Episode 9: The power of market research and mindset psychology with Chris Edson, Second Nature

In this weeks episode we discuss the power of market research and mindset psychology

We speak with Chris Edson from Second Nature about:

✅ Solving problems in an evidenced based way
✅ The importance of market research
✅ How to get started with an MVP
✅ Finding your marketing message
✅ Mindset psychology
✅ Staying motivated

View on Zencastr


This transcript is autogenerated.

Matt Nally  00:29

On today’s episode, we have Chris Edson, who is the CEO of Second Nature. So, thanks for coming today.

Chris Edson  00:50

Thanks, Matt. It’s great to see you. It’s been a good 14 or 15 years since we last saw each other back at university.

Matt Nally  00:59

It’s long overdue to catch up. I’m really interested in chatting with you today about how you got into Second Nature since university days. And what inspired you to get into that arena? And obviously, you can tell us about what second nature does.

Chris Edson  01:18

So, before I went to university, I said to my mom, Look, I think I want to go be an engineer, specifically a software engineer or something in computer science. And my mom was like, that’s crazy. There are going to be so many computer scientists in the world. You should definitely not do that. So instead, I just went in and did engineering science, which is where you and I met. When I was going through university, I had a new thing. I didn’t want to be a computer scientist. I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I didn’t know what that meant. But I had this idea that I wanted to build businesses; it seemed like a fun thing to do. And again, I had a conversation with my mom. And she says that’s really risky. My mom’s quite a risk-averse person. You should go and get a real job first; it was actually good advice. And she’s not that risk-averse. She’s going to listen to this and get annoyed with me.

Matt Nally  02:22

We’ll cut that out!

Chris Edson  02:26

I went and did what everyone at Oxford does, which is go and join a strategy consultancy University, which was an interesting experience. What I ended up doing was specializing in healthcare projects for strategy consulting. So, when you join consulting, you can end up advising businesses in every different sector on how to run their companies, which is kind of bonkers for a 22-year-old who has no idea about anything. You can do a whole range of different things. One of those things was healthcare, and I thought healthcare was by far the most interesting thing that I could get involved in doing. I could do a project with British American Tobacco, helping them sell more cigarettes, or I could work with Macmillan Cancer Support and help them redesign breast cancer screening services, so I knew which one was by far more interesting to me. As I was doing all of this work in healthcare, I started to come across type 2 diabetes. In almost every project. I was doing projects with pharmaceutical companies, and it will come up with them. I was doing projects with NHS England, and it will come up with them. I was doing projects with insurance companies like Bupa and Aviva, and it will come up with them. And I thought, okay, type 2 diabetes. Why does this keep coming up? And it’s because the trend of type 2 diabetes is accelerating so rapidly and has been for the last 20 years in developed nations. And I thought this is strange. This seems like a really big problem. And I couldn’t see anything that seemed to be solving it in an evidence-based way. So, I decided to quit my day job in consulting and do something about it along with a friend of mine called Mike Gibbs, who I was consulting at the time. We both had a kind of shared vision that we could build a product that would help people with type 2 diabetes change their lifestyle habits to avoid that whole disease because type 2 diabetes is one of those very rare diseases that is entirely preventable with lifestyle change. We didn’t know what we were going to build; we just thought we could probably build a digital product that might help. So that’s how we got into space, and over the years, that vision for what we do as a company has evolved beyond type 2 diabetes, which is where we started, to kind of the broader obesity epidemic because they’re related. But that was where we got started. It was inspiring; we were inspired to conquer type 2 diabetes and help save the NHS because the NHS spends about 15 billion a year treating type 2 diabetes. We thought that if you could reduce some of that cost, then the NHS might live to fight another day.

Matt Nally  05:19

That’s a very important topic at the moment. Fascinating. How did you get into it? And I’m guessing you didn’t go down the British American Tobacco route?

Chris Edson  05:30

Yeah, you could do this in consulting; you could actually opt out of doing those projects, which I always thought was funny if you were kind of morally opposed to working with cigarettes. You could kind of say, No, please don’t put me on those projects. I feel kind of weird about it. So, both I and Mike did that. We said, please don’t put us on the cigarette projects; please, anything but that.

