Please enjoy this transcript of our interview with Nik Vassev.
After several years in high-pressure technology jobs he didn’t enjoy, Nik Vassev had his first psychedelic experience and realized he had full power to transform his life. Less than 18 months later, he had expanded his psychedelic use and created Mindleap, the world’s first tele-health platform for therapeutic integration. In this episode, Nik and Paul discuss changing your life through psychedelics, the drive to help others, and the full meaning of “integration”.
The most challenging and rewarding parts of running a startup.
How Nik’s personal and professional background led him to start Mindleap.
The psychedelic experience that changed Nik’s life.
The lessons from psychedelics that Nik applies to building his business culture and his team.
How microdosing facilitates creativity and focus.
Helping others as the main goal of the psychedelic industry, not profit.
How Mindleap vets and selects their therapists.
What “integration” means outside of psychedelics.
The importance of personal accountability to your own wellbeing.
The changing psychedelic gray market and the progress of decriminalization.
0:00:01.5 Paul Austin: Today’s podcast is with Nik Vassev, Founder and CEO of Mindleap Health, an official partner of Sporestore. Mindleap is a technology-driven company that is focused on upgrading mental health care through their digital telehealth platform.
0:00:17.3 PA: Welcome to the Sporestore podcast, I’m your host Paul Austin, here to bring you cutting edge interviews with leading scientists, entrepreneurs and medical professionals who are exploring how we can integrate psychedelics in an intentional and responsible way for both healing and transformation. It is my honor and privilege to bring you these episodes as you get deeper and deeper into why these medicines are so critical to the future of humanity. So let’s go and let’s see what we can explore and learn together in this incredibly important time.
0:00:56.1 PA: And this podcast is sponsored by Mindbloom. Legal psychedelic medicine is here, and it’s available through Mindbloom. Mindbloom helps you transform your life with safe, science-backed psychedelic therapy, and if you’re looking for your depression or anxiety breakthrough. Mindbloom provides a fully guided and clinician-monitored experience tailored just for you. Some clients see results as soon as 24 hours after their first session. Mindbloom is in fact our first official partner here at Sporestore and a company and organization that we support.
0:01:29.8 PA: In fact, I’m going to start my own Mindbloom experience in the coming weeks, and we’ll write about my experience going through Ketamine therapy to address both Cannabis addiction and general anxiety. The Cannabis was to cover up the anxiety, and I can’t wait to share my own transformation with you. So, Sporestore podcast listeners, you get $50 off your experience today, if you use the promo code, THIRDWAVEISHERE. Reach your full potential at Mindbloom.co.
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0:03:49.9 PA: Hey, listeners, and welcome back to our podcast here at Sporestore. As always, I’m your host, Paul Austin. And today’s interview is with an official partner of Sporestore, Mindleap Health’s very own CEO, Nik Vassev. Nik is much like myself, a young, ambitious entrepreneur in the psychedelic space. We met earlier in 2020, I think mid-2020, and have shared several great conversations, and then in October, we kicked off an official partnership with Mindleap Health, and what Mindleap is doing is they’re building an incredible app for Android and iPhone that essentially connects people who are interested in preparing and integrating psychedelic experience with coaches and practitioners who can help them with that prep and integration.
0:04:35.1 PA: And it’s all on a telehealth platform, they have some tracking built into it, it’s super clean and a great resource from a telehealth perspective for those who need help preparing and integrating psychedelic experiences. And so as part of our official partnership with Mindleap Health, I invited Nik to pop on the podcast and hear a little bit more about his personal story and why he became involved in the psychedelic space. We’re gonna talk a little bit about Synthesis, so he actually attended Synthesis in 2019 at some point, and that inspired him to start Mindleap Health, and they are part of Mydecine Innovations Group, a public company in Canada, that also just launched one of the world’s first clinical microdosing trials, which I think is super interesting.
0:05:21.9 PA: So if you’re interested in Mindleap Health, in the vision behind Mindleap and how it could potentially help you with prep and integration, if you wanna hear more about Nik’s story in terms of starting a software company, and it’s really one of the few public-facing software companies platforms in the psychedelic space right now, then I think you will really, really love this podcast episode. So without any further ado, I bring you Nik Vassev, CEO of Mindleap Health.
0:05:47.8 PA: But we were just talking about the 6/10 thing. So you work six days a week, 10 hours a week, and…
0:05:54.2 Nik Vassev: Ten hours a day. So if you do six days a week, 10 hours a day…
0:06:00.2 PA: Sixty hours a week.
0:06:00.3 NV: You get an extra 20 hours a week. I just learned this from one of my friends from China, super smart genius finance guy, and he’s just like, “This is what we do in China, and you just get an extra half week. So then you get an extra half year to work.” And I was like, “Interesting.” So I tried this out and then you literally can achieve… You get an extra half a year of pursuing your dreams.
0:06:27.0 PA: Productivity, so to say, from that.
0:06:29.9 NV: But then it’s intense, so then now I’m like, “Okay, I need a vacation.” So I’m in Mexico and just going to the beach and enjoying life a little bit, ’cause…
0:06:42.2 PA: It’s been two-and-a-half years since you had a vacation. So you said the last time was August 2018?
0:06:46.5 NV: Mm-hmm. So yeah, so I’m in vacation mode. And It feels good.
0:06:50.0 PA: Perfect.
0:06:50.2 NV: It’s nice.
