Stressed and Obsessed: 3 Startups that are Responding to America’s Most-Stressed Generation


Gen Z is stressed. And, they have good reason to be! They’re dealing with pressures that are uniquely challenging to their generation:

They’re the always-connected generation. Gen Z spends more time isolated than any other generation – spending five-plus hours per day on their phones. They might be communicating virtually with others, but they’re still often alone, lonely, and bored.

They’re the social-media generation, but not by choice. They’re the first generation whose entire lives have been digitally documented for all to see, knowing that any embarrassing photo or memory may be forever memorialized on Facebook or Instagram. As adolescents, Gen Z experiences constant FOMO, consuming the curated content of those around them – peers, family, and even celebrities – through the artificial lens of social media.

They’re the first truly global generation. Gen Z did not grow up confined to their local communities; rather, they’ve been competing with peers across the world since day one. Their influences are less local too, resulting in brushing off of community traditions quicker than ever before. They spread trends faster than before and are exposed to different ideas and values at an earlier stage in their life than did previous generations. They rely on the internet for life hacks, peer connection, and even as a pseudo-diagnostician. With infinite answers at their fingertips, Gen Zers are able to discover more about themselves and others, building a broader understanding of the world.

They’re the generation that will bare the burden of climate change. In a recent project powered by Collaborata and conducted by Ignite 360, Gen Z was the only cohort that said climate change is one of their most pressing concerns.

They’re sadly the school-shooting generation. They’ve lived through 230 school shootings since 1999 (the year of Columbine, when the oldest members of Gen Z were two years old); more than 236,000 of this generation having lived through gun violence at their schools. Not surprisingly, then, a full three-fourths report living with the fear that their school might be next.

But, there’s some good news: according to another Collaborata-powered study, “Generation Nation”, 72% of Gen Z are optimistic about their future. They’re the most open generation when it comes to discussing their own mental health. Unlike Millennials, whose optimism is often wrapped around idealism, Gen Z’s optimism is more pragmatic and realistic. According to generational researcher Michael Wood of 747 Insights, “Gen Z is more comfortable discussing their struggles and are proactive in finding solutions. Marketers that acknowledge their stress with empathy and compassion have a real opportunity to connect.”

It’s no wonder so many startups have launched with a focus on wellbeing. So, with the new year upon us, here are three startups that are reimagining their category for the better:

1. Wave Meditation created a unique meditation experience that goes well beyond voiceover tracks. Wave’s focus is on integrating music (and music that aligns with Gen Z’s listening proclivities). All of their meditation tracks are guided, the music is stabilizing — syncing with a proprietary vibrating pillow to create an all-encompassing environment. Wave’s custom content is about the here and now, helping users to focus on the positive components of their lives and working to level-set user’s daily challenges. What Peloton has done for at-home cycling, Wave aims to do for at-home meditation.

Wave is just two-years old, meaning there should be plenty more meditation-innovation on the way. Mason Levey, CEO and Cofounder of Wave, says “We’re excited about the idea of modern music helping be the gateway to get more people trying meditation. We’re trying to make meditation as easy and enjoyable as listening to music. There are so many misconceptions about what “meditation” should look like and we’re hoping to break down some of those barriers and get more people meditating.”

2. Octave Health, which recently closed an $11MM round, connects users with personalized in-home therapy and virtual coaching sessions. The company’s goal is to make mental-health services more accessible and affordable, while combatting any stigma associated with treatment. Other startups in the space have focused on custom care delivered virtually; Octave has a blended approach, believing that what is best for one individual might not be what’s best for everyone.

Mental-health treatments are slowly being de-stigmatized, and Octave has an opportunity to capture a generation’s openness for self-betterment. As Octave says, “If you are feeling a bit anxious, that’s entirely normal.”

3. Trumans is a direct-to-consumer subscription-based cleaning-product company that sends users reusable spray bottles and replenishable concentrated cleaning “cartridges.” On the surface, a cleaning company may seem like an odd choice when it comes to wellness; but, Trumans focuses on issues that Gen Z is passionate about: being both health and environmentally conscious.

The concentrated cleaning liquid is non-toxic, making it a safe cleaning product to breathe compared to Trumans’ competitors.  By using reusable bottles and limiting their SKUs, Trumans aims to dramatically reduce plastic waste within its product category. From Trumans: “We didn’t understand why the cleaning aisle at our local store had more than 50 unique surface cleaners, colors, and scents. Or why kitchen cleaner couldn’t be used on certain countertops or stainless steel appliances. With labels that read like prescription drug ads, cleaning products needed to be simplified.”


Gen Z will not be dependent on the brands they grew-up on; rather, their loyalty will need to be earned, then re-earned.  These three brands, which are authentically speaking to and connecting with Gen Z, are on pace for a big 2020.

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Jimmy Zollo is the Co-Founder and CEO of Collaborata -- a Chicago-based tech startup serving the insights and marketing research world. Collaborata is the first-ever platform that enables organizations to share research costs and insights. Collaborata was a finalist for the 2017 Midwest Digital Startup of the Year, the 2016 Insight Innovation Award and has been featured on Business Insider, BuiltInChicago, Greenbook, Quirks, Research Live, MRWeb, and Market Research World. For more information, please visit: Jimmy developed his passion and enthusiasm for the Chicago tech community, while driving growth at GrubHub for four years. He helped develop GrubHub's industry-leading restaurant network, traveling across the country to launch new markets and grow existing ones. Following GrubHub's IPO and merger with Seamless, Jimmy transitioned to the corporate team, leading partnerships between GrubHub and many of Chicago's leading law, consulting, tech, and marketing firms.