Last year the MIT technology review covered a nutraceutical company called Elysium Health that has launched a product called "Basis" which has been marketed as an "anti-ageing pill." Thus far, it's gotten a lot of hype from different media sources, and if one hasn't noticed, "anti-ageing" is one of those ubiquitous marketing terms that describes everything from cosmetics to clothes, and one of the top terms used to describe virtually any product in the United States and the U.K.
Elysium Health's packaging of its nutraceutical supplement resembles a luxury cosmetics brand, perhaps hoping to capture the same demographic that spends hundreds of pounds a year on luxury cosmetics.
Although Elysium Health is a young startup, that is curiously branded like a luxury cosmetics company, with an MIT-educated scientist as one of the founders to give the perception of added legitimacy (who also had previously had been involved with a pharmaceutical company that eventually was acquired by GlaxoSmithKline), I was curious about exactly what was in this "anti-ageing" pill.
On the website, the "Basis" pill is formulated with 2 ingredients: Nicotinamide Riboside and Pterostilbene. According to the FDA, and the European Commission, all dietary supplements have to disclose the dosage of each ingredient in the label. On the Elysium Health website, I was able to browse their label:
Essentially 1 capsule has the equivalent of 125mg Nicotinamide Riboside and 25mg Pterostilbene.
Nicotinamide Riboside (NR) is a form of vitamin B3 that is a precursor to Nicotinamide adeninine dinucleotide [NAD+ (oxidized form) and NADH (reduced form)] which is a coenzyme found in all living cells. Forms of vitamin B3 include Nicotinic Acid (Na, also called Niacin), Nicotinamide (Nam, also called Niacinamide) and Nicotinamide riboside (NR).
NAD+/NADH has been studied for decades, and related to cellular energy and regeneration. Melatonin also preserves NADH levels under oxidative stress.
Cigarettes also contain nicotine (the supposedly "addictive" ingredient that has been given a bad rep in the media) which actually turns into nicotinamide or niacinamide in the body, increasing a feeling of relaxation and calmness. Of course, cigarettes also have other toxins and chemicals such as bleach, that lead to accelerated cellular damage; however the nicotine itself in cigarettes is probably not all different from taking a niacin supplement.
Elysium Health's Basis pill appears to me, an expensive version of what is already available on the market today. If we do a price comparison:
Basis- 1 month supply (60 pills-2xday) $50
Life Extension- Optimized Resveratrol with Nicotinamide Riboside, 1 month supply (30pills-1xday) $31.50
Nature's Way (fast-acting and not time-released) Niacin 100mg, 100 capsules, 50 day supply (100 pills-2xday) $3.84
I also think eating a healthy diet full of the colours of the rainbow- with lots of fruit and vegetables and fresh juices is actually more efficient in absorbing nutrients than taking a bunch of supplements. When I was doing my undergraduate degree, my diet at that time consisted of Caffé Mochas in the morning and afternoon, cereal for breakfast and perhaps a bagel for dinner. This lack of nutrition and high consumption of caffeine lead to sleeping disturbances and feelings of depression and anxiety and when I was referred to university health, no one asked me about my diet; instead they sent me to see the university psychiatrist who was quick to put me on a cocktail of anti-depressants, ADHD and anti-anxiety meds after talking to me for 5 minutes.
Organic fruit and veg box delivery from UK's Riverford Organic Farmers
However, curiously at the time, I was attracted to melatonin and began taking melatonin 10mg nightly, and eventually stopped all the other medications. As a consequence, I recovered from malnutrition, and the other malnutrition-related behavioural disorders I had been suffering from at the time. In addition to lengthening telomeres, melatonin regulates the circadian rhythm and enhances DNA repair, and boosts the production of serotonin during the day, which leads to an elevated feeling of well-being. Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain that is also responsible for the regeneration of the brain during sleep.
I think it is important to know that a single pill isn't going to solve anyone's problems. It really is a combination of exercise, diet and personalised nutrition and supplementation that leads to overall good health.
By Sierra Choi
[Disclaimer: This article is not intended to diagnose nor treat any diseases and are solely the opinions of the author.]
