Do what you love! The simplest & best advice I can give anyone. If you don’t know what you love, push yourself to try new things instead of getting into the habit of escaping reality. For many people, I believe quarantine has taken them away from their daily distractions and they are now being forced to confront their lack of identity/passion for anything outside of work/pop culture/consumer cycle. Shaping your own reality and perspective is a very powerful thing.
The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.
As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Bo Pericic, a former renowned DJ and NYU professor turned CEO. His mission is to help people connect to their passions and improve mental health. He currently serves as co-founder and CEO of Khospace on-demand Therapy Rooms.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
Thanks for having me!
Big fan of the blog and it’s an honor to be here. I’m a first generation American born and raised in New York. My parents immigrated to America from Croatia & Herzegovina in ’84, and I was born a year later. Dad is an anesthesiologist; your typical left brain — a nerd with a passion for statistics and technology. Mom is a right brain creative type with a career in interior design. They are my best friends, and I like to think I’m a stubborn mix of both! My family has always been big on academics, sports and music. So, as a hyperactive, ultra-competitive kid I dove head first into them all. I had the best support system I could ask for. At 6’5” basketball was a natural choice in the sports department when I stopped growing at the age of 14. I did well in school, excelling in and skipping three grades of math, and i became obsessed with music and synthesizers at a young age.
As I entered middle school I was exposed to music-making software and became fascinated with electronic music thanks to Napster. When all my friends had curfews and rules, I had the “cool” European parents that let me stay up until 3 a.m. where I would make music in our basement and build websites on geocities. I had a lot more freedom as a kid than most and the rules were simple — get good grades, play sports and “make us proud no matter what you do.”
The summer between college and high school was a key turning point in my life as I was awaiting college on a full basketball scholarship. I had sent out a few music demos I produced to some record labels my senior year of high school and received an email on my 18th birthday from a DJ named Armin Van Buuren saying he wanted to sign me to his record label. It was one of the best day’s of my life. I lasted a semester playing basketball before I took the semester off to pursue music full-time and transferred to NYU. While attending university, my friends and I produced a track that charted Top 40 on billboard dance and the UK top 40, which really launched my DJ career. I had class during the week, and pretty much every weekend was spent touring. I racked up over 5 million frequent flier miles throughout college. The combination of university during the week and traveling on the weekends was honestly the best education and childhood I could ask for.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Chill.” I wish I could.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
The matrix blew my mind when I first saw it, simply because of how real it was to me. The public regarded it as fiction; but, I guess in part due to my understanding of computers and moore’s law, it was already here. Ever since watching that movie, the intersection of humankind and technology and the relationship between the analog and digital world has fascinated me.
In The Matrix, the main character, Neo, is offered the choice between a red pill and a blue pill by rebel leader Morpheus. The red pill represents an uncertain future — it would free him from the enslaving control of the machine-generated dream world and allow him to escape into the real world, but living the “truth of reality” is harsher and more difficult.
On the other hand, the blue pill represents a beautiful prison — it would lead him back to ignorance, living in confined comfort without want or fear within the simulated reality of the Matrix.
I think a lot of people in society today are living in comfort without want or fear, and that’s having consequences we are just now starting to wrap our heads around. Children are spending between 6–9 hours a day on social media and increasingly living in this “dream world” known as Instagram and Tik Tok.
Society is learning to get their fix on social media and technology from a very young age, and while that may seem great at the surface, depression rates and anxiety are also skyrocketing. As technology becomes too perfect and efficient, it becomes harder to find yourself. We may as well be computers at that point.
Who cares about the picture on top of the mountain? Isn’t the hike on the way up where you learn more about yourself?
This concept really resonated with me when I started teaching music production at NYU because by default I was forced to explain the “WHY” of the creative process. Technological differences aside, why does the music from the 60’s & 70’s sound so different to the music of today?
Throughout the 60’s & 70s you had bands like the Beatles making music on eight track tape machines. There were inherent limitations within the process and no “undo” button. Therefore every decision was thought through and deliberate. More of the real person and their feelings came out in those records from simple tracks like Hey Jude to more complex funk tracks like Earth Wind & Fire — Shining Star, etc.
