With guests from established enterprise companies to start-ups barely out of infancy to everyone in between - you’ll get the inside scoop on what’s Up Next in Commerce. New episodes come out every Tuesday and Thursday.

Subscribe to get notified of new episodes and our Up Next in Commerce weekly newsletter. 

EPISODE 75

Breaking In By Breaking Free: How Zak Williams is Building PYM to Advocate for Mental Health

With Zak Williams, co-founder and CEO of PYM

Or listen in your favorite podcast app

Apple Podcasts  /  Google Podcasts Spotify

Imagine this: You’ve developed a new product. One that you know works… and that you know people need. There’s just one minor problem: Selling that product requires you to not only enter a battlefield filled with regulatory land mines, but face competition with billions of dollars at its disposal. 

We’re seeing this situation play out in the multi-trillion-dollar industry that is supplement and pharmaceutical sales. It’s an industry that entrepreneurs everywhere are trying to make waves in, and just like any other industry, finding success means coupling the right product with the right strategy.

Zak Williams was able to kick the door open with his company, PYM, which sells all-natural amino acid-infused chews that have proven mental health benefits. Zak is the son of the late actor, Robin Williams, and he is using his own experiences navigating the ups and downs of mental health to help him build PYM into a company that advocates for mental health support in whatever way works best for the individual. Practically, that means working out a business strategy that allows PYM to not compete against big pharma, but sit alongside it. And it includes developing new kinds of convergent experiences that allow consumers to operate in a physical and digital world simultaneously. Zak explains all of that and more on this episode of Up Next in Commerce.

Main Takeaways:

  • Play Where You Can Win: For companies that are selling natural products, trying to sell in the same channels as big pharma would be a mistake. Not only will you not be able to make the same claims about proven solutions, but you will not be able to afford to acquire enough customers to make it worth it. Instead, find other channels or methods of marketing where you can stand out, either organically, or in a more affordable way.
  • Do Your Research: Making wild, unproven claims has always been a bad strategy for brands, but it is especially reckless when it comes to how something can affect a person’s physical or mental health. Invest in real research to back up the claims you are making, and be authentic with your message. Rather than trying to convince customers your product can cure something, help them open their minds to new experiences and products that might be part of a daily ritual or personal blend of what works on an individual basis.
  • Convergent Experiences: As a new normal emerges post-pandemic, brands will need to focus on creating convergent experiences that allow people to engage in the physical world while still using a digital experience to achieve goals and objectives.

For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.

Key Quotes:

“I found that me sharing my story and what I went through really helped others while helping myself. I found that being vulnerable and taking a lens of vulnerability and opening up really ultimately ended up starting that process of healing for me.”

“I started PYM with the lens of creating a brand that stands for mental health support like Red Bull stands for energy.”

“We’re a dietary supplement as a product class, and it’s important to consider how we make claims. We are very cautious with how we do so because from our perspective, we are given the privilege and opportunity to provide support for people given a specific framework, and we want to be considerate of that framework. The key thing for us is as we go about doing studies and the like is we want to develop a deeper understanding of how we’re actually providing support for people.” 

“We’ve had enormous success with earned media and organic SEO…we’re not advocating for a product to be a cure-all…. Really what we’re saying is our product is a catalyst. We want to get people into the mindset of prioritizing mental health hygiene as part of their daily rituals. Hopefully our product’s a catalyst. If they’re taking our product as the solution for their mental health support over the course of their day, that’s great, but ideally, they should be doing other things to best support themselves.” 

“Blending DTC with omnichannel is a huge opportunity, but omnichannel can often work as just establishing brand presence that ultimately pushes people into DTC, or vice versa.”

“We’re hitting the stage where we’re starting to see what a post-pandemic world will look like….There will be certain habits and there will be people who have become acclimated to digital experiences, but people will also want to go out into the world.”