0:06:53.9 PA: Good, yeah, one thing that I’ve learned on this path and process is… The 60-hour weeks… In a way, I’m working that much, usually, ’cause it feels like, especially with the work that we’re doing with Sporestore, it feels so integrated into who I’ve become, and who I’m becoming, where it’s very hard to tell where work stops and starts. Especially when I’m dropping acid for fun on the weekends with friends. It’s like, oh, is this work, if we’re brainstorming, and thinking…
0:07:22.9 NV: It could.
0:07:23.4 PA: It could ’cause we’re brainstorming and thinking about cool ideas and unique things like that. How do you think about work, Nik? How do you think about like, “Oh, this is work and this isn’t.” If you’re doing, say, 60-hour weeks. Is that 60 hours in front of a computer? Is that 30 hours in front of a computer and whatever else, how has that sort of evolved for you?
0:07:46.8 NV: Well, I think I have a… I have a big team and I really have made it a mission to work with people that I like, and a lot of what I do is really communicating and thinking about the vision and strategy and what are the priorities. And then really encouraging the team and empowering the team to be leaders and to take things on and really implement things. And I’ve been lucky enough to have incredible people and incredible mentors too, that have really helped progress things. So yeah, I wouldn’t say it’s all the time, on all the time, but there’s definitely just a lot of… There’s so many intricacies with the software, there’s just… It’s pretty crazy.
0:08:39.4 NV: Because we’re a startup, we didn’t have enough people, enough resources, so you’re doing so many different jobs. One day you might be doing the budgets and cash flow projections, and the next day you’re working on how do we redesign this button or what is a purchase conversion process or, hey, how do we better onboard our mental health professionals onto the platform? So, it’s many, many different things, but I think probably the hardest one was capital raising as a startup was… I’ve never done that before. So, it was just a lot of learning and just like a lot of nos and nos and nos, but then through that process, Mindleap got so much better because people… Very smart VCs, we’re going through it all. And they’re like, “No, I don’t like this, this is not gonna work. Oh, you should do this like that.” And I think that’s what’s so interesting about that whole startup process.
0:09:42.0 PA: Iterations and feedback and adjusting things and not being attached to, “Is this my idea?” or whose idea it is, It’s just like, let’s come up with the best idea possible, and let’s see what we can create and build and develop. So, just for a little context for our listeners, because we just sort of like… Sometimes I like to randomly start podcasts on threads, but then I think, coming back to the core of it, you’ve launched an app called Mindleap Health. It’s an app that helps people find psychedelic integration specialists who they can work with to help integrate psychedelic experiences, and it’s currently available on Android and iOS.
0:10:22.9 PA: And so we’ve been partnering the last few months when this podcast will come out, it’s been the last few months, and we first connected, I don’t know, not that long ago, maybe in August or something. And so I don’t know much of the journey before that in terms of when did you start fundraising, and when did this idea come about? And you know, when did psychedelics start to come into your life. So, I’d love if you could bring our audience just into a little bit about your personal story about maybe even from August 2018, your last break, to now, December 2020, your next break. What’s shifted and changed and evolved for you in those two-and-a-half years?
0:11:00.0 NV: Yeah, for sure. Yeah, well, I really began my career working in software. And it was really purely by chance, I could think… My skills and what I really like doing is just building relationships and solving problems. And one of my friends started working for a Swedish data visualization company right when we finished school, and she was traveling to Europe and all over the States selling software. I was like, “Okay, I kind of wanna do that.” So then I joined the Swedish firm and we were effectively… It’s really interesting because you have… In those scenarios, you have business professionals that have problems, and then you have a software that’s developed by very smart technical people. And then I was really the translator between the business and the technology, where I can say, “Okay, these are the problems. Okay, software team, how do we solve these problems?”
0:12:00.6 NV: So, we were working on some really cool stuff, it was I guess like seven years ago, during the big data boom, where there was just so much information being created and then no way to really make sense of it all. So, we developed some really cool apps, probably the biggest one I did was for Volkswagen and really looking at all their supply chain data. So, if you think about all the components that are in a car. If one thing is late, let’s say the windshield wipers are late, or the supplier that supplied the top of the seats, they have a problem with the leather, that’s gonna slow everything down in the whole process. And then you need to let the dealership know, because they have the pre-orders of the car. So, I was able to look at what the problem is, and then we built a really cool system to track it.
0:12:53.1 NV: As software companies grow, we actually got acquired by, I guess, a private equity firm, but they weren’t the nice private equity firm. I’d looked them up, and they were making small towns in America desolate and firing everybody. So, I was like, “Okay, I think you know this office is gonna be gone. I need to move on.” So then I moved into cybersecurity for a British cybersecurity firm, and that one was a little bit more complex in terms of the knowledge, ’cause I wasn’t… We weren’t working with one technology, we were really having eight or nine, and we were encrypting files for aerospace and defense companies. And we were working with local government and universities and protecting their laptops. And this was right around, I guess, 2016. And funny enough, I’m covering Oregon, and we have this opportunity with the whole Oregon Police Department, and then it’s one of my biggest deals for the year and I’m so excited about it.
0:14:04.6 NV: And then Hillary’s emails get hacked and my name is Nikolai, and it was a little bit like, “Oh, why are we buying cybersecurity from some guy named Nikolai?” Which was… [chuckle] like the funny story.
0:14:17.1 PA: My god, no way.