Matt Nally  05:50

Firstly, how did you get started? Did you just take a jump straightaway? Or did you start building something up first and then make a shift over? Where did you get started with that? Because it’s obviously a huge topic. So how did you decide which area to focus on first as your way into the business?

Chris Edson  06:12

Well, the truth of it is that it was one of three businesses that I was working on. And I was doing all three of them while I was still consulting, so one of the other businesses—as you can see by my lovely guitars—was music festivals. And a friend of mine that I was living with at the time was trying to start a business called Gig List. And the idea of Gig List was that it was a website where you could generate playlists. If you’re going to the Reading Festival, it would generate a playlist for you of all the different bands that were there. So you could listen to this playlist before you go to the festival. I thought it was an amazing idea. It wasn’t my idea. But I worked with him a bit on that for a while.

You always end up enjoying festivals a lot more if you know the artists and their songs. The other thing I was working on was a business, which was a mortgage brokerage that ended up raising lots of money. And I was involved in that from quite the early stages. And so I had these three things to choose between. And ultimately, I made the decision based on my values and passions. And I think life is short. And you should, if you have the opportunity, make good use of your time in life by helping people. This is a very reductive philosophy of life, but trying to solve the diabetes epidemic felt like the most worthwhile cause of all of them, not that helping people get mortgages is not worthwhile. It just wasn’t something I was particularly passionate about. And then the gig list was a shame; it could have been a cool business, but it didn’t end up going anywhere. So I did have these three businesses, and that’s how I made the decision. It was a very values-based decision. It’s kind of a rule of life I live by trying and make decisions based on my values. One of my values was to spend time helping people.

Matt Nally  08:31

Yeah, fair enough. So how did you get started with second nature? Because the whole industry around obesity, which I know you came onto later, but also type 2 diabetes and so on, I suppose there are lots of people in terms of the medical profession trying to do stuff to help people. So how did you find your angle in there to get started?

Chris Edson  08:55

I think this is the way anyone should start a business; we ended up speaking to lots of people living with diabetes, as well as people who were at risk for diabetes, and trying to understand what their struggles were. And then, once you understand what someone’s struggles were, you can start to build a product. The second thing that we did, which is less common in building a business, was: most people would say that if you’re building a business, go speak to a whole bunch of people, and suddenly, you’ll start to develop a bit of a landscape of what these people struggle with day to day. And how can we then build a product to solve those issues that people are facing? The slight nuance with us was that, well, once we started speaking to people, it became clear that wow, changing people’s lifestyle habits is incredibly complicated. So we then got into researching behavioral science, which is the science of how you change people’s behaviors and why people do certain behaviors. So, we then started researching that. We then started speaking with experts in the field, and we did a bit of work with the Behavioural Insights Team. That was the Nudge Unit, which was quite well known in 2016, and we ended up doing a bit of work with the Centre for Behavioural Change at UCL to try and understand what behavioral science is. And then we tried to kind of bring those two things together. So the consumer customer research we were doing was combined with the behavioral sciences, and then we kind of prototyped a product. Our prototype was a WhatsApp group. So, we put 10 people in a group together; who was struggling with changing their lifestyle habits. And then we tried to coach them through the changes they would make. That was the very first product, and then you take it from there, do an MVP, and then iterate the absolute crap out of it.

Matt Nally  10:52

But it didn’t have to be something super complex to get started. That’s the point. I suppose there was a brief that was very straightforward.

Chris Edson  10:59

We didn’t do that. Initially, we built a full app, then realized that was incredibly stupid, and we wasted a whole bunch of time building an app. And then a friend said, It’s quite common nowadays for capillary to be like a low-fi prototype; why don’t you put people in a WhatsApp group? Why are you building this whole technology product? We were like, Yeah, fair enough. But building an app is also cool. So, fine. We can do it that hacky way.

Matt Nally  11:38

So, how did you start to really build up from there, because isn’t it an industry in terms of changing diet and lifestyle, and so on? That’s massive, and obviously, there’s so much competition, whether it’s Weight Watchers or LighterLife, and all these massive companies, but lots of budgets goes into getting you to buy low-calorie products and all this kind of stuff. How do you start to stand out and get people to notice you? It gets a huge budget, but based on all the noise, I suppose that it’s fad diets and all that kind of stuff.

