It’s not everyday you meet a founder who has spent the last 20+ years solving some of the world’s greatest humanitarian issues. Cameron Higgins is a neuroscientist and the founder of Resonait, a med-tech startup innovating the treatment of depression.
Cam completed his PHD and Post-Doc at the University of Oxford in 2019. His research was focussed on the “the oscillatory patterns that emerge over different regions of the brain.”
In layman terms - “brainwaves”.
Among many notable findings that were far too complex to comprehend in a 45 minute interview, he discovered that specific brain networks support healthy brain function, however they can then deteriorate in people with mental illnesses like depression.
Following this insight, he began to brainstorm (pun intended) ways in which he could apply this knowledge to a very real and widespread problem: depression.
The statistics speak for themselves. In Australia:
Cam is on a mission to radically decrease those numbers.
Remarkably, Cam’s pursuit of the greater good didn’t start in neuroscience.
Prior to his 8.5 year stint in Oxford, Cam worked for the United Nations in their deployment of emergency relief aid. (Wth!!)
“I managed some reasonably large scale emergency operations. Civil military liaison, and setting up logistic pipelines for emergency relief goods like food and shelter items.”’
Some recognisable global emergencies include the Ebola Crisis, the 2015 ‘Gorkha Earthquake’ in Nepal and the 2016 drought-related food shortages in Papua New Guinea.
Basically, Cam is a man of deep human compassion with a fierce social conscience.
Fast-forward to January 2022, Cam was on his way back to Australia after finishing up his research work.
“I loved my research. But I was looking to pursue something that could translate into real world outcomes.”
Stopping over in Iceland on his way home, Cam found himself in a cottage at the end of a fjord in the depths of a week long blizzard. Confronted with the reality that the Northern Lights wouldn’t be making an appearance this trip, Cam locked himself down with a pen and paper and a goal: to figure out what the hell he was going to do with his life.
When the snow cleared and the sun came out, Resonait was born.
“Once I had committed to the idea, I was full steam ahead. I didn’t want to spend 5 years with it as a side hustle going nowhere slowly. If it was going to go nowhere, I wanted to know yesterday.”
Within months, Cam had tested several versions of his now polished prototype.
“The idea behind the device is to create a home therapy solution that can be used in conjunction with the work of psychologists.”
Resonait’s portable head-tech monitors brain wave patterns and delivers an audio cue when it identifies a frequency related to depression. The patient then needs to try and turn it off by modifying their thoughts.
Poetically, the name “Resonait” derives from the analogy that brain waves are like the sound waves created through music. As such, the device listens to the musical frequencies of the brain.
“We are training self-awareness to help people avoid thought patterns that typify the illness.”
When reflecting on his greatest milestones, Cam has many.
Resonait is currently in the early stages of testing their prototype and has had great traction so far, securing partnerships with the Blackdog Institute and the CSIRO.
Another huge milestone for Cam was getting into the Startmate Accelerator Program.
“For me, it felt like I had graduated from being a mad scientist with a quirky idea, to someone with a viable business and a clear pathway.”
“So getting the Startmate tick of approval felt really good.”
As a solo founder, Cam has marvelled in the excitement of growing his team of 1 to four.
“It’s been a big personal milestone to now have a team of people working alongside me to make this happen.”
If Cam could give emerging founders a piece of advice, it would be to try to develop a business evenly and not spend too much time perfecting one aspect of the business in isolation.
“Rough around the edges is ok at first - getting all the finer details into alignment takes time.”
“I think I was excessively meticulous at the start, which cost more time in the long term. I’ve learnt that validating the idea early is important. If you can’t explain the actual business model, and how it's going to make money, in a really convincing way, it’s not going to go anywhere.”
Looking to the future, Cam is focused on testing his prototype in anticipation for an end of year cap raise. Once approved and funded, Resonait will go to market with one goal in mind: to radically improve the lives of millions of people suffering from depression.
With Cam at the helm of this ship, we’re in for some smooth sailing.