0:14:21.5 NV: Yeah, there was emails being flown back and forth, they were like, “No, no, he’s not even Russian, he’s Bulgarian, he lives in Canada. Don’t worry, it’s all good, we background checked him, it’s okay.” So then that opportunity of Oregon, that job that I was doing was probably the craziest job I’ve ever done because we had a publicly traded company with crazy targets, and you individually are carrying a massive load of like… By the end of it was like a quarter million dollars like a month across 20 customers, 30 customers.
0:14:58.9 NV: So, then your phone’s ringing, you get 100 emails a day, and then your life becomes your job and I got depressed. I actually fractured my tailbone, gained 30 pounds, was not having… I’d wake up every day and didn’t wanna wake up. So it was… Then I discovered psychedelics, and then I really found the power of it, but I really hadn’t read any of the books or known much about it. I just thought, I’m like, “Okay, these are mushrooms.” And it was only after I had read How To Change Your Mind, and watched some documentaries that I really found out, I’m like, “Oh, that’s why I was able to transform my life. That’s interesting.” So then we were up up north, maybe like 10 hours away from Vancouver, just up in the mountains on this lake, and you can only get to my friend’s cabin by a one-hour boat ride.
0:15:55.3 NV: And there was maybe about 50 people, and then that’s when we first did psychedelics, and it was the most beautiful setting like ever. And then we were in just such good spirits, and you know, the sun is shining on the lake and the trees around you, and there’s literally no one there, there’s no way that anyone could go there, there was just… A couple of bears, nearby. So when I was taking the boat ride back, I was getting ready and I was like, “Okay, well, the biggest problem here is I’m not exercising, I’m not doing my physio, and then I hate my job, so let’s change all these things, what am I doing moping around, being a victim of my situation where I’m the creator of my life, I should be able to change this.” And then it was a game-changer, I got back in shape, I got a better job. I really took that feeling that I had from the psychedelic experience to heart, and I said, “Okay, well, let’s make some changes.”
0:17:05.6 NV: And then what ended up happening was I wanted to do it again, but this time I’d read all the books and studied all the science, and I said, “Okay, well, I wanna go to the best center in the world.” So, I went and then researched, what’s the best center in the world? And I was like, “Okay, I think Synthesis is the best center in the world.” And lucky enough, you’re the one who started it. So, it was really cool. That was, I guess, last fall, I was there.
0:17:39.9 PA: So, you went to Synthesis?
0:17:41.4 NV: Yeah, yeah.
0:17:43.0 PA: At the end of 2019.
0:17:44.8 NV: Yeah.
0:17:44.9 PA: Okay, Baltimore.
0:17:46.0 NV: And then that’s what inspired Mindleap because it was an incredible experience. I found out so much about myself and just some of the… Just some of the… That’s when I was dealing with some of the childhood trauma, maybe, it was like kind of the main thing… I have two grandpas, they’re both named Nikolai and one’s a good guy and one’s a bad guy. And one’s incredible, the other guy is, you know, selfish communist, actually. So he was high up in the communist party back when Bulgaria was up there, and then he left my mom and my grandma and just moved to Moscow to be a communist boss.
0:18:34.4 NV: So, then my parents, my grandma, and my mom had that whole issue, and then I had this epiphany that I should be more… I shouldn’t be mad the way that my mom is because of what had happened before, and it was also a really interesting experience because I came home and I was like, “Okay, well, this was the craziest psychedelic trip ever,” and I got so much more support from the professionals at Synthesis, the whole process, when we were actually doing the preparation and kind of getting you all ready for it, and then talking about it. And then they’re talking about it after, and I said, “Well, I wanna do more,” when I came home, so then I checked out a couple of therapists and they were lashing at me, they’re like, “This is some voodoo stuff, this is not the proper way, we need to give you this drug, you need to… ” I was like, “No, I’ve studied this enough. It’s not like that.”
0:19:33.3 NV: So then I went on the internet and then found someone, but then I found the process of actually like, how are they vetted? What’s happening to the notes and the recordings? Are there recordings? What’s happening to my data? And why isn’t it easier to do this? So then that’s really what inspired Mindleap, and I said psychedelics will revolutionize mental health as we know it. And then there needs to be a system where you can just go on the app and then see truly vetted, experienced professionals that meet a certain standard and then connect with them whenever you want. So, then we went ahead and we built it, and it was really interesting because I wanted to… I’ve always wanted to have my software company after working for all these software companies, that was my dream, and then it happens to be in this thing, in this precipice of something so game-changing for humanity. And it was just very interesting to have this whirlwind journey in a year from having this idea when I’m on my plane home from Amsterdam to now.
0:20:54.9 NV: I’m seeing people changing their lives and having this crazy feedback of like, “Wow, thank you so much, this has been truly incredible.” And just really focusing more on the future and wanting to be able to have this app be impacting millions of people, if we do things right.
0:21:16.7 PA: That’s a quick turn around to go from being at Synthesis in September, 2019, fall of 2019, to now. We’re about 15 months later, 14 months later, and you have a fully functioning product that people are now starting to use. That’s quick. So, I can only imagine those 6 times 10, that workflow is really, really going well for you. So, I’m curious, in terms of tying those two pieces together, we started this conversation with talking about output and productivity and creation and acceleration. And then we also talked about your personal psychedelic experience, which actually has a lot of those things as well in terms of the creation, in terms of the awareness, but they have slightly different feels to them, so I’m curious, when you think about your approach to work and the lessons that psychedelics have taught you, how are you integrating that into the way that you approach building your culture and building your team and what type of sort of energy you’re bringing into it?