Mentions:

Bio:

Zak Williams, son of late actor Robin Williams, is the co-founder and CEO of PYM, a mental wellness company rooted in the belief that there is a world where someone can be the best version of themselves simply by establishing easy daily rituals that help support their mind and overall wellbeing. Having over 5 years of experience as a global mental health advocate, Zak is passionate about developing best-in-class products that provide effective methods for alleviating anxiety, and sharing his personal story and experiences with mental wellness in an effort to remove the stigma and address the challenges associated with mental health topics. Zak is a US trustee of the international advocacy organization United for Global Mental Health, a board member of mental health awareness non-profit Bring Change 2 Mind, an advisor to national policy organization Inseparable, and the mental health tech platform Project Healthy Minds. 

Formerly, Zak was COO of the recommendation platform Crossing Minds, the Director of Business Development for media company Condé Nast, and the marketing lead for gaming and media platform N3TWORK. He received an MBA from Columbia Business School and a BA from New York University where he majored in Linguistics.

Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce

Transcript:

Stephanie:

Welcome back to Up Next in Commerce. This your host, Stephanie Postles, co-founder at Mission. Today I’m chatting with Zak Williams, the co-founder and CEO at Pym. Zak, welcome to the show.

Zak:

Thank you so much, Stephanie. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Stephanie:

Yeah. I’m very, very excited to have you on. I was going through my amazing prep dock, and I first thought that Hillary was playing a joke on me when she wrote down Zak’s the son of actor Robin Williams. She likes to put in silly things to see if I’m going to go with it. Then I’m like, oh wait, this is actually real. I started reading a bit about your story and your company, and I would love for you to actually start with that. Tell me a bit about what led you to Pym, and yeah, expand on that, because I was really excited to hear about the full story.

Zak:

Yeah, certainly. What led me to starting Pym, the mental health support company, started very early on in life. I had anxiety throughout my teens that manifested into something more extreme after my dad, the entertainer, Robin Williams, died by suicide. I found myself experiencing bouts of depression, also extreme anxiety and stress episodes. I was feeling like my life was becoming unmanageable. I was trying to use alcohol to self medicate and was trying to find any other solution that would work. I tried cannabis products, had prescription pharmaceuticals, which work for many people. For me, I didn’t find the solution that necessarily helped me in a way that would work in perpetuity. Then I found some help in things like talk therapy and alike.

Zak:

Through that experience, a couple things happened. One was I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and was dealing with a lot of issues associated with that. The other thing is I started to find help and support through committing to service, specifically working with mental health organizations, not for profits; supporting them around things like governance, organizational development, fundraising initiatives, strategy, business development. Whatever it is they needed help with, I wanted to jump in and support because I found actually that commitment to mental health organizations really helped me. Through that experience, another thing started to happen, which I found that me sharing my story and what I went through really helped others while helping myself. I found that being vulnerable and taking a lens of vulnerability and opening up really ultimately ended up starting that process of healing for me. I found that mental health advocacy is one component.

Zak:

The second component is when I took self medication out of the equation, using alcohol, and by the end I was drinking alcoholically and it was just not good for my mental health. I was feeling very emotionally dysregulated and not having a great time. When I cut out alcohol, I was still really stressed and really anxious, and realized that I needed something to support me throughout the day. I found a solution that my wife introduced me to. My wife, Olivia June, who’s also co-founder of Pym. She turned me on to amino acid formulations, which when I tried them were a game changer. They helped me feel clear and erased the anxiety that I was feeling and that was ultimately crippling me. She was introduced to this sublingual tincture by one of her doctors. When I tried it, I was just like wow, this is transformative.

