Discover more from Startup Pirate by Alex Alexakis
Hack Your Health & Longevity With Tech
Nikos Drandakis on hacking your health with Sync, newsletter Year 1, funding rounds, exits, tips on job descriptions and more
👋 Happy Friday! Welcome to Hunting Greek Unicorns #27. I’m Alex, a product guy turned VC, and every two weeks I send out a newsletter with everything you need to know about the Greek startup industry.
🎂 Tomorrow marks Year 1 of Hunting Greek Unicorns! A massive thank you to everyone being part of this journey, from the founders and teams sharing their insights and lessons learned to the 2,205 of you getting this newsletter in your inbox and reaching out for feedback, thoughts, suggestions or to discuss the exciting things you’re working on. It’s been a crazy ride, learning a ton, and can’t wait to share with you more of the great developments in the Greek startup world in Year 2 of Hunting Greek Unicorns. Stay tuned!
📬 If you find this newsletter interesting, consider sharing with your friends or subscribing if you haven’t already.
🎙️ Hacking your health and longevity with the help of technology with Nikos Drandakis, founder & CEO of Sync
Today, I’m really excited to welcome Nikos Drandakis on Hunting Greek Unicorns! Just a few months ago, Nikos announced his new venture, Sync, a biotracking company that helps people understand how their body reacts to their daily lifestyle habits and adapt for maximum health and longevity. How they do this? Through a glucose monitoring sensor that continuously gets data from your body and shows insights on how everything you eat, drink, or in general whatever happens during your day affects your metabolic health through the Sync mobile app.
The complexity of human biology is staggering. I’ve witnessed this first hand, following treatments and diets that just weren’t a fit for my own body. We are now at a pivotal moment in healthcare history with an unprecedented convergence of medical knowledge, technology and data science, unlocking great paths as far as personalised care is concerned. So, I invited Nikos to discuss launching Sync, his vision and science behind it and the potential personalised health and biotracking have to improve human health and longevity. Most of you might know Nikos as the founder and ex-CEO of Beat, the fastest-growing ride-hailing company in Latin America, acquired by Daimler. By reading more about Sync, it feels like he’s on the path for yet another big success - or even bigger this time!
What led you to focus on nutrition and glucose monitoring, when you decided to build a product helping people improve their health and longevity?
The moment of truth came about when I had already left Beat and was itching to build something new. I wanted to put my many learnings into practice and was feeling there was a job still left to be done. While I was evaluating a number of different ideas, a friend of mine, Chris Habatchy dropped the bomb: "You have to work on something around health. It suits your personality much better than anything else!" The advice came at exactly the right time. It was more than two years that I had developed an obsession with health and longevity, on a personal level.
It took a lot of reading and personal experimentation with diets, supplements and exercise trying to secure a longer, healthier lifespan for myself. I was already wearing a number of wearables, from Apple Watch to Oura ring. I was even using Eight Sleep, a mattress that regulates your sleep and gives a full report about your last night’s sleep. Most importantly, I had just started using Freestyle Libre, a Continuous Glucose Monitoring device that helped me understand how my blood sugar levels impacted my everyday life, mood and energy. Around that time, it was a stressful period for me, because I didn’t like the fact that I was not operating; I was not building - it’s just not who I am. I was amazed to discover how my stress levels, mood, along with some bad foods were represented on my glucose levels chart. There was a direct correlation (and obviously causation) between what I eat and do, and how my glucose was performing, having a direct impact on my metabolism.
Through more and more research I realised that by doing things that drive my glucose levels up, I was putting my metabolic health (as well as my short term productivity) at great risk. So, that was the moment when Chris’s advice came in, and that’s why it was the perfect timing. My lightbulb moment was that I could help people avoid all those risks by monitoring their health data and combine them with what they eat and what they do. I wanted to build for them a tool much more advanced than the ones I was using till then. That’s how Sync was born!
Give us a short introduction of Sync. What is Sync’s value proposition in the space?
Sync is a biotracking company that empowers people to understand how their body reacts to their daily lifestyle habits, and adapt these habits for maximum health and longevity. Our goal is to help people improve their metabolic health, which is one of the biggest health crises of our time, with millions of people suffering from type 2 diabetes, obesity and many other health conditions.
We will provide our customers with a Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) device, which measures their blood sugar levels 24/7 and sends this data to the Sync app. At the same time, our customers will record their food and exercise in the easiest and most intuitive way. Our job is to combine all these inputs and give personalised insights on how their lifestyle choices impact their metabolic health. Our mission is not to treat diseases; we are not a health company. Instead, we aim to help people stay on track with their good health or improve their lifestyle-related conditions, such as type 2 diabetes or obesity.