In September 1802, during Thomas Jefferson's first term as President of the United States, a political journalist named James T. Callender wrote an article in a Richmond newspaper that Jefferson had for many years "kept as his concubine, one of his own slaves...Her name is Sally." Callender further wrote that Jefferson had fathered many of her children. Sally Hemings was the daughter of a slave who had been given a home in the Jefferson household.
Political journalist James T. Callender outed Thomas Jefferson during his first term as President of having fathered illegitimate children with one of his slaves, Sally Hemings.
Thomas Jefferson did not offer any public response to the personal attacks and he simply ignored that it ever happened. He went on to serve two terms as President, and post-retrospective DNA evidence later confirmed that the Jefferson family shared DNA with the Hemings children.
The reason why Thomas Jefferson did not condemn the writer who outed him to the public nor did he attempt to even refute the information was due to his preference for "newspapers without government"over "government without newspapers". Jefferson was the key Founding Father who supported a free press:
"The people are the only censors of their governors: and even their errors will tend to keep these to the true principles of their institution. To punish these errors too severely would be to suppress the only safeguard of public liberty....The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter." -Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Edward Carrington, 1787
This has been the tradition that has been in place in America for more than two centuries. It is naturally a given that when people in the public eye are caricatured and their private lives put on display in the name of celebrity gossip, political satire and general sensationalism, the subjects usually have no definable rights into privacy.
In The Right to Privacy (1997) authors Ellen Alderman and Caroline Kennedy give various accounts in which ordinary citizens have come up against intrusions by the government, businesses, news media, their own neighbours, in addition to patients' right to refuse further medical treatment, people suing squelch reporting by the media, and the intrusion of the press into the lives of people- private and public; and the bottom line is that the right to privacy is not a right in the United States. Having grown up in the public eye, Caroline Kennedy writes lucidly about many of these issues, and that a person in the public eye basically has no privacy protections.
Caroline Kennedy, with her father, John F. Kennedy in 1960. Having grown up in the public eye, Caroline writes inThe Right to Privacy that people essentially have no privacy protections under U.S. law.
What might have been left of these illusory privacy rights have been further eroded by government intrusion into the monitoring of private individuals as released in the Edward Snowden documents and the advent of social media networks and search engines which have created an altered perception of online experiences by the active censorship of information and the subsequent creation of a business model that gathers information about people to sell to various businesses.
Peter Thiel has recently published an op-piece in the New York Times entitled: The Online Privacy Debate Won't End With Gawker. Having been outed as gay in 2007 by a Gawker editor before he had been ready to come out to the public, Mr. Thiel took 9 years to plan his revenge, and subsequently fund the lawsuit that would bring the publication down. Although one can certain agree with Mr. Thiel on the various injustices that gay men and women had to navigate through in the post-modern world, I wonder if Mr. Thiel realises that he has opened up the Pandora's box into the true, underlying intrusions of online privacy? From Facebook to Palantir, Mr. Thiel is making an argument against the various companies that have given him the power to take down a publication such as the Gawker. Although the particular case that Mr. Thiel had funded against the Gawker, already had legal precedents (i.e. "being photographed and filmed in a private place without consent"); his actions in the public eye have now cast a doubt upon the social networks and companies that have sold people's private information for a hefty sum.
Thomas Jefferson set a precedent in 1802 that a free press, even if one condemned him or personally attacked him, was a necessary evil for "newspapers without government." In 2016, two hundred and fourteen years later, Peter Thiel has set an entirely new precedent challenging that view.
Peter Thiel writes, "Gawker violated my privacy and cashed in on it." This is true, and one has to sympathise with Mr. Thiel. However, what if all the online users of Facebook and Google said the same thing? "Facebook violated my privacy and cashed in on it?" We could be in for a new revolution, one that puts privacy on the fast-track towards legal reform, and it could be that Mr. Thiel has unwittingly begun a dialogue into the end of social networks and companies like Google, Palantir, doubleclick and many others that financially benefit from tracking and selling users' private information. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos said recently at the Recode conference that "seek revenge and you should dig two graves, one for yourself."
Jeff Bezos, on revenge. Watch video here.
Mr. Bezos has a lot written about him, and probably has developed a thick skin as a consequence. I, myself, probably haven't portrayed him in the best light in the past, but you have to admire a public figure and founder such as Jeff Bezos, who possesses that kind of cool, calm-and-collected Jeffersonian attitude towards the media.