0:22:30.0 PA: Because I think one of the downsides of the 6 times 10, so to say, is potential burnout. And burnout often leads to anxiety and depression. We’ve seen this, it’s quite common in Silicon Valley, and I think my sense is that’s why microdosing, in fact, gained so much popularity in a place like Silicon Valley because it’s a hell of an anti-depressant. So, I’m curious how you sort of find that integration and that balance with the work that you’re doing, because as we were talking about before we even started recording, this is so personal to so many of us who have gone through these experiences. So, it feels really good to create and build something, and what I’ve learned now and being in the space for five years is if I don’t have some sort of balance, even if I love this stuff, it basically… It takes over my soul, and that is a little bit of a tricky, tricky thing.
0:23:26.4 NV: Yeah, I have to agree with you. It’s really important to be able to have some balance at all, and I think it ebbs and flows. I think entrepreneurship is really project-based and there’s… Okay, I have this big project. And because you can control your time, you could take a half day, go on a hike in the mountains, or you could say, “Okay, well, I’ve completed these major milestones, let’s go and celebrate with the team.” And I think there’s… The creativity that you also get from microdosing, I’ve been microdosing for two… Well, I guess a year-and-a-half now. One of my good friends, he’s kind of brought me into it, and I checked out some of the cool stuff you guys were doing at the Sporestore. And I think the actual increase in creativity and focus is something that has allowed me to keep going at a breakneck pace, and then I think also truly realizing that… You gotta take a step back sometimes.
0:24:46.2 NV: That’s why I’m in Mexico, snorkeling the ocean, and going to the beach. Because it’s really important to recharge, because I have been there at that burnout stage when I was at the British cybersecurity company, and that was not a good place to be, but I think it doesn’t feel like work when you’re so passionate about it, and then when you love the people that you’re working with. And then something that we do with our culture is we’re really solution-oriented for what we’re doing, and we really want… We have two important parties that we serve at Mindleap and it’s the mental health professionals, and then the end users of our services. So, then for us, it’s really important to be able to create the right solution for each side in order to help the mental health specialists grow their practice, and then also offer a multitude of different incredible options for your integration.
0:25:54.9 NV: And then another thing that we’ve also noticed, and I think this has to do a lot with the pandemic itself, a lot of the people, especially right now, unfortunately with the lockdowns, a lot of people have lost their jobs, and psychedelic integration is certainly not covered by insurance, but if you’ve lost your job, you can’t even have insurance, and I guess to a lot of people in the States, that’s not widely accessible. So what we’ve been working on is really our digital programs where you may not be able to afford to work with PhD level, 30 years’ experience expert to solve these solutions, but then we can provide that to you on demand, so then you can actually log on. It won’t be as expensive as working as one-on-one, but it can still provide that opportunity for personal growth and transformation to the people that are ready and willing. And then that’s the big major project we’re working on right now, or I guess we’ve been working on for a long time now, but it’s nearly ready.
0:27:09.4 NV: And we have our meditation program, our integration program, or addiction program. We’ve got a really cool self-mastery program, which is more about spirituality and removing bad things from your life and becoming aligned with your goals and picking up journaling and actually being more mindful of what you do. And then we’re gonna be adding additional ones, because psychedelics is a great tool for transformation, but it isn’t for everybody, and we wanna be mindful that if you need a solution to a certain problem, we want people to be able to go to Mindleap and be able to work on it by themselves or work on it with one-on-one with somebody that they feel comfortable with, and then really carry that on for the rest of their life, because we always have our phone.
0:28:01.7 NV: And it would be really cool to be able to go message your specialist and look at their calendar and say, “Okay, let’s talk at this time.” And I think there’s not many platforms out there that really do combine those two things, and then also allow you to track your mood, your emotions, your habits, and then being able to really see how well you’re doing. And what I’m most excited about, and that comes from my nerd data analytics Swedish upbringing and my software career is really what we’re doing with the Mindleap well-being score, where passively and from your inputs and from your behavior, we wanna be calculating a well-being score that’s automatic. So then we can also recommend to you a specialist based on what you’ve said your goals are and what we’ve noticed the problems are, but then also we could be saying, “Hey, Paul, last week, we noticed that you were only sleeping like five hours a night. If you sleep seven, it will improve your well-being, here’s a cool article. Check it out.”
0:29:14.0 NV: And really having the phone is so powerful, but it could be used for really bad stuff, or it could be used for really good stuff, and I think it’s really important to add more positivity and add more positive tools to this important life remote control that we spend so much time on these days.
0:29:42.2 PA: Yeah, there was that documentary that came out, The Social Dilemma, which I still haven’t seen, but one of the folks who was in it, Tristan Harris, I’ve heard a few of his podcasts talking about the downsides to big tech and the manipulation of dopamine to keep people addicted to certain apps and technologies. But at the end of the day, technology is neutral, in large part, phones are neutral. There’s some sense of personal responsibility like, hey, you gotta manage your own shit in your own time. I think grayscale is a great way to do that, so you don’t have quite the dopamine hit with it. And I’ve thought about this for some of the stuff that even we’re doing with Sporestore how we now have someone sponsoring the weekly newsletter, we have podcast sponsors, we have other sort of traditional advertising things, and all of the things that we’re recommending are fucking awesome and will add an incredible dynamic to someone’s life.
