Manu Rehani Of HeyIssa: How AI Is Disrupting Our Industry, and What We Can Do About It

An Interview With Cynthia Corsetti

Stay Informed: Engage actively with the broader mental health and AI community, sharing challenges and insights, and embracing collaboration over competition to address the evolving landscape of mental health support together.

Artificial Intelligence is no longer the future; it is the present. It’s reshaping landscapes, altering industries, and transforming the way we live and work. With its rapid advancement, AI is causing disruption — for better or worse — in every field imaginable. While it promises efficiency and growth, it also brings challenges and uncertainties that professionals and businesses must navigate. What can one do to pivot if AI is disrupting their industry?

As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Manu Rehani.

Manu Rehani is renowned in several fields as an innovator, cognitive research analyst, published author, engineer, advisor and mentor.

​On his first job, he invented cloud storage protocols (US Pat 9787454), and more recently discovered the math for AI Language Models (US Pat 9269353).​

As a consultant he serves decision and change makers who have a positive view on where human consciousness should go. What Manu brings to the table as his expertise is cross-disciplinary thinking and execution-focused roadmapping, which are informed by his prior experiences, present-day innovations, a series of patented works, and a ‘Dalai Lama’ spirit.​

Beyond his professional experiences, Manu is a father and earth buddy. Passionate about causes, like #SaveSoil, that we as a generation have the privilege to be able to solve and responsibility to tackle. Manu has always been a curiosity filled child and remains so to this day, always looking for new ways to make personal growth, mental health and a sustainable lifestyle accessible to all​

His professional accomplishments include a rich portfolio of patented works that have impacted systems, scholars, and professionals alike; he has written and co-authored a series of scholarly articles and other works alongside leading pioneers in Technology, Business and Philosophy.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive into our discussion our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

I don’t think I have a career path. I have been on a career hike, which has led to me blazing my own career trail. It’s been an adventurous, exciting, and rewarding journey of twists, turns, cliffs, and switchbacks to get to places of amazing vistas. After two successful startup exits, I’m currently focused on developing a new class of emotion-aware AI at the intersection of artificial intelligence and human cognition. Our aim is to revolutionize how AI interacts with and understands human emotions for general application in custom GPT’s and LLM’s, and specific use in mental health and wellness applications to foster a healthy relationship with ourselves and others. The common thread has been a knack to ask simplifying questions that burn past conventional assumptions and get to first principles, and then reassemble the building blocks in new innovative ways to enhance our human experience and transform the tech landscape. In 2005, I questioned the assumption of needing high capacity data transport systems and instead used principles of water flow in tanks and pipes to develop patented protocols for data streaming and cloud storage. In 2012, I took a fresh look at how computers assign context to human language to come up with equations for AI language models. The wide reaching influence of these experiences, along with the good fortune of being at the right place at the right time with the right people, has shaped my career and underscored my belief in the power of interdisciplinary thinking and innovation to create meaningful change.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Our company,, distinguishes itself through a deep-rooted commitment to leveraging technology for societal benefit, particularly in the realm of mental and behavioral health. Over the last decade our patented technology has been in use and proven out in B2B analytic products where management and business owners get behavioral insights about their employees, customers and market. A defining moment for us was when the individuals started asking if they could get a copy of the insights to understand themselves. That, combined with the post-COVID loneliness epidemic, was a call to action for us to redefine our approach to innovation — in a way that is grounded in empathy, ethical responsibility, and a vision for a world where technology and mental health support are seamlessly integrated.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

  • Curiosity: My work has been driven by a desire to understand and explore the unknown. It was this insatiable curiosity that led me to groundbreaking discoveries in AI and cloud storage. This same inquisitiveness now drives our exploration into how technology can better serve our emotional well-being.
  • Resilience: The task of marrying technology with the field of human behavior has always felt like it’s just a few years ahead of its times. Developing new approaches, especially in a field as sensitive as mental health, demands not just innovation but persistence and resilience in face of rapidly changing customer habits.
  • Empathy: Understanding the needs and challenges of others has been crucial. It’s empathy that inspired me to focus on technologies that can make a real difference in people’s lives especially in the AI space, where my team is developing emotionally aware AI for a variety of industry applications.

Let’s now move to the main point of our discussion about AI. Can you explain how AI is disrupting your industry? Is this disruption hurting or helping your bottom line?