By Sierra Choi
A few months ago, I became acquainted with Sandy Wright, who was just on his way to do an elective placement at a paediatric hospital in Argentina as the final part of his medical degree at University College London, my alma mater. When he got back, we had time to catch up and he told me about the different projects he has been working on since then.
Creative entrepreneur Sandy Wright, taking location shots before filming. Sandy recently graduated from UCL with two medical degrees.
Although Sandy recently graduated with two medical degrees (MBBS BSc), his main passion is working in the creative industries. He has launched two startups: the first is the creative consultancy, Little Less Known, which he co-founded two years ago with a couple of friends as he was doing his bachelors degree. Little Less Known works with independent UK businesses to champion unique local spots that have not reached mass appeal. They also work with entrepreneurs and creatives who want to showcase their startups or skills. Founders and businesses are filmed in a distinctively post-modern way that defies the typical corporate video.
Belgrave Feast, part of Leeds Indie Food Festival. Watch video here.
Some of the Little Less Known businesses they have covered include Ernest Wright & Sons, a traditional scissors makers in Sheffield; Duke Studios, a co-working space in Leeds to Hoxton North, a coffee shop and wine bar in their hometown of Harrogate. They have also profiled artists such as Horace Panter, who is also a bassist from the band "The Specials"; and worked with startups such as PropertyScape. In addition, the team at Little Less Known have also filmed and produced videos for food and music festivals, charities, crowdfunding campaigns and local events around London that cater to entrepreneurs.
House of Genius, monthly networking event where budding entrepreneurs present their business ideas and receive honest feedback. Watch video here.
Sandy also subscribes to Doctorpreneurs, an online platform that brings together a compendium of doctors around the world who are keen on going into entrepreneurship and focuses on MedTech health care startups. Sandy applied to go into medical school when he was eighteen years old, and it was the combination of the academic, clinical and science components all rolled into one which first drew him towards medicine. In his third year, he focused on pharmacology, a broad subject that exposed him to the fundamental principles of drug-receptor interactions as well as allowing him to apply pharmacological principles in the laboratory.
We had a very extended chat about the pharmaceutical industry and Sandy tells me that a book that really changed his outlook was by the British physician Ben Goldacre who had written Bad Pharma: How Drug Companies Mislead Doctors and Harm Patients, which dealt with various issues within the pharma industry.
One of the differences between the U.S. and the U.K. is that although pharmaceutical companies can literally "buy" the opinions of doctors in the U.S., in the U.K. doctors must declare all conflicts of interest, especially if they are taking commissions from the pharmaceutical companies to endorse their drugs, and remove themselves from any decision making bodies as outlined in the ethical guidance from the General Medical Council.
British physician Ben Goldacre is the author of Bad Pharma, a book that dissects the various corruptions within the pharmaceutical industries.
As a medical student at UCL, the concept of polypharmacy (ie, multiple prescriptions and medications) is something that needs to be regularly reviewed by medical professionals. In Sandy's training, doctors have been taught to question whether a patient needs to be on multiple medications? Do the side effect profiles benefit and outweigh the risks? The general perception of his medical training was more on the stress on the importance of actual benefit for the patient as a whole to ensure patients aren't on unnecessary drugs that may actually cause more harm than good. This seems to be the opposite of medical practice in the U.S., which has been criticised as propagating a pill-popping culture.
We also had a brief off-topic chat about homeopathic medicines, and Sandy tells me that is something not generally taught at U.K. medical schools. He emphasised how medications provided on the NHS are normally supported by a body of high quality trials and evidence. Often this is lacking with complementary and alternative medications. What Sandy found more exciting was the exciting advancements in personalized medicine and targeted treatments, particularly the new proton beam therapy centre currently being built at University College London Hospitals (UCLH).
A model cross-section of the new proton beam therapy centre at UCLH that is currently undergoing construction.
Sandy recently launched a second startup that began as an extension to Little Less Known, but became its own entity over the past year. By this coming December, his second company will launch a mobile application called STAMP that allows users to discover and experience the best independent places they have been to around cities in the U.K. He intends for the app to be available in Leeds, where he is from, as a testing ground before becoming available in London.
