By: Mike Montgomery
Depending on whose numbers you believe, the U.S. supplement industry is either a $12 billion or a $37 billion industry. That’s big by any standard. About half of all adults take some kind of vitamin. To date, food and health companies have mostly ruled the market. Now Silicon Valley is getting in on the action with something called nootropics, which could open a whole new market for tech entrepreneurs.
Put simply, nootropics are supplements that promise to make us smarter. They have been around since the early 1970s and are made up of things like caffeine and vitamins B6 and B12 — substances the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves as dietary supplements and classifies as GRAS (generally regarded as safe).
The twist now is that these pills are being repurposed, repackaged and sold to Silicon Valley and Wall Street overachievers who work long hours. In December, venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz announced a $2 million seed investment in Nootrobox — a nootropics company that markets its pills in attractive little glass bottles labeled “Rise,” “Sprint” and “Yawn.” A product called “Go Cubes” is gummy coffee bites. San Francisco-based Nootrobox bills itself as the leading name in nootropics and biohacking, but it’s just one of many firms manufacturing nootropics.