Five start-ups I'm excited about right now
Nothing makes me more excited than a start-up using purpose and innovation to solve problems in the world. Throughout my career, I’ve seen how purpose-driven businesses go further, faster; and it inspires me to see more impactful businesses launching each year. With this in mind, I wanted to shine a light on five tech start-ups I’ve invested in that I’m particularly excited about right now.
The women’s health sector is chronically undervalued in a male dominated investment world. While women account for 80% of consumer healthcare purchasing decisions, women’s health remains underinvested, under-researched and untransformed. As pharmaceutical executive Susanne Fiedler said in an interview with the Financial Times:
Every human on the planet is the product of women’s health. Waiting on male investors to invest in women’s health clearly hasn’t been working.
I’ve spoken quite a bit about my own fertility struggles, so I’m particularly passionate about the start-ups and scientists making strides in the industry. Cue Oova – the first at-home fertility test that measures multiple hormones through urine samples and provides personalised real-time results and insights. The test offers more measurements and more accuracy by detecting precise hormone levels and challenging the outdated idea that all women have a 28-day cycle. Oova’s technology and digital platform also reports on your hormone cycle, and tracks key data points about periods, symptoms, diet, and exercise activities. The test also uses the same state-of-the-art materials as aircraft filtration systems to make sure variables like caffeine and medication aren’t interfering. What I really love about Oova is that it was founded by a doctor who was navigating her own fertility obstacles and could no longer accept the fact that traditional fertility tests relied upon 50-year-old technology. Oova provides a more convenient and cost-effective alternative to traditional fertility treatments. It’s such a great example of how start-ups can disrupt outdated industries and ideas for the better. It’s a rewrite of David v Goliath – where David is a woman.
From my training and work as a doctor, I became interested in how hygiene and contamination can impact illness and disease outbreak. During the COVID-19 pandemic, this was thrown into light in a big way and the need for higher hygiene standards grew enormously. However, traditional hygiene testing methods within commercial settings are clunky and expensive for the likes of restaurants and healthcare providers. Cue FreshCheck – an incredible start-up founded by Dr John Simpson and Dr Alex Bond, who both hold PhDs in Chemical Biology of Health and Disease from Imperial Collage London, have developed patented colour change technology to detect bacterial contamination on surfaces, which is faster and cheaper than traditional methods, and doesn’t require any expensive hardware. The company is going from strength to strength and has a range of other products on the way, which I’m very excited to learn about!
In 2022, the Virgin Group invested in Sesame – a brilliant company that is lowering the price of medical care in America and making sure no-one is priced out of accessing primary and specialised care. Wow. The company’s ability to provide high-quality care from world-class physicians at a fraction of the standard price is radical and purpose-driven innovation - and it fills me with hope. The two-sided online marketplace that Sesame has developed allows people to research and find board-certified physicians, make digital appointments, purchase at-home testing kits, and fill prescriptions in more affordable and flexible ways. It also gives physicians the chance to reach more patients in less time and allows them to vary price points for peak and off-peak windows. This start-up’s ability to deliver whole-quality healthcare at half the price is the sort of digital innovation the world needs right now. I can’t wait to see the impact it makes.
Tens Eyewear is a wonderful British business. Their sunglasses have been designed to (quite literally) make you happy. Indeed, the brand was founded by two photographers who wanted to bring the warm tones they added to their photographs, into the real world. They spent years perfecting sense-heightening, and mood-enhancing lens tints inspired by different visual experiences. For example, the Tropic High collection delivers gorgeous colours and poolside nostalgia, while the Boulevard collection gives you the subtle experience of an LA sunrise. This attention to detail is what I love most about Tens, which extends to its focus on quality and sustainability. The frames are all designed in Scotland and, from 2023, hand-made in France using sustainable materials - the team is now using 100% recycled and repurposed acetate – producing a lower carbon footprint across manufacturing and transportation. At the helm is British Designer and Creative Director, Danielle Rattray, 2023 is shaping up to be an exciting year for Tens as the team experiments with new materials, upgraded components, and even more sophisticated lens filters. To build a business that is so carefully considered and is centred around making people’s day a little bit brighter - this is a wonderful thing to do.
Marker Learning is doing incredible work to empower neurodiverse learners, and to make learning and support more accessible in the US. The platform provides accessible and affordable diagnoses, documentation, and personalised learning support to people who suspect they have a learning disability or challenge. It’s a business built with purpose, as its two dyslexic founders went through their own struggles to access the learning support they needed to thrive in life. Given one in five students has a learning disability, but only one in 20 gets diagnosed, it’s an important issue to address, and it’s the reason we invested in Marker Learning from the Virgin Group. As a dyslexic, Dad has experienced his own challenges with learning, but, as he said himself:
I learned a long time ago that when students have the permission and support to think differently, there’s no limit to what they can achieve.
It’s wonderful to see how Marker Learning is providing this permission and this support, and it's incredible to see the difference it is already making.
There are so many brilliantly innovative start-ups out there. What businesses would you add to this list? Let me know through social media!