ADHD Entrepreneur Will Henshall: Breakthrough Success in a Creative Niche

ADHD entrepreneur Will Henshall has been a chart topping musician, and has founded a tech startup. Now he mixes his two interests with [email protected], creating music designed to help you focus.

Like many people with ADHD, Will is highly successful in the right work environment.

He literally created a business to help himself and others improve attention and productivity, before he even knew he had ADHD!

Read on about how Will is a classic ADHD entrepreneur. He makes connections between different fields, was the first to see an opportunity with changing technology, and is an innovative problem solver.  

In addition, he has an amazing enthusiasm for spreading awareness that ADHD employees are actually a company’s most valuable asset. Yes, really, we are!

ADHD Family History: Entrepreneur Inventors

ADHD entrepreneur Will Henshall comes from a long line of entrepreneur inventors. ‘I am an inventor, my dad is an inventor. I come from a long line of inventors.’

hand drawing a lightbulb

His grandfather was a tinkerer who ran a TV store and he describes his dad as an inventor with attention problems.

‘Some of our most productive, most talented people have attention problems’ Will says.

In fact in my own life, if I look at my favourite humans, of all ages! My dad for instance. These are folks who just can’t sit still.  Always on the go, always doing a bunch of things. Yet when they are focused and productive – Wow!

Will Henshall on Productivity Straight Talk Podcast

ADHD Entrepreneur: Making Connections

Will Henshall became famous as a member of the band Londonbeat. But even as they were topping the charts with their hit song ’I’ve been thinking about you’, he had a side interest in computer technology

He was an early electronic dance music pioneer, with a focus was on drum and bass machines.

female dj

He was fascinated by the interface of electronic music and humanity, and his background set him up for his first entrepreneurial effort.

He was working with recording music. This could be done with all band members in one studio, but this was not always possible or affordable.

Another option was to record one track on a hard drive that had to be shipped long distances for the next stop. He realized this was not an ideal system.

person sitting on the floor surrounded by music recording equipment

The modems of the 90s were slow. But Will foresaw that audio tracks could be transmitted over the internet, once the speed improved. And with his background, he understood what software would be needed.

He was able to see the connections between recording multitrack audio in a recording studio and creating software.

ADHD Entrepreneur: Start Up Idea

So Will moved to San Francisco and invented the pro audio media transfer tool ProTools DigiDelivery, a service which networks recording studios.

It allows for the recording and syncing of band members, making multitrack recordings over a distance.

Musician playing and being recorded in a recording studio

This start up experience taught him the practical process of ‘making an invention into a thing’. He described it as ‘1% inspiration and 99% sheer hell!’

He also feels that having some notable success in two worlds (music and software) was the groundwork needed to be a successful inventor.

ADHD Work Hell: Another Idea Begins

When Will sold his company he agreed to stay on for 18 months.  This is a typical arrangement when start ups are sold.

Unfortunately Will did not clarify the details of what ‘work’ meant’. He was expected to work in an office cubicle!

man in a work cubible peering over the top of the partition

After years of moving around, thinking and getting creative ideas on his feet he was stuck working in an office.  He couldn’t get anything done. 

Since he was a musician he tried to find music that would block out the sound of everyone else in the office. He tried relaxing music, but that did not work at all.

When his time was up, he was thrilled to escape to his next adventure.

ADHD Entrepreneur: Serial Businesses

A true entrepreneur Will went on to found another company: a photo agency and event company, running teams of photographers that handled A-lister events.

man holding a camera with a long lens

While it sounds like an exciting lifestyle, Will remembers the day to day workings of the business as a more of a grind.

Looking back he realized that the experience helped to hone his entrepreneurial mind. 

He realized a core business rule: Provide a service that fills a need at the right price

ADHD Entrepreneur: Find the Right Niche

Like many ADHD Entrepreneur, a little idea kept percolating in his head.

His mind went back to his experience working in a cubicle and the type of music people use while working or studying. He remembered the music that was suggested for him did not help at all.

He thought: the music you are listening to might actually be distracting you. 

So again he founded another startup: [email protected] a music streaming service of music to help you focus.

Based on his experience he knew this met his criteria for a good business: Find a niche and a demand that is not met by anyone else.

[email protected]: Years of Research To Get It Right

Since Will was well set up from his previous successes, he was able to take time with his new venture. His team has scientifically studied music to make you productive.  

man looking at data presented in graph form on a computer screen

After 5 years of research, they realized there isn’t one type of music that works for everyone, because people are different in terms of their brains.

And the important difference? Distractability!

They found a direct link between how distractable you are and which music is best to help you focus and concentrate.

Finally Will answered the question that had been bothering him: Why do some people like techno and some like classical music at work?

