Olivia Walch is using circadian rhythms to help shift workers sleep better, feel better and be safer on the job
Revolutionizing Sleep and Circadian Rhythms
Olivia Walch‘s entrepreneurial journey started with terrible sleeping habits in college, including double all-nighters and many sleepless nights. Her experience led her to explore the intersection of technology and biology in sleep. She founded Arcascope, a company dedicated to using the power of circadian rhythms to improve sleep for shift workers.
Arcascope’s mission is to leverage scientific insights to help individuals optimize sleep and overall well-being. The Arlington, Virginia-based company offers an app to track and adjust sleep patterns, thereby enhancing quality of life. As Olivia explains, “We usually don’t pay attention to how light, meals, caffeine and naps affect our ability to sleep. The inputs we give our brain changes our ability to sleep.” Arcascope offers personalized sleep, food and caffeine timings to shift workers to help them avoid burnout.
Harnessing Digital Tools for Global Expansion
Arcascope utilizes coding platforms like xcode (a complete developer toolset for creating apps across all Apple platforms) and VS Code (a free, open source and cross-platform code editor developed by Microsoft). These development environments play a crucial role in simplifying the development process, improving code quality, and enhancing collaboration among development teams.
Arcascope relies on Apple App Store and Google Play Store to reach a massive and diverse user base, allowing them to reach potential customers in almost all countries.
Additionally, analytics tools such as Mixpanel help Arcascope track user behavior (such as whether a brighter button or a dimmer button make people more likely to pay), measure app performance, and make data-driven decisions for further development and marketing strategies.
Google Drive and Dropbox make it easy to share files and demos with international partners. AWS, GitHub, and Continuous Integration / Continuous Deployment tools help streamline software development, manage infrastructure and ensure code quality.
Olivia emphasizes the importance of efficient and cost-effective tools, given the competitive nature of the sleep industry. “Every additional cost and regulatory burden cut into our margin and could be the straw that broke the camel’s back.“
Navigating Complex Policy Landscape
As Arcascope expands its global reach, Olivia expresses concern about the potential mandatory sharing of source code with other countries as a condition of doing business, as it could jeopardize her company’s intellectual property. She notes that digital goods are highly iterative, and even minor changes can constitute new versions. Sharing source code and algorithms will hinder innovation and increase complexities.
Moreover, she raises concerns about the lack of technology choice and the requirement to use local cloud providers in certain countries. The digital landscape is characterized by users’ mobility and the seamless transfer of data across borders, making compliance with such policies complex. Walch suggests that companies like AWS might offer services to comply with such regulations, but this could lead to increased costs and operational challenges for startups.
Many international travelers use Arcascope to combat jetlag. A requirement to use local cloud providers would be especially challenging for Arcascope, since some of its customers work and live in multiple countries, or travel frequently to other countries. “What do you do with the data if somebody is going back and forth between two countries? Where will you store the data?” asks Olivia. “I will probably pay a global company like AWS to help me navigate such burdensome requirements. If there is no easy solution, it would become too expensive and I just would not operate in a country with such requirements.”
Advocating for Small Tech Companies
Olivia calls for policymakers to engage with small tech companies like Arcascope and consider the unique challenges they face in a rapidly evolving digital landscape. She believes that policies should protect and support smaller players who may not have the resources or influence of tech giants like Meta or Google. “The companies being hurt by these policies,” she argues, “is not Meta, it’s us.”
Support from Government and Private Sector
Arcascope has received critical support from the National Institutes of Health’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, which helped them kickstart their journey into commercializing academic technology. Private sector investments have also been instrumental in allowing the company to grow and expand its offerings.
Olivia’s journey from struggling with insomnia in college to founding Arcascope is a testament to the power of digital technology to address complex health issues and improve lives globally. Additionally, her insights into digital trade policies shed light on the challenges faced by startups and the need for policymakers to consider the implications of their decisions on smaller players.
As Olivia continues her mission to enhance sleep and circadian rhythms through digital solutions, her advocacy for sensible digital trade policies will help make the world a better place, one good night’s sleep at a time.