Chris Edson  12:11

There are two angles to it. Our first bit of traction was with the NHS, so it was selling into the NHS as a diabetes prevention product. So the NHS would pay. We knew there was a market in the NHS for diabetes prevention, so paying for a service that would help people prevent diabetes. So that’s a bit different. I know you’re asking more on the consumer marketing side of things, but on the B2B side of things, it was, again, like, you have to go and speak to your customers. And the customer was the NHS. So we spoke to a bunch of people in the NHS, like, what would you need to see to pay for this? And they told us that they already paid for in-person diabetes prevention services. So if you’re at risk for diabetes, you go along to a kind of hospital clinic room with a bunch of other people. And then a dietitian stands at the front and talks to you about how you can change your lifestyle habits. They were already paying for that. So we said, Okay, what if this was digital? What would you need to see? And they said, Well, we need to see this data. So we went and did a study to show that data. We did a pilot, then a bigger pilot, and then we bid on these giant contracts, which we then won. And then it was good from there. As we were doing that in the NHS, we realized that what we had built wasn’t specific for type 2 diabetes. It was relevant to anyone who wanted to make a healthy lifestyle change. Yeah, so that’s when we launched our consumer business. I think that really is what your question is about the consumer business, how did we grow? So I come back to this idea, which is probably the third time in 10 minutes that I’m bringing it up, but it’s that we went and spoke to a whole bunch of customers. So in the weight loss space, what do they struggle with? What do they hate? What do they hate about losing weight? What did they try before? And what came up was that everyone had tried Slimming World and Weight Watchers. They hated calorie counting, and they hated restricting their food choices. So that’s where you start to identify what your messaging could be because we didn’t do calorie counting because calorie counting is great for a few weeks. There’s no disputing the thermodynamics of calories in versus calories out, but it’s not how you create a sustainable diet. You’re not going to calorie count for the rest of your life in order to stay healthy; that doesn’t work. You have to build habits that are going to last.

Matt Nally  15:05

The motivation to do that every day.

Chris Edson  15:07

Exactly. But that’s what those products were based on, like Slimming World and Weight Watchers, which are basically calorie counting systems. So you give food different points, and a Mars bar might have five points, and then it’s like, Okay, you’re allowed 20 points in a day. This is basically calorie counting. And I hated that. And it never led to sustainable results. So then you understand: What’s your key message?

So it’s quite simple. Lose weight without calorie counting. Right?

I want to do that. I want to lose weight with that calorie count. It’s basic, but it worked very well. Lose weight without losing out—that was one of our big messages, which is that you can have delicious, amazing food and still lose weight. The second aspect is like the marketing messaging side of things, in terms of how you go up against very large competitors. Well, you have to find your niche and then go off to that niche. And then you have to win in the niche, you can’t win with everyone; you have to go after a specific customer subset. And try to find it. And it’s both product and marketing. So on the marketing side of things, what we found in the early days is that a lot of our customers were kind of middle-aged, so between 40 to 55, they tended to be higher-income, female, almost exclusively female, with a really long history of FAD dieting. So going on diets, on and off again, they were also people that really loved cooking, so they loved cooking; it was a big way that they showed love for their family through cooking, and then they would go on these diets and be unable to do that. So we found a really strong product market fit with that group of people. And then we grew from there. So we said, Okay, well, that’s our group. This is the marketing message that really lands with them. And the other thing that we learned from that was—and this wasn’t obvious when we started—how important recipes were. which wasn’t actually a big feature of our product initially. We had a few recipes. And then we started getting feedback. They’re like, Oh, I love the second-nature recipes. And we were actually sending people a book, literally a recipe book with a few recipes in it, and they were loving those recipes. So we thought, okay, let’s go even deeper on that. Because that is serving our niche. That’s really serving that customer base.

Matt Nally  17:54

What was it people loved about those recipes if they’re potentially people as well who love cooking and feeding family and so on? What was it about the recipes that they loved so much?

