As the pandemic has been upon us for a little over a year, there has been one constant throughout the chaos, fear. It is no secret that the collective mental health of millions across the globe has been on the decline. Isolation paired with a global pandemic not to mention the normal stresses of everyday life has people feeling overwhelmed and scared.
Growing up in a household with a psychologist, Alec O-del learned techniques early on how to help him cope with fear. O-del, a junior dual majoring in entrepreneurship in the Whitman School of Management and information management and technology at the iSchool, credits his mother as someone who made mental health a priority from an early age. He says, “My mom has always said you need to take care of your mental health and she helped me do this through breathing techniques, journaling, and just being honest with myself when I’m not feeling okay.”
O-del grew up as an entrepreneur, starting his own chocolate company when he was just ten years old, but as he grew older, he wanted to work with businesses that made an impact. Throughout high school he began working with organizations like the United Way and other nonprofit incubators but encountered a difficult dilemma as he realized that nonprofits were limited in reach because if they accumulate too much profit, they lose their non-profit status.
As he started his journey at Syracuse University, he became interested in social entrepreneurship. “Sure a business can make a profit, but they can also help people,” he says.
O-del’s belief in business as a tool for social good drew him to SolaceVision where he now works as head of business development. “I think I do a good job of taking a step back and breaking down an idea so we can make it reality.”
Solace Vision helps people overcome phobias by immersing them in tailored virtual environments specific to each phobia. The company is a modern solution to helping phobia by providing a software platform with multiple tailored Virtual Reality environments for phobias and anxieties.
O-del recounts meeting SolaceVision CEO Shawn Gaetano through the Syracuse University LaunchPad’s Summer Startup accelerator program, “I really liked Shawn’s vision and saw he had strong technical and leadership skills that made me want to help in any way I can.”
The company has gained traction through the NEXIS program offered in the iSchool and the LaunchPad, and it also secured funding through LaunchPad business competitions over the past year. It also was one of the top companies in this year’s Global Student Entrepreneurship Award competition in the Western NY region. It was recently selected for a prestigious LaunchPad & Techstars spring fellowship program.
“I really like the direction the company is heading especially considering how, now more than ever, learning to improve mental health is so important.”
O-del sees the immense value of SolaceVision, even for himself. He says, “I can be shy at times and the idea of getting over public speaking and social anxiety is really great.” At the end of the day, he hopes potential customers realize that “mental health is real, and you should care about it. Maybe you don’t have to use our product, but we just hope that people can get the help they need.”
O-del’s fervent desire to make an impact and give back to the community is only matched by his tenacity and entrepreneurial spirit.
If you want to learn more about SolaceVision and their mission, check out its LinkedIn page.
Story by LaunchPad Global Fellow Jack Lyons ’22; photo supplied