EMAILED ON February 14, 2017 BY THE HUSTLE

The startup that’s flippin’ dopamine

Los Angeles startup, Dopamine Labs, which originally built a “reinforcement API,” for developers to increase user engagement on their apps, is now offering a cure for users’ mobile addictions that they’ve caused.

Its founders, Dalton Combs and Ramsay Brown, both come from neuroscience backgrounds and claim that DL’s technology “allows any app to become addictive,” and that the rush of dopamine from notifications essentially changes the way users’ brains are wired.

Does it work?

Actually, yes it does. Among DL’s successes are its first client, a teaching app called Root that gained a 9% increase in student attendance since adding the dopamine API, along with social network Brighten, which saw a whopping 167% improvement in app opens.

But, Combs says that the increased addictiveness does have the potential for abuse — and a result, they’ve developed a tool to help defend people against their own technology.

According to them, users “just need some space”

They’re latest app, Space (Android-only for now), is supposed to break the cycle of compulsively checking your Instagram likes by delaying the instant gratification we receive via notification.

To do this, Space loads a “Moment of Zen” before launching the app you want to free yourself from (like a delay that reminds you to breath when you’re straight jonesin’ for some new Snap stories).

So on the one hand…

Developers are paying DL to create a potential problem for users… And on the other, users are paying them to solve it. It’s brilliant.

They’re not trying to keep it a secret, either. In fact, the company leverages their involvement in app addiction to market their cure for the problem, claiming that Space’s software is the “same math [they] use to get people addicted to apps, just run backwards.”

Take notes people, this is some expert demand engineering going on right here.

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