Little Less Known currently offers a video package for early stage companies. From £1000, the team will film for a day and produce two videos. The first is a Little Less Known style video that focuses on the Founders and the product in order to showcase the startup. This video is usually distributed to various online platforms. The second is a promotional video for the company to spec as they wish. This could be a promotional video for their website of a specific series of content on their product.
I asked Sandy what his plans were for 5-10 years in the future? Would he be a doctor at National Health Service (NHS) or would he take his current startups further? Although his intellectual curiosity had taken him to one of the best medical schools in the U.K., many junior doctors are becoming disillusioned with the health service due to the recent government changes in NHS contracts as a result of government plans to establish a seven day service. Although there are merits to this idea, Sandy tells me currently there isn't a credible plan to ensure there is appropriate cover and support within a seven day service. Ultimately, this would result in a lower quality of care for people in general, as there wouldn’t be enough healthcare staff, and without proper staff cover, there's a risk doctors would be overstretched and overworked.
The team at Little Less Known, co-founders Scott Quinn (left), Ben Richards (middle) and Sandy Wright (right).
Ultimately though, Sandy's passions have steered him towards becoming a founder of two creative companies, and he hopes to grow them organically into successful businesses within the next decade.
By Sierra Choi
To check out more cool videos of independent businesses by Little Less Known, go here. Visit STAMP or follow @stamptheapp to find out more about the app he is launching. If you're interested in having a chat with Sandy, he can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
For a portfolio company to reach a successful exit, it is vital that the finance function is firing on all cylinders, fully supporting on best-in-class governance and reporting. Most importantly, the finance function must be able to monitor and influence strategic metrics so that the company is hitting the milestones needed to make the targeted exit a reality.
From my days as a VC/PE investor, we never invested if we had not already the vision of what the company needed look like at exit. We also had a list of potential future buyers prepared even before investing. We considered that while we were investing in the company in its current form, “AS IS” (to use process analysis parlance), our job was to enable it to reach the “TO BE” form to allow the best exit. Finance is the team that measures progress using various metrics. These metrics include the obvious strategic ones - revenue, margin, overheads, but also will include Balanced Scorecard measurements in each cost/profit center which link very closely to strategy (e.g. new-users, churn, customer complaints, etc.) Progress and success measurements on each strategic project will also be reported.
Often the finance teams in young growth companies are too busy surviving from one month end close to the next to allow them to do the value-add business analysis – especially when you cannot afford many analysts and also the data they need comes largely from the same month end close data! I looked before at defining examples of these KPIs and now I look at how to buy the time for the finance function to deliver quality analysis whilst at the same time improving its performance to the rest of the firm.
What defines a finance function performing badly? I believe it is the presence of any of the following symptoms:
a) Debtor accounts that contain a large amount of future bad debts.
b) Suppliers who are behind on payments schedules which will cause bad future payment terms.
c) Inventory which is inaccurate and thus risking a write-down.
d) Fixed asset inaccuracies – again risking a write-down.
First Stop - Perform a Root Cause Analysis: There is a reason you are getting the results above – It will be a function of your processes, inputs and expectations. Firstly, I look to home in on the reasons, performing a root-cause analysis to roughly attribute the current bad outcomes to these. Hence I can focus on solving the right things with will have the largest bang for my time buck.
Typically the finance team issues are a combination of:
With any task – either someone can’t do it (i.e. time or expertise related) or they are not motivated to do it. Each of the above problem areas could have a time deficient component or an expertise deficient component either potentially coupled with a lack of motivation by the team. Firstly, you need to find which it is; it is most often a blend. Lack of expertise -> leads to time wasting -> leads to pressure -> and morale dropping and the circle continues. Low morale is easy to spot in team meetings by how engaged with contributions and upbeat colleagues are.
One good test I use (taken from High Output Management by Andy Groves): Consider “if someone’s life depended on it - could they achieve the task in question?” If the answer is “Yes” then it is a motivational issue in the main that is present.
The Five Steps
This has worked for me in situations with all the problems described above present - I find they are mainly a mixture of lack of time and lack of know-how mixed with some leadership/motivational issues.
Prerequisite to solving: The team needs as a leader; someone experienced who has been in wars – (e.g. a finance expert who knows how to grind out results with expertise and an ability to drive process cross-functionally in the company). This leader needs support from the CEO for cross-functional changes.
Step 1: Find time for the finance team to perform real finance work.
