Introducing Zone - change your mood state at the touch of a button

Saira Gill
9 min readMar 20, 2018

Every year people spend more than $4 trillion to try to alter their states. That is two times the GDP of Russia! Are you one of them? Yes, the mind-altering state economy is huge. That includes the last time you went for a run (dopamine shot aka “runner’s high” that the body releases to reduce pain)…Or the time you did yoga or meditation to disconnect from the daily life… And of course, let’s not forget the coffee you drunk this morning! Whether it is for pure pleasure, to escape reality or for an immediate change in mood, it is clear this is something everyone does to differing extents.

Why do we alter our state of mind?

This was the area that I focused on, during my degree in Psychology and Neuroscience at Cambridge University. My thesis was on how neurotransmitters affect regulatory centres in the brain, and thereby regulate mood and behavioural change. There are internal and external factors that contribute towards the balance of neurotransmitters, and ultimately how we feel, think and behave.

When they become imbalanced, this can lead to stress, depression and anxiety. This is an area of increasing focus as we see record levels of stress and burnout, with 350 million people affected by common mental health issues worldwide. These individuals are desperately seeking solutions, as well as the companies they work for, and the public sector caring for them.

These levels are especially pronounced in the millennials who live super busy and stressful lives; they often search for immediate solutions and quick fixes. Feeling depressed? Take some anti-depressants. Want to sleep? Take some sleeping tablets. People know how they want to feel, and if that differs from how they currently feel, they will self-prescribe and expect an immediate change. But these quick fixes can exacerbate the issue and result in even worse mental health.

Who are the winners at altering their states, and why should we care?

This is working insanely well for some people - look at Wim Hof, who climbed Everest wearing just shorts and a T-shirt, Michael Phelps, who won 8 Olympic gold medals in the same week, or Richard Branson who runs a multi-billion empire of 300 businesses. These titans are stretching the definition of what’s possible.

These people are not super-human. They are normal people who mastered one specific skill: the art of accessing powerful mental states. States where they can experience heightened creativity, increased productivity and accelerated problem-solving. But, more importantly, a sense of peace and calm that let them deal with any life situation.

If you are thinking right now “yeah, I get that but they are professional high-performance athletes and businessmen…”, you are right. We are not saying that everyone should strive for that level of performance, but in our world today, it is imperative to at least get the basics right. The techniques they use are fundamental to ensure our needs are met and we stay motivated! We live in an ever increasing stressful environment with record levels of stress and burnout. It’s no wonder that one in three people are suffering from some poor mental health and it cost UK companies £34.9bn in 2017.

In today’s world, we all need those “super powers” not to just be productive, but keep our minds healthy!

So how do we get there? The trend towards natural alternatives…

With increasing awareness of the mind-body connection, people are moving towards more natural alternatives. That means instead of, say, reaching for the coffee, increasingly people will find another way to wake up or focus, say by meditating or exercising. Instead of taking sleeping/anti-anxiety pills, 64% of millennials will use music to de-stress. These new ways are appealing because they are accessible, scalable and rarely harmful.

In wellbeing, mindfulness is one of the hottest industries out there with companies like Headspace rumoured to be surpassing a half billion dollar valuation (valued at 250m in 2015) as people look for ways to focus better and de-stress. And, although music is already a huge industry in terms of consumption, there has been a revival in the past ten years, with the people now willing to pay for it, as exemplified in the latest Spotify IPO’s filing. Moreover, Spotify noted that the mood and activity playlists are what are driving the business and the whole industry forward. Just take a browse on Youtube for videos and music for sleep, including this one with 62m hits and it’s clear this is not niche, but instead fully incorporated into the lives of many of us.

While meditation and music playlists work to some extent to alter mental states, they still have some challenges to become truly impactful and transformation for everyone, anytime and anywhere. On one hand, meditation does not have the engaging, fun factor, variety, nor fits into many people’s current lifestyles. On the other hand, music, as we consume it, is not made for purpose with transformative and scientific principles to have a brain altering effect. Where people end up turning to, for example YouTube, the content is of poor quality and fragmented. This puts the burden on the user to search, use a try-and-fail approach to select it without any “objective” vetting. Most importantly, what is lacking in these solutions is an ability to measure their efficiency, which is a complete must if we want to research, track and improve them.

The power of music

There is proven research that shows the unique mind and body altering effects of music. At a high level, this includes: how the elements of the music can be changed, such as tempo, pitch and timbre, to affect arousal (e.g heart rate, pupils dilation), mood and creativity; how the brain syncs naturally to frequencies around it, thus by manipulating them you can entrain it into specific frequency bands that are linked to specific mental states. At a deeper level, the associations, anchors, memories and the way we listen (passive or active) all affect our perception of music and its efficiency to bring us into the desired states. For example, music for relaxation and focus is more effective if it is new and has no associated memories. Moreover, tapping into the power of music one can ease some depressive symptoms, increase the neuroplasticity of the brain and help with pain-relief.

