Some may think Anne-Laure is crazy: leaving a job at Google to set up a company doesn’t seem to make sense at first. But Anne-Laure is different to most people in their twenties: she has an unshakeable belief that good nutrition is a cornerstone of good health, thinks that we’re doing it all wrong, and decided to take action. Lysa, the smart health assistant she’s building with her team, aims to make science-based advice about food and nutrition available to all.
Anne-Laure agrees to meet me on a beautiful summer morning to tell me about this exciting venture. I sit waiting in a small coffee shop. It’s a hot day and I start to wish I had chosen somewhere cooler to meet. She arrives early. You have to stand up and take notice when Anne-Laure walks in a room. She is full of life and her enthusiasm and confidence are infectious. She greets me with a warm smile and a handshake. I settle down to a coffee, she asks for water, and we start chatting. What she is doing is certainly brave, but is it smart? “I’m aware most startups fail. Yes, it’s risky, but I believe it’s the right thing to do,” she answers, looking me straight in the eye–and I believe her.
Before we start talking about her startup, I want explore who Anne-Laure is, what motivates her, how much she knows about her industry. Why now, why her?
What technology is she fascinated by right now?
“There’s just so much going on right now!” she laughs. She mentions Neuralink – Elon Musk’s new venture which develops high bandwidth and safe brain-machine interfaces. We agree that the ability to deeply embed technology into our lives and bodies, whether it’s worn on our skin or implanted inside our bodies, is something that all wearable makers are striving to achieve. To me, the idea that one day technology will be part of us, helping us to to control the world around us, and accessing information with just a thought is mind blowing.
I then ask her what marketing approaches have made the biggest impression on her and why.
“In many fields, including marketing, hyper-customisation and automation are the two things I think are having the biggest impact right now,” she answers. “Social media has also deeply changed the way we communicate. We are now more open, and craving for authenticity. You can see this in my current field, health technology. People’s attitudes are changing.” I agree with her: social media platforms, as ever evolving networks that can motivate, support and influence, are just one example of how online communities are contributing to behavioural change. We also talk about the shift in focus onto mental health and the potential benefits of meditation. Some futurists such as Ray Kurzweil, are predicting that mindful focused exercise will be practiced more in the future than physical exercise is today. Anne-Laure nods, “yes, mental health is incredibly important, and attitudes are shifting there too. It’s great people and organisations are starting to recognise its importance, but now we need to really equip people with the right tools and create an accepting environment to foster an open dialogue.”
The market is becoming more and more crowded with wearables and health technology. Bearing in mind her experience in this area, I ask Anne-Laure how she would position a product in this category so potential users understand its value.
She talks passionately about this topic, explaining how important it is for brands to start with the user. Too many wearable makers don’t seem to have a clear grasp on who exactly they are targeting and what problem they are trying to solve. As a result, there’s a lot of noise and confusing messages sent to potential users. “Focus and clear positioning are key,” she says. “Marketing should be benefits led, not just feature rich.” I couldn’t agree more.
I ask her more details about her career to date.
After completing a Masters degree in Marketing & Management in France, she went to work for Google UK, managing their content marketing strategy across all B2B channels. She then accepted an offer to manage global marketing for Google Fit and Android Wear, and moved onto Google’s HQ in California. “Why leave a job that most people would kill for?” I probe further. “It was definitely an amazing job, and I had a great team,” she smiles. “But I wanted to do more, learn faster, and I felt that now was the right time.” I ask who’s currently inspiring her and she points to the founders of Women of Wearables, Marija Butkovic and Michelle Hua. “They started this community of women from scratch. They are truly inspiring, and a great example of how people can solve big problems and make an impact when they come together!”
I want to know why Anne-Laure thinks this is the right time to start her business. Why not later?
She is clearly passionate and resolute in her proposition, and doesn’t hesitate in her answer. “I’m a firm believer that health is one of the area that can benefit most from emerging technology. Getting live information about your body is getting easier and more people want to feel in control of their health. Apple has just overtaken Fitbit in the wearable market with their watch, and I think their recent focus on health, fitness and wellness has a lot to do with this. There are still so many things phones and wearables could help with. Imagine a beautiful bracelet that can track blood sugars instead of having to prick your finger every day–this would be life changing for the many people suffering from diabetes! While one of the challenges is to develop technology that’s small enough to fit inside a phone or a wearable device, I think we also need to make it smart enough to provide real value to users.”
I then change tack and try to find out a little more about her exciting new plans for Lysa.
“If you look at most nutrition and calorie counting apps, they give users data about their diet but don’t provide actionable insights in an easy, intuitive, and engaging way. Downloads rates are high, but retention is low. Our goal with Lysa is to use conversational technology to bring tailored nutrition and diet advice to everyone, in a way that is both affordable and evidence-based. We’re currently available in beta on Facebook Messenger, and actively working on bringing Lysa to other platforms.” I make a reference to NHS England and Public Health England, who both confirm in their five year forward view that prevention is better that cure, and that more health awareness campaigns are needed, as well as ways to empower patients to improve and manage their health. “Exactly,” says Anne-Laure, “preventative care is essential if we want to tackle this challenge. I’m hoping that Lysa can help.”
As I thank Anne-Laure for her time and she leaves the coffee shop, I am left in no doubt that we will be seeing more from her. She understands the health challenges our society is facing and how technology can help. She has the right experience to know how to realise her plan and she has an inspiring personality. What else do you need? Nothing, except more people like Anne-Laure who are pushing the boundaries and looking to the future.
Request to beta test Lysa and follow developments here: http://lysahealth.com/