(Part A) Don’t let payments rule finance – set payment runs periodically and set company terms with all suppliers – no exceptions (30 days net is typical). I’ve worked with companies in the past that have let the finance function erode into payables function only. How does this happen? A company may be growing strongly – and thus everything is urgent. Growth fever has taken over and requests for payments occurring first daily, then hourly start to eat into the finance team’s time.
The pressure and demands on the finance team mount. Urgent payments are like a drug it is difficult to wean a company off. Slowly but surely without management intervention and strong policies – Finance has no time to do actual finance – just payments. (The drug addiction analogy is not from personal experience however the addiction to urgent payment runs is).
(Part B) Don’t let month end take the full month. I’ve seen companies closing April in July. Such a strain on a finance team working that far in the past while also dealing with the present. How to fix? Run bottleneck analysis on month end. (Israeli scientist Eli Goldratt developed the Theory of Constraints which is worth reading and using) How it works? Simple – if your last closing action is taking place on day 8 – there is no point moving a different closing action from day 4 to day 3 – you have achieved nothing - focus on the day 8 actions movement first! Move day 8 action to day 2 then tackle the day 4 action. Rinse and repeat. Your maximum performance can only be your slowest activity – it will hold all else back. The beauty of bottleneck analysis.
Know your enemy: Break month end activities into ones which have internal dependencies (e.g. the finance team itself) or external dependencies (e.g. suppliers & other functions). Also I find it good to analyse which activities are process volume based (e.g. bank reconciliations) versus which are more thought and opinion based (e.g. accruals, provisions estimates). This will allow estimation of workload and skillset needed and allow planning or resource which can be moved around your team. Get commitments on paper (e.g. email) on promised delivery from the external dependencies – their word is their bond.
Many month end activities can be moved to the last week and lessen the spike in workload in the first week (e.g depreciation and accrual calculations).
If bank recs are done weekly – then on month end there is also only a week to do – not four.
Step 2: Define what good service by finance means to other company functions – set up SLAs (Service Level Agreements) to deliver (i.e. Payment runs once per month with cut-off 3 days before, agreement on how long it will take to process expense claims). However there will also be rules for the other functions to adhere to in this SLA to allow finance to batch (e.g. no expenses older than 30 days) This helps keep accounts up to date. Once these rules are in place – batching of work with zero interruptions can occur immediately and with that great efficiency – buying time for the finance team to do higher value finance work.
Step 3: “Fail to plan - plan to fail”. Use of checklists and calendars for month end processes, reconciliations and compliance. Finance work is 75% repetitive - it can be planned to a fault - so the spare time for more creative finance can be located. Run against the checklist like it’s the bible. Setting up different calendars for compliance is useful and can be input for a year ahead – (e.g. Tax returns, VAT, Statutory payments for salaries).
Checklists I use are:
Step 4: Catch up on reconciliations as soon as possible – How to do this? There’s no time! Well if you did step 1 there should now be at least some time!
Work has a devious way of filling itself on the time available. Not all employees will put their hands up and come running looking for more tasks. The right blend of pressure and competition is helpful.
So another way to find time is to set KPIs to monitor team performance and look for improvement from them, improvements led by the team for their own pride. This can be done by the raw motivation of being monitored to see can last week’s performance be beaten however the real magic is in motivating the team to improve their own individual area processes themselves and gain continuous savings by changing to process. As the leader the job is to assist and train on how analyse processes and remove steps which really add nothing (e.g. In one firm I had spent time with, we had a third check on a payment run journal voucher which was absolutely null and void and was only given a cursory look but yet took up time - removed!). A good method is to draw a process map (free tools such as PUT work well) and look at each step in a brainstorming session and ask “what purpose does this step cover?”. Pointless steps will become apparent.
To monitor KPIs – measure the team for a period (4-5 weeks) as a benchmark – and then you can find going forward where in the team there is bandwidth to assist on reconciliations. Process work is easier to monitor and get targets for than more analytical work – yet both must be monitored. Process work example – processing payments daily – time per invoice is a useful metric. Analytical work – month end comparison to budget and previous month.
Catch up on important reconciliations first – the highest value accounts with the most movement and thus the highest risk to the balance sheet if incorrect.