If you look at how music is made today — we have an unlimited amount of tracks, infinite undo, and can perfectly time, pitch correct and auto tune every instrument or vocal.
But guess what happens to music when you eliminate the imperfections? You lose what makes the artist sound like themselves to begin with. Everything starts to sound the same and you lose an element of “soul.”
That’s why my approach to teaching music production was always to set limitations for yourself. If you’re working in the digital domain, limit yourself to 30 tracks. This will force you to make well thought out decisions and produce better music. Plus, if you can’t make a good song with just 30 tracks, you won’t be able to make a good one with 100.
As enabling as technology is, I think it is becoming ever more important to set limitations for yourself in a similar way in real life. If you’re not limiting your social media intake, if you’re letting technology do all the heavy lifting for you in life, then you won’t ever be fulfilled.
Bringing this awareness to mankind is one of the reasons I’m very excited to begrowing Khospace to the next level.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?
As mentioned before, I started out my career in the music industry as a producer and DJ! The best part of touring was all the time spent on airplanes — no internet, and nothing to do but read. When I traveled to play in a certain country, I would read and learn as much about it as possible. This career experience was priceless and the best education I could have asked for.
I then started teaching at The Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at NYU at only 22 years old, where I stayed for about ten years and wrote a lot of the production curriculum. I was the first generation to learn how to make music this way, and i was in the first graduating class, so it made sense. As far as schools go, it’s very intimate. We are the smallest department at NYU accepting about 50 students a year and they became like my extended family during the semester, and they would intern for me in the summer. We were one big happy family!
It ’s very inspiring to be surrounded by talented, hungry minds who know their passion and want to be pushed and challenged every day. Teaching forces you to be better and stay on top of your game. The students who I’ve crossed paths with have written and produced over 20 platinum records, countless billboard #1’s and even the streamed album on Spotify in the world in 2018.
I’m extremely proud of what they have achieved and taught me as well but like all good things, they had to come to an end. It didn’t feel challenged anymore, I hated city life and I was giving too much of myself to other people at the expense of my own personal growth. So like any entrepreneur would have done, I made the decision to quit and move to Florida with absolutely no plan.
I worked odd jobs as a consultant and web designer here and there until I met my current partners Samantha and Jacques. t the time, they were looking for some web design work for a new idea they were developing. The relationship developed and it became clear that our partnership was right, and we haven’t looked back.
Samantha is a therapist who had just finished school and was looking to open up her own practice. After crunching the numbers on building out her own office, it just didn’t make sense. Due to the sensitivities of her profession, other co-working spaces were not a viable option, either. And if it didn’t make sense for her, then it probably didn’t make sense for other therapists as well. Jacques owned the perfect piece of property, and I had the skills to put all the systems together. Khospace was born.
What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?
We had to pivot our entire growth and survival strategy as a result of the pandemic. Our original plan was slow, steady and conservative growth with 1 or 2 self-funded locations a year(we even said no to a few investment offers right around December 2019).
With Covid and lockdowns announced, that plan went out the window and we pivoted into “startup mode” where we started to actively seek investors and think about the scaling process. As this was going on, we also started participating in virtual seminars to stay connected to our clients.
Our team spent most of Covid creating pitch decks and reaching out to any hedge fund, incubator, startup or real-estate investor we could find.
If we were profitable pre-pandemic, then we would be even more profitable after, with the mental health of society compromised from being isolated so long. After all, we had a good business that was making money, and we are servicing one of the most important issues today and in the future of our world — mental health. At the end of the day, Covid catalyzed us to think bigger.
We spent time refining our systems and processes to be able to open up hundreds of locations, and we even franchised our concept. unsure that franchising would be the direction we wanted, it forced us to create systems and look at our business in a different way.
Eventually, we landed a few meetings; but, we quickly saw that real estate investors were afraid to touch commercial real estate, and hedge funds prefer to throw their darts at tech. At one meeting in particular with a mid-size hedge fund that generally invests in tech startups we were told that they love our idea, but “the money has to match the mission”.