0:30:33.3 PA: Whether it’s the Magic Mind, Matcha shop, Mindleap, we’ve done Mindbloom, the Ketamine telemedicine, and we’ve had a few CBD and Cannabis products. So I think that is really an opportunity with wellness and psychedelics and well-being is okay, yeah, traditionally apps have been used to exploit, extract, but what we’re creating with psychedelics is something that’s regenerative, something that adds value, something that helps people become healthier and more well, and we have to always… When we’re creating products and services and brands and platforms, it’s not necessarily our best interests that we’re keeping in mind, we’re not just doing things to increase shareholder value, we’re not just doing things to line our individual pockets, there’s a sense of reciprocity where, okay, let’s contribute, let’s add incredible real value, not just bullshit consumerist shit but incredible, real value to the lives of people who are engaging with our brand or product or service.
0:31:29.7 PA: And naturally, as a result of that, all ships will rise because we’re creating more wealth, and not just financial wealth, but health as well, so to say, physiological health. It could be mental health, it could be mental wealth, so to say, the phrase that I like is existential wealth, just the wealth of existing, the wealth of being present, and that feels like… What I love so much about Mindleap and also Mindbloom, Sporestore, Maya, Synthesis, Wavepaths, there’s a couple of other brands and organizations, we’re not saying, hey, let’s wait until 2025 to make these things available. We’re saying, let’s work with what we’ve got. We can’t predict the future. It could be 2024 that Psilocybin is FDA-approved. It could be 2026 or ’27, we don’t know. Why not look at what’s available now, create innovative solutions that serve and then allow those innovative solutions to generate more power and momentum so they shift policy and law that much quicker, so that way we can create this ecosystem that helps regenerate our mental health and our sense of well-being.
0:32:47.4 NV: Yeah, no, it’s incredible, the progress that’s happening. And you were there when psychedelics weren’t cool, and now we’re having like the Rolling Stones…
0:33:00.3 PA: We made psychedelics cool.
0:33:02.6 NV: Now, it’s like the Rolling Stones, yesterday, they’re like, ooh, microdosing is a game-changer and Paul’s like, I’ve been saying this for a while and everyone’s been looking at me all weird. And it’s funny, because it’s very interesting how the psyche of society changes so fast. I remember… This kinda stood out for me. But my mom was very against Cannabis, she’s like, “No, you can’t do it, blah, blah, blah,” when I was younger. And then when it got legalized and everything, she’s like, “Hey, how do I get weed? What do I do with it?” I’m like, “Oh.” So if my mom is asking, “Hey, I wanna try it,” think about when we actually have these FDA approvals and stamps and everything’s been worked out, like with the stuff that they’re doing with a lot of this clinical research that’s happening is incredible. But at the same time, we have to be mindful that this is happening right now, and people do need the integration support right now, and providing integration services confidentially, fully, privately is fully legal.
0:34:15.9 NV: And people should have access to that. Even if we talk about it from a harm reduction perspective, totally. And I think what Mindbloom is doing with Ketamine, how cool is that?
0:34:31.0 PA: So cool.
0:34:31.1 NV: During the pandemic, they’re just like, “Oh, we’ll just deliver it to your house and you could do everything.” It’s like, “What?” When I saw that, I was like, “These guys are ahead of the game,” and I think… I don’t know how things will go with microdosing. I’m really excited that there’s just so much progress happening. The company that acquired Mindleap is working on stuff like that, and just being on the calls with some of the smartest scientists in the world is just so cool to see. But then also looking at the complexity of staying within this regulatory path and how important it is to do it, it really shows the complexity of it all.
0:35:14.9 NV: And I’m just hoping that the FDA fast-tracks more things. And if we have a couple breakthrough therapy designations, I think they’re gonna start more and more coming, and when you see that, it really goes to show like this is gonna be so widely accepted, and then let’s get rid of these things that they just numb the pain and let’s actually solve the pain and figure out why we can’t have this modern society that is just so unhappy and so depressed and not having relationships and having high divorce rates, and having a super materialistic society where we have these really young kids looking up to ex-drug dealers and strippers and listening to their words non-stop, and having people not being thankful for what they have.
0:36:21.7 NV: And I think gratitude is where… What really truly makes you happy. And I’ve seen some some crazy stuff here while being in Mexico, and I’m seeing people with nothing just be so happy. And it’s totally different than what you see in the Western world where I will not be happy unless I have this much money or I have this Gucci purse or I have this whatever goal that is being set. Where it should be more about being, more about being of service to others, and having a purpose. And I think psychedelics give you that and you really find out, you’re like, “Hey, I’m connected to the whole, and I shouldn’t be a selfish consumer or a capitalist. I should be somebody who has meaning and somebody who actually helps make the world a better place.”
0:37:25.0 NV: And imagine if we have tens of hundreds of millions of people taking psychedelics and going through that, it’s gonna be the revolution of consciousness.
0:37:38.4 PA: Consciousness. Yeah, exactly. We’re on the same page. And it might not even be hundreds of millions, it might just be well, like 10%, if we get 10% that sort of can see beyond the veil, so to say, and have that uplift in perspective, that’s usually enough to shift systems on a mass scale. And to be honest, it might not even be 10%, it might just be 1% because of how diffuse now information becomes. You have those 1% then, and not necessarily from a wealth perspective, just from an influencer perspective, from writing books or on Twitter or Instagram or media, however we’re consuming information nowadays, back in the Enlightenment, it was 10% who learned how to read because of the printing press, and then when 10% learned how to read and became literate, then they created the systems to allow everyone else to become literate. Because literacy was commonplace back in the day, and now it’s not necessarily people can’t read, but it’s more people can’t think for themselves or people don’t have the awareness to look outside of the matrix, if you will.