Once reconciliations are up to date – set up a periodic checklist with responsibilities for the team to stick to. As one of my early mentors said to me –“Make every month end close to the same quality as a year end and the year end will be a breeze”.
Step 5: Instill continuous improvement of the finance function output. Instill a Kaizen Culture in the finance team. Run regular training sessions. I liked to do once per week on a Friday evening. If morale is low this can be difficult to achieve. How do you raise morale? If steps 1-4 are working – a finance team will start to take some pride in itself as they see improvements. I talk to my teams about accounting to world standard – that makes me proud. Most employees like to work in an environment where morale is high. Employees like to feel their skillsets are improving and that they are part of a valued team and a valued company. In previous roles I have run simple competitions for finance where an improvement to process buys the winner a half-day on a Friday once per month and the pride of winning! The goal is to improve the finance team as much like a game to be won as possible!
Perseverance and strong leadership with a continued focus on the “To Be” vision of the finance team through the hard times will engender confidence in the team. The structure of the team and the split between financial and management accounting is another area to consider.
Now that things are under control and you have some time: Review controls – don’t let all the effort come crumbling down due to bad controls – more on that another day!
by John Rowland
One of the most important things for an early stage company that already has a product or market traction and looking to raise capital into their series A or B is to make certain that VCs understand exactly what the company does. This means, not obfuscating their technology with technical lexicon and showing VCs through a visual medium exactly a) how the company will impact at least 1 billion people or b) through an entertaining narrative how people will interact with the product. Every single company that has successfully raised their series A has had a visual narrative- either a short clip or a video that tells you the company story, the product or a story about the founders. Of course, just because you have a great product video doesn't mean you will successfully raise funds either, but it is a necessary step in fundraising. Similarly if you have great technology but your website is a throwback from the 1990s, it's time to update. With website design platforms such as Weebly and WebFlow, there really is no excuse to have a website that looks like it was made from the early days of AOL, tripod and GeoCities, especially if you are a technology or biotech company.
Fintech startup Revolut is one of many currency exchange startups that have launched in London; however, they distinguished themselves early on to target the younger demographic and successfully raised £13.8 million this year in their Series A. Watch video here.
In the U.K., all companies present their ideas with a short one-page summary of their product or financial projections and a very long Information Memorandum (IM). The IM is a long document that is a hybrid of a business plan with detailed information about the company that more closely resembles a Masters thesis. I have seen some IMs that are 100 pages in length, and I have read through every one I have been sent very carefully, but I'll be honest here- in my experience, VCs, angels, and other investors probably don't even look through the first five pages. Instead, they send it to their assistants or associates to read through and give them the summary. This is something similar that also happens in feature film. Producers rarely read through a screenplay. There are some Producers who read every screenplay- such as some of my colleagues at the Producers Guild of America, but it is more likely that the Producers will send the screenplay to their assistants to read and have them write coverage on it and either make a recommendation or a pass. Of course, the IM is important to have, but it is not the most important aspect of successfully raising into the Series A or B simply because most people do not base their investment decisions on the IM. Most investors immediately base their decision on the short clip or video, because it is an easy way to understand the product and the people behind the product. As there has to be a story present in the slide deck, there has to be a story about the company, and it has to be gripping and engaging.
Instead of obfuscating their technology with technical jargon, Lyst created a visual narrative of how their big data mining technology works, making it easy for investors to understand how their startup is different from other startups in the eCommerce space. They successfully raised $14million in Series B and $40million in Series C last year. Watch video here.
Practically no early stage company in the U.K. or U.S. has successfully raised into their Series A or Series B without a 1) engaging product video 2) video about the Founders 3) 10 page slide deck. Of course, there might be some exceptions, especially companies in stealth mode, but most likely they had some sort of internal, non-public short clip or video that probably captivated investors from the start as well; and others who might have an endorsement from a high profile political official or startups that already have a long list of corporate clients might get on very well without a visual narrative. Obviously there are other important aspects in the fundraising process as well, such as due diligence, and fact-checking information in the IM, and any peer-reviewed articles etc., but this is after the initial clip or video has already piqued the investors' interest. In addition, financial projections are so easy to produce nowadays that many startups and early stage companies use free or subscription based online services to produce them. When I spoke with investors located in both the U.S. and the U.K., they were more interested in Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) and Life Time Value (LTV) calculations than the 5 year financial projections of companies raising their Series A. Depending on the number of assumptions, financial projections can either be completely inaccurate or too conservative in their final analysis. However, CAC and LTV comes more into focus and becomes very integral as capital is raised because investors use this as a basis for growth. If your CAC value is greater than your LTV, then this raises a red flag.