This got us thinking…Who would be the best investors for a mental health startup? Definitely not real estate investors, and def not hedge funds who are seeking tech startups and generally looking strictly at profits.
Where does the money match the mission in mental health to avoid becoming like the pharmaceutical industry where companies are incentivised to sell both the poison, and the cure in order to turn a profit. (see opiates)?. ???
The answer to us was simple — everyone! Society as a whole should be investing in mental health and that’s when the crowdfunding lightbulb went off.
We started applying to every single crowdfunding platform we could find and eventually hit it off with the folks over at republic.co where our offer was accepted and approved.
Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?
The aha moment came ironically during an online summit I was presenting for therapists and the topic was “setting up your private practice for the digital age.” I was teaching a bit on branding and how to set up website content properly by conducting keyword research.
As we were going into the Keyword research bit, we started researching different keywords around mental health and I noticed a very interesting trend — searches for terms like anxiety were going through the roof both on a micro and macro level.
Being the data driven person I am, this gave myself and everyone else on the team an extra level of confidence , a fresh sense of purpose and excitement. It’s to get excited about anything under quarantine but we are now starting to solve one of society’s biggest problems occuring and growing in front of our own eyes. It was very empowering….we even included screenshots of keyword searches in our pitch deck.
Seeing the macro trends, real-time with my own eyes was a game changer. I always believed in our business, but with Covid and everything going on it really gave us the extra boost of confidence to start looking at covid as an opportunity as the pandemic is creating and exasperating it’s own set of mental health issues. At the end of the day, Covid made us think bigger.
How are things going with this new initiative?
Things are coming along and we are currently finishing up our Reg CF filing with the SEC.
We’re creating a unique framework that’s a combination between REIT, franchise and startup investing.
Investors can buy into a location and own the physical underlying real estate asset, while getting the upside of a startup and owning the business / cash flow of a location in the form of a dividend.
I strongly believe this type of structure will be the future of investing for socially conscious businesses like ours that serve the greater good.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
It’s hard to narrow it down to one particular person but I’m extremely grateful for all my business partners. Jacques, his wife Samantha & I were raised with a big focus on family, hard work and integrity so when we met it just clicked.
What started out as working on a website together turned into a family affair — my mom came out of retirement to work as our interior designer, Jacques father is one of our advisors, and Samantha’s dad and mine became best friends! They regularly grab lunch together on the other side of the country and it all happened organically. We truly tell people that we are a “family business.”
They say you shouldn’t mix friends, family and business but I disagree with that. If you’re going to see someone every day, you better believe I want to consider them my friends and family.
Don’t get me wrong — I’ve been burned in the past following that advice, but when it works, when you set the proper boundaries and can differentia te between “friend hat” and “business hat” it’s the best thing ever. We can have a stressful business meeting, filled with disagreements — and, then we can all sit down to dinner together and laugh. It’s something to treasure!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
The whole thing has been an interesting story! If you told me in 2019 that a global pandemic would result in Khospace accelerating growth I’d tell you you’re crazy. On a personal level, I guess the most interesting thing is that I’ve started spending more time producing music, and I’ve started to work on producing an album. Without the daily distractions of commuting over the last few months I’ve been able to focus on my other passions and it’s been very fulfilling. I guess the interesting story here is that 2020 has been one of my favorite years!
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
Don’t Expect Everyone to Understand
Becoming an entrepreneur requires having a strong vision and sacrificing time that otherwise may be spent going out, seeing friends, or even getting a “real job” that pays “10x what you’re making now.” It’s very difficult for most people to wrap their head around this type of sacrifice and choosing to struggle when you can be making more.
I take a lot of pride and get emotionally invested in much of what I do, so being vulnerable can be extremely difficult for me. However, when I learned that it’s OK to be vulnerable, I noticed there were a lot more people around willing to help and listen. If you’re a leader willing to embrace vulnerability and transparency it will create a healthy work culture that encourages those around you to be more open to giving and receiving constructive criticism. Being vulnerable can also help you find great mentors . It’s human nature…would you rather help the hard working entrepreneur who hasn’t quite made it yet, or someone who appears to have it all figured out?