Chris Edson  18:05

The big thing was the indulgence of the recipes. So, as a general principle, we’re a low-carb program. And that means that, from the nutritional side of things, we try to get people to reduce a lot of processed food and a lot of beige foods, such as pasta and bread. And the reason for that is that it’s a bit easier to lose weight. Generally, if you restrict your carbs a bit, we’re not a keto program. We’re not. It’s not an extreme carb restriction. But if you do that, you have to make the food really delicious and indulgent to go along with that. There’s a growing scientific discipline called mindset psychology, and it’s quite remarkable. What mindset psychology has shown was one example, and this has been proved in a randomized controlled trial. If I were to give you two weight loss shakes and one weight loss shake, I would tell you that this is actually a really filling weight loss shake that’s actually very high calories. You’re going to have this, and that’s going to be your food for the day. If I gave you the identical shake—they did this because they split it into two groups—and said this is a weight loss shake, it’s low calorie, Your body’s hunger hormone is actually less in the first example, which is absolutely mind-boggling. And it means that perception is reality; what you tell people ends up changing the hormones in your body. How that relates to what we do is that if we tell you that the food that you’re eating is really indulgent, that it’s going to fill you, and that it’s going to be delicious, then people actually believe that, and they end up feeling really full from the recipes. And they end up loving it. And you can see we actually have a brand new recipe book out; that’s kind of a side project we’ve been working on. And it’s all-around really indulgent food, but they’re still healthy. We created this little side project; the book is called Make It Second Nature, and you can check it out on our website.

Matt Nally  20:45

The top tip, as well, for any restaurant owner.

Chris Edson  20:48

It’s the same as if you said you had wine on your menu and that there was an expensive bottle of wine; therefore, people would love it more. Whereas if you tell them that it’s a five-pound echo that falls from the local off-license, people won’t enjoy it as much. But the product itself can be identical. It’s a mindset psychology. It’s quite mind-blowing.

Matt Nally  21:12

I’d love to touch more on that in a minute. I think one thing I’d love to do is just go slightly back around your sort of B2B side and the trials you did. How did you get started looking at what might be the lifestyle changes people need to make? And how did you sort of keep reiterating and refining that so that it wasn’t either this keto salad or calorie counting?

Chris Edson  21:37

just lots and lots of research. So we went, there’s kind of two, two fields of what we do. One is the nutritional science, and one is the behavioral science, and we kind of bring those two bits of sight. So the nutritional science is, what is a great way to eat. And actually, in the really early days, we believe that keto was the right way to eat. And that turned out to be wrong for a whole bunch of reasons. keto is very difficult to maintain for any length of time. And it also has some other problems with it. But yeah. So we went into what is the sustainable way of eating and that’s there’s a whole bunch of research on that. And I could summarise it is reduced processed food and sugar. Eat vegetables, I’m summarising the behavioral science side of things which is actually a much more complicated thing, which is how you change someone’s identity and habits so that they live life in a healthy way. And that is basically the secret sauce of our program. It’s what our program is designed to do. It’s we’re not just going to tell you what to eat, we’re going to tell you why you eat and then how to change that for the better.

Matt Nally  22:41

So how does that program work in terms of how much is time spent with someone learning, or reading through stuff? How much is your time spent one on one with someone in a group? How are you able to track stuff? how do you get people to sort of do that and maintain interest?

Chris Edson  23:05

Yes. So it’s all delivered through an app and I can’t really split out how much time is spent on each bit because it’s like an integrated service, you’d speak to a health coach through the app that also has all the content and all the tracking that you need to do. The time commitment is 10 minutes a day. Going through the second nature app, which includes reading a daily bit of content and speaking to a group, we put you in a group of people who are similar to you and have similar challenges. You take the program with that group, and then you’ll speak to them as well. And then you’ll be tracking various things. And there’s a bit of food tracking, but that’s mainly as a reflection exercise that we have people do rather than having you count your food for calories every day, it’s doing a food diary for a day. So you can reflect on the kind of food that you’re having, which is a bit different.

Matt Nally  23:58

Yeah, it’s really interesting because I’ve tried to do the same thing in the past where it’s January, go to the gym for a month, and then tails off. And you try and cut out biscuits for a bit having had all the chocolate in Christmas, but it’s very hard. Everything is geared around a very different mindset. So I’m interested in learning more and more about the psychology part because I think that’s obviously useful in any industry, in terms of how you present stuff to people. Do you use it outside of your process of helping people from the food aspect? But then I don’t know whether it’s marketing or how you train your team members. Doesn’t it mean you try and fit in everywhere?

