SDSU management student Chad Vardas’ journey to entrepreneurship started as a personal quest to relieve his anxiety disorder. After being diagnosed in high school, Vardas found that prescription drugs worsened his condition, so he began researching alternative solutions.
Vardas’ research led him to contact Dr. Erik Peper, an expert in biofeedback health based in Berkeley, California. Biofeedback is a holistic approach to medical treatment where patients learn to control bodily functions such as muscle tension, blood pressure and heart rate in order to treat a number of conditions including stress and anxiety.
While he was exploring solutions to relieve his anxiety disorder, Vardas was also exploring options for college. During a visit to San Diego State, he met Bernhard Schroeder, management lecturer and program director for SDSU’s Lavin Entrepreneurship Center. “Ultimately, Bern sold me on SDSU by describing the programs and entrepreneurial philosophy of the university.”
Moving to San Diego provided additional benefits to Vardas. Peper introduced him to Dr. Richard Gevirtz, the San Diego-based doctor who established the science of heart rate variability (HRV) biofeedback.
Before he even began his freshman year at SDSU, Vardas began to plant the seeds for his new company. But after he moved to San Diego, his regular collaborations with Gevirtz helped him to improve the raw technology by syncing the cardiovascular and respiratory systems, and creating new data points like synchrony, heart pattern smoothness and respiration-based heart rate variability.
To utilize the technology, Vardas developed a watch-like device which uses a proprietary sensor to measure respiration at the wrist, allowing wearers to view, monitor and sync their breathing, heartrate and blood pressure. Wearers use an adaptive breathing guide embedded in the device to make the necessary adjustments to their breathing and heart patterns to mitigate stress, anxiety and depression.
As an SDSU freshman in the spring of 2017, Vardas introduced his product concept, now called Zone, at the Lavin Entrepreneurship Center’s VentureStart Competition. To his surprise and excitement, he won the competition.
Shortly thereafter, the first product prototype was built and Zone team has spent the past 18 months preparing for their first product launch. “We’ve been fixing bugs, improving the smartphone apps and preparing patent applications,” said Vardas. “We’re aiming to have at least eight patent applications filed by the end of 2019.”
While the company is working out technical and intellectual property details, Vardas plans to gain commercial validation by selling a limited amount of Zones on Kickstarter and Amazon starting on or before June of 2019. The company’s ultimate goal is to enter into a licensing agreement for the technology shortly thereafter.
While his business is moving in the right direction, Vardas is quick to point out to other young entrepreneurs that the path to success takes a lot of sweat equity and some creative thinking. “Find something you are passionate about, do excessive amounts of research on the subject, and surround yourself with subject matter experts,” he said. “Only after you become an expert yourself, can you start the creative process where you can build on your product ideas until you’ve found a marketable solution.”