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This Belgian startup is on a moonshot mission to help people destress

The Times They Are A-Changin’. Bob Dylan’s words could not have been truer than the time we are living in now. In this post-Covid era, social isolation, work from home and just being confined in a place where you are and no chance to travel has led to major social changes in our daily lives. Consequently, mental health suffers. Saving the day are stress tech startups that are looking at helping people find some peace of mind, destress, meditate and rejuvenate.

Joining the pack of wellness startups that are aiming to help people destress is a young Belgian health tech startup by brother-sister duo Stefanie Broes and Michael Broes. Founded in 2019, moonbird brings to the table the world’s first breathing tool that fits in your palm and helps you de-stress and sleep better, simply by breathing.

In a tete-a-tete with TFN, Stefanie Broes, the co-founder of moonbird, talks about how the startup is on a mission to make the application of breathing techniques more widely accessible, to improve people’s overall wellbeing and its recent funding.

Jumping on to the wellness startup bandwagon

For Stefanie, who has a medical background, it was a no-brainer to start a company where the end goal was to improve the health and happiness of people. “When I started to discover myself what the impact of focus-enhancing techniques such as meditation can do for you, I submerged myself in this matter and wanted to help spread the word. When it comes to meditation, there are lots of companies active in this space. But breathwork was still considered to be on the edge of the fluffy or spiritual side of the spectrum,” she said. According to Stephanie, there is no company translating scientific insights into attractive end products for consumers when it comes to breathing techniques at the moment. moonbird is doing exactly this – making breathwork accessible, convenient and cool. 

Pandemic and rise of wellness apps

The pandemic has illustrated the importance of, and at the same time de-stigmatised mental wellbeing/health. “Unfortunate as the pandemic maybe, I do think this is one of the silver linings of the pandemic: we can now more easily discuss how we feel with our bosses or colleagues, we are more open about our mental health towards friends, and people are actively looking for ways to take care of their mental health. This has massively spurred access to meditation platforms like Calm and Headspace I believe. Indeed, moonbird was started one week before lockdowns were installed in the EU. When it comes to the subject matter of mental health, the pandemic has given us some tailwinds,” she added. 

How the device works

moonbird is a tool to effectively and intuitively perform meditation and breathing techniques. Just as a mother cradles her baby on her chest and the breathing rhythms synchronise, the device helps us to breathe slowly and calmly via tactile guidance. The device expands and contracts in the palm of your hand signalling you when to breathe in and out: breathe in when moonbird expands, breathe out when it contracts. You don’t have to think about the exercises anymore, you just breathe along. Stefanie explained: “When developing the product, I realised I wanted to go beyond current solutions that convey guidance via the sensory stimuli of seeing and hearing. That’s why we use the sense of touch. After all, touch is one of the oldest and most intuitive forms of communication. The idea of an object that breathes with us was born.”

Besides, you can connect it to an app to select different breathing exercises, listen to audio guides or get biofeedback. Through the built-in heart rate sensor, your heart rate is measured and displayed in real-time in the app so you can see the immediate impact of the breathing exercises on your body. The device was specifically built for insomniacs (Stefanie being a very bad sleeper herself) so you do not have to use the app: via de wake & shake principle you can start moonbird without needing your smartphone.

€1.5M funding and roadmap ahead

The women-led startup raised €1.5 million in its growth round of funding in November first week from Akiles, ScaleFund, imec.istart, the Flemish investment company PMV, Buysse & Partners, and other private investors. The health tech company is looking at accelerating its growth in terms of sales, first by expanding across the EU and later by adding the US to its market.

Besides, it is already planning to develop more products, all centred around the idea of breathing exercises and how they can support people, both adults, and children, to cope with the hectic modern society.

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