What do you think is the future of personalised health & biotracking and where does Sync fit in this future? What are your more immediate plans?
I’ll start with where we are today. Everybody knows we are what we eat and what we do. The amount and type of exercise and food we expose our body to, defines the quality of our mental and physical health. Up until now, people’s attention in the pursuit of health and well-being involved tons of effort and generic advice from experts (or “experts”). By effort, I mean the hundreds or thousands of hours in the gym or on the bikes, along with trying the most impossible diets in the world in the promise of “healthy food”. What most of us do is driven by what experts are telling us: this is what and how much you should eat and exercise. What’s missing here is a personalised approach: “Am I doing the very best for MY - not the average person’s - health? Are these foods and types of exercise good for me?” Every time we eat or exercise, our body is giving us feedback - we just don’t listen. We keep doing what the experts say.
Nevertheless, right now we’re at an inflection point where technology is in place to connect and listen to our bodies. There has been an explosion of wearable devices and more importantly, there’s research underway that will bring even more exciting technology in our hands to watch our body’s data in real time, without the friction of visiting doctors or diagnostic centers. We’re going to live incredibly exciting times soon with the proliferation of these devices. All we’ll need is a tool on the software layer to help us make sense of the data. This is where Sync gets into the picture!
Our mission is to help people get actionable insights from all data produced from our body and captured by this wide spectrum of devices, in a way that makes sense for the average person, not only the biohacker or executive athlete. Here are some examples from your future daily life: If your blood sugar is high in the morning, you’ll be aware so you avoid sugar in your coffee (or cut oatmeal altogether). If your body is low on iron at lunch time, you’ll know it and you’ll order a spinach salad to compensate. When you return from work and haven’t got your daily dose of vitamin D from the sun, you’ll get a notification, so you can mix up a smoothie to address the deficiency.
For Sync, this exciting journey starts with helping people monitor their glucose levels and adapt their lifestyle using this CGM. Why? Because monitoring and improving our metabolic health is maybe the most crucial step in the pursuit of well being and health. From a markets perspective, we’re going to have our first public launch in June or July targeting the Nordics, UK and most of Western Europe, while now we’re still in closed Beta, testing the early versions of the product between friends and family.
What would it take to make such products adopted by 10x more people?
There are two factors at play here: price & utility. What Sync is going to build, the software layer, can scale faster and can easily be cheap. However, we rely on hardware and devices that are still early in their development and most of them are relatively expensive for the average consumer. Just like every disruptive technology that increases demand, accelerates research and drives prices of these products down, similar we expect will happen in that space. Because when we’re talking about metabolic dysfunction and unhealthy lifestyles, it's the people who have the least ability to access these tools that need them the most right now. I’m well aware of that, but it's going to be a process.
That’s not enough though. In order for these services to scale, they need to be offered in the most intuitive, dead-simple way to the average consumer. Right now, you’re taking a look at the apps that these wearable devices come with, and you have to be a doctor or fitness freak to make sense of the numbers and charts. They’re not built for the everyday person. Instead, you need to get actionable insights, as if you were talking to your doctor, who happens to be your friend too. Doing this at scale through software, data and automations is an extremely hard task, and that’s what’s making it even more exciting to us at Sync!
Who else is behind Sync?
We started with a small team of engineers and product managers, since this is the basis of what we want to build. I decided to work with a few people that we worked together in the past at Beat, such as Lazaros Tsigkakos, Leonidas Maroulis, Petros Lengos and Nikos Maounis, to create our first MVP. Later on, we grew our team with more engineers, mostly on backend technologies and Machine Learning. Very soon we’re announcing our partnership with a Greek endocrinologist with decades of great career in the US, who returned to Greece and will assemble and lead our scientific advisory board. Of course, we’re hiring across the board, mostly on engineering, product, design and Machine Learning.
You’ve experimented a lot the past years with quantified self and biohacking methods. Apart from continuous glucose monitoring, what other things had the most positive impact in your mental & physical health so far? What is your current regime?
This is an ongoing process and I’m still experimenting on many areas. Things that haven’t changed in the last 2-3 years include intermittent fasting, which I do consistently every day for 16-18 hours, avoiding breakfast. Now in regards to the supplements I’m taking: NMN and Resveratrol (1 gram per day - I learned about them in David Sinclair’s “Lifespan” book), Vitamin D (since COVID started, as we don’t go outside that much to absorb it from the sun), Probiotics (for 3 months before I stop and resume later in the year - this is important for our gut microbiome, which is our body’s second brain) and Magnesium, Zinc and Selenium (once a week as increasing the frequency would require regular blood tests to ensure I don’t overdose - making blood tests easy, frictionless and cheap is a big business opportunity imho). Finally, I try to exercise as much as possible, even though I’m not that advanced here being a workaholic. I do indoor biking, functional strength training and self-guided pilates. My strongest weapon is daily afternoon walks, which greatly helps to keep post-meal glucose levels within the normal range.
