HVMN (Nootrobox) Review: Do They Live Up To The Hype?
Back in 2016 I had the pleasure of reviewing GO Cubes®, the convenient and enhanced chewable version of coffee.
Since then, I’ve become quite a fan of the product – using it almost daily for keeping myself alert at the office!
I realized very quickly that HVMN (formerly Nootrobox), the creator of GO Cubes, has a lot more to offer the world in addition to those.
The company offers a lineup of nootropic products and targets a goal of introducing them to everyone – not just us geeks.
I can also see many influences from the company’s homeland of Silicon Valley in their unique marketing and culture. But how well do they now implement their scheme?
Today let’s take a look at HVMN, their products, and some of their background as a company.
Nootrobox/HVMN was founded in 2014 by Stanford graduates Geoffrey Woo and Michael Brandt, the former being the current CEO of the company. At the time of formation, Woo was working as an entrepreneur at Foundation Capital while Brandt was working at Google.
Along with a few investment rounds, HVMN became established in the San Francisco Bay area and by 2016, they were sporting a full product lineup in their online store. Now, they are shipping out to the whole US, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, and Ireland.
The HVMN team lineup can be found here, with many of its members having academic backgrounds in science and engineering.
Many nootropics companies out there cater to particular audiences – those who are often professional elites or students that would no doubt be pounding Adderall or Modafinil otherwise. And that’s fine by us!
But HVMN wants to take a slightly different approach in selling their products.
On their website, HVMN describes the human brain as if it’s an equation of sorts. That it can be “quantified, manipulated, and optimized” through the use of nootropics and other biohacking tools.
They also want to extend the potential benefits to all of society, not a select group of people. In essence, HVMN wants to find a way to sell nootropics even to ordinary people, which is a hugely ambitious goal.
For this to happen, you have to condense a lot of the context-heavy information used in choosing products, as well as develop a user-friendly platform to market yourself on.
So how is HVMN electing to do both of these things? Let’s check out the products they have to offer the world, and make sure their website is hip enough to sell on.
HVMN focuses exclusively on stacks, i.e. combinations of various compounds that are supposed to work synergistically for a particular purpose.
Instead of having customers take multiple separate pills, they combine them all into a convenient single package. While most of these stacks exist as pills, GO Cubes are a tasty exception..
The manufacturing process HVMN uses to make their products is also one of its selling points. They claim that in every pill, the amount of each ingredient is precise.
For instance, if a capsule is guaranteed to have exactly 50 milligrams of caffeine, customers can control their doses confidently. Powders are mixed thoroughly for capsules with a ball milling machine specifically for processing supplements.
Anyways, so what exactly are they selling as final products?
Ingredients: Caffeine, L-Theanine, Vitamin B3, Vitamin B6, Glucuronolactone, Inositol, Folic Acid, Vitamin B12
Pricing: $35.10 for 20x 4 packs or $13.50 for 6x 4 packs
GO Cubes are perhaps what HVMN is best known for today, after running an Indiegogo campaign to raise development funds for these gumdrop-like pick me ups.
These cubes not only taste like coffee, but they are in fact concentrated coffee with other functional ingredients suspended in pectin. The caffeine and natural MAO inhibitors are expected as with any coffee, but you also get the theanine and energizing B-vitamins included!
This is a simple but effective combination. Theanine is an ideal additive to coffee, as it cuts down the anxiety from the caffeine and adds a sort of zenlike calmness. You can’t go wrong with these if you’re a coffee fan and want to add an extra functional twist.
See our full review of GO Cubes here!
Ingredients: Bacopa Monnieri, Rhodiola Rosea, Alpha-GPC
Pricing: $44.10 for 60 capsules
RISE is what HVMN refers to as their “daily nootropic” pill, meaning that you should take it regularly to maximize its benefits.
With the shortest list of ingredients out of all of their products, RISE is also quite potent in terms of its effects.
The bacopa monnieri is primarily known for its beneficial effects on memory recall, while the alpha-GPC can help produce acetylcholine, the neurotransmitter involved with memory and learning.
The rhodiola rosea is a well known adaptogen, which they claim can aid in reducing fatigue and handling stress in general.
However, rhodiola is notorious for affecting people very differently from person to person. Some people actually report increased anxiety from the common herb, so your mileage may vary.
So from what it sounds like, RISE would be targeted for things like school exams, presentations, or being a witty conversationalist. The quick recall of words and data is a skill that can really be used all day long for many people.
Ingredients: Vitamin K1 and K2, Astaxanthin, Vitamin D3, DHA, EPA
Pricing: $35.10 for 60 capsules
KADO-3 is the most “supplement-like” stack of HVMN’s product lineup. You don’t see any ingredients that directly act as nootropic compounds, but they provide support for a healthy brain to use alongside their other products.
First of all, we see that the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA are included. These substances are typically derived from fish oil and act as building blocks for the cells in our nervous systems.
KADO-3 uses a 2:1 ratio of DHA to EPA, the former being beneficial for memory and attention. EPA is also helpful, but more so for cardiovascular health.
Vitamin D is used in the synthesis of neurotransmitters, while vitamin K is claimed to have a neuroprotective effect along with being essential for blood clotting.
Now the inclusion of astaxanthin is interesting. When you see a bright pinkish-red color in many sea creatures (such as salmon), that coloring comes from astaxanthin, which also happens to be a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.