Chris Edson  24:43

You could summarise behavioral science as trying to understand people on a really deep level trying to understand what makes people tick. It’s as simple as that. So the principles of behavioral science absolutely apply to marketing. And we’ll use a lot of those same principles in how we position the product. So we will see all kinds of subtle things that we try and make the balance of trying to make a product attractive without being manipulative. So when you join, if you go on the second nature website, you’ll go through a quiz. And from a behavioral science point of view, the reason for that is, if we give you a quiz and asked a whole bunch of questions, you believe that that thing will be personalized to you which it is, of course, but the whole point of doing that quiz rather than just be saying, right, give us your email and then pay us some money is from a psychological perspective, you think, Okay, well, they’re like investing in me. Or simple things like on our checkout page, there is a timer because groups fill up, So there is only a length of time for which we can hold a place which gives it a principle of scarcity in behavioral science, there are all kinds of things like that, that we employ in order to make the product attractive, but one of our company values is doing the right thing. So you have to make sure that you do that, in a way that is not evil or creating dark patterns that some of our competitors have employed in the past.

Matt Nally  26:29

I can imagine the cutthroat industry. That particular books or things that you’d recommend reading around are good places to start around psychology.

Chris Edson  26:41

Yeah. So hooked by Near Al is a brilliant primer. That’s how to create really engaging products. And then I’d say look at any of the research that’s been put out by the Behavioural Insights Team. And they’ve come up with various frameworks over the years, a lot of it is for policy. So how do you design policy like getting almost government policy that will increase the number of people filling in their tax return, for example, but it’s very relevant to both the marketing and the features of products and how you design them. I also recommend this, there’s a lot of good stuff on video game design as well. So video game design does behavioral science extremely well, a lot of video games are designing you to get to the next level, to keep you engaged to keep you playing. And I would say most video games today are masters of doing that. There are a few good YouTube videos that you can search for to help work out how they do it.

Matt Nally  27:57

I can imagine that gamifying things is a massive topic at the moment. I was always interested in human psychology when I was working in supermarkets so that it would affect how fast you thought you were moving. So you’d stay down and browse things and where things were positioned in the store, whether it’s high level or right at the back or how they had bakery at the front. So it smells good when you went in and everything will be considered fresh.

Chris Edson  28:26

Google has free lunches, among other things. Some of the behavioral nudges they do in the cafeteria are really interesting. For example, there are fridges, full of whatever drink you might want to grab, and at the top is all basically water. And then halfway down the fridge is frosted glass. So you can’t see what’s in the fridge. But behind the frosted glass is the coke and the sparkling drinks and all the rest of it. So it’s the reason why I like that kind of thing is if you want the Coke, you can go and get the Coke, but it’s not in front of your mind, you can’t see it, you have to go seek it out a little bit. Very subtle, but hugely impactful, or the fact that the plates they give you for food are they’re almost triangular, which means you can’t take too much food. It’s very difficult to put too much food on a triangular plate. Now the cynic would say it’s because they don’t want to spend that much on free food. But I actually think it’s brilliant. Because now if you want to go get more food, you can go up for seconds, but people don’t do that much because maybe you’re conversing or chatting with a friend at lunch and you’re not going to be like oh actually, I need to go up and get some more lobster. So can you wait?

Matt Nally  29:51

I’d thought about the interesting plate shape so obviously affects how you can stack things up.

Chris Edson  29:55

Yeah, it’s a simple behavioral technique. Use smaller plates. Get smaller portions if you have small plates

Matt Nally  30:02

This is what I’ve always struggled with, you might not know the answer. But why is it that if they say these should hide things in cupboards rather than leaving out, obviously, the more you see it, it’s fun to me and you want to eat it? But why is it that a banana, for example, on a fruit bowl that you can see straight away is less appealing than a chocolate bar in the cupboard, you have to peel both of them in order to get to them as they’re actually both as difficult as each other to eat. But for some reason, but not always seems like more effort.

Chris Edson  30:31

I don’t know if it’s about more effort. So human beings are fundamentally like dopamine monkeys, we walk through life, just trying to get dopamine in all different avenues through food or exercise, or social interactions. I suspect the reason for that is, you have had a strong dopamine hit from sweets before and not as strong from the banana, therefore your body is primed to overcome a higher level of obstacle. the obstacle is the same between bananas and chocolate, but the dopamine level behind the chocolate is higher. there’s a simple, behavioral science framework that BJ Fogg came up with, the behavior you do is equal to the motivation that you have to do it times your ability to do that thing times a trigger. So that framework explains that thing quite clearly, your motivation to eat chocolate will be higher because of dopamine. Your ability is the same for chocolate or other things. And then the trigger is the thing you’re talking about hiding food in cupboards. So the trigger is that you see the chocolate that’s out on the counter rather than in the cupboard. So all of those things combined in order to create a behavior. It’s a simple framework, but sometimes it works. You could there was a great example of where it worked quite well.

