We want to introduce you to one of the hottest startups of 2019, Thriva. Thriva launched in 2015 with a mission to put optimal health in anyone’s hands by providing tools and actionable insights, based on the latest research. Thriva offers clinical-grade, at-home health tests that empower people with information to make positive changes to improve their health. Having already raised over £6 million pounds in investment, the rate at which Thriva expects to grow over the next two years is going to be seriously impressive. We caught up with one-third of the brains behind the health-tech startup, Eliot Brooks. Whether you’re wanting advice on investment or how to get started, Eliot will be a fountain of both knowledge and inspiration to really get you going…
Name: Eliot Brooks
Age: 28 and one quarter
Where’s home? Hackney, London
Profession: Chief Operating Officer & Co-founder
Company Name: Thriva
If you went to university was it a clear-cut path what you were going to do afterwards?
Because I studied Economics and Management lots of my classmates were very focused on going into either investment banking or management consulting. I remember in my second year everyone suddenly began talking about what internships they had secured for the summer, then in my final year the talk was about which graduate schemes everyone was going into. A graduate scheme at a blue chip bank never really appealed to me. I wanted to work in a smaller company to get more hands on experience, and was very lucky to find a role at a small Private Equity fund. The industry doesn’t typically take graduates, so it was a steep learning curve, but hugely valuable.
What is Thriva and when did you launch?
Thriva launched in 2015 with a mission to put optimal health in anyone’s hands by providing tools and actionable insights, based on the latest research. We offer clinical-grade, at-home health tests that empower people with information to make positive changes to improve their health.
How did the idea for Thriva come about?
We all saw the depth of information that could be used from having your blood taken, but thought the process to obtaining it was poor, with results taking weeks to obtain, then being presented in a way that did not educate the patient, nor help them to self manage their own health.
We drew on their collective experiences creating consumer products to found Thriva.
What were the initial challenges in getting the ball rolling for Thriva?
Like most start-ups getting that first bit of traction was really quite tricky, particularly as we were a product in the health space. Customers need to trust you with their health data. We tried quite a few different things in the early days to try and get customers, but not much initially worked. It was only after speaking with the first 100 or so customers we had managed to get, that we then iterated on the product and messaging, to refine it and start generating good growth.
Were there any health and safety regulations that you needed to follow considering the fact that Thriva offers ‘do it yourself’ blood tests?
The physical kits are CE marked and the labs hold UKAS accreditation, so we worked closely with these suppliers to make sure the product is used in the right way. That means researching and evaluating appropriate tests that we offer, and also working to make sure our instructions yield the best results for customers using the kits. We also have a rigorous screening process for the Doctors reporting on results to ensure all their qualifications are up to date, and that their work is audited by other Doctors to maintain and improve quality.
There are three co-founders in Thriva, but it was Hamish and yourself who began exploring the idea at the very beginning. When did you bring in Tom (your third co-founder) and how did you do this?
Hamish and I had begun researching the idea for a few months before meeting with Tom to discuss him coming onboard. We always knew we needed someone technical as a co-founder to help get the business off the ground. Thankfully in Tom we found that person, but also someone who is incredibly commercial and understands Start-ups. Once we began talking it was immediately obvious that those few months meant nothing in the grand scheme of the big business we wanted to build, and so we all became equal partners in Thriva. That’s been a consistent theme of the last 3 years in how we reach decisions and has been fundamental to the success to date.
Thriva has done three rounds of investment. Please can you share what these rounds of investment entailed and a piece of advice for each, that someone else seeking investment would find helpful.
Angel round (£220k) – we used this money to get the business off the ground and get some early signs of traction. Retrospectively we should have waited longer and hit more proof points before trying to raise. It’s super painful to wait as you want to run at things, but taking a big dilution in ownership early can cause problems later
Seed round (£1.5m) – this round is about getting to ‘product market fit’, you’re looking to show investors you can make the business model work and it is ready to scale. VCs will rarely turn down a meeting (or the 2nd/3rd) because a primary motivation is FOMO. So unless you’ve done your research on who is the right partner at the right firm, you’ll waste 90% of your time, you should take a targeted approach.
Series A (£6m) – at Series A you’re taking investment to start rapidly scaling the business. Build relationships for this round from day one (but tell them you’re not looking for their money until it comes time). You can’t retrofit a long-standing relationship. And you’re asking for millions of £££ so relationships and excitement for what you’re doing counts for everything
Was seeking out mentorship important to you for Thriva? If so, how did you scout out and approach your mentor
I’m super fortunate to have worked with some fantastic people before Thriva, many of whom I still see and will pick their brains. If you find someone you enjoy working with or for, work hard to keep in touch as it can be invaluable. Furthermore, with London having such a strong entrepreneurial scene there’s also a number of really good networks to meet other founders. There’s a strong emphasis on paying forward amongst founders, so thankfully I’ve managed to meet a few successful people who have been able to help a lot along the way.
How big is the Thriva team currently and how much bigger do you expect the team to grow in the next 12 months?
We’re currently 36 people and we will probably add another 10-20 in the next 12 months.
What is the hardest thing about running a startup?
The uncertainty of the future can put a lot of stress on you, and as a result, on your relationships be it with friends, family or a partner. You constantly worrying about running out of money as a business and what impact that may have on the team. People have trusted you with a period of their career and their development, you want to make sure you provide them with security, but also create a challenging and supportive environment with an opportunity to grow. Looking after your team is undoubtedly the thing that keeps you up at night.
Any monumental mishaps along the way that you can laugh about now?
In the run up to launch, we ordered all the packaging to my parent’s house so we could store it in the garage. I mistakenly forgot to confirm the delivery time, and so a huge truck showed up at midnight expecting to be delivering to a warehouse and I was nowhere to be seen. Thankfully my tipsy dad and brother-in-law had just gotten home from the pub and were able to help the driver unload the boxes. That’s just one of many slip-ups we’ve made along the way, but they are the memories that stick with you.
What piece of advice would you give to anyone wanting to start up a startup in the health sector?
You need to really spend time understanding the health landscape, particularly if you want to work with traditional healthcare (e.g. the NHS or insurers), but also if you want to compliment it. You need to develop a clear view for yourself, investors and healthcare professionals as to where you are operating in the space (e.g. primary care vs preventative) and what problem you are solving.
What future excitements can you share with us that are in the pipeline for Thriva?
We’re spending a lot of time looking at how we help our customers actually improve their health, so this involves redefining what improvement is, how we measure it and then what support we provide to people. We’re also looking at further big growth drivers, so exploring the potential for a corporate offering and what international markets make sense.
What has been your best moment so far as a result of setting up Thriva?
We’ve had some fantastic offsites over the few years. They are a really special moment to get the team together and unified around our plans, plus have an excellent laugh at the same time.
Just for fun…
Three startups U30 I admire are…
WeGym (Joshy Uwadiae) – I’m a customer of WeGym and love their ethos and branding. It’s great to workout outdoors and has done wonders for my physical and mental health since joining the WeGym crew.
Kiroku (Hannah Burrows) – I can’t confess to have used this product as I’m not a dentist, but it’s great to see another aspect of healthcare being improved by technology. Plus, Hannah is a dentist by background and I think it’s super important to have innovation being led by professionals from the industry.
In your twenties the three things I tend to think about are…Turning 30 (urgh), what I’m doing this weekend, and am I doing the right thing?
The Twenty Mile Club is….Shedding the light on the nitty gritty of starting a company!