These properties tend to be considered neuroprotective, so you can maintain the health of your neurons as they constantly work hard.
KADO-3 is a combination of many common supplements that support general health, but I would be hard-pressed to call it a nootropic.
Ingredients: Caffeine, L-Theanine, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Vinpocetine, L-Tyrosine
Pricing: $35.10 for 60 capsules
SPRINT is meant to be a supplement that starts working very quickly, so a user can boost their productivity on demand. This is contrasted with RISE, which is meant to build in effects over time.
If you compare the ingredients list from SPRINT to the one for GO Cubes, you’ll notice a lot of similarities. You have your caffeine, theanine, and B vitamins, but you also have a few other familiar names in these pills.
Vinpocetine is a compound derived from the periwinkle plant, along with a number of other alkaloids. Its best-known mechanism of action is vasodilation, or increasing blood flow, in the brain. Nootropic effects have been known to include a boost in focus as well as improved memory function.
Finally, the L-Tyrosine in SPRINT acts as one of the first building blocks in a chain of events that produce the neurotransmitter dopamine, which can provide a boost in motivation.
While SPRINT may not create a mood boost quite like GO cubes (due to coffee’s natural happy compounds), it’ll work in a very similar way but with the vinpocetine added in. It’s your call whether you want to take your nootropics in pill form or gummy form.
Ingredients: Glycine, Magnesium Citrate, L-Theanine, Melatonin
Pricing: $13.50 for 10 capsules
The last item in HVMN’s product lineup is YAWN, which aims to help you get to sleep faster and end up more well-rested in the morning. As with other HVMN products, YAWN comes in pill form.
However, YAWN in particular can be taken sublingually by pulling the two halves of the capsule apart, and placing the powder under your tongue. HVMN claims that the taste is slightly sweet, and this method is faster acting than swallowing the capsule.
Glycine and magnesium may for helping a person relax around bedtime, with the latter actually helping to alleviate a deficiency that is widespread in the western world. Magnesium also can aid in memory consolidation overnight, due to its NMDA receptor antagonism.
Theanine continues to calm nerves in this supplement, as you have seen in other HVMN products.
Melatonin is well-known for regulating the brain’s circadian rhythm, or the sleep-wake cycle. It helps you to feel sleep at the most natural time to – during dark hours.
YAWN is honestly pretty boring of a supplement overall. Sort of like with KADO-3, it aims to improve a person’s cognitive abilities on a daily basis as a support role, rather than as a direct one. Getting a proper night’s sleep is essential for mental performance the next day.
However, you’re not getting a ton of benefit that you couldn’t get by simply taking melatonin tablets for sleeping purposes. Plus, the 10 capsule size container seems arbitrary.
Now if you’re interested in trying some of HVMN’s products yourself, head over to their website, and you’ll see a very user-friendly and modern design.
Built to look like a quality mobile or tablet app, the product selection is admittedly nice-looking and approachable.
Each product, when clicked, will give you a page detailing all of the ingredients and intended effects of the stack, which we already outlined a bit.
Payment & Shipping
Payment is done exclusively by credit/debit card, which is actually fairly convenient, as I’ve seen nootropics websites out there that make paying by card difficult.
This is a familiar and easy way to pay for the average person who wants to try nootropics for the first time.
Shipping is free on orders of $40 or more, and appears to be a flat rate of $2.95 otherwise, at the time of writing this.
As mentioned before, HVMN will ship out to the following countries: United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, and Ireland.
Have They Succeeded?
So, has HVMN been successful in marketing nootropics on a large scale? It turns out, yes! However, it did have its fair share of criticism on the way.
HVMN has definitely managed to excite investors, shown by its $2.6 million valuation in 2015 and over $1 million in revenue in 2016. They have also appeared in the news on sites such as New York Magazine and Bloomberg, as well as social media like reddit.
On the other hand, HVMN famously blundered an opportunity to win an investment on the reality TV series Shark Tank.
Part of the reason for this is because they massively overreached on their own company’s value by asking the shark investors for $2 million for 5% ownership of the company.
This implied that they thought they were worth $40 million, which is much more than the $2.6 million figure they actually managed to get otherwise. In addition, the sharks thought that the company founders were treating their supplement business too much like a tech startup.
In my personal opinion, HVMN does have a very friendly platform for introducing people to nootropics and making the activity convenient.
The pricing however is a bit steep for what you really get – tried and true supplements that do have some scientific backing, but aren’t terribly exciting to me as an experienced person. The value comes from the convenience and the trust of the ingredients used.
The last thing I want to mention today is NVMN’s biohacker guide, where the staff gets into heavier detail of many concepts backing their products. They also have a section about hacking diet, exercise, and information regarding their very own podcast and magazine!
One trend particularly used by their own staff is intermittent fasting, which is the act of abstaining from food for an extended period of time to increase productivity. They describe the concept in detail here.
All of this information is located in a sort of an enclave of a website, meant for educating anyone who wants to learn more about nootropics beyond the basics of what’s in their products.
HVMN has created a platform to make taking nootropics simple.
Their website provides a wealth of information about what you’re getting in each pill, and the formulations of their stacks do make sense.
For experienced users of nootropics, I would recommend they buy from HVMN for the convenience factor but not for unique substances.
New fans of nootropics, however, have even more reason to check them out because of the simplicity of their formulas.
Check out HVMN at their website, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.
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