Matt Nally  32:10

Yeah, one of the other things I was really fascinated by was the sort of award, you got from the Forbes 30 Under 30. And so what was the journey like around that? And process and motivation for getting to that point.

Chris Edson  32:25

Yeah, I was thinking the other day, I actually turned 35 Last week, which means that I was like, How old until you can’t put Forbes 30 under 30 on your LinkedIn profile? So when you hit 35, is it like, you should probably start to remove it? What was the process? So Forbes 30 under 30 is a bit of a joke. And I’ve said I’m sorry If anyone from Forbes 30 under 30. watches this. It’s, honestly, you getting someone to nominate you. And I think one of our investors nominated me and Mike. So I and my co-founder got it one year. And they said oh, the nominations are coming in. Would you like us to nominate you? And we said yes. And then we got it. But it’s a bit like the researchers at Forbes, it’s not like they have this master list of everyone in the UK, who is talented and impressive. And then they go through and do a hyper-rational audit of who should be getting that award. It’s a bit arbitrary. I’d say it doesn’t really mean very much. When I was awarded it, I had literally just turned 30. So like the applications went in November, and then my birthday was in January. And I think by the time I got the award, it was actually like this time many years ago when I got awarded it. And I just turned 30 So it was like the last year that I could get it. And I remember feeling a lot of jealousy towards other people that I knew who got it. If I’m honest, I’m being vulnerable now, to be someone who is doing more important things than having Forbes 30 under 30. And my reflection on it is that it’s all just a game. Someone puts in a great application and rolls the dice and whether or not you get it or not. It’s a bit like getting into a great university. We both got into the same university, which was Oxford, which was a great university. It’s a bit like getting into Oxford. There are all kinds of people that got in, who maybe shouldn’t have gotten in and ended up struggling. There are all kinds of people that didn’t get in that are amazing. And just a roll of the dice. It’s not a perfectly meritocratic process. So I don’t know, I could be really proud of the Forbes 30 under 30 thing.

Matt Nally  35:13

That is completely off-topic, I suppose. But is that an impostor syndrome kind of thing? Because you’ve worked very hard. And you’ve achieved a lot of second nature. So it seems like it isn’t unjustified.

Chris Edson  35:23

Yeah, maybe it’s also just my personality type. It’s a game, you have to play a bit as a founder of a startup in applying for awards and things. And the reason why it’s important is it helps build your profile, which helps get the company press, and it helps get the company investment, it’s kind of part of the job. But it’s not something I enjoy very much. Yeah, the imposter syndrome thing, I have a general rule. And I say this with my leadership team quite a lot, which is, you can’t afford to have imposter syndrome. It’s quite a toxic mindset of Oh, I’m not good enough for this. So I actually don’t think it’s down to impostor syndrome that I don’t want to say it’s not something I struggle with, I say it’s something that I try and avoid getting in the mindset of, because I think it’s toxic, like, I work very hard. And I’ve worked very hard to get the company to where it is today. A huge amount of that is luck. And a huge amount of that is the amazing efforts from all of the team at second nature, I’m not taking full credit. And I’m not pretending that I haven’t had immense privilege to get here. But I don’t I try not to get into the mindset of, I’m not good enough to do this. So I just think it ends up with toxic insecurity, it’ll end up coming out with your leadership team and investors in all kinds of strange and peculiar ways where you’re acting in a way to self-preserve your ego rather than what’s best for the company. So I try and try and minimize that thought process.

Matt Nally  37:00

Yeah, I think that’s an important point. Because it’s easy for that to transfer into everything you do. And actually, if we’re giving something a go, whatever it is, you should be focusing on the positive of that rather than Is it good enough? And yeah, I definitely agree. Going off to the investor point, what was the point where you decided that in order to grow that was the most important route in terms of taking on investment, rather than taking on debt or just growing more slowly to an organic rate? What was the driver for that?

