Nootrobox sells what has become something of a fad in Silicon Valley: Nootropics, which The Wall Street Journal reported is a form of supplement designed to increase physical and mental performance. The Journal noted that Nootrobox, which pitches on Shark Tank Friday night, already has backing from Andreessen Horowitz, a venture capital firm that at one time held investments in Twitter, Facebook, and Skype.
When Andreessen Horowitz first announced it would lead a seed funding round for Nootrobox in December 2015, firm investment partner Chris Dixon told The New York Times that Nootrobox had science to back up its claims, unlike past supplement companies that were more about marketing than substance. But if Nootrobox already has well-heeled investors, does it need a spot on the Shark Tank carpet?
CarterMatt asked that question in its episode preview, noting the company’s hefty $40 million valuation — they are asking for $2 million for 5 percent of the company — would be sure to raise some eyebrows on the show. As it turns out, according to an interview with Nootrobox founder Geoffrey Woo that was published on Heavy, the company didn’t apply to be on Shark Tank. They were recruited.
“One of ‘Shark Tank’s producers reached out and thought we would be a good fit for the show. We jumped at the opportunity to introduce biohacking to millions of Americans.”
“We explain biohacking and Nootrobox to people on a daily basis, so doing that in front of the Sharks just felt like another day in the office.”
Back in December 2015, Dixon told Business Insider that he was looking for an investment in the nootropics space, and Nootrobox was a good fit. He argued it’s a better alternative for motivated students and driven workers who are already taking substances to improve mental acuity.
“Some very high percentage of college students are taking Adderall. I think the nootropics movement is a much healthier alternative to a lot of this stuff. Everything that Nootrobox sells is all well-known.”
The Wall Street Journal piece from November 2016, noted that nootropics exist in a gray area of regulation, usually not regulated as pharmaceuticals, most considered dietary supplements. Nootrobox says it only uses ingredients that are said to be “generally recognized as safe” by the FDA. Those ingredients in Nootrobox products include L-theanine, caffeine, Omega-3, and a South Asian herb called Bacopa monnieri.
Nootrobox has the distinction of “stacking” its components, in essence combining specific ingredients in a defined dosage. In a July 2014, interview with Tech Crunch that focused on Nootrobox’s then-newly launched subscription service, Woo said it was the convenience that was the selling feature of the product. The ingredients are already sold in health food stores, but in the past users have had to combine them into potent combinations.
“Nootrobox offers ‘stacks in a capsule’ so we make it super accessible and convenient.”
In March 2015, Fusion writer Kevin Roose tried Nootrobox’s RISE and concluded that although he had bursts of productivity and spoke to others who swore by the products, he wasn’t sure they were actually working. Roose also noted there was little information about the long-term effects of using the products.
Similarly, Josh Helton documented on The Hustle his experiences using Nootrobox products. He concluded the results were subtle, and he’d rather make other changes like getting rid of distractions instead of investing in the supplement. Helton quoted the price of $50 per month, which is similar to the amount quoted in the 2014 Tech Crunch article of $9 to $53 per month.
Woo told The New York Times in December 2015, that the company was profitable and that it planned to use its seed funding investment on research and expansion of product offerings.
Shark Tank airs Friday nights at 9 pm on ABC.
[Featured Image by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images]