What Happened To Nootrobox After Shark Tank?

Geoffrey Woo and Michael Brandt created Nootrobox in 2014, a year after Woo sold his first startup, Glassmap, to Groupon. While Glassmap, a location-sharing and discovery app, was completely different than his next project, the experience proved invaluable. "I learned a lot with that first venture, and seeing the full lexical of the company was pretty instrumental of learning for me, just seeing how business ... the full life cycle," he told the Startup Sense Podcast.

After Brandt left his position as a Google product manager and Woo ended his Entrepreneur-In-Residence job at Foundation Capital, the two were trying to figure out their next career move. "We were looking at a bunch of different spaces, and one notion that I personally thought was very interesting was enhancing human experience," Woo said, referencing the sci-fi film "Limitless" and its focus on nootropics, consumables, and supplements used to increase and enhance a person's cognitive abilities. Thus, Nootrobox was born.

Family, friends, and work acquaintances began investing, and soon they had a million dollars in investments from Marissa Meyer, Andreessen Horowitz, Mark Pincus, and others, with more people wanting to get on board. Woo and Brandt managed to get their Go Cube chewable coffee into 7-Eleven stores before they even appeared on "Shark Tank" in 2016. Viewers will remember them for having one of the highest valuations of any that appeared on the show, and guest Shark Chris Sacca sharply criticizing the pair for their baffling and complicated pitch.

The Sharks couldn't understand what was being pitched to them

Geoffrey Woo and Michael Brandt came to "Shark Tank" asking for $2 million in exchange for 5% of their company. The numbers stunned everyone, as it was one of the largest sums anyone had ever asked for. They presented the Go Cube chewable coffee to the Sharks, explaining that they came in latte, drip coffee, and mocha. Each one had 50 milligrams, or half a cup of coffee's worth of caffeine, six grams of sugar, and the amino acid L-theanine meant to increase reaction time and semantic memory. However, they struggled to answer Lori Greiner when she asked, "Let's go back to the basics. What is this product? Why is this special?"

As Woo and Brandt negotiated the Sharks' questions, talking about intermittent fasting, the biohacking community, and being at the forefront of research into improving your brain's functions, the investors began to get noticeably frustrated. Kevin O'Leary was the first to drop out. When Robert Herjavec enquires as to when their company would end up being worth the $40 million evaluation they gave, Woo and Brandt begin comparing themselves to Apple, which makes Herjavec and Chris Sacca laugh out loud. Herjavec and Greiner both feel that they didn't explain the product very well, with Greiner adding that they should hire a salesperson, and they're out. Sacca doesn't trust nootropics, and he's out. Last to go is Mark Cuban, so Woo and Brandt leave the show empty-handed.

Its popularity skyrocketed after Shark Tank

Despite the lack of a deal, Geoffrey Woo and Michael Brandt's confidence didn't waver. "Bio-hacking is meant to spawn multimillion-dollar companies, right?" Woo said in their post-episode interview. "So, $40 million valuation. You know, it's going to be cheap in the long run." Besides, they got what they wanted — attention and exposure. Woo claimed that Nootrobox filled six times as many orders the weekend after their "Shark Tank" episode aired than it did the weekend before the show aired.

Nootrobox rebranded as Health Via Modern Nutrition (HVMN, pronounced human) after appearing on the show. It also became a strong proponent of fasting, with intermittent fasting listed as an important cultural pillar. They also phased out the Go Cubes in March 2019 to focus solely on its newer product, HVMN Ketone Ester, which launched in 2017. Four years later, it announced the new and improved version, Ketone-IQ. Designed to increase energy and focus, boost athletic performance, and help control hunger, HVMN's website describes Ketone-IQ as "a high-performance energy shot without sugar or caffeine."

Along with refocusing HVMN, Woo and Brandt also started the HVMN podcast. The podcast featured Woo, Brandt, and other members of the HVMN team interviewing doctors, experts, and personalities associated with various diets, health issues, and lifestyles. They would talk to people associated with the Carnivore and Keto diets, diabetes experts, heart doctors, and athletes. Since February 2023, Research Lead Dr. Latt Mansor has been the podcast's host.

HVMN's focus is solely on its Ketone line of products

HVMN is still in business and thriving, focusing on Ketone-IQ, sold as shots or bottles. For $120 you can purchase three 12-ounce bottles containing 10 servings or 24 shots of 2 ounces each, which are also TSA-friendly. 

Out of the original nootropics (Sprint, Kado, Yawn, and Rise), Rise is the only product still available. Containing Bacopa Monnieri, Ashwagandha, and CDP Choline (Citicoline), Rise is supposed to improve memory and decrease stress and anxiety. As of December 22, customers can buy one container for $34.95 and get one free.

When it comes to the secret of HVMN's success, Geoffrey Woo believes it's all about paying attention to what is working to get your business moving and forgetting the rest. "There's probably like two, three main things that actually move the needle, and everything else is a little bit of a leaf node on top of that," he told the Bright Ideas eCommerce Business Podcast. "And I think as you're starting off building traction, building [a] customer base, just being really clear, really, I don't want to say ruthless, but I think that's kind of the right emotional frame around it. You just got to be really, really clear with yourself [about] what actually is moving the needle and what is hopeful [and] optimistic or distracting work."

HVMN has worked with the U.S. Special Operations Command since 2019

Since 2019, HVMN has been working with the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) to research the use of ketones in extreme environments for soldiers and pilots, with the hope that it can eventually be used in space. The $6 million contract wrapped up in September 2023, but HVMN's work for USSOCOM helped develop its most recent product, Ketone-IQ, which HVMN claims "is significantly more suitable to be deployed to the USSOCOM operators due to better pricing, pharmacokinetics and performance, and the lack of GI discomfort."

HVMN collaborates and is promoted by many athletes, including snowboarder Senna Leith, cross-country skier James Clugnet, marathoner Matthew Johnson, and YouTuber and boxer Jake Paul. Geoffrey Woo and Jake Paul also created the investment company Antifund to support the future generation of creators and influencers. "Jake [Paul] and I have a background in these exact types of businesses, and our fund wants to focus on consumer, e-commerce, and creator empowerment startups capitalizing on this generational shift," Woo told The Hustle.

According to Michael Brandt, who is much more visible with HVMN these days, Ketone-IQ is just the first of what is to come, telling Shopify Masters, "We're listening to customers on what are the key ways in which you're using this, is there a way we can build a follow-on product that really specifically meets that use case."