AI is not just transforming our industry; it’s redefining the possibilities for mental and behavioral health support. By automating complex processes and personalizing support, AI is enabling us to reach more individuals in need, breaking down barriers to access and offering insights that were previously out of reach. This disruption is enhancing our bottom line by broadening the scope of who can receive the services, who can provide them and how. Our focus on developing AI that respects individual privacy and delivers meaningful, personalized insights is helping to reshape the landscape of mental health support, making it more inclusive, accessible, and effective.

Which specific AI technology has had the most significant impact on your industry?

The development of conversational computing has been a game changer in the behavioral and mental health sector. No matter how sophisticated the tools and technology, the barrier of interacting via keyboard and screen to type and read has always been a barrier to initial adoption for certain demographics and a hindrance to continued use across the board. Conversational computing increases the approachability tremendously. The next breakthrough we’re working on is to make the experience more personalized and empathetic.

Can you share a pivotal moment when you recognized the profound impact AI would have on your sector?

One of our core products is used in assisted living homes where the care notes made by the caregivers are analyzed to detect changes in stress levels and drive staff interventions. The resident nurse would review interactions flagged for unusual levels of stress and meet with the staff to identify the causes and implement changes like communication and training protocols. The process took two to four weeks. In 2021 one of our interns started routing the notes through an early version of the OpenAI playground. She used our emotionAI to identify phrases with high stress levels and OpenAI to summarize the topics and suggest talking points. That one clever use of OpenAI playground took a workflow that would take 4 weeks and packaged the information in a ready to use format to be delivered in real time. We knew our work was going to become fun and more rewarding.

How are you preparing your workforce for the integration of AI, and what skills do you believe will be most valuable in an AI-enhanced future?

As a company providing solutions in the mental and behavioral health space, it’s crucial that our own team is not just skilled but also supported. We emphasize a holistic approach to workforce development, ensuring our team is well-equipped to work alongside AI while also prioritizing their mental well-being and work-life balance. We encourage staggered 4 day work weeks and playful use of new AI tools and peer-to-peer training workshops. As an overarching value we’re scrutinizing all company and product decisions to ensure that the integration of AI enhances rather than detracts from the human element, focusing on skills that complement AI’s capabilities, such as empathy, creative problem-solving, and strategic thinking.

What are the biggest challenges in upskilling your workforce for an AI-centric future?

I believe the most important area to upskill in is to help the workforce get past the bewilderment and freeze caused by so much AI news and so many AI tools coming at them. If you look at the past cycles of disruptive technology, there was a substantial barrier to upskilling. For example, when we shifted into the “information age” people who had never dealt with computers had to get familiar with computers and coding — provided those paths were available. However, at this point, the barrier is much lower. The skills needed to move into an AI centric future will not require large scale re-education. That is because there are many tools which require no more skill than being able to use a browser and follow a few prompts. There are many no code tools, and moreover, if someone has a need to dig deeper, there is a wider community available to assist, whether someone has to delegate the details to an expert on Upwork from time to time or connect with like-minded people, the community is there in the form of meetups and online forms.

What ethical considerations does AI introduce into your industry, and how are you tackling these concerns?

In behavioral and mental health services the main ethical matter is trust. Trust of AI, trust of the tools, trust of the service providers, trust around privacy & security. Conversations around mental health are sensitive and very personal. So the ethical considerations are also good business considerations in this case. We are tackling this by ensuring we match our privacy and trust structures to what people are already used to. If people are comfortable with keeping personal information and health notes on their secure icloud or google accounts we piggyback on that rather than introduce another system or platform. So far it’s been our experience that when a new platform is introduced it raises suspicion even if it is technically more secure.

What are your “Five Things You Need To Do, If AI Is Disrupting Your Industry”?

  1. Embrace Change Through Play: Encourage a culture of playful exploration to discover AI’s potential in innovating mental health support, fostering an environment where experimentation is welcomed and valued.
  2. Focus on Ethics: Prioritize the development of ethical guidelines that respect the sensitive nature of mental health, ensuring that our technology supports individuals in a way that’s compassionate, respectful, and responsible.
  3. Invest in People: Support your team’s well-being and professional growth, creating a workplace that values flexibility, empathy, and the opportunity to work alongside AI in enhancing mental health support.
  4. Foster Innovation: By embracing change and investing in our people, we naturally cultivate a culture of innovation, where new ideas for using AI to support mental health can flourish, leading to solutions that were once unimaginable.
  5. Stay Informed: Engage actively with the broader mental health and AI community, sharing challenges and insights, and embracing collaboration over competition to address the evolving landscape of mental health support together.

