Preface: Anat Elhalal is Science and Data Director of Peak, a brain training app that uses games and workouts to help you improve your cognitive abilities. Peak closed a $7,000,000 series A round in April 2015.
What are the origins of your love science?
I am naturally curious about how things work, especially the brain — which is the most sophisticated machine known to date. I love learning new things, and working as a scientist means I do a lot of that. Being a scientist at a startup like Peak is about applying this learning to exciting new products that help people reach their potential.
How did you get involved with Peak?
I knew the founders and the company via my personal network and was very impressed at what they achieved in such a short time. When I found out they were looking for a Science and Data Director earlier this year, I jumped at the opportunity.
What are the main tasks for you as Science Director?
As the Science and Data Director for Peak, I have a few areas of focus. The most important is content strategy — deciding which games are to be developed and introduced to the platform.
We work with top universities like Cambridge, as well as private labs to invest time into research and content development. The Peak team is very involved throughout the process.
What are some of the challenges that Peak faces in data management?
The biggest challenge in our data management process is to make sense of the huge amount of data we collect. We strive to provide our users with better insights into their minds and to show them the correlation between the app and what is happening in their brain and day to day lives. We are constantly asking ourselves questions on how to improve our work. I'm very excited by what is going to enter the data space soon!
Who has influenced the way that you think about Science and its application to technology?
I have always been lucky to collaborate with awesome teams so I keep learning every day. A more famous source of influence comes from researchers like Daniel Kahneman and more recently Dan Ariely. I admire the perceived simplicity of their work, their effort in making it accessible and applicable to all, and inspire how they technological solutions to cognitive biases.
Attendees at WIRED are technology lovers. Is there anything you dislike about technology despite being in the space?
First, I am a tech geek myself so tag me with them too! Seriously, though, I am a big believer in the power of science and technology in improving people’s lives. The entire Peak team thinks this way. Wellness, education, fitness — these are key areas for improvement where technology, including wearables and big data and applications are changing our lives.
The only thing I dislike about the technology industry is the potential for an information overload. At Peak, we strive to make our product simple and straightforward, rather than confuse our users with too much information. A lot of technology startups would do well to remember that.
Tell us a story about one of your most stressful moments whilst working on Peak. How did you overcome it?
Well, stress management is a part of life in the startup world. At Peak, we focus aggressively on growth and innovation, which provides unique challenges. One such challenge was the recent announcement of our Advanced Training Platform, which will officially roll out on 28 May. We have been working in a very short time to do something that no one else in our space has done — closely collaborating with universities and private labs to create content specifically for our product. There are so many elements to think of when you work with third party researchers and scientists. It’s been a very complex process to bring science, technology and business operations together, but I am very proud of our results.
How do you plan to evolve the product in the future?
I think you are going to see some interesting developments pertaining to what I just mentioned — collaboration with scientists and labs. Beyond that, we will continue to iterate on our core product. I am most passionate about the data we are sharing with our users. They should expect to continue to see new insights and learnings. Stay tuned!