Instead of inundating their site with complex medical research studies, Big Health instead created a series of visual flow charts for investors to understand their health strategy which helps people achieve health without pills or medications. They also used case studies as Sally above to help investors understand how their system works. Big Health raised $12million in their Series B last month. Watch video here.
It is also good to have an endorsement of your product or a case study ready. It goes without saying that if your product or service is being used by a) another famous founder b) or a general famous person, then by all means, mention it. In the U.K., there is this pervasive kind of "downplaying" one's achievements or attempting not to seem like one is bragging or name-dropping and that is good and well; and that is one of the nicest things about people in the U.K., the inherent humility within the population, but with investors, it's better to be forward. When you're raising your series A or B, humility doesn't really factor in and confidence wins. This isn't to say you should be arrogant and not be prone to rationale or be able to take criticism. However, in a series A, millions of pounds are going to be transferred into your company and a founder CEO who is certain of how she or he will be utilising those funds will the ones investors give their money to. This is one of the reasons why one company A and another company B (who produces the same service or product) might raise £1million and £20million respectively, even though their financials might be nearly identical and they have a similar strategy of growth and expansion.
Although medical robotics is a crowded space with many startups launching in this sector, Cambridge Medical Robotics gave a sense of their workspace by introducing their team and workflow through this video a couple of months before successfully raising $20.3million in their Series A this past July. Watch video here.
Of course, it goes without saying that some founders prefer not to raise so much capital so that they will keep control of the shares of the company, and that is probably the wise thing to do as well; but if you plan to raise capital into the millions, then it's best to keep your self-doubt and indecision limited to the services of your therapist and make a point to be consistent, dependable and as open and approachable as possible. Some founders might get tired of going on "investor dates" and answering the same questions over and over, but this is part of the fundraising process. If you're the type who dislikes talking to people, you might consider having a co-founder who actually likes talking to people. Therefore, you can focus on your product or service, while the other founder keeps up client and investor relations. It goes without saying that having an indecisive or impatient and snappy attitude is not going to win anyone over, even if you're a genius.
By Sierra Choi
The clothes we wear often reflect the impression we want to make onto the world. Oftentimes, people are unnecessarily judged by the clothes they wear. Paul Graham, one of the former directors of yCombinator has spoken in his blog about how he prefers California to New York City because he is able to walk into a posh restaurant in California wearing just jeans and a t-shirt and still receive excellent service, whereas in New York, he is treated with disdain. In a parallel manner, anyone caught wearing a full suit and tie will probably be subject to having rocks thrown at his car in Silicon Valley; as the uniform there has always been about having a nonchalant, relaxed cool style as there is a pervasive cultural distrust of anyone who is too dressed up. This kind of sensibility is probably closer to the U.K.'s institutional art world, in which people are expected to dress down at any event or private view, and often people achieve status by wearing the same ropey, old clothes everyday. However, this old attitude might be due for a re-invention as smart fabrics become more pervasive in our society.
If we examine where fabrics, textiles and clothes are moving towards in the next generation, the marriage of art and science has created an interesting array of smart textiles that could change the way we perceive clothes.
Kazuhide Sekiyama, founder of Spiber, has been working on synthetic spider silk since 2007 and recently launched a spider silk moon suit through the North Face, available in Japan for $1000. His startup was the first to develop and launch this material- which has been engineered from a combination of proteins by recreating the DNA designs of spiders in an artificial environment that does not depend on petroleum like other synthetic fibers such as polyester and nylon.
Kazuhide Sekiyama, Spiber Moon Parka, 2016. Watch video here.
"Elastic but strong, spider silk is equal to steel in tensile strength and much tougher than carbon fiber." -Spiber
This makes spider silk ideal for a variety of applications that could go beyond the fashion world of textiles towards medical, military and scientific applications; in addition to being environmentally sustainable. Likewise, a U.S. clone company to Spiber cropped up in 2009 in the form of Bolt Threads, located in California to mass produce this spider silk technology for the United States. Currently, Bolt Threads is teaming up with Patagonia to produce spider silk parkas.
