Throbbing headaches, stomach pain, light and sound sensitivity usually don’t make for good business – except when it comes to Sisun Lee.
The former Tesla and Facebook employee has spent months throwing back drinks in the name of research ahead of his new product’s release.
Lee picked up the idea after a visit back to his home country in South Korea last year, where its $125 million per year hangover industry supplies convenience stores and markets with everything from herbal remedies to chocolate-covered ice cream bars, all aimed at curing the dreaded hangover.
"It’s actually a big market there," Lee said. "All my friends were trying [hangover drinks]. When I was going out, I said, 'Great, let me try this.' The next morning I woke up feeling great, so that really sparked my curiosity to learn more about it."
After researching what goes into the process, the Mountain View-based engineer enlisted the help of friends and advisor, Dr. Jing Liang, at the Keck School of Medicine in Los Angeles.
The group created a nutritional supplement as a side hobby over the span of a few months based on Liang's research on dihydromyricetin, or DHM, which is a component of herbal medicine and a key ingredient in Lee’s hangover drink.
"In the beginning, I tested it on myself, my friends, my roommates — at one point when I thought it worked really well for me, I had to give it to some of my friends," Lee said.
As a former Facebook worker, his beta group became hundreds of his former tech workers.
"I approached them and said, 'Hey, we have this unlabeled product that presumably helps you the next morning – would you mind trying this after you go out and party?'" Lee said.
After getting feedback from the close-knit network, he put out a general inquiry online for more testers and received thousands of willing participants overnight.
He says that while the drink is currently an FDA-compliant nutritional supplement, Lee sees it expanding from here.
His team at 82 Labs, which did the research behind Morning Recovery, is working on more hangover solutions as well as certification as an FDA-approved drug.
"Within 82 labs, our goal is to solely focus on solving hangovers," Lee said. "When we think about hangovers, it’s actually quite a big economic problem.
In 2010, the Center for Disease Control attempted to put a number on the loss to the U.S. economy each year calculating it to be around $179 billion, an estimate based, in part, on no-show employees or workers reportedly too hungover to work.
"This is a massive problem and [hangover drinks are] our single focus," Lee said. "I’m not here promoting drinking more alcohol, but I do believe people deserve the freedom to go out, kick back and have a good time to without having to sacrifice their morning the next day."
Lee is currently working with distributors to get the drink offered at convenience stores and markets, but the drink is currently available as a 12-pack online for $45. It is designed to be consumed while or immediately after consuming alcohol.