Wisconsin start-up funded by Concordia University helps reduce stress with unique meditation technique

Posted at 9:41 AM, Feb 13, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-13 10:41:59-05

MEQUON — Stress is on the rise in the United States according to studies by the American Institute of Stress, American Psychological Association, Frontiers of Psychology, and more. It's especially prevalent among college students.

People like student-athlete Annalina Van Hercke at Concordia University have a lot going on that can increase her stress levels.

“I double major here at Concordia, and play sports, and also working," she said.

Finding ways to relax is crucial to her. One way she found a way to reduce stress is with the guided meditation app Joystik.

“You’re not thinking about school. You’re not thinking about hockey. You’re only thinking about yourself in that moment," Van Hercke said about how she feels when using the app.

Annalina Van Hercke
Annalina Van Hercke closes her eyes as she is guided through a meditation session with the Joystik app.

Joystik is a Wisconsin-based start-up with $450,000 in pre-seed funding.

Joystik’s meditation programs are designed to reduce stress and its targeted towards younger generations. It's $4.99 a month and you can download it from any app store.

So why is this meditation app different from others? Co-founder and CEO Christian Still said because of the technique it uses called autogenics.

“Think of it as a blend of mindfulness, meditation, biofeedback, and self-hypnosis," he said.

The app says phrases like "my forehead is cool" or "my arms and legs are heavy". Users repeat those phrases in their head for a given duration. Sometimes meditations can be a few minutes or up to 10 minutes. It's also used by organizations like the Department of Veterans Affairs.

"You’re mind and your body gets it and you keep doing it. You’re increasing your resilience to stress you're able to control your response to stress," Stoll said.

Christian Stoll
Christian Stoll is the co-founder and CEO of Joystik.

He also believes that their simple design which only offers a few specific meditations streamlines the process and makes the app more attractive to users.

“If you can take stress and help with that you might offset your chance of getting depression or anxiety. Usually if you look at those disorders those are secondary to chronic stress," Stoll said.

Part of the $450,000 funding for Joystik comes from CU Ventures which is an initiative by Concordia University to fund start-ups. The other $350,000 is from a San Francisco-based healthcare company called Inflect Health.

“The goal of CU Ventures is to provide an alternative source of revenue to support the mission of the university so something to compliment philanthropy and tuition," Daniel Sem, the founder of CU Ventures, said.

The initiative has funded seven companies including Joystik, a drug discovery company, a skincare start-up, a digital imaging business, and more.

The Joystik app encourages users to set daily reminders to make sure guided meditation becomes part of their routines.

“Money that we make is going to go back to the university in the form of scholarships and grants," Sem said.

Sem who has worked in biotech for decades, sold companies, and funded several start-ups hopes that CU Ventures can also inspire more start-up growth across the Badger State.

"I just want to help bring that to our ecosystem in Southeast Wisconsin, and I’ve really seen things growing the last 20 years in Southeast Wisconsin. We have a much more vibrant sort of entrepreneurial ecosystem," he said.

CU Ventures and Joystik hope the meditation app catches on just as much as it did with student-athlete Annalina Van Hercke and can help reduce stress across the country.

You can get involved with CU Ventures by going to their website. More information about Joystik can be found here.