In the near future, all our leather might be derived from pineapples. Piñatex, pineapple leather (above).
Another fabic in our new horizon is made from pineapples. Ananas Anam is a UK based startup based at the Royal College of Art that has developed an entirely new type of leather- Piñatex, which is derived from pineapples. Dr. Carmen Hijosa began her research in the Philippines and Spain before being based in the UK. Piñatex is made from pineapple fibres that are extracted from the leaves in the decortication process. This environmentally sustainable process leaves behind by-products that can be converted into organic fertilizer or bio-gas and the extraction of the fibres undergo an industrial process into a nonwoven textile.
Leather traditionally has appealed to both the luxury world and the population at large, despite the fact that its production entails an unsustainable process of animal farming and cruelty and its tanning process toxic to the environment that often negatively impacts the health of workers involved in the tanning process. Although many alternatives to leather have been produced in recent decades, from pleather to synthetic leather derived from petroleum products to cork leather to even laboratory produced leather by Modern Meadow, a Brooklyn based startup that produces synthetic leather derived from animal DNA which recently raised $40 million in funding; Dr. Carmen Hijosa has produced a new kind of sustainable leather that can be said to be far superior to animal leather, with similar suppleness, texture, breathability and durability.
The production of leather has been for centuries unchanged, an environmentally unsustainable practice that creates toxic by-products, waste and encourages wanton animal cruelty; a practice that has often been quietly swept under the rug in the name of luxury goods and high fashion. Innovative startups like Ananas Anam and Modern Meadow are now challenging that production method by creating hi-tech fibres without the unnecessary slaughter of animals.
The Gaze has always been a subject for artists working in visual media, architecture, urban design and multimedia. How people look at objects and how objects are objectified has integrated concepts in gender studies, sociology and aesthetic design. Ying Gao is a Montreal-based designer and professor who has produced a pair of dresses that light up when someone looks at them. The dresses have an eye tracking camera that activates the dresses to change shape and illuminate.
Ying Gao, eye-tracking illuminating dresses, 2013
Integrating the same technology, Behnaz Farahi is a UX designer and architect based at the University of Southern California, who has used eye-tracking cameras to produce a 3D printed jacket that resembles the plumage of birds that move when people are looking at it.
Behnaz Farahi, the Caress of the Gaze, eye-tracking jacket, 2015. Watch video here.
Lauren Bowker, a graduate of Manchester School of Art and Royal College of Art, has launched her smart fabrics line of jackets that react to the environment and changes colour in her London based startup the Unseen. Her clothes and accessories are now available at Selfridges.
Lauren Bowker, the Unseen, chromic colour-changing jackets, 2015. Watch video here.
Chromic colour-changing fabrics were popular in the 80s and 90s and now making a comeback with many designers integrating these fabrics into user interaction with the environment.
Whereas artists are experimenting with the Gaze, scientists have been playing with the idea of invisibility.Developed in 2003, Japanese scientists at the University of Tokyo have been developing a hi-tech cloak, made from nanoparticles that reflect light, so that it appears that the wearer is invisible. A camera fitted on the back of the cloak records what happens behind the wearer and projects the image on the front, creating the illusion that the person is invisible. The researchers in this area hope to develop these fabrics for use in augmented reality for a variety of different applications.
Dr. Susumu Tachi, University of Tokyo's Tachi lab, Invisibility Cloak, 2009. Play video here.
Other applications of nanoparticle fabrics have included bullet proof clothes, and waterproof and stainless clothes. However, the problem with nanoparticles is that they are easily absorbed by the skin's dermal layer, and might potentially negatively affect processes in the human body. Nanofabrics often include an external layer of silica and titanium dioxide, with the latter element causing many reported health issues. In addition,nanoparticles in cosmetics and interior paints have been known to cause cancer and autoimmune diseases. It might be that nanoparticles in clothing may not be ready for mass production just yet, although its usages have varied military applications; for consumers, we may want to wait until it has been proven to be safe to wear.
However, the trend seems to be clear; we are moving towards synthetic versions of animal skins, and away from the farming of animals to be used in our clothes, bags and accessories.
By Sierra Choi