Down the Rabbit Hole of Psychedelics: the Next Growth Category for Health Startups
We are currently witnessing a psychedelic renaissance, which we believe is long overdue. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, over 17 million Americans have at least one major depressive episode every year, and up to 30% of them receive insufficient help from current medical treatments. PTSD and anxiety disorders are also extremely prevalent. This is where psychedelics step in.
More and more research is showing the positive effect psychedelics have on mental health — and we're seeing a direct impact in the market. In the past year, over $220 million was raised by private companies in the psychedelic space. Several companies went public and many more startups are in the process of building a profitable business.
Even non-psychedelic mushrooms are booming: The global mushroom market is projected to reach $69.3 billion by the end of 2024 as consumers rediscover the idea of functional foods and food as medicine, according to a recent article by Andrea Hernández of Snaxshot.
At Together, we believe great work happens when we follow our interests and passions, and the world of psychedelics and functional foods is calling to us now. If you're an investor or founder in psychedelics and functional foods, we'd love to meet you.
In the meantime, as we explore our own psychedelic side projects (more on that soon), we start by connecting with the internal motivations and experiences driving us. That's why today we're sharing a very personal story from our Director of Growth Mick de Meijer, whose latest journey is centered on psychedelics — both personally and professionally. More from Mick below.
My journey in psychedelics: Educate yourself first
Earlier this year, I went on a San Pedro plant medicine journey to do some serious self-healing that was long overdue. I felt I was continuously hitting a glass ceiling, which impacted both my career and my relationships. I have a hereditary history of anxiety and I had a stutter until my mid-30s. (Sure, failing a startup is hard — but failing every sentence is a new level.) And honestly: I just never felt 'good enough.'
This journey was over two years in the making. Back in 2019, I decided to educate myself on psychedelics after reading an article in Fortune Magazine about how psychedelics can help people who suffer from mental health challenges. I also read Michael Pollan's book, How to Change Your Mind — and it changed my life. Over the next year, I listened to countless podcasts and read a multitude of books to get comfortable with the idea of experimenting with psychedelics for personal betterment.
In my opinion, after years of research, I see psychedelics primarily as medicine—and not a party drug. Plant medicine, like San Pedro and ayahuasca, are incredibly strong medicines that must be treated with respect. Just like seeing a medical specialist or therapist, your intention is your gateway.
Nature has gifted us many forms of psychedelics, each with distinct characteristics. For example, psilocybin is found in magic mushrooms, DMT, lysergic acid (a.k.a. LSD), MDMA (a.k.a Molly), and many more. San Pedro is a mescaline-based psychedelic plant derived from cacti that can be found in many Latin-American countries, including Peru. Get to know these plants and their characteristics, and your experience will be that much more enriched.
How it went: The psychedelic transformation
Your mindset and the setting of consumption is a crucial component for success. Yes: A psychedelic journey can be incredibly beautiful. But it can also be arduous, hard, and force you to confront things. But you will get what your soul needs.
Over a long weekend, I joined a small group of people from various backgrounds with varying reasons why they wanted to heal and elevate their consciousness. First, we created a circle of trust — an intimate culture for sharing intentions and personal stories without any judgment. The next day, we began a multi-day retreat into nature, led by an experienced medicine man and a program producer who acted as a facilitator and a guide. My first session was incredibly hard work, lasting over 6 hours.
But ultimately, San Pedro relieved me of old baggage that I had buried deep and hidden. I returned to my childhood and worked through unresolved trauma. At the end of my experience, I had reached a new, empowering conclusion: I am enough. Many of the old thought patterns and narratives that I'd created dissolved — and so did any form of ego I had.
My second session was an even more intense experience. I envisioned the future and focused my intentions on what was next for me. I explored and journaled these ideas — and I spent a day-long experience feeling absolutely connected with nature. At my journey's peak, everything was energy: my body, the birds above, the insects on the ground below, and the trees I leaned against. It is hard to describe it properly, even now — but to put it simply, that day was as mesmerizing as the day of my wedding and the birth of my daughter.
The future of psychedelics
The narrative around psychedelics is changing — every day — and there are a number of groundbreaking companies who are pioneering this charge toward a new reality.
Retreats in progressive countries — including the Netherlands, Jamaica, and Peru — have decriminalized private psychedelic programs. But in many states in the U.S., psychedelics are considered a Class-1 drug and strictly forbidden.
What's next on the quest? More research funding is necessary. I admire philanthropists such as Tim Ferris, organizations such as MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies), and pioneering startups such as Field Trip, MindMed, and iMicrodose — all doing important work to further what we know about psychedelics and create a future that places more trust into the benefits of these practices.
To put it simply: In a tech-pervasive world, psychedelics keep us connected to nature. I believe that psychedelics will push human evolution to a new level. They can help us open up our creative brains and hearts — both for the good of ourselves and for the good of our planet. And I firmly believe that psychedelics should be decriminalized and protected from patents.
If you're curious to learn more about psychedelics and my journey, I'd love to hear from you. And if you're a psychedelic startup looking for a creative partner who relates to your mission, even better. Let's chat.
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