What are the most common misconceptions about AI within your industry, and how do you address them?

One of the most prevalent misconceptions in our industry is the fear that AI will lead to significant job losses, particularly among mental health professionals. This concern often stems from a misunderstanding of AI’s role and potential in mental and behavioral health. We address this misconception by emphasizing that AI is designed to enhance, not replace, the human elements of care and support. Our approach is to demonstrate how AI can augment the capabilities of therapists and counselors, providing them with tools and insights that allow for more personalized and effective care. For instance, AI can help identify patterns in behavior or mood that might not be immediately apparent, enabling professionals to tailor their approaches more precisely to the needs of their clients. By focusing on AI as a supportive tool, we aim to shift the narrative towards the creation of new opportunities for professionals to deepen their impact and reach within mental health care.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

“Stay hungry, stay foolish.” This quote has always been a beacon in my journey, especially as I navigated the uncharted waters of integrating AI with mental and behavioral health. It reminds me of a pivotal moment early in my career. I was deeply curious about the mechanisms through which therapists, coaches, and motivational speakers assess and influence the inner states of individuals using just language. Coming from a background in Chemical and Material Engineering, diving into the realm of Cognitive Behavioral Linguistics seemed almost foolish. Yet, it was this hunger for understanding — the drive to decode the patterns behind these interactions — that led to the development of an equation pivotal for training sets in large language models. This equation, which outlines how the probable measure of meaning of a word can be derived from the sub-context in which it appears, was a breakthrough that not only influenced the development of AI but also underscored the potential of technology to understand human emotions. This journey from curiosity to innovation exemplifies how staying “hungry” for knowledge and “foolish” enough to pursue seemingly unconventional paths can lead to groundbreaking discoveries that bridge the gap between technology and the lived human experience.

Off-topic, but I’m curious. As someone steering the ship, what thoughts or concerns often keep you awake at night? How do those thoughts influence your daily decision-making process?

Navigating the ethical landscape of AI at the interface of human emotions is a constant concern that influences our decision-making process. As we develop AI technologies that mimic human-like interactions, the question of how these technologies evolve and integrate into our social fabric becomes paramount. My nightly contemplations often revolve around ensuring that our AI solutions are developed responsibly, with a keen focus on privacy, consent, and the enhancement of human well-being. These concerns drive us towards a collaborative approach, seeking partnerships rather than competition. We believe that the challenges we face are not unique to us alone; thus, fostering a community of collaboration can lead to shared solutions that benefit the broader field. This ethos of collaboration over competition is central to our mission, encouraging a collective effort to navigate the ethical complexities of AI in mental health and contribute positively to the field’s evolution.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

If I could initiate a movement, it would be centered around the intentional design of technology geared towards enhancing human connections and well-being, particularly in the realm of emotional health. The vision is to leverage AI not as a replacement for human interaction but as a tool that enriches our understanding of ourselves and each other. This movement would advocate for technology’s role in breaking down barriers and being a bridge. A bridge between thought, expression, and feeling. A bridge between what is said and what is understood. What is understood and what is felt. Because, thoughts and opinions separate us but feelings and emotions bring us closer together.

How can our readers further follow you online?

To stay updated on our journey and the latest insights into AI’s role in mental and behavioral health, I invite readers to follow our progress through our website —, posts on LinkedIN, and social media channels. We regularly share updates on our projects, breakthroughs in AI and mental health, and our thoughts on the future of technology in enhancing human well-being. Our online platforms serve as a space for dialogue, learning, and collaboration, reflecting our commitment to not just innovating in the field but also engaging with a community of like-minded individuals and organizations passionate about making a positive impact in mental and behavioral health through technology.

Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

About the Interviewer: Cynthia Corsetti is an esteemed executive coach with over two decades in corporate leadership and 11 years in executive coaching. Author of the upcoming book, “Dark Drivers,” she guides high-performing professionals and Fortune 500 firms to recognize and manage underlying influences affecting their leadership. Beyond individual coaching, Cynthia offers a 6-month executive transition program and partners with organizations to nurture the next wave of leadership excellence.