Chris Edson  37:32

I think when we almost run out of money.

Matt Nally  37:36

Good motivator.

Chris Edson  37:40

Yeah, I mean, we didn’t have revenue before we raised our first round, very, very little. To be honest, in the first funding round, we needed this in order to build the product. There wasn’t a way because of what we were doing, which required clinical trials and a lot of product development. We needed the capital. We actually survived for a good amount of time just on grant funding. So we had EU grant funding initially, and then when that grant funding

dried up, we went to an investment round. That

was 500k. And it was a big deal.

Matt Nally  38:30

Oh, definitely. I suppose you probably raise since to get into scaling up from there.

Chris Edson  38:36

Yeah, we’ve now a total raise to something like 15 million or something. So the very first amount of money that we raised was 15,000 pounds from this startup accelerator. And I remember at the time I thought I was an absolute genius, because we came into the startup accelerator, and the accelerator invested 15,000 pounds into us for 6% of the company, I thought the company is now worth 200k. That is incredible. Like, how have I done that? That’s ridiculous. But at the time, that was like 15,000 pounds, someone’s just given us like an insane amount of money.

Matt Nally  39:19

It is relative to where you are on the journey.

Chris Edson  39:20

Exactly your frame of reference, just changes entirely.

Matt Nally  39:25

I think there’s no less important further on when you’re raising bigger amounts. It’s, you’ve still got those milestones to get through.

Chris Edson  39:35

Yeah, exactly.

Matt Nally  39:36

So what’s next for you in terms of the things that you’re focusing on, in terms of how you keep things fresh, and how do you stay motivated to keep pushing things along?

Chris Edson  39:47

Honestly, I really enjoy my job other than when I’m fundraising because I really don’t like fundraising. I love what we do as a company. I think it’s huge and impactful. I am lucky in a lot of ways in the business that I run has a real impact on people’s lives, like a real impact. We’ve had many people reverse their type two diabetes through second nature, that in itself is just incredibly motivating. I find it very motivating to work with my team, our team is so good. And it’s very trite, but I find them so inspiring. It’s just so brilliant to work with amazing people. But a lot of what makes a job interesting is the people that you work with, it’s who you spend time with day to day, and I love working with my team.

So one of the things I think about is that

there has to be fruit for your job to stay interesting, there has to be something at stake, and there has to be some risk there. Otherwise, it can become kind of really run of the mill. So we deliberately try to set

some company objectives that are a bit more

risky, unknown, or exciting. So right now, we’ve just launched a new company strategy. We basically have what we call core, which is how do we make our current business better? And then we have bets, which are some big exciting things that could pay off in the future, but may just go to zero. And the bets are just very exciting. It might be that nothing happens from them. But I find that quite exciting.

Matt Nally  41:42

It’s important to look at what’s going on and what things might be happening. Because even from a tech perspective, things are changing so quickly. And with that people’s behaviors and interests. And so I think it’s fun to sort of try and predict what you think might be the next big thing that no one’s thought of.

Chris Edson  41:59

Yeah, and I try to spend more of my time thinking about the future, and I’m quite a hands-on, CEO, I like to be involved in the day-to-day of the business. But the downside of that is that I don’t think about the future. So I’m trying to think about the future, more about what the next big thing is going to be. It’s one of my personal objectives at the moment.

Matt Nally  42:28

So it was a challenge to balance working in the business and working on the business and you have to have the balance of both, you can’t work in it. Otherwise, you don’t know what’s going on to be able to do the future bits. But I think the motivators is a very key point, I think from a surveying industry. It’s a very different motivation. But you’re still helping people. Because rather from a health perspective, it’s helping people find the right home. And it’s not losing track of that, while you’re doing something that keeps that motivation there. So I suppose if you start to get a wobble, it’s about stepping back and going home actually reminding us of why you do it. Because that will give you the passion to keep going.

Chris Edson  43:04

Yeah, absolutely. It’s like most businesses. Well, just the point on that most businesses are, if you ever lose motivation for your job, going back to the people that you help, is normally the kind of the key to unlocking a bit of motivation is like, why am I doing this? Okay, it’s to help people most businesses are designed to help people in some way, other than maybe you’re running Coinbase. And I guess maybe you’re helping people you’re trying to increase their net worth. Most other businesses, most service businesses are trying to help people. And that can be highly motivating.