Zak:

Armed with the insights of mental health advocacy is very healing for me, and amino acid formulations really helped support me throughout the day, I realized there was an opportunity to develop something that was very near and dear to my heart, but also helpful for people while focused on the core mission of mental health support. I started Pym with the lens of creating a brand that stands for mental health support, like Red Bull stands for energy. In starting the company, we kicked off the food science and product development element of that in 2019 and created something that was both safe and effective, while also being delicious. We worked with a food scientist named Lena Kwak, who was the director and research and development for The French Laundry, which is a restaurant in northern California; a very well-known internationally regarded restaurant in California. We wanted to create something that had a great taste and smell and a texture that felt unique but also toothsome.

Zak:

We came upon something that we ended up testing with our early beta testers that they liked and they found effective. We kicked off the commercialization phase when we decided that everything was in line with not only how we wanted it, but how our beta testers felt it should be. Through that process, we hired the chief operating officer of Sugarfina; a wonderful man named Scott Cuillard who came on as our chief operating officer, and he accelerated the process of commercialization by 200%. Now we’re at market. We’re just getting this feedback from our customers and early advocates that our product is a lifeline and it’s helping people in a very significant way and we’re doing these giveback campaigns where we’re supporting mental health organizations, starting with Bring Change to Mind, which is an organization I’m on the board of that focuses on developing communities and high schools for mental health support, while launching campaigns to break down the stigma associated with mental health.

Zak:

Moving into 2021, we will be deepening our relationship with Bring Change to Mind and have a portion of our proceeds of every sale going to supporting building mental health communities and high schools. That’s what we’ve been up to in a nutshell. The why behind it relates very much to mental health advocacy. We see ourselves as a brand that stands for advocacy and we want to really triple down on supporting the movement associated with mental health. That’s what we’re all about.

Stephanie:

That’s great. It seems like this kind of product would have a lot of barriers to entry, because when I think about the market right now around mental health products and CBD and cannabis and all this stuff, there’s already a market there. There’s already been a lot of messaging, a lot of advertising before a product based on amino acids, which honestly, I haven’t even really heard of that. Tell me a bit about how you overcame those barriers and educated new audiences or are starting to. I know you just recently launched, but tell me a little bit about that process to really get your product on the front of people’s mind.

Zak:

Sure. Amino acid formulations for mental health support is not a new thing. We didn’t miraculously come upon something that was new to the world. They were gaining momentum and popularity as a way to provide mental health support by balancing out the endocrine system in the 80s and 90s. Something happened in the 90s that set off an era of a pill to solve all your problems in life. Kind of that era of taking a curative approach to symptoms. Do you know what that event might be?

Stephanie:

I’m guessing you’re talking about prescription pills, but I don’t know what the event is.

Zak:

Yeah. Actually, it’s a very specific prescription pill. It was the creation of Prozac. The profound thing about Prozac is it was a product that would function as an antidepressant that would not kill you if you took it in excess or stopped taking it, because at the time, the available toolkit of prescription pharmaceuticals had toxicity associated with them. In certain situations, you could take a product and if you stopped taking it, you would be at risk of severely debilitating affects in the like. Prozac created kind of a safe mechanism to provide mental health support. By the way, I’m a big believer in prescription medication being helpful for many, many millions of people. I don’t want to make it seem like I’m not supportive, but the momentum that amino acid formulations were getting kind of fell by the wayside and didn’t favor of this era that lasted a couple decades of a pill to solve all your problems.

Zak:

It’s only been in the last five plus, just over five years, from my perspective, that the whole idea of seeing the individual as a system, as a collection of interacting organs and functions working together to help support and sustain the body, that idea and premise has really been embraced in a major way by the medical community. Going hand in hand with that is the idea and premise that you can take certain products, to kind of balance yourself out, because they provide support for a number of different systems and create kind of a balanced ecosystem to better help you. That’s kind of where amino acid formulations kind of come into play.

Zak:

From our perspective, we just concentrated these existing amino acids in a way in which they actually provided a more comprehensive form of support for stress and anxiety with our first product. That’s the story in brief, but the challenge is very specifically we need to popularize amino acid support as a way of providing mental health support, because there’s science and research behind. Science, research and studies behind amino acids being helpful for people, but people aren’t too aware of it.

