Time flies when you're having fun
18th November, 37 days to Christmas, how on earth did that happen?! Building a startup does sometimes feel like your life is permanently stuck on 1.5x speed. But as the saying goes, time flies when you’re having fun, so no complaints here.
I wrote about the Queen in the last newsletter. Admittedly, that was two months ago (apologies for the silent treatment!), but it still amazes me how quickly we, and life, moves on. This doesn’t belittle the impact of the loss of loved ones, it’s just to say that life is constantly happening and things are always evolving, and that’s a good thing. Time truly is the greatest healer, but that doesn’t mean it waits for you. Get out there, and get living. 👊
In real life
As some of you will know, Luca’s operations are split between Greece and London. Vas spends the majority of his time back home, but we try to spend a couple of weeks together every other month. It was Vas’ turn to travel, which saw him spend 3 weeks of October with me in London. The timing was excellent as it coincided with us onboarding 3 of our pilot partners and this took us on the road to Oxford and to Cambridge to hold kick-off sessions with the Boat and Rugby Clubs there.
Spending time in person also gives us time to think and to plan. When we’re remote, we’re largely in execution mode. The delineation of responsibilities (Vas product & tech, me essentially everything else) is very clear and that’s really efficient, but it definitely does help to be in the same place when you need to have longer conversations about product strategy, hiring and fundraising etc.
Being together also provided us with the opportunity for a bit of a photo shoot. Vas seems to have a friend for every job and, again, the trusty contact book didn’t let us down. Vas’ mate from home, Qerim, is a bit of a hobbyist photographer and kindly came over to Missionworks to take some pics.
I’m sure there’s a gag in here about “Carlsberg making founding teams” or “startups being all about keeping balls in the air” but it’s not coming to me…
N.B. The photoshoot wasn’t us being vain. We only had one photo of us together and that was us drinking whisky when we first teamed up during Antler, hardly appropriate for our new look website or external communications! In addition, I was still rocking a suit and tie headshot on LinkedIn, not very startup-y, and Vas has been on a fitness kick the last few months, so was keen to capture his new found cheekbones! 😂
In the last newsletter we were celebrating having the app on the stores and fast forward a couple of months, we’ve now onboarded 4 pilot partners and are screening ~400 athletes on a biweekly basis. To my point at the start of this newsletter, it’s now hard to remember what life felt like before having the partners on board! Onboarding and actively screening the partners has delivered a lot of learning. It’s impossible to have thought of every eventuality or product feature before you have users, and that’s exactly why you run pilots. Not just to prove the efficacy or utility of a product, but to learn how users engage with it, to hear what it’s missing or what it has but doesn’t need. The feedback from our users has been so helpful, and we’re extremely grateful for their ongoing engagement. 🙏
From a screening standpoint, the early data has been worrisome and encouraging in equal measure. Worrisome, because it’s now abundantly clear to us that athletes are struggling out there in big numbers, really struggling, and some are extremely low, but encouraging because it’s validating the problem in an irrefutable way. There’s a tremendous need for a product like Luca, both in the Professional and Elite University ranks and that is providing us with the energy and motivation to keep showing up and to keep, incrementally, moving things forward day-by-day.
P.S. as someone who’s well being is far from ideal, I already love the app
User feedback ☝️
From humble beginnings
Another of the hugely motivating things about working on an impact focussed startup is the genuine interest we receive from others. Earlier this month, on my birthday actually (which Vas forgot!) I was invited to the parliamentary reception of the launch of Bipolar UK’s new ‘Bipolar Minds Matter’ report. I’ve always wanted to see the House of Parliament, so I was very happy to swap the shorts for a suit for the day. The invitation came from Guy Paisner, the Chair of Bipolar UK, who was a client when I worked at AlphaSights. He’s doing all he can to raise awareness for this terribly misunderstood and under resourced condition. We’ll hopefully be able to help on the awareness front by introducing them to athletes who are living well with bipolar and who might be willing to use their platform to help raise awareness and lobby the government and NHS for additional funding. James Wade, the darts player, already performances this ambassadorial role very well for the charity, despite the sport making life tricky for him (there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done on the stigma front in elite sport).
It was very difficult to hear the stories of some of the speakers. Their struggles are encapsulated by the core findings 👇👇👇 from the report, which you can read it in full here.
More than a million people live with bipolar in the UK
More than five million friends and family are significantly affected by a loved one’s bipolar
Bipolar costs the UK economy £20 billion a year – 17% of the burden of disease for mental illness
Someone with bipolar takes their own life every day
10% of our community said they had attempted to take their own life in the last six months
More than half of people with bipolar have been hospitalised due to their bipolar
44% of people with bipolar are obese
People with bipolar die 10-15 years earlier than the general population
It’s important we don’t lose sight of Luca’s core focus, but it’s also important we’re open to using our small, but growing, platform to help other worthwhile efforts where we can. Thanks for the invite, Guy!
This week we commenced our £500,000 funding round to supplement the investment from Antler earlier in the year. We’re looking to raise predominantly from angel investors (individuals) but are open to a portion of this money coming from an early stage VC fund or two. If you like what we’re doing and are interested in learning a bit more please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you know of others that might be interested, please send them my way as well.
Quick note on the fundraise that’s worth pointing out, we still have £210,000 SEIS and all of our EIS allowance left, which come with tremendous tax advantages (even more relevant after Jeremy Hunt’s announcements yesterday). We’ll be raising on an ASA (Advanced Subscription Agreement), which means the investment will be realised in April 2023 onwards, i.e. the new tax year.
This article does a very good job of spelling out the tax advantages of SEIS & EIS investing.
Thanks so much for your continued interest in our journey, it really does mean a lot to us. We’re going to be launching a new newsletter series next week, so do keep an eye out for that. Once a week, we’re going to be publishing a ‘Human too’ post. We’re interviewing current and recently retired athletes in text form to get to know the person behind the athlete. What makes them tick on a human level, what they care deeply about that perhaps their friends don’t even know, how they’ve overcome struggles in their sporting careers or in their transition to the real world. It’s all to build further awareness about the problem and to help nudge teams that they really do need to be doing more to support their athletes. We hope you find it insightful. If there’s anybody you think we should be interviewing, please do let me know and finally, please do mention our fundraise to any contacts. It’s a tough time to be trying to raise money given the current state of the economy, but we know there’s a big problem to tackle here and we’d love to have like minded investors onboard to help us realise our goals.
With that, have a great weekend when it comes and look out for Human too – #1 landing in your inboxes next week.