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Highlights

 

Welcome to another episode of Category Visionaries — the show that explores GTM stories from tech’s most innovative B2B founders. In today’s episode, we’re speaking with Matthew Stoudt, CEO and c0-founder of AppliedVR, a virtual reality therapeutics platform that has raised over $70 million in funding.

  • Matthew’s entrepreneurial journey spanning ventures in virtual hard drives, in-store gas station advertising, and his philosophy of being a “collector of experiences” inspired by Zappos’ Tony Hsieh.
  • The massive global chronic pain epidemic, affecting over 100 million Americans and costing $650 billion annually, yet remaining largely unaddressed by traditional treatments focused solely on physiology.
  • The potential of VR as a new category of medicine, leveraging three decades of research on acute pain distraction and more recent insights into chronic pain management through CBT and other behavioral therapies.
  • AppliedVR’s 8-week VR program developed in partnership with leading pain psychologist Dr. Beth Darnall, teaching patients self-regulation skills through interactive experiences like controlled breathing visualizations.
  • The company’s evolution from initial pilots in top hospitals to an FDA-approved at-home treatment for chronic low back pain, with the ultimate vision of a “VR headset in every home” as a healthcare hub.
  • Matthew’s perspective on overcoming skepticism through an unparalleled body of clinical evidence, empowering patients with non-invasive options, and transforming the healthcare paradigm from “finding care” to “delivering care.”

Actionable
Takeaways

Seek Problems Hidden in Plain Sight:

Matthew frames chronic pain as a massive yet largely invisible epidemic, overshadowed by the more visible opioid crisis. He highlights how conventional treatments have failed to address the biopsychosocial complexity of chronic pain, creating an opportunity for a fundamentally new approach. Founders should look for these "elephants in the room" - problems so immense and entrenched, they often escape notice and creative problem-solving.

Apply Cutting-Edge Tech to Overlooked Domains:

AppliedVR demonstrates the power of bringing an emerging technology like VR to bear on a long-standing challenge like chronic pain management. By marrying decades of academic research with the latest advances in VR hardware and software, the company is unlocking novel solutions that were previously impractical or impossible. Founders should explore how cutting-edge tools might enable transformative breakthroughs in traditional industries.

Prioritize Ease of Use in Novel Product Design:

Having observed the real-world friction of early VR pain management devices, Matthew and his team have relentlessly focused on simplifying the patient experience, even if it means sacrificing more sophisticated features. Their mantra of "easy to use, engaging, efficacious - in that order" recognizes that adoption depends on eliminating barriers to entry. Founders pioneering new product categories must ruthlessly streamline UX to drive adherence.

Build Credibility Through an Unassailable Body of Evidence:

Anticipating skepticism of VR in medical use cases, AppliedVR has invested heavily in building clinical evidence through partnerships with leading researchers and health systems. By prioritizing scientific validation from the start, the company has accelerated acceptance among patients, providers, and payers. Founders introducing unconventional solutions in regulated spaces should anchor their approach in rigorous, objective proof.

Target Beachhead Markets to Establish a Foothold:

AppliedVR has strategically chosen the Veterans Health Administration as its initial go-to-market focus, capitalizing on the system's early adoption of VR and its prioritization of pain and mental health. By concentrating resources on a receptive and influential customer, the company can efficiently build momentum for broader market penetration. Founders should identify and dominate beachhead segments as a springboard for category leadership.

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