Zak:

As part of forming the company and making the effort to formulate something that’s helpful for people, we established the science advisory board from Harvard Medical School, UCSF, USC, and MIT, and with specific focus on neuroscience and neuroendocrinology, with some mental health epidemiology being an element of that as well. As part of that, we are in the process of establishing a pre-trial study, which we’ll then use as a foundation to go into an actual clinical study that we’ll be using to really get a deeper understanding of how we can provide decisive support for the mind and the body. We’re kind of in the brave new world of natural compounds providing support both for the brain and the mind and also the body, but I’m an advocate and believer in compounds that are safe and effective.

Stephanie:

Yeah. It does feel like the timing’s right. 2020 is a year where I’ve at least seen a very big shift in not only healthy living, but people actually looking into the source of what they’re ingesting and thinking about healthy alternatives to not only their diet but also things they’re taking, whether it’s prescriptions or whatever it may be.

Stephanie:

It feels like the market’s ready for it, but then figuring out ways, like you’re doing, to pull it together and put it in an easily, I guess, consumable format where people kind of know, oh, here’s the five things that are coming together, here’s what they’re going to do. Someone’s already done the science behind me, instead of trying to piecemeal these extracts and things off of Amazon together to try and fix a need based on all the YouTubers and influencers and people who are telling you oh, this is good for this, and this is good for this. It’s so much information now.

Zak:

Right. That’s what I was doing. I was cobbling together an experience that helped me, but it was a bunch of different products. I agree. I think that there is a major opportunity on the research side too. There’s some great companies that are focused on establishing more research through studies. Some registered, some focused more so on doing the research to really understand how things work prior to actually doing registered studies. There’s organizations and companies that are focused on actually creating frameworks to do the testing. I will give a specific shout-out to my buddy, Jeff Chen, who was one of the founders of the Cannabis Research Initiative at UCLA, and he recently started a company focused on doing research around natural compounds. His new company, Radical Science, is hyper-focused on establishing frameworks, specifically clinical frameworks, around testing for natural products. It’s so essential that people actually really start understanding what it is they’re putting in their body to support themselves.

Stephanie:

How do you approach that regulatory field? Like you said, to me, it sounds so scary entering a market like this one where you’re doing things for the first time, it’s new, people aren’t used to it. How did you approach this field and did you find any quick paths to get past some of the crazy rules and regulations to be able to actually start creating a product and testing it and seeing how it would work?

Zak:

Yeah. Great question. It wasn’t a cold start for me. I have several years of experience working with complex compliance and regulatory environments due to investing, advising, working within the cannabis industry.

Stephanie:

Got it. Okay. That’s good background. You weren’t a newbie to this. I’ve done this before.

Zak:

No. The lens we take. I say we in terms of our team and our advisory board is prioritizing compliance and safety. In starting the company, we sought the most sophisticated advising we could get. We need to continue prioritizing safety as front and center with what we do. We’re a dietary supplement as a product class, and it’s important to consider how we make claims. We are very cautious with how we do so because from our perspective, we are given the privilege and opportunity to provide support for people given a specific framework, and we want to be considerate of that framework. The key thing for us is as we go about doing studies and the like is we want to develop a deeper understanding of how we’re actually providing support for people.

Stephanie:

Is your goal to not just be a dietary supplement eventually?

Zak:

The big goal for us would be to become a doctor recommended product, or there’s a class of products called a medical food. What a medical food is is a product that is meant to support specific disease states in the like. It’s a product class. It means there’s a lot of research behind how it’s been effective to support different states. You can make specific sets of claims.

Zak:

From our lens, the reason why medical food establishing that type of status is important for us is because that way we can actually say we’ve done X amount of research, it’s shown to be statistically significant, and we can really make these specific claims around supporting people. That’s a process. That takes a long time to do. It’s not inexpensive. There’s stages that we’re required to kind of get through to get to that point.