[email protected] can lead to amazing results. As Will describes it: ‘OMG – this works! this is my blankie!  I am never going to work without this again!’.  (This occurs with about 1/3 of people who try it).

Another 1/3 find it helps a little, and another 1/3 cannot listen to any music while working.

smiling woman wearing headphones at a desk with a laptop

And who does it really, really work for?

About 10% of the population have distraction challenges, other wise known as ADHD or VAST (Variable Attention Stimulus Trait). Just the type of people looking for a little help with focus!

[email protected] Entrepreneur Will Henshall: Adult ADHD!

One day Will got a call from ADHD expert Dr. Ned Hallowell (who has ADHD himself).

Dr. Hallowell was calling to tell Will that he used the [email protected] service while writing his most recent book on ADHD ‘’Driven to Distraction at Work’. 

Will was amazed, and took the opportunity to invite Dr. Hallowell to join the [email protected] science team.

Will Henshall of Focus@Will in his office

As they spent time together, it didn’t take long before Dr. Hallowell exclaimed: ‘Oh, you are one of us!’

When Will asked what he meant, he said ‘You have ADHD!’

He asked Will a few questions to confirm this informal ADHD diagnosis:

  • ‘If you drink coffee, what happens?’ ‘Oh, it makes me sleepy.’
  • ‘Are you good under pressure?’ ‘Yeah, I am really good under pressure.’
  • ‘Are you a start up entrepreneur?’   ‘I am!’

‘You’ve got ADHD.’ said Dr. Hallowell.

ADHD Entrepreneur: Calm in Chaos

Learning he had ADHD gave Will Henshall new insight into his family and all the successful people he has met.

“There is a stigma with having ADHD… there shouldn’t be.  It just means that to work and to be productive you just need more things happening in your surroundings.’

Will Henshall on Productivity Straight Talk Podcast

For example, he knows a very successful Google engineer who has multiple things happening while he works.

He listens to sports on a radio, while listening to music on another device, and playing an online game with a machine, while he sporadically reads from a book.

man wearing headphones and multitalking in messy environment

When you walk in his office you are bombarded by all these distractions, but it works for him.

Will points out that there are a lot of jobs that require people who can be calm with chaos.

‘How about being a first responder of any kind?  You know, fire, medical, nurses, doctors. These are people, who when they are at work it looks like chaos to the outside person.  Doctor….this! Doctor….that!  Oh my goodness! There is so much going on! Air traffic controllers.  If you are a third grade teacher…. there is a lot going on!’

Will Henshall on Productivity Straight Talk Podcast

People with ADHD are calm in a crisis, and can handle the chaos.

ADHD/VAST Employees: The MVPs

[email protected] has over 2 million users, and many Fortune 500 companies offer the service to all employees.

[email protected] works really well for 20-25% of the employees, who regularly use the service at work. And about 10% of a company’s employees have ADHD (based on responses to the [email protected] intake questionnaire).

To learn more, Will called up the CEO of one company and asked ‘Would you mind telling me who the 25% using [email protected] are? Is there a pattern?’

The CEO laughed and answered ‘It is my C suite. It is my most valuable players. It is my MVPs. It is the people who are kind of difficult to deal with.’

relaxed looking woman wearing headphones at a work desk  in open office

Then he questioned the CEO regarding the correlation with use and payroll cost. He asked what percentage is this core group?

‘They are my most important people. It represents 80% of my payroll.’

And he has found this, repeatedly, in multiple companies. 

diagram of The 80/20 Rule written on a chalkboard

This is the 80/20 rule – 20% of the workforce are the most useful employees. They are being paid 80% of the payroll.

And this 20%? They aren’t the boring, nose to the grindstone people.

It turns out it is the most easily distracted employees who are not only the most creative but also the most productive.

Interested in trying out [email protected]? Here is a link to their website.

Their free trial will let you figure out if you are part of the 80/20 VIP group!

ADHD/VAST Brains: Valuable, Creative, Productive

These employees are VAST (Variable Attention Stimulus Trait) and ADHD minds.

This is more proof that we need rethink our view of ADHD and VAST. Our current view of ADHD is disability based, rather than diversity based. There are benefits that a neuroatypical mind can bring to any situation.

What the [email protected] user experience show us is that VAST/ADHD brains, when properly supported, become the most valuable employees.

ADHD employees: Creative. Productive. Valuable. MVPs. C-suite. Developers. Designers. Entrepreneurs.

As Will Henhall says, they are ‘entrepreneurs, people who make things work like Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Oprah.’

Maybe VAST/ADHD minds can ‘difficult to work with’ at times, but we also see things in a very different way. VAST/ADHD minds make connections that others do not, and come up with new solutions.

We are surrounded by VAST minds changing the world, and once you know what you are looking for you start to realize it.