Feeling Lost In Life? Dubai Startup Visoul Wants To Help You Find Your Way While Visoul hasn't officially launched yet, it has, interestingly enough, already sold more than 400 kits to people belonging to 90 different nationalities across three continents.

By Megha Merani

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A user working on the Visoul kit

Soul searches don't typically begin when we're feeling fulfilled. Most seekers admit that it's usually when you hit your lowest point that you embark on a quest for answers. Because it's only when you're at your highest peak that a fall can hurt so much that it drives you to look inwards. That, in a nutshell, is how Visoul was born– a "Visualizing the Invisible Workshop-In-A-Box" kit that allows people to discover the inner self through a visual, self-executed, guided experience.

While Visoul hasn't officially launched yet, it has, interestingly enough, already sold more than 400 kits to people belonging to 90 different nationalities across three continents. The comprehensive four-part "personal accelerator" series is essentially a response to the question: "Do you feel lost in life?" It includes art supplies, diagrams, symbol cards, and a creative range of other thought-provoking tools with step-by-step instructions designed to give individuals tools to "find" themselves, and move on to the next chapter of their lives. After finding your life's purpose in stage one, the following stages empower you to disengage from obstacles, and create a goal-oriented 18-month plan while embracing empowering beliefs.

How did Visoul come to be? "This started from a very dark moment in my life," admits Osama Natto, founder of Visoul, a product built by his startup, Natto Innovation Labs. Natto, a Saudi national who moved to Dubai four years ago, chokes up as he described how he felt just "disconnected" from himself and his life at that point in time. "I was at the height of my career. I was launching successful entrepreneurial programs in universities to help student entrepreneurs launch businesses. I was making a lot of money... millions... I was being invited to speak internationally...I was very highly sought after and celebrated. However, what people didn't know is that this was a very dark time in my life… I wasn't happy, I wasn't fulfilled, and money did not have a value. So, it was, like, one day, I have AED200,000 in the account, and the next day, I wouldn't even have enough to pay for a ticket for a flight I missed, and I would literally be crying at the airport because my phone is disconnected, my credit card is blocked, and I can't even take a Careem or Uber back. This is a true story."

He adds: "It affected my health big time. It affected my relationship with my kids, and it also affected my marriage, leading to an ended relationship." Watching his world collapse around him, Natto bravely decided to take some time off from work, in order to confront his inner demons and went into a selfdiscovery phase. As a single dad, he also needed to stay home to take care of his kids. "I started to wake up before sunrise and take walks barefoot or swim at the beach to try to connect with nature," he says. "I would walk a lot. It was winter time and very foggy at the Dubai Marina. I would ask questions: who am I? Why am I here? Why am in this place, in this situation? And... what went wrong?"

The Visoul kit. Image credit: Visoul.
Unable to answer his own questions, Natto started to seek explanations from books and people. From studying different religious texts and cultures, to consuming books and reaching out to professionals from different specialties worldwide including neuroscience, psychology, coaching, and art therapy, Natto read all he could and spoke to anyone who might help him find answers. Slowly, bit by bit, the fog in his mind began to clear. "I started to see different elements of what each person is trying to say from the different domains," he explains. "Being an engineer, I would go back and use software to diagram things. So, I actually diagrammed emotions, feelings, human needs... and as I put all these diagrams on screen, I started to see the full picture, and I started to use that as my own cockpit to pilot me through life."

Through this self-designed process, Natto was able to slowly go back, and improve his health and his relationship with his children. One day, Natto met a former colleague and friend who wanted his advice on some important life and career decisions. "On the table, I asked him to flip the paper mat and draw the same diagram," Natto says. "An hour later, he found all the answers, and asked me where I got this. I told him it was something I invented for me, and he immediately said: "Why don't you sell it?' And I said, who is going to pay for this?"

But while Natto pushed away the idea then, a few months later, he began toying with the premise of selling his mind map diagram to help others explore their own responses to the eternal questions. Natto's initial idea was to print the diagram on an A1-sized chart and give it to people to color it in and write on it. But this felt too "confined", he says, which is when he moved to images that people could place within instead. The well-researched visual images in the kit are designed to trigger people to unconsciously project their true answers to realize what they truly want. "Today if you ask people "Who are you?', they will say something like I'm a Master's degree holder, or a banker, or something like that… Basically, something about their job and education," he explains. "But really, who are you?"

Printing images on his home printer, while his kids and their friends helped him cut them out, Natto's vision slowly formed into a product spread out on his dining table. And the idea of packaging the kit as a box was born thanks to his then 15-year-old daughter Dana. "My daughter just went to her room and got a shoebox, and started putting things in because the dining table was getting messy," he says. "Because it's just what we had at home." As for the supplies to create all of this, Natto would head down to the nearest hypermarket to shop at the lowest possible prices. An unfathomable contrast to his former technology business life -where he had 64 people and three agencies working for him on a single project- Natto, with his limited funds, then went about designing his own flyers using Microsoft PowerPoint, and further distributed the flyers himself in his neighborhood to test waters for his could-be product.

Participants making use of the Visoul kit. Image credit: Visoul.
He also placed a Facebook ad, but targeted it to appear within a limited vicinity. "I didn't want [too many] people to see it from where they know me, and say "Oh, what's Osama doing now?'" And Natto's efforts paid off that same evening. "I remember, on that day, at 8.36 p.m., I got a notification that said payment received," he says, a tremor of both still incredulous pride and deep humility in his voice as he relives the overwhelming burst of emotions. "That was a life-changing moment. I couldn't believe it. People found it and actually went and paid without knowing who is this guy and what's this product. It was exciting." There was no looking back after that.