0:38:55.9 PA: Psychedelics help you to see outside of that, they help you to see that there’s something beyond this sort of extractive way of living, there’s something that we can step into that’s much more regenerative. The phrase that I love is the meta-modern aristocracy is essentially what we’re creating, where it’s people who… Meta-modernism is kind of like… We have modernism, we have post-modernism, and then we have meta-modernism. So modernism was like the ’50s in the States, postmodernism came in with the ’60s and ’70s with psychedelics, and now, meta-modernism is the integration of those. And so on that note… On that note, a huge… Are we good on time? We’re good on time, yeah.
0:39:34.4 NV: Yeah, yeah. I have all the time in the world.
0:39:35.6 PA: On that note… This is a good conversation. So in creating that sort of, let’s say meta-modern aristocracy, like a huge, huge part of that for this psychedelic movement are the practitioners that are coming in, and so that’s something that… Especially Mindleap is focused in on. And so I’d love if you could just provide a little more context on how are you choosing practitioners, what credentials or qualifications are you looking for for people who are featured on the platform, how are you distinguishing between those who have credentials, so to say, like are licensed therapists and those who are maybe more coaches. I’d love if you could just sort of provide some context on that.
0:40:23.0 NV: Yeah, for sure. So there’s a minimal requirement to have at least three years’ experience in the mental health field, there’s a minimum required… You get different points. So for instance, if somebody has been practicing for 10 years, they’re gonna get more points than somebody who’s been practicing for three years. If somebody has a PhD, they’re gonna get more points than somebody who just has a Bachelor’s and then there’s a minimum level of specific psychedelic training provided by some of the leading institutions.
0:41:01.7 NV: So California Institute of Integral Studies, Maps training. We also have Psychedelics Today and their training program, and then we have various others that we look to have because you need to have the specific training, and a lot of the times, we have new practitioners that have… Want to enter psychedelics, but you can’t be an integration specialist if you haven’t done that type of training, so then we just point them and then they complete their training and then they come back. But there’s also a video interview process, there’s a role play that you have to go through as well. So then when it comes down to the video role-play, you’re gonna have tough situations that you gotta deal with.
0:41:51.3 NV: And then we have our head of specialist recruitment, Nicolas Martin, who’s got a Master’s in Psychology and has a lot of experience in this field. So then we also have two PhDs on the team to help develop this process in terms of how do we let people in and how does everybody get vetted. And then as long as each specialist has enough points to be on the platform, goes through and passes the role play, does the video interview, completes our training, signs off to the ethical boundaries of the type of care they provide, then they get to be online. We also have some more well-being type specialists, where these are people that have… Most of them are meditation and breath work experts with a lot of experience, so then if you’re a well-being professional, if it’s something that can provide that one-to-one breath work, or perhaps it may be goal-setting or getting aligned spiritually.
0:43:14.1 NV: And we’re really moving towards adding various different kinds of mental health professionals, so then you can really get matched with someone who’s perfect for you. Like one of my best friends, he’s been going through relationship problems, and he’s not into psychedelics and he’s like, I’m too scared. I don’t know. I need it to be approved by the FDA. He’s like a lawyer, you know, he’s always very strict and gotta do everything right. I’m like, “Okay, cool, no problem.” I’m like, “Well, if you’re having relationship problems, we’ve got two really good mental health coaches that specialize in relationships.” But he didn’t know that, he thought it was just about psychedelics.
0:43:48.5 NV: So in our new version, we were actually categorizing and we’re gonna have 10 different categories of types of solutions that you may be looking for in relationships, one of them, addictions is another one, so then diversitility of the expertise of our mental professionals is something that we wanna highlight, just because integration is extremely important, but these mental health professionals can also help you with other parts of your life. And the specialist that I’m working with, he’s helped me in various areas as well. And I think it’s important for Mindleap as a company is, we wanna fuel the psychedelic movement, we wanna support the psychedelic movement, but at the end of the day, all we’re looking to do is help people improve their well-being.
0:44:43.4 NV: And sometimes it’s with psychedelics, sometimes it’s… If you improve your relationship with your girlfriend or your wife, or if you quit smoking or quit drinking or… It’s still a private confidential conversation with a mental health expert. And sometimes that’s what’s needed. Or sometimes you’re just a stressed out guy or girl, and you need to learn how to do meditation, and then that could be a full game-changer. I’ve had a couple of big-time executives go and do breath work, like I said, I sent them some Mindleap credits and say, “Hey, learn to meditate.” And they’re like, “I didn’t even know I was not breathing through my nose, I was just breathing through my mouth, or I didn’t know, when I hold my breath and think about my third eye and connect to the universe.” They’re like, “I didn’t even know that’s a thing.” And I was like, “Yeah, it is.”
0:45:36.0 NV: But it’s really cool to actually hear the success stories of people, and then what really drives me and the whole team is we’re only gonna be successful if we have a ton of success stories. And I just want more people to try, more people to take the plunge. And a lot of the times it’s hard, it’s so hard to say, “I have this problem, and then I’m gonna go and I’m gonna spend my money to solve that problem.” But sometimes it’s the best investment you ever make. Are you gonna buy some new shoes or a nice watch or whatever, or you’re gonna now say, wake up inspired every single day and maybe incorporate a new habit or remove a bad habit from your life.
0:46:25.9 NV: That’s I think something that a lot of people come to the realization of when they do log into the app and they see the areas of expertise of the different professionals, that there’s so many different ways that they can actually get help besides psychedelics.