The use of music for healing may have originated more than thirty thousand years ago. But this art was lost as it began being used as a mainstream entertainment tool. More recent research into the effects of music are under-utilised and haven’t been fully translated from experiments into real life applications. Moreover, there has not been much focus on individual by individual variations which are important in the application of music as we know music preferences play are a key components to it success.

And although music is not being used to its full potential to alter moods, almost all of us can feel its impact and potential even if we don’t fully understand it. We seek its’ uplifting properties, almost subconsciously, every day.

So what if, we master the science and art of changing states using music? With its universal appeal, how many people can we help?

Introducing ZONE

For all the reasons explained above, we created ZONE. The first scientific, personalised and transformative app to get you to any state of mind (“Zone”) at the touch of a button. We are creating a new way for you to consciously and effectively use music for a wide range of positive emotional and performance effects, by applying a unique methodology based on science and Artificial Intelligence.

We have initially created music with music therapists, scientists and musicians to get you into a relaxed and sleepy state. We will also offer clinically backed music alongside our house-created sound to help people with more severe mental problems like anxiety, burnout, and depression. After helping people relax, we will then expand into further states, including focus and energise.

How does it work?

1. Powered by Science

Zone composes new, engaging, music based on scientific principles with the help of experienced music therapists and music scientists. Which means it actually works and gets you to your desired state fast.

2. Powered by Artificial Intelligence

Our sound is made in a unique layered format that let us change music in real time to enhance the experience

Before and after each session on the Zone app, we take heart rate measurements, either using your phone or through integration with your heart monitor e.g. your Fitbit or Apple watch. We will combine this with data such as your daily activity, exercise and sleep patterns to predict exactly which song would, for example, be best to help you slow your heart rate when you want to wind down, or help you focus.

3. Created with innovative musicians

We collaborate with musicians you love to create content with our scientific standards and that fit the task at hand, while maintaining the artists signature flair.

4. Easy to use and on demand

The Zone app is one solution for multiple moods and on-demand. No more wasting time or energy browsing multiple apps and websites, no more ads (never!), no interruptions, just your Zone on-demand when you need it.

Who is the team behind Zone?

I’m Saira Gill, the CEO and co-founder of Zone. I have spent the last ten years building and scaling tech companies (including Groupon/Rocket), investing and advising companies (Investec and Balderton Capital), as well as mentoring startups (Techstars). Since studying Psychology and Neuroscience at Cambridge University, I have been obsessively interested in how the brain works and improving wellbeing. This is manifested in my daily obsessive exercising (Barry’s bootcamp and yoga), healthy eating and meditating to music.

This is what led me last year to join the Zinc’s accelerator programme (read more about Zinc below!).

This is where I met my co-founder and CTO of Zone, Yassine Landa, when we joined the Zinc program five months ago. He is an amazing developer and data scientist, on top of being incredibly erudite and funny! We naturally gravitated towards each other through our passion for holistic wellbeing, self-tracking, and music; in terms of listening, but also its incredible impact on the brain to affect how we think, feel and behave.

We have brought on people to help us create the content and embed the science into our music. We have a network of advisors within the music industry, music therapy and at leading universities to help us on our mission.

We’re on a mission to help the 2 billion millennials fast track to their desired zone using music.

We won’t stop there but extend to other generations and more therapeutic uses.

Our vision is to is to create a world where music is composed and adjusted in real time specifically for each individual.

Building Zone has been already very rewarding and super fun! If you would like to use our product, sign up here (we are giving an exceptional year of free music to our beta testers and very early adopters) or contact us on We will be hosting some live events, so stay tuned!

What is Zinc?

Zinc is an “incubator” that selects individuals to build companies, with the aim of solving the world’s greatest problems using scalable technology. Zinc is backed by LocalGlobe, a London-based Venture Capital firm led by Robin and Saul Klein.

The first mission of the Zinc programme is to improve women and girls’ mental and emotional health, and each business incubated must have the potential to help at least 100 million people in the developed world. Our program brought together 50 impressive people across technology, business, science and mental health that would then go on to form companies. We received extensive training in psychology and behavioural science, learned about the latest technologies and scientific research in the field and connected with world experts to give us a greater understanding of mental health.

The result? 20 companies, ranging across sectors such as transportation, the workplace, fintech, digital health, perinatal support, the elderly, digital screen time, outdoor experiences, all of which are designed to improve women’s and girls’ mental and emotional health.

Companies tackling everything from empowering children with good digital habits, to supporting women through the fertility and the perinatal cycle through to tackling loneliness and isolation in later life.



Saira Gill

Creating a healthy & sustainable world using tech | Food | Health | Impact | Yoga | Sprituality | VC@Antler. Previously @Balderton @Techstars @Zinc