it comes to final distribution to retailers. We started with direct consumption because this is a way to set up a database and better understand our customers while there is uncertainty in physical retail.

EN: What pre-launch adjustments did you make to deal with the pandemic?

ZW: At this point, much of our first version will relate to pilot trials and understanding consumers’ shopping and thinking about their personal needs to support stress and anxiety. It is certainly a harrowing moment. At least in the area of ​​advocacy for mental health, we also see a parallel pandemic that occurs in connection with mental health considerations. I therefore very much hope that our product can help raise funds for mental health initiatives, especially those that support young adults and adolescents. It is clear that there is common trauma, and every role that we can play is a role that we can and want to play.

DE: How can an equally idealistic entrepreneur take his own steps without real ways of fundraising?

ZW: The advice I would give to those who want to start a business without necessarily knowing where to start is: trust yourself and make sure the focus is on the need you want to offer the customer .

It’s really a challenge to start a business, get it right, and get funding. There is a chance with this new paradigm associated with the coronavirus pandemic and what will happen next. So understand where the opportunities are and what new needs are being created for customers, and believe you are relentless and don’t stop at anything to support those needs.