Stephanie:

How much money are you estimating it could cost to have your product become medically food stamped? That’s a weird term.

Zak:

There’s a range. Depends on what type of condition we’re seeking to support and how long the study is meant to be conducted. Generally, these studies are months long. In some cases, over a year. It’s not inexpensive. Let me frame it like that.

Stephanie:

Yeah. I guess that it what makes me worry about maybe new entrepreneurs who see opportunities or if they’re like you, but they don’t have connections and they don’t have the story that you have and maybe the status. You’ll probably be like, don’t say that, but you have a lot of things that maybe a lot of others don’t. It seems like innovation’s going to kind of stall if it takes so much money to get something natural into the world, or a blend of something natural, and then to be recommended over top of prescription drugs where these pharmaceutical companies have huge amounts of money and marketing.

Stephanie:

I read this whole book about… what was it called? Let me think. It was called like the cure to cancer or cure of cancer. Something that was abour apricot oil and the apricot seed. I don’t know if you’ve ever read this before, but it was about how this guy was showing that apricot oil, I think that’s the kind of oil it was, was having a big impact on cancer and cells and all this. All a sudden, these big pharmaceutical companies start putting out hits on him. He had to go to a whole different country to prescribe it. It seems like an insane world to even try to do something new just to start, and then also not having a huge budget or connections. It doesn’t feel like anyone can enter this market, really.

Zak:

There’s ways to do it. The barrier to entry in terms of launching a natural product is not as high as, say, launching a pharmaceutical product. You have to make certain assertions to say hey, this product will be effective. It seems to help people, and you have to generate demand. We’ve very much in the business of demand-gen. From a Pharma perspective, I would say that pharmaceutical companies are actually taking a lens of openness towards utilizing natural compounds to better support people.

Stephanie:

They’re not taking out hits on you.

Zak:

No. Where it gets challenging is if you’re going out and saying, we have a mental health support solution, and you go in certain channels where you’re trying to advertise, you just get squished. You just can’t afford to acquire a customer when you’re talking about going in a channel which people are seeking certain mental health support solutions through search, for example.

Stephanie:

You have to find ways to maybe be innovative to not have to rely on the same channels as maybe the big Pharma companies and find ways to get to the users who are probably looking for that, but they just don’t know exactly what to look for or the terms to search for.

Zak:

The big advantage that entrepreneurs should look for when it comes to creating an edge, an unfair advantage in this space is distribution advantages.

Stephanie:

Tell me more about that.

Zak:

Direct to consumer, there are some advantages, but there’s also some disadvantages. We have had limited success with paid search. It’s just hard for us because when people are searching for specific needs, that can be very expensive from an SEM perspective.

Stephanie:

What do you do instead if paid search is expensive for us? What kind of channels are you maybe looking at instead or experimenting with where maybe you’re finding better results?

Zak:

We’ve had enormous success with earned media and organic SEO in the like, but that’s a strategy we set out from the get go in applying. I come by our company and the products very honestly. Part of what I do in mental health advocacy is just share on a story consistently and when it’s combined with Pym, people are curious. Sometimes they end up being drawn and attracted to our product. The thing too, which we found has been helpful for folks is that we’re not advocating for a product to be a cure-all. It’s actually kind of I don’t want to say the opposite, because that’s not quite what it is, but it’s kind of adjacent to that. Really what we’re saying for is our product’s a catalyst. We want to get people into the mindset of prioritizing mental health hygiene as part of their daily rituals. Hopefully our product’s a catalyst. If they’re taking our product as the solution for their mental health support over the course of their day, that’s great, but ideally, they should be doing other things to best support themselves.

Stephanie:

I think that’s the messaging that will win going forward. All the companies I’ve had on the show so far, so many people talk about authentic messaging and not just having the same kind of corporate speak like maybe they used to years prior or something. I think thinking about how to craft that going forward, it’s actually more trustworthy if you say something like, this isn’t a fix. This is meant to be a part of your daily routine along with exercise and eat healthy and whatever else you need to do to stay healthy.

