They participated in the renowned “Y Combinator” start-up incubator in the US and they received financial support from LIOF and the Limburg University Fund. At the moment, Psylaris – the company run by Mike Verhiel and Christoph Lijnen – is still based at Entre Deux in the centre of Maastricht, but from there they want to conquer the world.
It’s clear that Mike and Christoph aren’t lacking in ambition. The two young entrepreneurs – graduates in psychology and international business economics, respectively – are marketing a virtual reality application for EMDR therapy. EMDR (eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing) is a method that involves using distracting stimuli to help the patient deal with traumas and negative memories. Mike Verhiel explains: “Psychologists use EMDR frequently, always according to a strict protocol. Because that protocol is always the same, you can express it as an algorithm and use it in a digital environment. With our application, the client can treat him/herself. He or she does so under supervision by a psychologist or therapist, but without their needing to be physically present. As a result, waiting times are shorter and you can have more therapy sessions at lower cost.”
Mike and Christoph received support for their start-up from various quarters. Christoph explains that “the Limburg Development and Investment Company (LIOF) provided an investment grant, but on condition that we drew up a five-year plan. Doing that made us think hard about our options.” Psylaris is now working with the Brightlands Smart Services Campus in Heerlen, where the app is undergoing further development, and with Lime (Limburg Meet). “That’s a valuable partner, and it’s helping us find a relevant network and new opportunities.”
“Practitioners are enthusiastic about our EMDR-VR app,” says Mike. “There’s been a lot of interest especially in the centre and west of the country. Strangely enough, interest among psychologists down here in the south has lagged behind a bit.” Nevertheless, the two entrepreneurs still think Maastricht is an excellent base for their business for the time being. “There’s enough knowledge in the area,” continues Mike. “Maastricht is strategically advantageous from the European perspective, and we can recruit good programmers here.” Christoph adds that “our employees joined Psylaris mainly because they were convinced about it. Like us, they believe in our mission.”
As a start-up, Psylaris has found that it pays to aim for cooperation with other entrepreneurs. Mike: “We’ve always had our feelers out and we’re constantly on the lookout for interesting connections. Finding those connections is pretty much automatic at the Entre Deux entrepreneurial hub, but also via the Business Contact Centre.”
Christoph has a tip for how to help starting entrepreneurs on their way: “It would be a good idea to organise events more often where companies can meet up. Or to create a central location where new entrepreneurs can base themselves, for example for six months.”
Mike and Christoph see a bright future for Psylaris. “In a few years’ time we’ll ideally be a global business for VR applications as a supplement to psychological care.” Isn’t that a bit exaggerated? “If you want to start a business, you have to be bold,” they say. “Don’t just think about it – you need to really act! Go for it!”