Matt Nally  43:41

And it’s fun to see the reaction to that, and focusing on the positives of it. But I think my final question, then is, you mentioned honestly, it’s the key part is about your team and working with the right people. How do you make sure that you bring on people that have that? Because honestly, there are very few very good people, but how do you make sure that they fit also into the team and have the right culture and ethos to gel with everyone else?

Chris Edson  44:06

Yeah, as part of the interview process, we do a values interview. So we have six values in the company. And we go through those six values and try and identify if they exhibit those values based on their previous behaviors. So this is probably a bad example. But one of our company values is we let the data guide us so we always make decisions based on data and rationality, and customer insight, rather than our own biases. And one question we might ask in an interview is to tell us about a time when you analyze the data to make a decision. So kind of a simple question and it becomes quite clear if you don’t do that, You probably won’t have a good answer to that question. One of our company values is to enjoy the ride and enjoying the ride is basically, your ability to deal with some stress and ups and downs. So we ask people, Hey, tell us about a time, that was immensely stressful in one of your businesses, and how did you deal with that? And it seems just it’s not perfect, right? Interviews are really imperfect processes. But you start to get an idea of does someone’s value system align with the value system of your company.

Matt Nally  45:30

Yeah. And I think you’re right, it’s imperfect, you can get a gut feel as to whether someone feels like they fit in there might be a fantastic candidate, but in terms of Team fit, and the values that you want, that they’re not quite aligned, and then you’d have to listen to that. Because otherwise, it doesn’t work long-term for anyone.

Chris Edson  45:48

Yeah, and the dangers are the watch-outs. Obviously, everyone wants to work with people that they like, but whether or not you like someone is kind of subjective. And it’s, you can get into a lot of unconscious bias. If you think about, oh, is this someone that I could like, take down to the pub and have a drink with? It’s, I think there are some problems with that approach. So we try and do it based on a structured interview, which seems to be working well, so far.

Matt Nally  46:21

There was an interesting conversation when I was looking for a big supermarket chain. And they identified, at least at the higher levels that they had a particular personality type, and so on. And they were trying to adjust that because they realized what it meant was, how everyone made decisions and how they thought together was very much the same, there was no challenge to get to a better response to those. There’s a lot of focus on how they were hiring people to make sure they were focusing on those values and, and different mindsets, and in the right way.

Chris Edson  46:56

Sometimes having your team aligned is very helpful. So in the early days of its startup, where you just need to get things done, sometimes having people who have a similar value set is very helpful because it reduces conflict, people fight less, and you just moved in the early days as a company, you just need to move things along. And then there’ll be other stages as the company grows, where you need that cognitive diversity for challenges, as you say because otherwise, your culture is going to stall, and your growth is going to stall unless you bring in some fresh perspectives.

Matt Nally  47:35

I really like that, I suppose as a final wrap-up, slightly putting you on the spot. And maybe I should give this out in advance in the future, but what would you say your top tips are for starting and growing a business?

Chris Edson  47:53

The only thing that stands out to me more than anything else, is to go and speak to 100 people in whatever space, you want to build something and go and speak to 100 people,

it’s so easy to not do that.

And the reason why that’s so important is you may well have your complete conviction on the thing that you want to build, but I promise you, it will be wrong. So go and speak to 100 people and try and identify what are your goals in this serving space. What are you trying to get to what are your drivers? What’s really motivating you? And then what are your blockers? What’s stopping you from getting there? What are the current problems? And then build a product from that? Once you’ve done that, go and build it and sounds so simple, but I promise you it’s the most reliable way to build a great business.

Matt Nally  48:48

Oh, definitely. You can. You can have a viewpoint that is you say that this is what people are going to want. But you don’t know everybody’s use cases or perspectives or scenarios. And only once you’ve found all of those out, can you really make sure you tailor what you’re doing in the right ways or put the right angle of marketing out whatever it might be. So it’s a super powerful point. I agree with that. Again, if anyone wants to have a look at second nature, what’s the website?

Chris Edson  49:15

Secondnature.io.com was taken. If you Google second nature, hopefully, we will come up if our SEO is doing us any favors.

Matt Nally  49:30

Awesome. Definitely worth a look. It’s a slick site. So thanks very much. I’ll speak to you soon.

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