If you are interested in learning more about Sync, check out their website or follow Nikos and the team on Twitter! You can also join the waiting list and request access to try it out yourselves here (iOS only for now).
** Before I interviewed Nikos I tried Sync myself to get a better sense of the product and user experience. As soon as I registered, I started receiving emails with instructions on how to download the app from TestFlight (app still in beta), attach the sensor to my body, as well as relevant information with links to Sync’s blog to become more familiar with it. A few days later, the sensor came inside a nice little box. It has already been more than a week using it, logging my meals, drinks and exercise, understanding how these affect my metabolic health and which daily habits I should increase/reduce. Loving it so far and can’t wait to see what they ship next!
🦄 Startup Jobs
Greek startups are hiring! Here are some of the latest job opportunities:
BestPrice - Community Associate (Athens) - Apply here
Blueground - Software Engineering Intern (Athens) - Apply here
Kineo - Operations Associate (Athens) - Apply here
Omilia - Mid Senior Java Developer (Chania) - Apply here
Orfium - DevOps Engineer (Athens) - Apply here
PNOE - Senior Full Stack Software Developer (Remote) - Apply here
Schoox - Android Engineer (Thessaloniki) - Apply here
Seervision - Senior Full Stack Developer (Athens) - Apply here
Spotawheel - Senior User Experience Designer (Athens) - Apply here
Synth - Rust Software Engineer (Remote) - Apply here
Wappier - Customer Success Consultant (Remote) - Apply here
Woli Fintech - Front End Engineer (Athens) - Apply here
Hack The Box, a cybersecurity training startup that has built the largest community of security enthusiasts in the world, announced a $11M Series A round by Paladin Group, Osage University Partners, BrightEye Ventures and Marathon Venture Capital.
Futurae Technologies raised a CHF 5M Series A round to accelerate international expansion & further develop its customer authentication product. The company is headquartered in Zurich with team in Greece.
Anodyne Nanotech, a startup redefining drug delivery with Hero Patch (a platform to develop transdermal forms of high-value drugs), raised a $4.2M round from Velocity Partners, Relativity Healthcare Fund and Big Pi Ventures.
BIOPIX-T, a team based in the Science and Technology Park of Crete, that has developed portable molecular devices to diagnose COVID-19, Influenza and other infectious diseases, raised a new round from Eleven Ventures, adding to their total Seed investment of €1.4M.
Retail tech, Loyalize, raised £250k in pre-seed to further develop its API offering that combines payment and loyalty into a single transaction.
Racecheck, a startup helping athletes find and evaluate endurance sports events, was acquired by Super League Triathlon, a league of triathlon-based races. The team had previously raised funds from Metavallon.
Enartia, the company behind Greek domain providers Papaki & Top.Host, was acquired by team.blue, a hosting and cloud solutions company.
EIT Digital, an accelerator supported by the European Institute of Innovation & Technology, is accepting applications for its 2022 program until May 12.
💭 Reading or listening
Sanne Goslinga, Director of Talent at Marathon Venture Capital, published a post on writing good job descriptions and why hiring managers should avoid adding "years of experience" when looking for the right candidate.
Apostolos Apostolakis, Partner at VentureFriends, shared more insights regarding their upcoming fund, VF3, expanding scope with more investments in CEE region in the next few years and reiterating on their ambition to be a European VC.
An interview with Dimitris Kalavros-Gousiou, Partner at Velocity Partners, on the fund’s traction, news from portfolio companies and emerging industries that will see a lot of progress in the near future.
Some interesting thoughts from Caterina Kostoula, Executive Coach & founder of The Leaderpath, on holding successful meetings to tap into the genius of your team, here.
A podcast with Thanos Papangelis, founder & CEO of Epignosis, on the journey of the company, the benefits of e-learning, how they’ve managed to maintain a userbase from SMBs to Big Tech such as Zoom & Amazon, and more.
Thanos Bismpigiannis, Head of Product at Plum, discussing how technology is taking investing into a green future.
An introduction on creating Customer Journey Maps (a visual story of a customer’s interaction with a brand) to help organisations succeed from Vasileia Anagnostopoulou, Associate Consultant at REBORRN.
Stay safe and sane,
Greek Startup Pirate 👋