We’re more aware of our health than we ever have been. Smart watches, fitness trackers, smart home scales, monitors and our mobile phones give us access to an incredible wealth of information about our wellbeing.
But what about what’s happening on the inside?
It was this question that inspired Sarah Bolt and her business partner, Chris Baines, to start Forth, a company that provides this missing piece of the puzzle through quick and simple blood tests done at home the results of which can be tracked through a personal online health dashboard.
The company is experiencing fast growth in a new emerging sector, so we caught up with Sarah to discuss the challenges of running a health startup in this marketplace.
Knowing Your Audience
“At Forth, we’re very clear on who our target audience is,” Sarah advises.
“Generally, if people are unwell or exhibiting symptoms, they will generally go to their GP rather than order an online test. And that’s absolutely right. Our audience, on the other hand, is the Fitbit wearer – the health conscious in the population who want to proactively track their inner health and the impact their their diet and lifestyle is having.
It’s knowing our audience that helps us to better plan our marketing, make sure we’re offering the right products and that, in turn, continues to help us thrive. If we weren’t clear, it would make it difficult for us to get the right messaging out.”
Takeaway: Research your audience and make sure everything you do, from product launches to web copy, is tailored to them.
“Technology is moving fast and our target audience certainly expects our products to keep up,” Sarah tells us.
“Resting on your laurels in any business is dangerous, of course. But for us, it’s imperative we innovate. Our customers are tech savvy. So we look constantly to ensure we’re providing the best tracking platform in the market and a service which parallels the speed of Amazon. You don’t get a digital dashboard from your doctor, in-fact you are lucky if your GP even gives you your blood test results.
We believe that not only should people have easy access and ownership of their data but by giving them this it will encourage them to take more responsibility for their own health, and ultimately help to reduce the demands on our NHS. Our aim is to use technology to demystify health and give reminders and tips to people on how they can take action to improve.”
Takeaway: Never stop looking ahead.
“Gaining traction for a new consumer health service requires capital, so it is crucial you find seed investment as early as you can” advises Sarah.
“We knew very little about how to gain investment at the beginning and boot-strapped the company to the point where we had a live beta platform. Finding that ‘angel investor’ was tough particularly as the lab-to-consumer market is new to the UK and not yet established, so we needed to find an investor(s) who believed in our vision and would take that leap of faith with us. We ended up finding almost 300 of them through an equity crowdfunding platform and after a successful first raise we are now working with a group of advisors to secure our second.
Takeaway: `It’s never too early to start looking for investment’
Health Startup Challenges
“Every startup comes with its challenges,” says Sarah. “But what makes it much easier to overcome them is a genuine passion and belief in your product. And what makes it even better is that we are helping people to live healthier, longer lives. So it is no surprise that we love what we do.”