Co-founder: Luisa Zettinig
Nudge are a mental health tech startup delivering practical solutions for stigmatised conditions.
Research suggests that up to 4% of people in Europe and the US struggle with compulsive hair pulling: a condition called trichotillomania, or ‘trich’. These behaviours – which can lead to drastic hair loss from the eyelashes, eyebrows and scalp – typically start in early childhood and persist for many years.
Despite the relatively high prevalence of trich, the condition is rarely spoken about in the media or public domain. Sufferers are often extremely embarrassed about their behaviours: stuck in a cycle of shame and low self-esteem, not knowing what’s ‘wrong’ with them, and feeling completely isolated.
Luisa Zettinig, a public health expert, is determined to change this. She launched Nudge in 2020 in order to build a practical, evidence-backed tech tool to help trichotillomania sufferers manage their condition.
The Nudge Band is a wrist-worn, rechargeable device that is similar to a fitbit in appearance. Each one is pre-programmed with over 1000 common hand gestures so, thanks to some inbuilt neural network programming and artificial intelligence, the bands are ‘smart’ enough to vibrate gently whenever the user lifts their hand towards their face or head.
Users can keep count of how often they attempt to touch their face or head thanks to small lights on the device that are activated whenever the band vibrates. Over time, the device helps wearers to rewire their brains and, combined with their own willpower, reduce the frequency of engaging in hair pulling.
The Nudge band also helps those who struggle with dermatillomania (compulsive skin picking) and onychophagia (compulsive nail biting).
Less than one year after launching, Nudge has shipped to over 30 countries and is helping thousands of trich sufferers to actively pursue recovery. Now, the Nudge team wants us to shatter the silence and the stigma around this condition. They are working to raise awareness, curate educational resources, and build a mutually supportive community of sufferers (and the friends and family of sufferers).