Student work: The Kick

Blog post on an innovation

By Agne Gaidyte, fourth year student in 2017-2018

Have you ever been so scared in your life that the fear left you utterly speechless?

A job interview.

A presentation.

A date.

The sweaty hands, the nerves and the constant fear that you’ll mess up. The anxiety and fear before is the first major battle a person faces, but finally there is a solution, all within a thumbs reach.

Download an app, get the Kick and it will all go away.

No anxiety.

No shyness.

A world without people holding themselves back.

Amongst the array of apps and services clogging up our memory and storage on our devices, the Kick aims to innovate and refine the logistics of the online dating sphere, and revolutionize our ability to feel self-confident.

Take a moment to savor your internal sigh of relief.

Finally a service providing us with the confidence and the step by step guide we never knew we needed.

Scary, isn’t it?

The Kick itself a start-up which in the past month offers ‘early access’ to individuals who desire  fearlessness and stealth in their life.

And  all it takes is a Kick pill.  Slip it on the tip of your tongue and swallow it back and that’s you. Although like most things – there’s a little more too it. If you’re interested in experiencing your first hit of the self-proclaimed ‘confidence pill’ look no further than the City by the Bay itself:  San Francisco where the startup was founded.

There are only three small steps you need to take in order to achieve the best version of yourself:

Step 1: Get the Kick app. Do daily challenges for confidence building.

Step 2: Get a personalized prescription and a 10-minute consultation.

Step 3: Get the pill. Kick your fears.

The drug itself is propranolol – a beta blocker type medication (altering heart rhythms and circulation),  is listed by the World Health Organization Models of Essential Medicines. It is prescribed by psychiatrists and General Practitioners worldwide, normally to patients who suffer from stress anxiety: particularly before important performances or public speaking. The drug restrains the autonomic arousal which is tied with fear and instead creates calmness and self-confidence.

Pretty much exactly what most people nowadays need before any social interaction, never mind a date.

The innovators behind the Kick app, purvey that screening for their medical miracle would take no more than a 10 minute skype chat, and an address and postal code. Super-fast delivery, some storage on your phone for the app and that’s you. A literal Kick in your step, launching you upwards towards the next great step in your confident life.

CEO Justin Ip has yet to disclose the amount of money they raised for the start-up and it’s hard to say what the price for the Kick pill will be.  One can only imagine it will be as affordable as our current mortgage rates, and the interest on our student loans.

Soon enough, we will find out.

When  I first heard of the Kick craze set to challenge our levels of self-confidence, to say I was skeptical was an understatement. My research into the topic lead me to James W. Black: the British scientist who developed propranolol in 1960s – the key ingredient in this modern day manifestation of the courage drug. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his accomplishments and advancements with propranolol drug.

To avoid bias, in addition to my research, I did attempt to consult with an expert psychologist, but an hour of their life costs £300 pounds and it’s too new to be covered in the wide mainstream media. But who should I ask? Who would be an expert of combination of fascinating business model, drugs and modern human behavior?

In the book The Risks of Medical Innovation  by Thomas Schlich and Ulrish Thröhler propranolol is described as ‘certainly powerful.. and rather difficult to manage in clinical situations. It seemed impossible to design general treatment schemes […] the intravenous administration was too dangerous for general practice.’

But I guess despite all this we still need a magic pill.

The informative people from Drugs.com, who’ve used propranolol, give surprisingly positive reviews of the medical prescribed drug saying that ‘it has been a lifesaver’ and they feel that they ‘can finally be themselves’.

It’s a game changer – compacting technology and medical advances into one easy tiny pill – that promises to help us navigate through the murky waters of our modern day love lives.

One of the most necessary ideals of twenty-first century modern living personally has to be balance. I feel like this week, it would be unfair to round off without leaving you with some arguments for and against the Kick service itself.  You can decide for yourselves if the Pros outweigh the Cons.

Pros:

The Kick will not be manufacturing the drug so it’s not tied to the Food and Drug Administration rules. The Kick works with registered pharmaceutical companies and professionals in the medical field who will take it to the manufacturers and oversee its production. It’s all very legal.

There are plans to manufacture it in different flavors.

It’s easily accessible and fast –  you don’t need to go out of your way and visit a doctor because it’s literally a few clicks away from the drug. You hold the elixir of boldness in the palm of your hand, along with your abundance of unused selfies and phone notifications.

Cons:

It takes artificial way (a pill rather than a psychological therapy) to tackle a confidence problem, creating a fast-track solution that doesn’t necessarily have a long term positive impact. In the reviews of the propranolol people have said that they stopped using the drug after they came to a certain confidence level. That’s from the limited number of medically prescribed anecdotes, where side effects and dependency to the drug haven’t been seen. We are all different after all, aren’t we?

A 10-minute consultation cannot substitute the in-depth analysis of the patient

and challenges in an app cannot be equivalent to a psychologist’s personalized insight and expert medical opinion. But keep in mind that you need a spare 300 smackers lying around to actually visit a private doctor.

Such wide accessibility could encourage a misuse of the product, and self-diagnosis may create more demand for something which is only needed in specific supply.

In the medical app market itself,  nothing like this has been seen before. However, there are apps which can help to cope with social anxiety: from relaxing nature sounds to worry box, where an application helps to decide if problem is worth spending your time on. The United Kingdom NHS Apps library has 10 apps dedicated for improving mental health.

One of the biggest players in the market would be SilverCloud. It’s a platform where a person suffering from anxiety or depression can engage in interactive programs and get an advice from a professional without visiting an office. It’s powered by clinical expertise and 10 years of research and readily available via an NHS referral and on the App Store.

SilverCloud uses cognitive behavioral therapy which helps to put things into a brighter perspective and manage the number of negative ones rather than a pill like the Kick.

It is clear there is a demand for innovating the services available within the field of mental health, and apps are at the fore front of helping combats the stigma and revolutionize the way we deal with mental well-being.

Each year $193.2 billion is spent in the pharmaceutical industry specifically focusing on  mental illness alone. In the UK, mental health services cost £105 billion each year, according to the research carried out by the charity Centre for Mental Health in 2009/2010.

It doesn’t matter which way you look at it, after all the statistics and facts, there is certainly a market for innovation of mental health. The Kick seems to be the first of its kind.