When I gingerly held the little spring-loaded plastic device which would shortly be hurtling an extremely sharp needle towards my finger at a rate of knots, I wondered momentarily about Theranos. Here was a company led by a turtle-necked founder who’d promised angels would dance upon a pin, thus writing your future. Or, perhaps more accurately, the world upon a small spec of blood on a pin. It was a high-handed claim then. It still is. But the difference is this: I’d already undergone a long, detailed quiz by Thriva, the UK-based startup. They’d set my expectations. They’d already implied they could not (sorry) tell if I was going to die at 70. Just whether I should ease back on a few things and push hard on other, probably greener and crunchier, things. And maybe, just maybe, you ought to hit the gym more often, Mr Butcher?
Admittedly I probably already knew that. But two things occur to me about monitoring your health. Firstly, lots of people do not believe the data this until someone genuinely medical tells them (and if it’s a convincing, scientific company, then all well and good). That’s good for Thriva.
Secondly, the more educated amongst us genuinely love the scientific nature of the results. This is not a personal trainer or “wellness expert” sticking their finger in the air and telling you you should do more press ups or eat more broccoli. Thus is card-carrying blood test results. So, eventually, when my results said I should watch the cholesterol levels and maybe cut out the butter and fried chicken, I believed it.
This is the crucial point about Thriva. It sets expectations and then delivers real results. Unlike another blood-testing start-up one might mention.
And this is possibly why it has also now raised £1.5 million in seed funding, announced at The Europas today in London. The investment round includes Alex Chesterman, founder and CEO of Zoopla, Simon Franks (LoveFilm founder), Taavet Hinrikus (TransferWise founder), as well as the early stage venture funds Seedcamp, 500 Startups and the London Co-Investment Fund (LCIF).
With a simple finger-prick blood test that can be done at home, with results within 48 hours, people can take control of their health, and they get a dashboard to track health changes over time.
The money will be used to expand their product range into looking at your gut health to heavy metals to hormones. As with similar companies, it is increasingly improving its dataset and applying machine learning to provide more powerful insights and predictions.
“Your blood can tell an amazing story about your health. Our mission is to ensure that understanding and tracking your biochemistry becomes as normal as counting your steps or jumping on the weighing scales,” says Thriva CEO Hamish Grierson. He believes this will be commonplace inside the next 5 years.
The questions are clear though. Can they get past the huge dip in engagement after a few months when people get tired of monitoring their blood? The results suggest they might. Secondly, perhaps there is the possibility of integrate this with national health services? That’s a long shot. But then again the “worried well” love to monitor themselves, so who needs that.