What did you do before starting your company?
I studied design and mechanical engineering at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg. I also ran a specialty coffee business on the side of my studies. After that I spent a couple of years freelancing in user experience design and design/business strategy, which I continued doing to support myself as we started working on Holo. This month (August 2021) is in fact the first month ever I am working full-time on Holo and taking a salary!
What inspired you to start your company?
I struggled with health problems for several years, both mental and physical (they are very much related).
The more I looked for a solution to my problems, the more confused I became. Despite having had a deep interest in health for a long time, it was almost impossible to sift through all the contradictory advice and figure out what exactly I needed to do to get rid of my specific problems.
I devoured hundreds of books, podcasts, and courses on everything from diet, exercise, and sleep to psychology, evolution, agriculture, and food production. For years, I experimented with any and all interventions I could find. At one point, I could barely keep track of all the supplements I took daily. It was even more difficult to evaluate which lifestyle changes actually yielded results. I lost faith countless times and it felt like I always took one step forward and two steps back.
By chance, I came in contact with a group of prominent people in the medical field called functional medicine. They pointed me in the right direction and I slowly but surely began to see patterns in all the information I had filled my head with.
After enormous effort and years of unnecessary suffering, I finally took back my health. Today I can hardly believe how good I feel, let alone how good I will be able to feel in the future.
Along the way, I saw clearly many of the societal and behavioral problems that are robbing more and more people of their health. I also understood the power of functional medicine and ancestral health. I realized there must be a better way than to fumble around in the dark as I did – and the vision for Holo was born.
What problem are you solving and what is your mission at Holo?
Holo helps people improve chronic health problems by finding the right lifestyle for them. Our mission is to stop unnecessary suffering and help individuals create a happy and healthy life free from chronic disease.
How did you meet your co-founders?
When I first started thinking about the idea behind Holo, I connected with Peter Martin, a medical doctor in the functional medicine space, to discuss the feasibility of my ideas and to get any tips and feedback I could. After our meeting he told me I should meet his son, Julius Martin, who had been thinking of many of the same ideas. We started talking about it and naturally transitioned into viewing it more and more as a serious business. We then decided we needed a technical co-founder and spent a couple of months searching. Eventually I talked to one of my childhood friends, who said he had gone to school with someone, Kalle Hansson, who could be a good fit. We went to lunch together, and after 10 minutes of meeting each other, we knew this was our guy. And now Kalle and I even live together!
Tell us about a time your plans didn’t go as planned?
Well, when I started my first company, I did NOT know anything about business. In a way, I believe this is how entrepreneurship has to be in the beginning – some lessons you have to learn by doing – regardless of your background or how much you know in theory.
In my ignorance, I picked a business that was relatively capital intensive, that I didn’t have enough passion for, and that also required labor (i.e. personnel at a specific physical location each day) to work. All the while, I was at school all day on most days, so we had to hire people from day one. Bad idea.
In essence, the numbers didn’t add up. So we steadily lost money and couldn’t turn it around in time.
This resulted in me being overworked, stressed and miserable, and in fact was a big contributor to the health problems I mentioned before.
Later when we pivoted towards an online business in the same space, things turned around pretty quickly. We got a handle on this whole “running a business” thing, and although we never grew it to something big, we could at least turn a profit fairly quickly.
In a sense, that whole business was a failure, but of course – failure depends on your goal. Looking back, I view it not as a failed business but as a very successful entrepreneurship- and business school for me. I made almost all the biggest mistakes you can make, and still came out of it relatively in one piece. That was super valuable.
What is one thing the SSE Business Lab has helped you with?
I think the main things are context and accountability. It’s a common phenomenon in entrepreneurship – you can sometimes feel like you’re the only people in the world doing this thing. But at the SSEBL, you continually interact with others who are in the same situation. And by talking about your progress and your goals, there is the added accountability of wanting to stay true to your word and be one of the companies who help inspire the others etc.
Please share with us one piece of Advice for people starting their ventures today. Something you wish you had known.
I guess I would draw some advice from the “failure” I mentioned before:
1. Know your numbers, or at least have a well thought-out idea of how the business model, the income streams and related costs will add up.
2. Give your business what it needs. If your business needs capital and labor to work, and you don’t have access to that or the intentions to procure it – then pick another business to start.
3. You can’t compete if you’re not the right person for the job. Pick something where even the hardest moments don’t really feel like work to you.
Can you share with us three tools that make your life as a founder easier?
1. Todoist (although I use it more like a schedule than a To-Do list)
2. Coda – awesome tool to collaborate and create clear shared mental models. It’s like a visual representation of your organisation and processes.
3. Instagram! We’ve connected with several investors, clients etc. on there.