Zak:

Yeah. The thing for us we really want to push for and advocate for, something I call enrichment loops. Meaning if you come to our product and take it on a consistent basis, hopefully it adds value every time. Meaning you’re clear headed, you can learn something, you can engage in an activity that’s helpful. If that’s not the solution for you, then we’re not going to push it on you. Do something else that helps you. Again, this is where prescription pharmaceuticals, if you’re finding a solution with prescriptions, by all means, take that solution. If it’s meditation, if it’s mindfulness activity, if it’s a fitness regimen, If it’s nutrition. For most people, it’s most likely a mix. For me, it’s a mix of meditation, eating well, some fitness, but I could definitely be better on it. I take Pym because it helps me. I’m a big believer in talk therapy and community support groups. That’s my mix.

Zak:

To close on the unfair advantages in distribution. If you have a digital channel like an app or something, we’re exploring creating a companion experience. That gives you an ownership of being able to really provide unique insight, pushed out notifications, establish a foundation of data that better helps you understand what it is a customer needs and there’s an advantage there. I think blending DTC with Omnichannel is a huge opportunity, but Omnichannel can often work as just establishing brand presence that ultimately pushes people into DTC, or vice versa. It could be DTC that ultimately pushes people into a daily loop, ideally an enrichment loop, around purchasing products at their natural grocer. Okay. I’ll close at that, but I think focusing on unfair advantages in distribution is how entrepreneurs will get ahead in a very challenging space.

Stephanie:

The one thing I’ve heard a lot is a lot of entrepreneurs that I’ve talked to on the show, a lot of them have really good stories, but not everyone tells it. Some people are hesitant to tell their story. Did you experience this with everything that happened? Did you ever feel a need to pull back and you weren’t sure if you wanted to share or you weren’t sure what you wanted to talk about? Tell me a bit about how you thought about sharing your story and resonating with people. Were you scared at an point to do that, because I’ve heard a lot of people have been? I don’t know to tell.

Zak:

Regarding story, look, the lens I take is that there’s great strength in vulnerability. I’ve been guarded a large part of my life, and not sharing my experience and alike, I’ve realized that I was losing out on opportunities to help people. I was given many advantages in life, and there are elements that have been disadvantageous. Instead of seeing it as that and seeing it as kind of a foundation for resentment or being annoyed around certain things, I say, this is just part of my experience. There might be shared experiences or there might be something that would be unique to your experience or not very many people, and I think that needs to be embraced.

Zak:

My whole thing is share my perspective and story. As it relates to Pym, try to be considerate of really the advocacy that underlines what we’re doing as well because that’s what really matters at the end of the day. I think people just need to find what it is that they want to tell, and really understand that they’re crafting their story in the present, in the now. You don’t want someone else’s story. Own your own. It’s a muscle. I had a lot of fear and anxiety around sharing stuff for a large part of my life.

Stephanie:

Now you’re talking about even before your dad’s passing you were not very vulnerable. What pushed you to want to start sharing, and why do you think you were holding back before?

Zak:

I think I was doing certain things that I was ashamed of. Drinking has always been a problem for me. I’ll be perfectly honest, and it was something that only came to a head where I was like whoa, this is getting out of control after my dad died by suicide, but prior to that, it was something that was a challenge and I wasn’t liking doing it. I think there were elements of my story that I was ashamed of, perfectly frankly. To be perfectly frank about it. In that, I realized there’s certain elements of my story that are private and I relate to being considerate of the sphere of individuals or communities that are titled to that. Then there’s elements that I love to share and talk about. The thing for me is when it comes to mental health, talking about mental health and alike, I like talking about it because it’s very healing for me.

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Zak:

Yeah.

