Editor's Spotlight: Startup Focus
Glucose monitoring startup MyLevels aims to eliminate diet confusion
With a Masters in Machine Learning and a passion for human health, the Glasgow-born entrepreneur began her career as a data scientist in Singapore where she worked for a health technology company, working on the largest anonymous database of mental health records in the world and using machine learning to predict patient outcomes and recommend the optimal medications.
She then continued her interest in data led health solutions while working as a research scientist for Babylon Health in London.
“It seemed so exciting to think what we could do with data," Douglas tells NutraIngredients, "seeing the amount of data that was being collected, whether it be from images or medical devices, I could see this information could lead to real-world changes."
But it was only after investing in a continuous glucose monitor (CGM), worn on the back of the arm, that her interest in developing her own company was aroused.
“Myself and my family were always yoyo dieting growing up and seeing the damage that extreme diets can do to your health.
“But when I finally invested in a continuous glucose monitor I was finally able to see why I had struggled in the past. There were things that I would have eaten regularly and always thought of as being 'healthy' that would cause huge glucose spikes, such as fruit and potatoes.
"It's so important to avoid those foods because any glucose spike will inevitably lead to a dip which causes cravings for high calorie, often sugary, foods."
At that time, Douglas says she was unaware of any other personalised nutrition service offering a CGM as part of its service and so she saw a huge opportunity to help others with the same struggles she had experienced.
She joined the Entrepreneur First programme, in London, where she was supported to develop her new business idea, MyLevels, and gained funding of £80,000 to get her business up and running.
Since then, Douglas has taken the service through six rounds of beta trials, with each including 50 paying participants.
Unique to the business is its MyLevels score system which intelligently ranks food choices according to the impact they have on blood glucose levels. Foods that score less than one are considered ‘spike free' and the idea is to stick to only those.
“This scoring system helps to really simplify food choices. I know that a breakfast of bacon and eggs gives me a score of 0.4 but a bowl of cereal gives me a spike of 5.1.”
With only her sister as a second full-time staff member (working as the Community Manager, in charge of communicating with clients) Douglas is on track to take the service to full commercial launch before the end of this year, after just one more beta trial.
“All interest in the service so far has been organic. We’ve had a couple of features in Runner’s World and in Men’s Health so we’ve had some professional athletes discover us too.
“This sort of service is really helpful if you are a long distance runner because it’s so important to avoid those peaks and crashes in energy during a race.”
But the young business woman says the most impressive results come from those using the service with the aim of losing weight.
“This service appeals to a huge range of customers but it’s those that want to get control of their weight that give us the best feedback. People will tell us they’ve struggled with their weight for years and then lost over a stone in a few months of using MyLevels. That’s incredible to hear.”
Douglas realises that the competition in this space has become fierce since she first had her vision in 2018 but she’s confident that her service’s ease of use and score system will give her company the competitive edge.