0:46:48.3 PA: And so how then do you… I know you’re not responsible for developing the integration programs, I think that’s Daniel Wise. We’ll probably have him on the podcast at some point. But considering all of this, it’s not necessarily just psychedelic integration, it’s more towards well-being, although certainly psychedelics diffused with intention in a safe setting often catalyze that like no other tools, so to say. But people are on their own journey and in their own places. So, if we leave the psychedelic part out of it, what’s your understanding of integration as a path, as a concept, as an action, so to say? How do you think about integration?
0:47:35.7 NV: Yeah, I think about integration as the continuous reflection in actions that you take to reflect on your life path, and then using tools to support the reflection process. And then really being mindful of how are you feeling, what you’re doing, what are you saying, where are you going. And I think a lot of the times, we really get stuck in this continuous process and it might be our thought patterns or it might be the actions that we take all the time. And I think when you really are reflective of what’s happening and then really be mindful of the actions that you’re taking and the thoughts that you’re having, and then using some of the tools of integration to actually integrate new ways of acting and new ways of thinking and new things that you’re doing, I think that’s really… Certainly, psychedelics is super important with that.
0:48:51.4 NV: But a lot of the times, the actual meditation and journaling and maybe going out to nature or doing things for you, for your well-being and for personal growth, it is what I think can integrate well-being and improve just life. I think a lot of us really get caught up with the problems, but if you can shift your thinking, maybe through journaling, that could totally change everything. I stopped journaling for several years and recently I picked it back up as part of some integration work that I was doing, but it was so interesting to read 2011 Nik and look and be like, “You’re doing the same bad things,” in terms of maybe not exercising, for instance, I had a goal in 2011, like, you gotta exercise five days a week, and then I’m checking now. I’m like, I’m still not exercising five days a week, why?
0:50:03.5 NV: But it’s that reflection that you’re having is like, you may know that this is what you should be doing, but you’re still not doing it. And sometimes when you work with somebody in your life who is an expert at knowing these things, they can really push you and then they can also keep you accountable, because that’s why we’ve built out a lot of the habit tracking capabilities. So, then we can really keep people accountable to themselves.
0:50:32.5 PA: Accountability is so important.
0:50:35.8 NV: Yeah, yeah. So that’s a long way to…
0:50:40.4 PA: ‘Cause that’s normally like the role of a coach, right? That’s normally the role of a coach. I’ve recently started working with a couple of coaches, two coaches this year, and that is oftentimes, a coach is there to keep you accountable. And I think that’s what’s so great about Mindleap, I just wanna love on Mindleap for a little bit is… Yes, you have the practitioners, you have the actual physical humans that are there, you also have the data about well-being, you have sort of these other metrics that are keeping you accountable to what your goals are, what your outcomes are. And you can do this from anywhere, you can do this from fucking Idaho or Wyoming or the Amazon if you want, or wherever, ’cause it’s from the phone, and that just again, gets back to the point of with psychedelics, they’re in a really interesting spot where they’re decriminalized in more and more places, they’re now becoming medically available in Canada, Oregon legalized Psilocybin therapy, they’re legal in certain jurisdictions like the Netherlands. And yet there’s so many places where they’re still illegal, and so I’m gonna go into that with you a little bit, see your perspective on that.
0:51:43.5 PA: You know what we’re gonna see probably in the next, I would say, two years before MDMA and Psilocybin become fully medical, is a huge growth of underground interest, if you will, or a gray area interest, if you will. How is Mindleap planning to… I don’t wanna say support that necessarily, ’cause it suggests supporting illegal activity, but how are you thinking about that in terms of your business model and in terms of… Obviously, you’re not providing the substances, but let’s say someone enrolls in double blinds, how to grow your mushrooms course, they grow their own mushrooms, they have mushrooms at home, they maybe have a friend who knows a thing or two. So, they do a little prep or they find a practitioner online and they do a few prep sessions with, they do the experience at home with a person who’s just sitting for them, but then they wanna connect with a really well-trained practitioner for integration, ’cause they know, actually, integration is the most important. So how are you thinking about that process? Where’s your head out with that whole gray market legal underground thing that is likely just gonna keep increasing in popularity?
0:52:54.4 NV: Yeah, for sure. No, that’s a really good question. We’ve… Everyone knows it’s happening. I think what’s really important and something that we are doing is, we’ve developed some really good harm reduction content that’s gonna be available for free on Mindleap, next year when we have the new version. So that people can just gain more access to information just to ensure that there’s no bad situations, that people are being put in. Because of the privacy and confidentiality that we have, we don’t ask why you’re looking to have integration coaching. So, we’ve spent a lot of… I’ve never spent so much money on lawyers, Paul, oh my God. But we have a criminal attorney, another criminal attorney, we have… Our terms of service is just crazy.
0:54:00.8 NV: So, we’ve made it so we can provide the support to the people that need the support, but from a legal and criminal perspective, providing mental health coaching services is fully legal. So, then that’s really, we’re the platform that provides that, so we’re not encouraging people to do it. We know that people are gonna do it. It’s decriminalized is so many places. And then at the same time, for the people that would do it, we wanna be providing good harm reduction material for them. And then at the same time, providing that access to the experts that are validated, that are ethical, that are doing things right. Because it is happening and I think both you and I, we’ve done psychedelics in this gray area, and then we’ll continue to do so.