Stephanie:

Very cool. Before the show started, we were talking a little bit about converging experiences, and I want to hear how you’re thinking about this, especially with probably giving certain talks that now, this past year, had to all be virtual and not as much in person. Tell me a little bit about how you’re thinking about online and offline blending and what you guys are betting on for next year.

Zak:

Well, the big bet we’re making is that people will continue needing mental health support products.

Stephanie:

After 2020, yes.

Zak:

Yeah. Here’s the thing is that relative to the pandemic, there’s been a shift into the COVID pandemic. We can talk about the parallel mental health pandemic, which is a thing too. There’s been a shift to kind of embracing and engaging, or customers, communities, populations embracing and engaging in digital experiences, whether it’s telehealth, things like that or for meetings, remote work, Zoom, things like that. We’re hitting the stage where we’re starting to see what a post-pandemic world will look like. Just little glimpses of it. There will likely be people wanting to connect with other people in person, people wanting to go out and shop and dance and eat out in the open. There will be certain habits and there will be people who have become acclimated to digital experiences, but people will also want to go out into the world. I think it’ll be interesting to see the blend of online and offline that’s going to be this new paradigm. I think as we’re thinking about it Pym, we’re very much thinking about establishing a companion experience to support people throughout their daily activity.

Zak:

For us, there is a need to really establish a better understanding of how people are requiring mental health support products and experiences. In the neuroscience community, there’s something called an adjuvant experience, which has shown to be very helpful. What adjuvant means is… it’s very simple. It’s just something in something else.

Stephanie:

Something in something else. Wait. What? Sounds simple, but I don’t get it.

Zak:

No, it’s just an adjuvant experience is talk therapy and some sort of prescription protocol.

Stephanie:

Oh. Okay. Blending two things together. Got it.

Zak:

Yeah. That’s adjuvant experience. From our lens, we wanted to create an adjuvant experience that is fun, accessible and accretive in terms of delivering value and support for people. The two things that are most helpful, at least based upon my experience talking with researchers and doctors and scientists about how consumer oriented mental health support experiences can help people is insight and community. The insight component involves behavioral recommendations, maybe data, specific things that help people live a life that they want to live. The community component involves supporting authentic connection with people. Those are the hints in terms of how we’re thinking about developing an adjuvant experience, which ideally we hope to be convergent.

Zak:

I see there’s an enormous opportunity, and it’s very hard to get right. I’ll say that. It’s in the cake walk, because you need to really factor in blending the online and offline experience into something that feels natural and seamless and ideally, fun. I think a lot of companies are going to be taking that tack, because events are going to be really big, people are going to start eating out again, people are going to start shopping beyond just kind of going out and doing a foray out into the wild and then coming back.

Stephanie:

Oh, it just went to Costco. What a blast.

Zak:

For instance, where Target has really done an excellent job is on their pick-up experience. It’s been a game changer for Target this year in 2020. Where you shop, you order online, and then you go to Target and you pick things up. You pick stuff up. That’s technically a convergent experience, blending online and offline because it involves you having to engage in the physical world and using a digital experience to achieve your goals and objectives. I think most companies are going to have to think about that in a very meaningful way in order to maintain an edge. I think telehealth platforms have achieved a huge boost this year, but there’s going to be some reversion, and it’s not going to be a reversion to the previous me. They need to think about okay, what is it that we can do to establish an edge to further support people when they go out into the world again?

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Zak:

That’s essentially what I mean by convergent experience. From a mental health support perspective, it’s really about developing an adjuvant experience. X and Y together at last to create better support for people than the individual parts.

Stephanie:

Got it. I love that. That’s a very good example and description, and I feel like I learned a new word. This is a win all around.

Zak:

Hey, it’s my pleasure.

Stephanie:

All right. We have about 10 minutes left. I want to shift over to the lightening round. The lightening round is brought to you by our friends at Salesforce commerce cloud. This is where I’m going to ask you a question, and you have one minute or less to answer. Do you think you’re ready, Zak?

