Nutrifix: The Interview
Nutrifix: The app that puts healthy on the map
Founder: Joel Burgess
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We catch up with Joel Burgess, founder of Nutrifix, "the app that is going to change the way the world eats" (we can't disagree with a Forbes headline!). We talk nutrition scoring (and what healthy really means!), prioritising to achieve your goals, recruiting the right team, and crowdfunding and investor tactics. We have so much to learn from this inspiring entrepreneur!
Mills: First things first, tell us about Nutrifix - what is it and how did the idea come about?
Joel: I started Nutrifix to “scratch my own itch”.
In my teens, I was fit and healthy. I loved sport, particularly rugby, and even managed to get paid for it, but as I moved into my 20s, injuries hindered my professional sporting ambitions. Before I knew it I was 30 years old and no longer the fit and healthy person I’d always been.
I tried to follow numerous diets, with limited success. I was constantly eating on the go, with minimal time to read labels, and struggled to know what to eat. So, I put together a detailed list of the best things to eat when out and about – what to order at Pret, Wagamama, Eat… they were all there; thousands of meals rated according to what was best for my nutritional needs.
Soon after people started asking me to do nutritional lists for them! That’s when the seeds of Nutrifix were sewn: what if I turned the list into an app, that anyone could access on the go, to help them find healthy food tailored to their nutritional needs. The idea quickly became a mission – something I believed could genuinely take the stress out of healthy eating.
Fast forward one year and Nutrifix was born - from my initial scrappy list to a fully-formed app loaded with nutritional data, able to empower thousands of people to eat healthier.
Today, Nutrifix has over 9,000 users and a database of 5,000 meals from more than 12,000 locations and 130 vendors, from major UK chains like Nandos and LEON, to independent gems.
Foong: We love that Nutrifix educates people about proper nutrition and balanced meals, cutting through fads and the idea of excluding whole food groups (which can result in deficiencies in certain nutrients if not monitored). Tell us a bit more about how the scoring works.
Joel: The Nutrifix score is unique to every user, it's out of 100 and rates how close a meal is to hitting your calorie and macronutrient goals, which we calculate from your age, height, weight, activity level and health goals, as well as how much saturated fat, salt and sugar is in each meal, according to government recommended daily allowances.
Foong: How do high street food chains react when you rank their food depending on a nutrition score? Was there any reluctance to provide certain stats?
Joel: There has been some initial reluctance to hand over recipes or nutritional information at some less health-focussed chains. However, the fact that we rate food according to each user differently, means that we’re constantly surprised by what scores well and what doesn’t.
For example, a low calorie salad will have a score of below 50 for someone who works out most days, yet might score at 90 for someone who wants to lose weight and goes to the gym once a week. Likewise we’ve found that pastas and pizzas that are often demonised as ‘bad’ foods, will actually score well for lots of people.
The beauty of Nutrifix is that it’s different for everyone, and once we explain this to restaurants, they are happy to hand over their data!
Mills: What’s the 3-5 year plan, the ultimate goal for Nutrifix?
Joel: Our current focus is to grow our user base in London and prove the concept in the UK before taking it global.
We’re also currently in the process of launching a premium version of the app for both our vendors and users. Premium vendors will benefit from our click & collect integration and the ability to offer time-based promotions through our apps which will increase their visibility and conversions in the app, as well as benefitting from insightful user data.
Nutrifix Pro, for users, will benefit from additional personalisation and a discount on a DNA testing kit, which will feed into recommendations in the app. On top of this they will be able to access the full menu for each vendor.
Foong: Nutrifix partners with Deliveroo and Just Eat - these are big names - how did you go about approaching them and justifying that Nutrifix was different?
Joel: It helped that Nutrifix is the first app to do what we are doing and that we are solving a genuine problem supported by increasing demand and a growing market.
With regards to approaching them, I made sure I was at any event that someone from Deliveroo was presenting at and did whatever I could to speak with them. I then made it so incredibly easy to partner with us, that it was a no brainer!
Mills: Nutrifix is a bit of an anomaly in the fundraising space, in that you have been very successful at raising funds prior to even having a product! You received initial backing from Just Eat and over £350,000 of investment on Crowdcube - tell us about that process.
