by GRACE MOEN – Content Writer for Health 2.0 covering news, trends, and reflections on the industry.
Health 2.0’s mission and indeed, our core programming, is to be the frontier for new health care technologies. This is never so proudly displayed as during our Launch! session in which ten, brand new companies, present their technologies for the first time – live on stage. The energy behind the curtain is palpable as presenters smile with anticipation and pace their nerves back and forth, knowing that in mere minutes 2,000 health care executives, potential partners, collaborators, and investors await an exclusive peek at their innovative solution. The audience floods into the ballroom knowing that they too have a stake in the success of one lucky Launch! winner by voting for their favorite, most-disruptive technology. Over the years, Launch! has showcased new companies like Castlight and TicTrac, technologies including smart fabrics and diabetes monitoring, and have seen acquisitions from the likes of Intel and Apple. In the Fall of 2017, a company by the name of Suggestic took the crown. Suggestic helps you find and follow a precise eating plan for health optimization, weight loss, or chronic disease reversal. In an ongoing series here on the Health 2.0 News blog, we’ll be following up with each of our winners from the Fall Conference from 2009 to the present.
What was going on in the market at the time you founded your company? There were two very clear trends. The first trend was cultural, with more and more people using food as medicine. It was fueled by increasing chronic diseases and higher healthcare costs. The second trend was technological – refined artificial intelligence algorithms that could be applied to find patterns and predict outcomes in highly complex domains like food. We realized that the intersection of these trends would allow us to guide consumer nutrition toward optimal health.
Did you think you were going to win?
I was very excited, I loved the reaction of the audience toward our technology and I felt that the presentation had gone very well. And even though there were many great companies that had presented, I did feel we had a good chance of winning.
What was life like after winning Launch! ?
It was awesome. We had investors, partners, and the media calling us up.
Every founder has a great story – an inspiration or a need desperately needing to be met – what is yours?
Two years ago at the hospital I kissed my father on the forehead and told him “papá, I love you, and don’t worry, you’ll be fine.” He had always been a strong man, but that night he had fear in his eyes. I was wrong. He would not be “fine,” he was not ok, he was not healthy. I got a call from my uncle the next morning and I threw the phone as I hung up. He had passed away. I felt I had not been there for him. Both Shai, my Co-founder, and I lost our fathers to diabetes. The irony was that we our mission with Suggestic is to help over a billion people lead healthier, happier, longer lives. After our losses, this mission become even more personal – it has become our sole purpose in life. It was too late to help our fathers, but we are in time to help many other parents and loved ones across the globe.
Give us your tips for ultimate success with Suggestic?
Think of Suggestic as a life-long guide that will help food be both enjoyable and healthy, and that takes the guesswork out of eating. We go to where you are. We match your cultural and social requirements by allowing you to choose a diet, eating plan, or expert program. We then help you optimize it towards your goals with biomarkers. And we use all that to tell you what food you can buy, order, or cook that aligns with what you need and want.
Suggestic by-the-numbers, break it down for us…
Restaurants: over half a million
Restaurant menu items: Ingredient and nutrients for over 40 million menu items
Recipes linked: over 1.7 million recipes
Users: 13k growing at over 9% per week
Author partners: 20 health and nutrition authorities
Lab test and device diet optimizations: 6 being launched this year
Let’s talk about your competitive edge… what do you feel sets you apart from other diet-based health technologies on the market?
There are three aspects that set us apart. First, we have very sophisticated deep learning technology that allows us to infer the ingredient and nutrient composition of any menu item and then overlay a personalized score on top of the menu image by using augmented reality. We are years ahead with both these technologies. Our second advantage is that we have partnered up with over twenty of the leading health and nutrition experts in the world to bring their programs on to our platform. As opposed to one-size-fits-all plans, we will be launching a new evidence-based nutrition programs every couple weeks for the next 16 months. Our third competitive advantage is our ability to include lab tests, sensors, and biomarkers to modify and further optimize each diet. You will be able to use your genome, blood chemistry, microbiome, etc. to personalize your chosen eating program.
Do you use the app? Does your family?
At home we us it every day. Some of us have dairy, gluten, or egg sensitivities, and we have followed keto, paleo, and bone broth diets at different points in time. It has been great for us due to our diets, helping us pick restaurants, recipes, and grocery items.
How does Suggestic collect and populate information?
Suggestic has access to many public and private data sources. Our proprietary deep neural networks then enhance this data by adding the specific ingredient and nutritional composition.
Does Suggestic work with other languages?
Currently it is only available for English speaking menus in the US. We expect to start including other countries by the end of this year.
Does Suggestic get smarter as I use it?
Suggestic was built to continuously optimize food to reach specific outcomes. For example, very soon we will be able to change what we suggest based on your blood glucose levels, what you had for breakfast, and how far you ran this morning. Each new suggestion will consider your biological needs, your activity, and your previous food intake.
How much does Suggestic cost?
Suggestic is a free app. Some of the more sophisticated features can be unlocked as part of our membership, and you can purchase our expert programs that have a cost. But most people should be able to use and benefit enormously from our free version.
Does Suggestic share my information? With who? How is my data used?
Our policy is very simple: personal privacy and open data. Personal data is owned by the user and we will never share it without their explicit consent. As we accumulate more data we plan to make anonymized and aggregate data available for anyone. The more data available to researchers, doctors, regulators, and enthusiasts, the better nutrition will be understood. We will also allow individuals to download their full data in the future.
What is your greatest success story to this day?
When I was 9 years old I taught myself how to program computers. By 15 I had my first company and by 23 I had 300 employees. I became a serial entrepreneur and you know how that goes… One year I was shopping for a helicopter, and the next, after the tech market crashed, I didn’t have enough money to pay the cab to get to the hospital when our lovely daughter Anahi was born.
I believe true success has much more to do with the journey than with the destination. All the toughest moments in my life have led to spurts of inner-growth, have honed my resolution, and have brought my loved-ones closer to me. Those are my most successful moments.
What does the future hold for Suggestic?
It looks amazing. We have scheduled over a dozen health program launches with our partner authors and experts that extends well into 2019. In parallel we will be implementing new lab test optimizations. Our team is hard at work to perfect our product and launch sequence, and I can’t emphasize enough how excited everyone is about seeing the fruits of their labors finally come together.
With machine learning at an all time high, what is your big wish for the future of nutrition?
In a beehive all the bees have identical DNA. The queen bee and a worker bee start out exactly the same. The queen bee lives for over 2 years and worker bees live only six weeks. All the variants in their bodies and lifespan are triggered by the food they eat. Food is information for our bodies.
Over the past hundred years, the complexity of the information delivered by our food has grown exponentially as thousands of ingredients, nutrients, and toxins have been mixed into our everyday lives. This information complexity has exceeded the ability of our body and culture to adapt. It is very difficult for our metabolism, minds, and communities to understand what food is best for us.
Fortunately, that is precisely where artificial intelligence comes in. It will allow us to find patterns to untangle this complexity. And as a result, we will be able to enjoy the right food, at the right time, and in the right order to slow down aging, boost health, and improve the quality of life for everyone. The promise of food as medicine will finally become available to humanity.
Want a front-row seat to Launch! to witness healthcare history in the making? Register today.