Zak:

Yes.

Stephanie:

All right. What’s up next on your Netflix view or Hulu or whatever you use?

Zak:

I’m excited about watching The Crown. It’s been on my list for ages, and we’re starting to get through our queue.

Stephanie:

A lot of people have said that, so I’m guessing you’re going to enjoy it. All right. What one thing do you not understand today that you wish you did?

Zak:

I wish I spoke Japanese.

Stephanie:

That’s a good one. I love Japan. It’s my favorite.

Zak:

I love Japan too. For me, the process of learning a new language is already daunting for me. I’m not a polyglot. I don’t learn other languages easily. At some point, I should just take the plunge and just start. That’s my goal, learning Japanese.

Stephanie:

That’s awesome. Sounds like a good goal. If you were to have a podcast, what would it be about and who would your first guest be?

Zak:

My podcast would be about getting to the very core of people’s experiences, like what’s their truth. Whether they know it or not, hopefully we can uncover that truth. What is it that they’re all about? My first guest would likely be one of my favorite people on the planet, Dr. Adam Gazzaley, who is an advisor for Pym and a scientist and a profoundly interesting person that I’d love to get to the bottom of finding his truth.

Stephanie:

This sounds like a good show. I think this needs to happen. What’s the nicest thing someone’s ever done for you?

Zak:

Well, I’m a big fan of my son, Mickey.

Stephanie:

That’s good.

Zak:

Having my wife, Olivia, her having carried Mickey for nearly a year.

Stephanie:

That’s sweet.

Zak:

That was extremely thoughtful and considerate of her.

Stephanie:

That was very sweet. I like that. All right. Well, I have two more. What’s up next on your reading list?

Zak:

There’s a bunch of things, but the main one is Jim Simons’ biography.

Stephanie:

Cool. All right. Then the last one, what one thing will have the biggest impact on ecommerce in the next year?

Zak:

The one thing that will have the biggest impact on ecommerce in the next year would be, I think, oh man. That’s a really good question. I think it very much relates to more seamless experiences, frictionless experiences. Even though it is quick and can be considered convenient, it could be so much more convenient. I think the disrupters that are establishing quick checkouts, embedded checkouts, connecting wallets to checkout experiences, things like that, that’s going to be a game changer, because people who have an edge there are going to really be able to see the difference in their bottom line. I know that’s a very tactical consideration.

Stephanie:

That’s a good answer.

Zak:

I think that’s really one of the game changers.

Stephanie:

Yeah. You’ll have to check out our interview with the CEO of Fast. It was very fast, and a good interview and definitely opened up my eyes to what a frictionless ecommerce world could look like.

Zak:

I think Fast is great.

Stephanie:

Yeah. All right, Zak. Thanks so much for coming on here and sharing your story and being vulnerable. Where can people find out more about you and Pym?

Zak:

Well, you can find out more about me through tuning into this podcast and other advocacy work I do specifically. I’ll push people to advocacy. I work with organizations called Bring Change to Mind, United for Global Mental Health, Inseparable, and then Project Healthy Minds. Those are the four mental health organizations I work with. You can find out more about me through the work that I do with those organizations, and then you can find out more about Pym at youcanpym.com. Y-O-U-C-A-N-P-Y-M dot com.

Stephanie:

Amazing. I will be checking it out after this. Thanks so much. It was really a pleasure to have you on and love to have you back in the future when your app is out.

Zak:

Awesome, Stephanie. Such a pleasure.

Subscribe in your favorite podcast app.

Love this? Share it with your friends!

Facebook
Google+
Twitter
LinkedIn

Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud.

Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel.

Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Get exclusive updates and new episodes straight to your inbox. 

Subscribe Now To Get

– Our daily newsletter designed to increase your wealth, health, and wisdom.

– Access to exclusive giveaways from The Mission full of awesome swag and prizes.

Our Podcasts