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His Brush With Death Pushed Him to Leave Google's 'Moonshot Factory' and Make Brain-Reading Earbuds That Could Save Lives Jonathan Berent's fascination with EEG earbuds took him from a sales director job at Google, to "firestarter" at the storied moonshot factory, to spinning out his own startup. The journey has been full of surprises.

By Frances Dodds

Jonathan Berent

Jonathan Berent remembers the day he decided to found NextSense, a startup making revolutionary earbuds that read brain waves and could help treat conditions like epilepsy, insomnia, and depression. At the time, Berent was working at X, Google's iconic "moonshot factory" — a laboratory for developing ambitious, sci-fi-sounding solutions to the world's problems. Like earbuds that read your brain waves.

The day was October 18, 2019, when Berent was in a meeting with Google's chief economist, discussing whether reading people's brain waves would infringe on their privacy. The path that led him to that meeting was circuitous: For the better part of a decade, Berent had directed a sales team for GoogleAds, where he cultivated his interest in Eastern philosophy and turned his office into a "wisdom library" with a yoga mat for meditation. He also nurtured a long-running fascination with sleep, and when he caught wind of research that suggested you could monitor and possibly improve sleep patterns through EEG [electroencephalogram] earbuds, he took the concept to X. He wound up working on a project called Heimdallr, which explored whether human brains could control computers. That's what landed him in the chief economist's office.

Related: The No-Excuse Approach to Sleep and Work Performance for Entrepreneurs

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