30 September 2019
AI-driven growth: ‘Sat nav’ for diabetes Gendius has huge ambitions after £500k fundraise
AI-driven growth for Gendius after a successful crowdfunding round - good to hear from co-founder Rory Cameron about the tech startup's growth ambitions in Tech Nation
Based in Alderley Edge in Cheshire, healthtech startup Gendius has developed an app-based platform to help people living with diabetes better manage their condition. Co-founder and CEO Rory Cameron says intellin can be best compared to a “sat nav” while thousands of other diabetes apps are much more like “rear view mirrors”.
Since its launch, Gendius has raised VC funding, won an Innovate UK grant and recently attracted more than £500,000 through a successful equity crowdfunding campaign on Crowdcube.
There are more than 3.5 million people in the UK diagnosed with diabetes, but Cameron stresses that the disease is “poorly misunderstood” by the majority of people who have it, and they intend to fix that problem.
We talk to the entrepreneur to find out more about their ambitions and growth plans.
What is the story of your company?
Rory Cameron: My co-founder Chris Genders got diabetes for his 50th birthday. Ironically, he was working for a pharmaceutical company selling a diabetes drug at the time and his wife was selling insulin. Within three months, Chris was on insulin and found the whole experience pretty horrible. The NHS have so little time to support people with diabetes so he, like many others, largely worked it out himself.
Things became worse when Chris got a diabetic foot ulcer. He didn’t want to die wondering if something could be done to help other people with diabetes, but most of all to let them know that they could do things differently to avoid potential life-changing complications.
In 2016, Chris and I got together and started our incredible journey, self-funding our idea for the next two years. We secured VC funding and won £500,000 from Innovate UK which allowed us to start to build the company, and start our first clinical trial of the intellin app.
What is your product and what problem are you trying to solve?
There are some 4,000 ‘diabetes apps’ available but the vast majority are trackers; they allow the patient to enter blood glucose readings, BMI and carb intake and produce reports that they can show to their nurse or doctor. The best analogy is that they are ‘rear view mirrors’ and show you where you’ve been, but not where you are going.
Intellin is a ‘sat nav’; by entering personal and clinical information into the app, a personalised risk profile is generated by using decision trees based on published clinical studies. Hints and tips, based on over 100 million combinations of answers are pushed to the user, allowing them to make informed decisions about managing their diabetes.
Why did you raise the funding round?
We’ve been extremely fortunate that our cornerstone investor, Catapult Ventures, have shown huge faith in our business. This current round will be the third time they have invested. Gendius was unusual in as much as VC funding came at a very early stage, as did considerable UK Government funding. We missed out the ‘friends and family’ bit of funding a startup.
Three years in, we felt that it was time to open up investment to others. We now have high net worth individuals investing but were excited at the possibilities that crowdfunding might bring. Conversations with the NHS, insurance companies, pharma and one of the world’s biggest device manufacturers gave us the confidence to go for it. We are also conducting clinical trials within the NHS, and have recently been awarded ISO 27001, the international standing in information governance.
This funding round will allow us to build the company infrastructure and accelerate our progress. We plan a Series A round in a year’s time, allowing us to launch globally.
Why did you choose crowdfunding?
We contemplated doing crowdfunding a couple of years ago. The prevailing climate at the time was that medical apps were still in their infancy and crowdfunding seemed to be more geared towards physical rather than virtual products. We have always had the philosophy of taking our time to get things right, so we decided to hold off going down this route.
Around 3.5 million people in the UK now have diabetes, so in parallel the number of people touched by the condition such as friends and family are significantly more than this. We felt that by offering equity and investment in intellin, we could create an opportunity for people who are touched by diabetes to help us make a real difference.
The biggest question for any startup seeking investment is how much equity to give away at an early stage? It has to be subjective and pivots around expected future value of the company and what could be achieved at exit. When we set off, there were no comparable exits that we could use as a benchmark. It may sound altruistic, but both Chris and I want to make a difference to those people who have diabetes, but also the next generation.
What’s it like being a tech company in the North West?
We are based at Alderley Park in Cheshire, which is just the most incredible facility for tech companies. We are surrounded by both established companies as well as numerous startups. The networking opportunities are numerous and have served us well. Our first investment came from us attending a ‘boot camp’ at Alderley and a subsequent pitch.
The North West is an innovative and go-ahead region. We have had great support from Health Innovation Manchester, our local Academic Health Science Network which again has been fantastic for us. In short, we couldn’t be in a better place.
What’s on the horizon for Gendius?
We are hugely ambitious. The next phase of our journey will be around developing the AI that will be at the heart of intellin. We have been working with the Advanced Data Analysis Centre at the University of Nottingham for a couple of years now, and they are already discovering interesting patterns in the data they are receiving from intellin users. As we build the company infrastructure, we will accelerate the capabilities and functionality of the platform. We hope that we will make a real difference to the understanding of diabetes progression, making a real difference to individuals and the way that diabetes is managed.
The next few months will see us engaging with overseas regulatory bodies and commercial organisations. We will be FDA ready by mid-2020, coinciding with our series A round.
We have contacts in South Asia, India and the USA who will help us penetrate global markets.
*Since the interview was conducted, Gendius has been accepted onto UP Ventures’ Greater Manchester Future of Health accelerator programme at The Landing, MediaCityUK.