Hamish Grierson: the health tech entrepreneur building a wellbeing revolution
Hamish Grierson set up Thriva in 2015 with his co-founders, Eliot Brooks and Tom Livesey. The young entrepreneur is on a mission to use health tech and data to revolutionise preventative healthcare.
Here, Hamish tells BLM about the beginnings of Thriva and his hopes for the future of health tech.
What was your background before founding Thriva?
I worked in fintech, marketing-led brand building and international growth. Before starting Thriva, I was Head of Innovation at Travelex, and while there I was responsible for launching Supercard which secured 86,000 registrations in 36 hours.
Is Thriva your first business? Would you do anything differently next time you start a company?
I’ve been involved in startup ventures before. I was part of the New Entrepreneurs Foundation and Founders of the Future, but Thriva is the first ‘startup’ that would meet the Reid Hoffman definition.
There is always something that could be improved upon; there is always a learning experience and no matter where your business is, continuously re-evaluating where you are and who you are as a company will only help you adapt and make those next steps easier.
What inspired Thriva?
It was while working with my co-founder Eliot at Travelex. Eliot has a hereditary health condition that he has had to manage since the age of 16. We had numerous discussions about his health and time-off needed for blood tests, and through these talks, it became obvious that there just wasn’t a system or solution in place that enabled people to take charge of their health.
This quickly developed into an interest in ‘biohacking’, which went from my trialling Keto and Paleo nutrition plans right through to intermittent fasting and cold showers.
We saw a need for a service that enables people to understand, track, and improve what’s actually happening inside their bodies – whether this is through understanding how your hormones, vitamins and minerals are affecting how you feel day-to-day, or keeping track of long-term risk indicators for the most common preventable diseases such as heart attacks and diabetes.
What is your vision for the company? Has it changed since you first started?
We wanted to transform the way people manage their own health – and that remains true today. We’ve become more ambitious as we’ve understood the opportunity we have to help a substantially greater proportion of the population. Innovations and developments in the health-tech industry have shown us what’s possible and we can see a future where everyone has complete agency over their body and wellbeing.
We’re lucky that in the UK we have a brilliant healthcare system accessible to all, yet what we need to keep in mind is that first and foremost it is a system that was designed to deliver sick and serious care. Our vision for the business has always been that wellbeing and the preventative benefits that come from proactively engaging in your health should be accessible to all and this isn’t something the NHS is well set up to deliver.
What are the positives and negatives of being a co-founder – of sharing leadership?
For anyone considering a new venture, I’d spend some time evaluating how you like to spend your time. If you enjoy working with and around other people then solo founding a new business isn’t likely to be much fun for you.
Equally, if there’s an element of your venture that would materially benefit from having someone with a specific skill set, then you’d be well served to seek that person out and make them a foundational part of your journey.
You’ve written before about imposter syndrome. Do you still struggle with that? How do you handle it?
I learnt recently that imposter syndrome is so common, Google runs an entire day on it as part of the onboarding process for new hires. And yes, I wrestle with it. Very recently, I’ve come to understand (by working with a coach) that while you might not have a specific vocation like software engineering or design, leadership is its own vocation.
What are your next steps with Thriva?
We are here to drive a shift towards proactive and personalised health which will help the NHS get back on track, freeing it up to focus on delivering brilliant sick and serious care it was designed to and ensure a sustainable approach to healthcare for decades to come.
Data-driven, customer-centric companies like ours could help pave the way towards a more proactive and personalised approach to health care, and one which ultimately could and can identify problems before they happen.
We still feel we are at the beginning of our journey, but our ambition is inherently to help the millions of people around the world who’d benefit from a service like Thriva.
What are some of the most exciting developments in health tech at the moment?
We are moving away from an era in which the focus is put on ‘fixing the sick’, to one in which we can all be optimally healthy and feel well. Many innovators have used technology to transform the way we shop, bank, travel and now, we can look after our bodies. This progress shows no sign of slowing down.
Less than a generation ago, tracking our sleep or movement would have been considered extreme, but now anyone with an iPhone, a Fitbit or even a pedometer is looking at their life in numbers. Wearable devices not only enable people to understand their body more – they are becoming vital tools in diagnosing and monitoring our health. The data they gather can be used to predict health problems before they happen.