S1E1: Ayahuasca Inspires CEO Henrik Zillmer to Change His Approach To Leadership

An atheist’s first ayahuasca retreat experience causes a spiritual awakening that liberates him and transforms his business.

Henrik Zillmer went from comedian to Lieutenant in the Danish army, Only to reach a dead end as a successful corporate executive.

Following his call to adventure at 28, he left the corporate world behind and Began his journey as a serial entrepreneur.

Through Y-Combinator he launched his most recent company, AirHelp, which for the last 4 years and with only $17 million in VC funding Has averaged 200% year over year growth.

But there was a problem.

Henrik’s leadership style mirrored what he had learned in the military— To command, control and win at any cost.
He relied on harsh criticism as a way to motivate his employees which worked, up to a point.

At around 250 employees, the collateral damage of Henrik’s anger and impatience was threatening the business. On top of that, though he was living his dream as a successful founder/CEO, he actually wasn’t happy.

In this episode, you’ll learn how he applied his ayahuasca retreat insights to transform his company culture and personal happiness in a matter of months.

Valuable Insights Shared In This Episode. 


  • 0:00 – 3:10: Episode intro and Guest Introductions.
  • 3:10 – 7:50: How Henrik realizes he’s off his true path and how he got the courage to leave a cushy corporate executive job and start his first startup.
  • 8:28 – 14:48: Henrik talks about his first encounter with psychedelics, leading him to pitch Y-Combinator with an idea for a new company, Airhelp.com. The YC pitch and acceptance story is great!
  • 14:48 – 19:07: After growing Airhelp to a few hundred employees, Henrik realizes his angry command and control leadership style isn’t working. He tries to change his attitude but can’t stop micromanaging.  This led him to want to join an executive coaching program that included an ayahuasca retreat in Peru. Will ayahuasca help him let go of his deep seeded need to control everything?
  • 19:07 – 29:15: Henrik’s first ayahuasca ceremony is the most gut wrenching experience of his life. “Ayahuasca killed me that night.” Henrik shared how his ayahuasca ego-death experience led to an extraordinary change.
  • 29:15 – 35:10: Just two days later, Henrik, an atheist, experiences his second ayahuasca ceremony, and with it his first profound spiritual experience.
  • 35:10 – 41:02: Henrik discusses the powerful tools he gained from his new spiritual perspective.
  • 41:02 – 47:49: Henrik talks about his integration process and the changes he implemented in his company and leadership. He is no longer the angry command and control leader.
  • 47:49 – 51:03: Henrik shares the value he found in continuing to work with ayahuasca twice a year.
  • 51:03 – 55:05: Final insights and podcast resources! 

Next Steps

Listen to these ayahuasca podcast episodes that showcase transformative experiences from our ayahuasca retreat and the prep & integration coaching we provide for founders.

Learn more about Psychedelic-assisted Executive coaching

Learn about our next Peruvian Amazon Ayahuasca Mastermind Program

Scroll to Top