Nanea Reeves is the CEO of immersive wellness platform Tripp. The company’s products that are created for consumers and businesses alike, enable people to access a world of awe-inspiring images, guided meditations, and music by artists like Soundfire and Moby designed to calm the mind.
Reeves credits meditation with helping heal childhood trauma, overcoming the loss of a loved one, and with helping her make better decisions that have helped her take new paths as she has forged a successful career.
“My mother suffered from mental illness and drug addiction,” says Reeves. “I was the oldest child in a family of three children, and I took on a tremendous amount of responsibility at a young age.”
Reeves says that at the time, there was a stigma around asking for help when it came to mental health.
“I come from an Asian Hawaiian family, where this stigma is even more pronounced,” Reeves says. “Everything began to pile up, and I found myself in a mental health crisis.”
Reeves ran into a doctor who had just returned from a trip to Nepal. She taught Reeves a simple breathing exercise rooted in Tibetan meditation practices. Reeves says that she found it “immediately helpful” to be able to insert a little pause every time she felt herself getting agitated.
“I’ll be grateful to that woman for the rest of my life for giving me the gift of meditation,” Reeves says.
While growing up, Reeves remembers spending hours playing video games like Asteroids and Galaga. She says that while playing video games, she experienced feeling like she had things in control, which was a much-needed antidote for all that she went through in her day-to-day life.
This love for video games persisted well beyond childhood, and Reeves decided to pursue a career in the gaming industry. Reeves was the fourth employee to join Jamdat Mobile games, which was acquired by Electronic Arts. She went on to run the technology organization at EA.
However, success in the gaming industry didn’t come easy, as Reeves was often the only woman in the room. She credits her meditation practice with helping her pause, take a step back and figure out how she was going to navigate a particular situation.
“As a gamer, I wanted to show up not just to play, but to win,” she says. “The focused thought that meditation makes possible was instrumental in making that happen.”
In this conversation, Reeves talks about her inspiration for Tripp, her advice for underrepresented minorities and women who want to raise funding for their companies, and her vision for the future of Tripp and the metaverse.
How did you come up with the idea for Tripp?
There have been two major positive forces in my life. The first was meditation, which gave me the calm of mind to make important decisions in a thoughtful manner. Meditation also gave me the opportunity to get connected to an incredibly supportive community that helped me navigate the days, months and years following my husband’s sudden and totally unexpected passing due to cancer.
Video games have also shaped my life in profound ways. They have made me feel more in control of my life. Crucially, they also equipped me with an organic interest in technology. I am very grateful for the curiosity in technology that gaming has inspired. It’s why I got interested in virtual reality. I was one of the early investors in Oculus, before the company was acquired by Meta.
I’d spent most of my career as a technology and operations leader facilitating other people’s ideas. This led me to ask the question: “Well, what’s my idea?” I decided to build on my life experiences to create a vision for my startup. I wanted to bring together the worlds of mindfulness and technology, and develop a product that arms people with the calm that comes from mindfulness along with the sense of agency that people playing games can feel.
There’s a wealth of research that studies how people benefit from the layer of abstraction that technology provides: to give just one example, Skip Rizzo from the University of Southern California has conducted a lot of research that shows that veterans suffering from PTSD are actually more open about their experiences in a virtual setting as compared to the physical world.
This happens because technology provides an abstraction layer. As we see online, this added anonymity can have negative implications. That said, this digital veil also has an advantage. It makes people feel less self-conscious about being judged for how they feel. I began to see the immense value that a product like Tripp can provide.
I pitched the idea for Tripp to Ted Chang at Mayfield. I remember him saying, “I was waiting for someone to pitch me this idea!” Mayfield gave me seed funding to start Tripp, even though we didn’t even have a prototype at the time.
Speaking of funding, what is your advice to people belonging to underrepresented minorities and women who want to launch startups?
When I embarked on my career in gaming, I was frequently ignored during meetings. At the time, Mitch Lasky who was the CEO of Jamdat gave me some great advice. He said that I ran the risk of being ignored just because I was a woman. He said that everything coming from my mouth should be grounded in data. Speaking in numbers would make it hard for people to ignore me. So that’s my first piece of advice: know your idea inside out, and be prepared to talk about it in a detailed and quantitative way.
I would also say that you should consciously align yourself with a company or team that has a big home run. I was an early employee at Jamdat, and just having that win in my back pocket opened up many doors when it came to approaching investors. This is easier said than done, because most startups die before they are able to make any kind of mark on the world.
However, I would still encourage people who want to launch startups to have this revenue-driven mindset no matter where they are. No matter where you work, take the time and effort to really think about new projects you can get involved with that can lead to meaningful and recurring revenue. Be more efficient with quantifying the impact of your work. Everyone, no matter their level in a company, can make a difference to profitability, and if you are able to demonstrate that, you’ll find that doors open for you.
What is your vision for the future of Tripp and the metaverse?
It’s important to point out that there will be no one vision of the metaverse that will come to fruition. The metaverse will take many shapes and forms: gaming worlds like Fortnite or ROBLOX. The metaverse can also take the form of what Meta is offering where a device serves as a platform. The metaverse will also play out in decentralized ecosystems. At Tripp, we will develop experiences for all these versions of the metaverse.
But no matter what form it takes, the metaverse can’t just replicate the offline world. We can’t have a metaverse where people are pushing virtual shopping carts through shopping aisles, and where you take your digital twin to buy digital sneakers. A metaverse like this would be a tremendous missed opportunity.
I personally believe the metaverse should be built by its citizens, and evolve in a way that’s truly useful to them. This is how I think about the future of Tripp. I want to take our solution and start to productize it into toolkits. I want to make it easier for people to build their own experiences in the metaverse.
I also see tremendous potential with Alexa and voice, which is why I’m excited that the Alexa Fund is one of the investors in our company.
Meditation and a sense of community have been instrumental to shaping my life, and I’m excited to continue to work with my team at Tripp to make their benefits available to all.