Visoul, as a process, is made up of four stages titled Realize, Disengage, Fulfill, and Submit. The first stage, Realize, takes about two hours, and is about realizing what you truly want in life. "People think, "this is what I want, the university I want, the degree, the job, the spouse, the car…' But you'll be surprised," says Natto. "This is the first slap in the face. It's like oops! I'm a medical student but I want to run a business, or I'm in Dubai but I should be in Newcastle– true stories." The charting -a combination of pictures, writing, colored lines, and symbols- drills deep into one's self, layer after layer, until you arrive at "This is what I really want to do with my life." The next step is to Disengage, and "find out what's holding you back, and how to get rid of it." Natto remarks: "It's a very difficult stage. You can't skip the visuals, and if there's something you're hiding inside you -childhood trauma, a grudge from a relationship, a situation with a teacher or boss- and you haven't dealt with it properly, then it's going to come out."

Related: Embodying A Winner's Mentality: How Career Adversity Strengthened And Shaped My Character

The visuals include walls, bricks, chains, weights, broken or bleeding hearts, daggers –and other representations that translate to who or what your obstacles are– which then leads to 'Chapter 99.' ""Chapter 99' is the final chapter in your lousy life," Natto explains. "It's a book that's empty and the participant is required to write the story of how he or she broke all those chains, demolished all those walls, dropped all the heavy weights and achieved everything. So, they write it in past tense like it's already happened." Stage three, Fulfill, then helps simulate the route to fulfilling all your desires the way you want. "You will actually see your roadmap," Natto insists. "This is the magic of science." The final stage, Submit, deals with "submitting and creating a belief system for yourself regardless of your spiritual, religious, or cultural background," he says, crediting Dubai's multicultural community for the push to develop a product that doesn't conflict with anyone's beliefs, yet still helps them reach what they want.

Natto's drive to keep iterating with Visoul was, and is, propelled by two big motivators: first, that he found his own purpose, which includes helping people; and second, more importantly, that he's been inundated by a flood of gratitude-filled messages from happy customers impacted by the life-changing exercise. Now was the time to start looking at how he could create a business that he could grow and expand. So far, his company has received US$200,000 in investment, of which $100,000 came from revenue, while Natto invested $100,000 of his own money.

Osama Natto, founder Visoul. Image credit: Visoul.
To get a cost-effective business license, Natto approached Dubai SME, a resource for UAE nationals that provides support, information and outreach for the growing small and medium enterprise sector. "I went told them my situation, showed them pictures of my dining table, and explained that I can't afford to pay to set up an office," Natto says. "What I love about the UAE is that they treat Saudis just as they do Emiratis. They asked me to come meet a committee. At the meeting, the committee simply said, "We are not here to interview you, we are here to see what you need to help you.' It was really a touching moment, and a week after I received an email with a license for a year for a nominal amount. I think of them as angels, and thank them every day."

The founder has also received support and guidance from Dubai Startup Hub, the entrepreneurship arm of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce, on how to fine tune his product for the market and specifically the corporate sector. "Both these organizations have been like angels sent to help me," he insists, applauding the support available to startups in the UAE. "For those who say it's not possible to start a business from home in the UAE or reach maturity working from home, I am living proof." With his legal and operational structure now in place, and all his past-life entrepreneurial experience kicking in, Natto says his company is now ready to receive investors and is looking to attract money "not to build, but to expand." "We do have money to take us till the end of the year, so we are building the business to attract high quality investors at a higher valuation," he adds.

Natto Innovation Labs has plans to both upsell and cross-sell its Visoul kits, as well as develop new specialized kits focusing on career, relationships and a deeper version to delve even further into the soul's journey. The company also intends to create an online subscription model where people can get updates and upgrades. Natto is also looking to integrate technology and potentially create the same experience in virtual reality. Most importantly, however, the founder is eager to quantify results to derive research and observe trends.

Currently available in both Arabic and English, Natto says Visoul has even been used by people from Turkey and Germany with limited English proficiency. "They still managed to do it, which just shows you how simple it is. It's pieces of the puzzle, and you look and say, "Oh my God!'" Having hoisted himself out of a dark crevasse to commence his journey to his current peak gives Natto unquestionable faith in his product and its future. He says: "I was seeking answers, and this tool changed my life personally."

Related: You're Not Alone: Entrepreneurs Need To Talk About Their Mental Health Battles

Megha Merani

Independent Journalist

Megha Merani is an independent journalist based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Her stories have made headlines across a number of publications including Reuters, Associated Press, Entrepreneur Middle EastBloomberg Middle East, Arabian Gulf Business Insight, Arabian Business, and former local daily 7DAYS.

Megha also produces editorial for government platforms including the World Government Summit and World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting of the Global Future Councils. She has been a grant winner of the Thomson Reuters Foundation and The Global Initiative Against Organized Crime funded by the government of Norway to report on the online trade in illegal wildlife.

Megha is also an Associate Fellow (AFHEA) at Murdoch University in Dubai and leads its Digital Newsroom course unit. In addition, Megha serves as a United Nations Women mentor to support equal opportunities for women entrepreneurs, and supports various other programs including TIE Women, 60 Day Startups, and the Watt Inc. Business Incubator.

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