Track Your Sleep + Quality of Work
I used to be one of the “grind while everyone sleeps” types of people and while a degree of sacrifice is certainly required for entrepreneurship, sleep should not be one of them. If you’re caught up with spending time on the “grind,” just remember that while the amount of hours spent on something can equate to success, there is also more to it — than time spent…it’s the quality of the hours!
About two years ago I started tracking my sleep with an app called “Sleep Cycle” and found that I was sleeping on average 4–5 hours a day. When I made it a point to get between 6–8 hours I found my days becoming extremely more productive, and I also had a lot more free time because work was getting done! I was sleeping more, AND I had more free time. It’s not about the time you spend working, it’s the quality of time spent working and this has in big part to do with the amount of sleep you get! Focus on quality of work!
Hire For & Delegate Results, Not Tasks
As a leader I think it’s important to assign results, not tasks, to yourself and your staff when delegating and hiring. When you focus too much on tasks it’s very easy to end up with busywork that leads to no productivity or momentum. However when you assign results to yourself and your workers, everyone’s goal is clear, it’s easier to maintain accountability, and it’s also more empowering for employees. Starting to look at the hiring process in this way opened my eyes up to a lot of the things I have been doing wrong in the past. It’s a difference between “you’re responsible for managing our social media” and “you’re responsible for at least 3% monthly user and engagement growth over the next 6 months.” Make it measurable!
So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?
Set limitations, do what you love.
- No / limited TV unless it’s educational. The more you get into the habit of escaping reality the harder reality is to deal with. I haven’t watched TV in about 10 years. Why watch TV when you can experience things yourself and learn? Go for a walk, learn something new, speak with a friend or experience nature instead.
- Limit News Intake — I update myself on the news once a week (One far right source, one far left, one center, one random youtuber before I formulate my own opinion. Trust me — you won’t miss too much not following the news cycle.)
- Under no circumstances more than 1 hour of social media a day.
- Do what you love! The simplest & best advice i can give anyone. If you don’t know what you love, push yourself to try new things instead of getting into the habit of escaping reality. For many people, I believe quarantine has taken them away from their daily distractions and they are now being forced to confront their lack of identity/passion for anything outside of work/pop culture/consumer cycle. Shaping your own reality and perspective is a very powerful thing.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
This one is pretty easy! I would absolutely inspire a movement of teaching and mentorship. When you teach and mentor, the time you spend results in an exponential effect on society.
You can only do so much as a single person but if you install your processes, thinking framework and create an environment for learning you can multiply your values into others in a constructive and exponential way.
The way I see it, at the root of most issues is a lack of education, or lack of role models (usually both). It’s really that simple. I think our education system is a miserable failure and everyone in this country should be ashamed of it because it is a problem we need to solve collectively.
Throughout the recent election I barely heard either candidate discuss their plans for education.
Nor did I hear the media call for a focus on education.
Nor did I hear the public put a focus on education.
All I see is identity politics and polarization with a collective society too uneducated to see it and it makes me sad. If you’re passionate about any political party, cause or movement — then you should be passionate enough to take your own free time to teach and mentor within your community.
If you do one without the other, you are part of the problem. Too many “Slacktivists” out there as I like to call them…probably more than 50% of our population at this point — if I had to guess.
I challenge everyone to reframe every conversation about politics into one of how we can directly improve either education or mentorship because fixing those two by default will fix almost every other problem..
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
Elon Musk. I’m fascinated with everything he is doing from SpaceX, Tesla, to Neuralink.
Neuralink is already working towards interfacing the human mind with technology so he’s clearly given it a lot of thought so it would be interesting to discuss what his vision of the future looks like, especially when it comes to the subject of technologies’ affect on mental health.
In turn, I could help him with music production feedback since he just put out a new track 🙂
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!