In this ongoing series, we are sharing advice, tips and insights from real entrepreneurs who are out there doing business battle on a daily basis. (Answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Who are you and what’s your business?
I am Gil Blander, a scientist and entrepreneur, born and raised in Israel. After graduating with a Ph.D. in Biology from the Weizmann Institute of Science I moved to the United States to perform a postdoctoral fellowship at MIT. I spent five years there and worked in a couple of system biology computational biology companies before founding InsideTracker, where I am the Chief Scientific Officer. InsideTracker provides a personal health analysis and data-driven wellness guide, designed to help you live healthier and longer. By analyzing your body’s biomarkers, InsideTracker provides an objective assessment of the current state of your well-being. Then, our AI-powered platform uses findings from thousands of scientific peer-reviewed publications and over ten billion biomarker data points to generate a custom set of actionable and personalized recommendations and insights including what food, supplements, exercise, and lifestyle changes are good for you. Integrated within an intuitive mobile app, InsideTracker reveals your personalized path to improving your health, wellness and longevity from the inside out.
What inspired you to create it?
At the tender age of 12, the passing of a close relative acted as a poignant reminder of life’s fragility, sparking a profound commitment within me to contribute to the pursuit of longer, healthier lives. This pivotal moment steered me toward the study of biology, a field through which I envisioned making a meaningful impact. Upon completing my postdoctoral fellowship at MIT, I joined a computational biology company, leveraging its platform to construct the pioneering computational biology model of caloric restriction. Recognized as a potent intervention for lifespan extension in model organisms, this model illuminated the potential of utilizing food as a strategic tool — a paradigm shift from the conventional drug cabinet in the bathroom to the kitchen.
This realization, my “aha moment,” ignited a passion for harnessing personalized nutrition as a proactive approach to prevent future diseases. The vision unfolded — a paradigm where food becomes a tailored prescription, shaping a future where preventive healthcare is as accessible as a well-curated meal plan. We began with a direct-to-consumer approach because we believe it is a faster way to make an impact. However, we strongly believe that working with clinicians to bring the InsideTracker revelation to everyone is the way to go, and that future is almost here.
What has been your biggest challenge and how did you pivot to overcome it?
Navigating the intricacies of day-to-day business operations posed a significant challenge for me. My strengths lie in innovation, science, and product development conceptualizing compelling ideas and translating them into tangible products. However, managing processes, overseeing operations, and handling a large team of employees are not my natural forte. Recognizing this, I made a strategic decision from the inception of the company to enlist a CEO who could adeptly steer the organizational ship while enabling me to concentrate on what I do best — driving innovation and product excellence.
How did you go about finding that CEO?
The process involved an exhaustive series of interviews with numerous candidates. It was imperative to identify an individual whose skill set complemented mine and who could effectively lead the company with a shared vision. After careful consideration, I found the perfect match in Rony Sellam. A decade later, our collaboration remains strong, a testament to the success of this decision. Having a capable CEO at the helm has not only streamlined day-to-day operations but has also allowed me to stay true to my passion for innovation and product development, fostering a harmonious and enduring partnership.
What advice would you give entrepreneurs looking for funding?
The customer is your best investor and holds the key to navigating the challenges of fundraising in today’s economic landscape. Securing capital can be a daunting task, but with the current array of services and gig economy opportunities, building a prototype or minimum viable product (MVP) has become more accessible with a modest financial investment. Strive to reach the MVP stage and actively seek paying early adopters. Their feedback and testimonials not only validate your product but also serve as a powerful leverage point when courting potential investors.
For novice entrepreneurs, establishing connections with individuals who appreciate you and invest based on trust is crucial. Alternatively, find investors who are passionate about your idea and are willing to invest in its potential. Building these relationships is an investment in the long-term success of your venture.
Irrespective of the venture’s stage — be it early, mid, or late — cultivating relationships with investors is an enduring process. Converting investors may take time; we, for instance, engaged in numerous meetings over the years before sealing deals with some of our key investors.
As a founder, CEO, or executive, maintaining a perpetual awareness of fundraising is paramount. The optimal time to seek funding is when you don’t urgently need it. Moreover, even if you are confident in your current financial standing, seizing investment opportunities is wise. The journey to the next milestone is invariably longer, more complex, and costlier than anticipated. Embracing financial support when it’s available ensures you are well-prepared for the unpredictable challenges that lie ahead.
What does the word “entrepreneur” mean to you?
Someone who refuses to take no for an answer, who is determined to succeed and will go to great lengths to build their business. They are willing to work tirelessly, day and night, all year round, to achieve their goals. They possess a unique vision that others cannot see and have the ability to work with any personality type, even if they are difficult, as long as their value outweighs their cost. They also know how to adapt their team and strategy to suit any situation.
What is something many aspiring business owners think they need that they really don’t?
Many aspiring business owners often believe that amassing a significant amount of capital is an absolute necessity for launching a successful venture. While financial resources are undoubtedly important, the misconception lies in the assumption that a substantial sum is the sole determinant of success. In reality, numerous successful businesses have been built on innovative ideas, strategic planning, and effective execution, rather than a vast initial investment. Overemphasis on the need for a large amount of money can hinder creativity and resourcefulness. Many startups have thrived by focusing on lean and efficient operations, utilizing available resources judiciously, and prioritizing ingenuity over an abundance of funds. Therefore, aspiring entrepreneurs should recognize that a wealth of ideas, resilience, and strategic thinking can often outweigh the perceived necessity of significant financial backing in the early stages of business development.
Is there a particular quote or saying that you use as personal motivation?
“If you set your sights on the moon, your trajectory will lead you to the moon.” I appreciate this sentiment as it underscores the idea that those with ambitious aspirations are more likely to attain significant achievements. Personally, my overarching objective is to contribute to the extension of people’s lifespans and the enhancement of their overall well-being. However, I recognize that for others, the metaphorical ‘moon’ may symbolize entirely diverse aspirations, reflecting the inherent subjectivity of success and purpose. This statement encourages a universal appreciation for aiming high and pursuing individualized goals, recognizing that the journey toward greatness varies for each person based on their unique aspirations and dreams.