A paradigm shifting health screen that offers up crucial analysis of your blood at a mere click.

It’s all the rage don’t you know? The tube arrives, in goes the sample, off it travels back to the prescribed lab and your blood test is winging its way back to you in the space of a mere twenty-four hours.

For those of you au fait with the ancestry tests currently á la mode, it will be no surprise that the trend has leapfrogged to a full blood count, diabetes check (amongst a plethora of other biomarkers) to insight you to lead a healthier lifestyle, all for the quite reasonable starting price of £125, that’s a clinic visit, for £145 a nurse will come to your home. For those who aren't aligned with the curve, Werlabs segways from the traditional GP appointment / nightmare waiting times; a paradigm shifting health screen that can extend lives by offering up crucial analysis at a mere click, not bad for a CEO’s mission statement. Oh and it’s pronounced We-R-Labs, in case you were wondering.

Said founder is William Stoddart, head of a fifty strong team spread across Stockholm and London, who stumbled across the technology in 2015 and set about manifesting the potential of its global reach. He’s a man who gives off an industrious air of efficiency, musing back on the three years since launch, the challenges of building the Werlabs infrastructure (the company is strongly allied with the NHS, using their nurses to take bloods and their labs to process the results) whilst eloquently offering up essential advice for would be entrepreneurs (more of that later). He's also a father, no doubt a contributing factor in his dogged determination to help those too time pressed to deal with doctors to get a window on what’s going on inside their bodies. Yes people, it’s the future.

‘I had my blood tested for many years,’ Stoddart says, ‘so I knew how powerful this information was.’ His father was a medic but also had type two diabetes which encouraged his son to seek out privately paid tests. ‘I knew certain things could be caught much earlier so I paid out of pocket.’ Needless to say Stoddart has hit the zetigeist for self testing, married with a cultural swing towards autonomous healthcare and self diagnosis, trading on the web’s ability to cut out the troublesome middle man and democratise any given service. It’s a sea change, also seen in the investment world with brands such as Nutmeg, easy to see why significant players invested without so much as a hat tip; the management team from Spotify, Balderton Capital for example, an aspirational VC if ever there was one.

The road to testing gold hasn’t been without its challenges however. ‘To get everything working where you can just turn up, have your blood taken and then get the results online is a really complicated problem to solve,’ Stoddart says. It was a silver lining for the NHS however, who were about to receive a healthy cash injection. ‘I love the NHS, I love working with the NHS, they are really open and willing to do things… but they are in trouble, they need money and they knew that this is one way of getting money.’ The system also addresses the missing link in the GP rosta, time available to deal with lifestyle related problems, a huge strain on the NHS which Wereabs could ease at its source by making people more aware of their quotidian choices and their effect on their long term health. ‘Lifestyle change is complicated and someone giving you a window, for example if you’re pre-diabetic, is incredibly empowering.' Another issue according to Stoddart is that, 'Medics don't realise that anxiety is caused by waiting for results not by the results themselves,’ the 24 hour turnaround service more than mitigating the nail biting anxiety of a two week wait.

But back to Balderton Capital, clearly Stoddart has his pitch down to a 't', but how did he swing the final signature? ‘We had already built the integration with the labs and had active customers going through. We could show even from a small base that we were growing. Investors just have to know that the market is big and that you can continue doing what you're doing and then they will take a risk.’ To the next generation of founders he says, ‘As British we’re very bad at being outwardly ambitious. If you're an investor you want to invest in a company that’s going to be huge, don’t be shy,’ he urges, ‘show traction in a small area so you can prove an idea has legs.’ Also, ‘you need to be resilient and train yourself to be resilient. The biggest problem is that you make a mistake that costs you time, and time and cash run out pretty quickly.’ For those weighing up money versus control he suggests reading The Founder’s Dilemma, ‘Do I want to be King or do I want to be super wealthy?’ he asks. ‘People need to be honest about that early on.’

Of his own struggles with the entrepreneurial lifestyle he says, ‘managing your own psychology is the hardest thing, day to day you have amazing highs, and significant lows, largely because of things outside of your control, the best thing is that in no other job I’ve ever had can you have an impact on other people’s lives.’ And what an impact, Werlabs are now an established company with 60,000 users, investors now pushing to see ‘economically how this business grows. It’s a numbers based conversation.’ The company differs from other blood testing platforms in the analysis offered from clinicians who are highly experienced in clinical chemistry.

‘But what of taking on staff? What question is at the forefront of his mind when interviewing? He refers to a line from one of his favourite business books, The Man in the Arena, ‘This individual has never seen what good looks like,’ I always think about that,’ Stoddart says.’ If you have seen what a really high functioning team looks like it can change your view of what’s possible. That’s what I always ask people in interviews. Where they have seen excellence?’ Right here I would venture, in the comprehensive analysis of their own cells.

July 2018

Alice Kahrmann