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Founders Mike and Chris started Second Nature because they were frustrated with the status quo of the weight-loss industry: calorie counting, fad diets, and misleading nutrition advice.
As scientists and after researching the latest nutritional and behavioural-change science, they were confident there was a better way to make losing weight feel easier by building healthier habits.
Now raising on Seedrs, we interviewed the founders, Chris Edson and Mike Gibbs on their journey so far building Second Nature.
We’d love to know about your career before Second Nature and where you first found that entrepreneurial spark.
Mike: I’ve been doing random business things since an early age. Following in the footsteps of my older brothers, I used to play a lot of Counter Strike (a Half Life mod) and I had a company when I was 13-14 reselling Counter Strike game-servers; very random but I guess it made money. I also learned some great business lessons at age 14 about the importance of who you go into business with.
When I was a bit older I played a lot of online poker (moderately successfully) but instead ended up running a poker affiliate-marketing company during Cambridge University (perhaps burning the candles on a few too many ends…). I sold that company at the end of university before doing a few years in strategy consultancy to learn a lot of the work and life skills that you don’t often get exposed to in UK schools and unis. And then Second Nature began!
Chris: Growing up, I actually wasn’t interested in building businesses. I was just interested in a very wide range of things and struggling to know what I wanted to do with my life.
Going through university, I started to build a love of designing products. And then my first job out of university was working in the healthcare industry – helping design the strategy for NHS services.
My desire to help the millions of people living with diabetes and obesity came from my time working with the NHS. So many people need help and don’t know where to turn. That’s where the entrepreneurial spark came from – it was bringing together my love of product design with a big problem that I thought could help the lives of millions.
How does your app work?
Our app uses behavioural science to retrain your mind to make healthy choices automatically, so these stick in the long run.
But we don’t just look at what you’re eating and how much you weigh. We also look at your sleep patterns, exercise levels, how you regulate emotions, and other habits that impact the way you might be feeling.
We pair you with a registered nutritionist who provides one-to-one advice and supports you to build new, healthier habits.
Our app also has hundreds of simple, indulgent recipes as well as daily articles that explain the science of healthy living – so you feel empowered to make changes, rather than just being told what to do.
We want to make losing weight feel easier; to make it feel second nature.
What can you tell us about the market and how Second Nature is positioning itself for success?
In the UK we’re the only B2C weight-loss company that is also nationally commissioned by the NHS in the space of diabetes prevention and weight management.
We think our work with the NHS gives us a great level of credibility that we take things like data security and patient safety very seriously, and we aren’t another fad-diet or selling snake oil.
What does your competitive landscape look like and how does Second Nature differentiate itself?
Our main competitors are Weight Watchers, Slimming World, and Noom. All of these companies take a calorie-counting-first approach to dieting and weight loss; which we fundamentally disagree with as an overall approach to health and sustainable weight loss – primarily because we believe it sets people up with unhealthy relationships with food and reduces food far much down to its base numbers.
We’re also strong advocates for focusing on holistic health, rather than just a single aspect of the lifestyle spectrum i.e. we don’t just focus on what you eat, or exercise, or sleep, or meditation. We cover all these areas and try to establish what the highest impact focus would be across all these areas for people depending on their current life circumstances.
Could you tell us about some of your biggest achievements to date?
Mike: From my side, I was blown away by our clinical study results showing almost 40% of people reduced their blood sugar levels below the type 2 diabetes range. When we started the company, type 2 diabetes was largely seen as an inevitably progressive disease, and we would have been extremely happy with helping 10% of people to achieve these results – let alone almost 40%.
Chris: Alongside helping reverse diabetes (which is kind of insane when you think about it) – I’m personally most proud of the team we’ve built at Second Nature. They’re the most inspirational group of people I’ve ever worked with. I selfishly rank that as an achievement – even though this is really just a veiled compliment to them.
What do you hope Second Nature achieves in the next few years?
Our two primary goals are to break into the US health insurance market, and to continue to scale in the UK to become a household name in the health and wellness space.
What do you love to do in your free time?
Mike: I’m relatively good at practising what we preach, so I try to exercise most mornings and normally cook in the evening (I’m a creature of habit so I just rotate through 5-10 of my favourite Second Nature recipes…which I added to the programme in the first place!). I’m quite a big foodie so trying out new restaurants is another fav activity. Other than that I’m probably planning my next holiday/adventure – I often find it’s helpful to have something to look forward to, even if it’s booked a year away!
Chris: What is this “free time” you speak of?
I’m joking – but startup building is pretty full on! Plus I’m obsessed with it. So I normally spend my free time working on side projects for the company.
I do try and balance that a bit with some other things. I’ve recently started a YouTube Channel – The Honest Founder. I’m also really into my exercise, as well as spending time with my wife & my very annoying Parson Russell Terrier puppy.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt so far building Second Nature?
Mike: The importance of truly believing in the mission of your company. Building a startup, particularly in health tech, is monumentally difficult. There are a lot of challenging times, so it’s become clear that having 100% conviction in the mission helps you to push through and not give up. Persistence is key.
Chris: Similar to Mike, that persistence is everything. It’s the number 1 predictor of success in any company. It’s essentially getting through the grind. That’s most of the battle.
There’s a great book on this – Grit. The thesis would be that talent only really gets you so far. The rest is just working very hard and not being smacked down by the ups & downs of startup life.
Second Nature has raised over £3.6M and are currently overfunding! Join their mission Second Nature’s mission to to eradicate obesity and type 2 diabetes. Check out the campaign page here.