In the final blog in our series showcasing the award winning teams of the 2019/20 Young Entrepreneurs Programme, we speak to RG YEP Innovation Award Winner Glucolive and their RG mentor, Vangelis Vergetis.
The GlucoLive team is made up of MBA candidates and a health researcher, all from Warwick Business School. In November 2019 Adam Pilarski, Jacopo Serra, Samantha Gosnell, Aikaterini Grimani, Kamal Aliyev, and Alexandros Papamichalopoulos met at the RG YEP Ignite workshop held at Warwick Business School. In February 2020 the team won a place on the second Accelerate phase of the programme and at the RG YEP matching event held at London Business School, they were paired with their dedicated mentor Vangelis Vergetis, Executive Director at Intelligencia.AI. With over 13 years of experience in healthcare, biotechnology and business strategy, Vangelis was able to provide 7 weeks of valuable 1:1 mentoring, supporting GlucoLive to accelerate their business idea. At the digital RG YEP final pitch event held on the 28th of March 2020, GlucoLive won the Innovation Award and prizes of an innovation tour in Geneva and a retreat experience in Crete/ Athens by Travel Panda Agency.
GlucoLive are developing a non-invasive method of screening for Type 2 diabetes. There are around 1 million people in the UK with undiagnosed Type-2 diabetes, which if left untreated can lead to irreversible health complications. Worldwide, it’s estimated that 1 in 2 people with diabetes are currently undiagnosed (approximately 460 million people), and in Greece itself around 200,000 people are undiagnosed. At present, 1 in 3 patients will have health complications by the time they are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Although some countries have screening programmes in place, these often miss at risk groups for lots of reasons, including the need for invasive blood tests, the subtle nature of the symptoms of diabetes, and people’s desire to avoid seeing a doctor. GlucoLive’s device allows people to test themselves for diabetes in a non-invasive and non-threatening way, and empowers them to engage with health services for further testing.
The benefits of GlucoLive’s innovative method of screening are far reaching. People will be empowered to take charge of their own health, leading to more engaged patients, better long-term health and quality of life. There will also be a reduction in the financial impact on the health sector – currently around £10 billion is spent per year on diabetes related complications – and in the long term vital hospital bed space will be freed up as the number of patients in hospital due to complications of diabetes reduces. The screening method also has the ability to provide businesses and workplaces with a way to demonstrate their social responsibility towards employees and customers.
Interview with Adam Pilarski , Co-founder of GlucoLive
RG: Adam, you’re a doctor in the NHS. Is the impact of Type 2 diabetes an issue you see in your day job?
Adam: Diabetes is an enormous part of healthcare, and the complications can be a huge burden on patients and their families. Many patients go for months or even years without realising that they are experiencing symptoms of diabetes, and around 1 in 3 people have developed complications by the time they are diagnosed. We hope that our business can help identify patients earlier, empower them to seek treatment before they develop complications of the disease, and even engage in exercise and lifestyle changes that might reverse their condition.
RG: What was your main reason for joining RG YEP and what was the most important thing you took from the programme?
Adam: I’d heard great things about RG as an organisation working with projects that make an impact on society, both in Greece and throughout the world. Also, the chance to win the opportunity to move forward with an industry mentor in the Accelerate programme was a huge plus! Our team actually met at the RG YEP Ignite workshop at WBS. The workshop was a great opportunity to hear some fantastic ideas from undergraduate and postgraduate students from many disciplines. That first workshop helped us get the initial idea down on paper and come up with a very rough business plan.
The programme really helped us focus on the key issues within the business model. We had some great guidance from our mentor on what things potential investors might want to know, and how we could address those in order to take the idea to the next stage. We really enjoyed meeting everyone at LBS before the coronavirus lockdown, and the online events organised around intellectual property, pitching and growth hacking were incredibly useful.
RG: Congratulations on winning the Innovation Award. What does this mean for you personally and for the future plans for GlucoLive?
Adam: It’s great to know that other senior industry professionals see the value in our idea, and it’s a great accolade we can use as a stepping-stone towards further opportunities for the business.
RG: What impact do you anticipate the current COVID-19 crisis will have on your immediate plans?
Adam: The lockdown has made physical meetings impossible, but we’ve all become very used to video conferences, and we’ve been able to have video chats with suppliers to discuss technology without a hitch. Also, as diabetes appears to be one of the conditions that exacerbates the clinical course of COVID-19, we think there will be a heightened focus on projects such as ours in the near future, so we anticipate great opportunities!
RG: You were matched with Vangelis Vergetis, Executive Director of Intelligencia.ai, as your RG mentor. Had you worked with a mentor before & how did you approach your mentoring relationship during the programme?
Adam: We hadn’t worked together with a mentor as a team, but his help was really invaluable – with an idea like ours at such an early stage, we would normally find it really difficult to get guidance from someone so senior in industry, so we felt very lucky. We had multiple virtual meetings with him as he’s based in the USA and we’re in Warwick, and agreed a solid action plan of points that needed addressing before each meeting. He was also able to watch our final pitch at the digital pitch event and see us win the innovation award.
RG: Vangelis’ background is in management consultancy, with a particular focus on the healthcare sector. What key insights could Vangelis offer from his experience and knowledge?
Adam: He was able to give us an insight into what sort of questions a management consultancy might want to know about our concept. He was able to give us real insight in to how we should structure the funding milestones and scaling plan for the business, and also to help us understand exactly what investors might want to know before making a decision to invest.
RG: Comparing your business plan at the start of the YEP programme to your final pitch, what impact did Vangelis and the mentoring journey have on your preparation?
Adam: It’s been invaluable – our idea has developed from a nebulous concept through to a fully formed business proposition, with clear next steps in terms of revenue streams, market segmentation and technology.
Interview with Vangelis Vergetis, GlucoLive’s RG Mentor
RG: You have focused on the healthcare sector throughout your career. What was your initial impression of GlucoLive’s idea?
Vangelis: What attracted me is the scale of the potential impact. The GlucoLive team focuses on a problem that can help thousands, if not millions, of people and have a substantial impact on their health.
RG: You have a significant background in management consultancy. How does this background impact your approach as a mentor?
Vangelis: A couple of areas come to mind. First, helping with structuring the thinking and the presentation across specific dimensions, e.g., the opportunity, the product, the financials, the team, etc. Second, thinking through specific analyses/data in each of the sections to articulate the unique/innovative nature of what the GlocoLive team is looking to achieve. Perhaps a third area is to continue to push for simple, sharp, and to-the-point messages, and perhaps avoid “fluffy” and convoluted points that are hard to communicate in a short amount of time
RG: How did you see the GlucoLive team develop throughout the RG YEP journey and how did you see them benefit from the 1:1 mentoring?
Vangelis: Firstly, I witnessed the realisation of all the practical details that one needs to deal with when moving from a concept/idea to making it into a real product that people can one day use. Second, there was definitely a more deep appreciation of where the bar needs to be for potential investors to make significant funding commitments.
RG: What did you personally gain from the RG YEP experience as a mentor?
Vangelis: I particularly enjoy interacting with dynamic/passionate people, with fresh ideas, who are looking to make a difference in whatever area they are looking to tackle. The GlucoLive team definitely fits the bill.
Thank you to Adam and Vangelis for sharing their RG YEP story. In terms of GlucoLive’s next steps, the team are currently working with commercial and university partners to build their prototype, and they are in discussions with pre-seed round investors – you can follow their progress via their website and LinkedIn. If you would like to fast track your start-up, applications to Reload Greece’s next RG Challenge programme, which supports early stage start-ups to become investment ready, are open now!