Joel: It's crazy to think how Nutrifix came about, and a lot of good fortune was involved. It all started with being invited onto Just Eat’s first food tech accelerator. Which was the week after I decided to work on Nutrifix full time. At the time of joining their program we had little more than a prototype and a powerpoint presentation. However Just Eat bought into our vision and the problem we are solving.
Being one of first start-ups invited to join Just Eat’s first Food Tech Accelerator, really got things off the ground. The twelve week programme was invaluable, as it allowed us to define our value proposition and refine our product. Plus they invested £20k which allowed us to launch a very basic app.
Following this we launched a campaign to raise £150,000 on Crowdcube. Despite not launching and with apps notoriously finding it difficult to raise, we hit our target in 10 days and over funded to £200,000.
Raising on Crowdcube was by far the most stressful yet exhilarating experience of my life! You are laying it all out there - I had people tear it apart, I had our biggest investor pull out in the first week (a real low point) - despite all this, nothing will beat the elation and the pride that people have invested in my business. It gives you a real purpose and determination.
Foong: With the Just Eat Accelerator Programme under your belt and recently completing a stint on the London & Partners Business Growth Programme - how have these helped shape Nutrifix and your approach to entrepreneurship? What’s been the best piece of advice from any mentor?
Joel: The Just Eat incubator was invaluable to us. At the point of starting the scheme, we were building our beta app and trying to solve every problem under the bracket of healthy eating. Just Eat introduced us to the ‘lean startup’ approach of build, measure and learn. This forced us to launch our product earlier than planned, and subsequently allowed us to understand and narrow our value proposition far sooner than had we not.
It took me some time to find a mentor, as it needs to be a fit for you and them. But once I did, it's been a bit of a life changer! Even having one hour a month with someone who has been there and done it, puts you in the right direction.
On top of that, I have surrounded myself with a network of founders - who are going through the same. Despite how busy we all are, we try to meet up for a coffee or breakfast once a month. Running a business is incredibly lonely and having a support network of people who are going through the same thing is incredibly important.
The most important thing I have learnt from my mentor is that success can be reverse engineered. Start in the future, work backwards - setting annual and monthly goals and from that ask yourself what is the one most important thing to do to achieve my monthly goal or test to run to learn what I need to, to move onto my next validation point. Doing this has meant I never feel overwhelmed by the amount of work that needs to be done and has meant I am always moving. The hard bit is prioritising!
Mills: You’ve also mentioned previously how important it is to have the right team as a startup. As a digital startup, what qualities are you looking for? How important is experience over willingness to learn / someone who has demonstrated passion and innovation in health / food / fitness?
Joel: At this stage in a business, it's hard to afford people with years and years of experience. So my strategy has been to surround myself with incredible mentors and advisors who help me on our strategy and technical questions. I have then recruited a team of passionate and driven people who have a hunger to get shit done and willingness to learn.
Ultimately the success of Nutrifix will come down to my team, and it’s my job to align them with my vision, empower them and encourage them to experiment and fail.
Mills: We love a good partnership with a big corporate - do you have any plans to target City workers with Nutrifix?
Joel: City workers are our prime target and we are very much looking to partner with big corporates.
Foong: We love the positivity and the tips you provide on how to keep moving towards your goals on your personal Instagram @joel_nutrifix. How did that come about and how did you build your following?
Joel: Having goals and a process of working towards them has changed my life. It's given me purpose and drive - which has lead to inner peace and genuine happiness.
I still find it very hard to share my story as I suffer from Imposter Syndrome - but when I do share my tactics and story I have received such a positive response and my followers have gone up naturally. Receiving messages from my followers always inspires me to share more and reminds me that if I can inspire one person that's all that matters!
I wouldn't say I have any particular tactics, apart from being honest, myself and just sharing my story. I also often remind myself that people don't have to follow me and if I annoy them or they don't find my content useful they can always unfollow me!
Foong: We're loving using the Nutrifix app to find our nearest and healthiest lunchtime meal! Not always the one you'd expect. We're keep our little pocket nutritionist close by! Thanks Joel!