0:54:58.9 NV: And I think we wanna do everything correctly, and we have our disclaimers, and the way that everything is set up is fully legal, and we want to ensure that everybody’s safe. Whether it is the specialists on the platform, they have their ethical boundaries and their parameters, we’re not promoting the use, we’re not telling people how to use it, but once somebody has done it, they can go and find support with the right person that they feel really comfortable with. So, it’s an interesting model, but I think it’s a much needed model that as things… As regulatory change really progresses onwards, it’s gonna be done in a certain way, and then we wanna be building out the platform to be able to meet that type of way that’s currently done.
0:56:03.0 NV: But at the moment, it’s mental health coaching. And it’s the same situation as if someone is, let’s say, using a different kind of drug, and then maybe they connect with an addiction professional. Nobody’s liable that somebody went out on their own and did a very illicit drug, but that person who’s supporting them and helping them become better and transform themselves, it should be there to help them regardless of any situation. And if there is… The aspect of the decriminalization movement, I think it’s great. I don’t think we should be criminalizing the usage of drugs. Obviously, the large-scale trafficking of drugs is extremely bad. Unfortunately, I’ve watched enough documentaries and know how big that market is, in terms of the broader drug market, it’s not gonna happen.
0:57:08.2 NV: But humans have been doing psychedelics for thousands of years, and they will continue to do so for thousands of years. And I guess now even more than ever. So, we just wanna be there for the people that are looking for an experienced coach to guide their integration process. We wanna be the app that you use, and the incredible mental health leaders that we have on there are just… We have someone who directly was trained by Stanislav Grof and is a PhD, he’s been for 40 years, and I was like, “What? I can’t believe it.” Or we also have up-and-coming people, they’ve been doing it for three years, and have the certification from Psychedelics Today, but are extremely passionate about it, so well thought out. So, it’s that difference and then that also goes into the whole cost of the services.
0:58:09.8 NV: You could work with the person who got mentored by Stanislav Grof and did so much research, or you can work with someone who’s up-and-coming, but still is great at what they do. So you really have your choice. So we just wanna provide choices. We don’t wanna restrict people. Obviously, as a company, we’re not encouraging people, “Hey, go and do psychedelics,” but the people that do go and do psychedelics do need the integration so that they should be having a choice to choose someone that they feel comfortable with and continue that journey, because even when you look at the actual clinical trials that are happening, it’s usually like one big dose and then three to five integration sessions. So, the integration sessions are happening, they need to happen. And I think for the people that have gone through Mindleap and had the most success, they’ve had three plus sessions.
0:59:13.9 NV: And then the feedback that we have heard from them has been amazing, because you can get… You can delve so deep into what actually occurred during the psychedelic journey, and then additionally, you can also be looking at the actual progress as it goes along. Like if you do… If you do your psychedelic journey and then you do one session the next day, preferably, and then you wait a week and do another one, wait another week, do another one, like seeing the progress of that person and seeing those mood charts going, and the positive emotions occurring, it’s just so interesting and so inspiring to see, because I think we wanna make those mood charts going to amazing. The positive emotions around and positive habits abound, is really what we want for everybody.
1:00:13.0 PA: Beautiful. Well, Mindleap Health, and it’s mindleap.health. Where else can… I know we had a special offer for people who are Sporestore, it was something like put in a code, which we’ll… I’ll include in… Was it Sporestore, I think was the code. Something like that for $25 off the first Mindleap Health, I’ll also include that in the show notes. And where can people find out, yeah, more information about Mindleap, more information about you, if they wanna follow you on social or anything, what’s sort of the final context, we could say.
1:00:48.6 NV: Yeah, for sure. Yeah, so I’d say if you’re listening to this on your phone, you go to the app store, download it, give it a try. And then additionally, we’ve been producing some really cool YouTube videos. They’re called Psychedelic Scientists, a really interesting PhD candidate at McGill University was actually doing some incredible research with some of the guys at Imperial College. So, he’s breaking down the most complex topics into easy to understand videos that are really quick. And I’m a big video guy, I love watching videos. So, if you wanna check out the YouTube channel for Mindleap. You can also follow me on social, it’s N9Vassev, so my last name. I’d love to connect with you on there, and then follow the Mindleap social accounts as well. We’re sharing a mix of psychedelic education and mental health inspiration is really what we’re going for. So, I’m very happy to be on the podcast, Paul, thanks so much for having me, and thanks to all the listeners too. I hope you enjoyed this episode.
1:02:08.2 PA: Yeah, this is fun. We’ve had several conversations, it’s good to finally be able to drop in and get one recorded. We covered so much, your personal story, psychedelic integration practitioners, the rising emerging gray area market. And I’m just super stoked for the listeners to have access to an app like this where they can get help with integration, that’s both… There’s probably a lot of practitioners here who are listening as well. So I know if there are any practitioners who wanna be featured on Mindleap’s platform, that’s also something to go to the website to reach out about, because I’m sure you’re continuing to onboard specialists and people who have really great expertise in this area.
1:02:48.0 NV: Yeah, 100%. So, there’s a big button on the home page, become a specialist. So, you just fill out the form. And my colleague, Nicholas, will reach out to you. We currently have 50, and our goal is to have 500 12 months from now. So, we’d love to get more incredible people and help more, have a bigger reach within the community, and really, I’m just really excited to share a message and our story on the podcast. And hopefully we get some cool success stories coming from Sporestore, and when we do, Paul, I’ll definitely let you know.
1:03:24.6 PA: Beautiful. Well, thanks again, Nik, and enjoy, enjoy your break.
1:03:28.0 NV: Thanks, appreciate it. Enjoy your day. Thanks so much.
Please enjoy this transcript of our interview with Nik Vassev.