In the fifth in our Millennial CEOs series, we talk to Hamish Grierson, whose customer-centric company Thriva sells easy-to-use home blood test kits, opening a new door in preventative health for the NHS
‘At Thriva, we believe the world would be a better place if people knew their bodies better. Happier, healthier lives with fewer surprises. Fitness trackers were really a first step – pun not intended – towards people wanting to quantify things about themselves that they previously could not,’ explains 32-year-old Hamish Grierson, co-founder and CEO of the UK-based start-up Thriva, which offers self-service, at-home blood test kits that are analysed by a lab with results delivered through an online tracking dashboard. ‘Many people are inherently motivated to try and get the most out of life and we’ve made it simple for them to understand what is going on in their bodies.’
Grierson and the others at Thriva have worked hard to ensure that this access to personal health information is an easy and affordable process. They offer a baseline subscription that supplies one Thriva kit every three months. Each kit contains the supplies for a simple, finger-prick blood test.
From there, the sample can be mailed to Thriva’s partner lab, where it is analysed, and then a qualified GP creates a personalised health report. This report includes a full check of liver function, cholesterol, vitamin D, and iron levels with easy to understand clinical grades.
‘Ultimately, our goal is to empower people and help them make more informed decisions about their health and, just as importantly, to remove the stigma and worry for anyone yet to start.’ Additional kits offer checks on thyroid function, testosterone, and vitamin B12.
Grierson initially saw a need for this product in summer 2015 while speaking with one of his two co-founders, Eliot Brooks (26). Brooks has familial hypercholesterolaemia, a hereditary high-cholesterol disease that made it necessary for him to miss one morning of work every three months to get blood drawn.
‘As someone personally fascinated by nutrition, fitness, and wellness, I asked him, ‘You must have run some experiments on yourself to know whether there are day to day decisions you make that positively or negatively impact your cholesterol levels?’ He laughed at me and asked, ‘With what data would I be doing that?’ And very quickly it became apparent to both of us how broken the healthcare system is when it comes to customer-centric innovation.’ The realisation was that while the UK has a remarkable sick care system, proactive, empowering health isn’t really on the agenda.
Grierson entered into the New Entrepreneurs Foundation in 2011 where he was placed in the company Travelex. While working there, he and Brooks helped launch a currency card product to change the way customers spent money abroad. ‘It started off with the premise that customers shouldn’t be penalised for using their bank card just because they are in another country.’ The beta launch received 86 registrations within 36 hours and indicated the potential for customer-centric products. They now employ a team of 12.
‘You ultimately have to start with the consumer,’ he explains. ‘There’s no point in creating an amazing array of 3,000 different health tests if it’s going to cost £5,000. Few people would be able to afford it. Our mission is about producing a tracking product that everyone can and should use.’
With this background and seeing this need for a better customer-driven health service, Grierson and Brooks came together with third co-founder and CTO Tom Livesey (28) and started looking at what they could do to open up access to some of the most important biomechanical data there is. ‘Any scientist, certainly any anthropologist, would tell you the importance of longitudinal data and building up a sophisticated array of data points over time.’
And now their product offers an easy way to access these various data points. Thriva combines cutting-edge products and consumer understanding with clinical grade testing. If the user begins doing something they had not before, like cutting out meat from their diet, exercising or decreasing their alcohol usage, they can see the effects of this displayed clearly in their blood report. This means that Thriva is not only a great help for people with pre-existing conditions, such as diabetics or those with thyroid disorders, but is also used by those without a pre-existing need to test – a group commonly known as the ‘worried well’. ‘Most of our customers are subscription customers, using our baseline product to understand how their day-to-day decisions impact their actual health.’
Grierson also stresses the vital importance that access to health data like this can play in the UK. ‘There is a slight irony in that we are fortunate enough to have this free national health service which, in order to be free, has become incapable of funding the one thing that could help sustain it – preventative health.’ Grierson sites the vicious circle the NHS is caught in, of saving people at the point of requiring treatment rather than cost directing the products to lower averages of people getting ill in the first place. ‘Preventative health is more affordable in the long term, especially when dealing with the compounding challenges of an ageing population.’
That being said, Grierson also emphasises the importance of Thriva’s place in helping the national health service. ‘Thriva has been deliberately built on a platform that can regularly interact with existing health services. We want to work with the NHS and others to help power the very same situations, providing people with ongoing testing that might help them avoid a three-hour drive to the hospital.’
Thriva launched in June 2016 and by now has raised £1.5m in seed funding and has more than 10,000 customers. ‘We are growing. And the underlying driver for this growth is people thinking “I want an easy way to ensure I’m on top of my health and aren’t about to get any of the nasty surprises we read about in the paper every day. Because if I get more out of my body, I get more out of my life.’’’
Grierson adds, ‘this technology is just tying into an innate human desire to thrive, but has also made it easy at the same time, recognising that us humans also find staying healthy increasingly hard in the age of huge time pressure and sedentary lifestyles.’
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