Alumni Company Spotlight: Coeus Health
By Mike McGee on March 5, 2015
This is the first in a series of posts highlighting Starter League representation at MATTER, a new health-tech incubator located at the Merchandise Mart.
What problem are you solving?
Obesity is one of the biggest, and most costly, problems facing our country. It extends beyond the health care system to schools and workplaces. Despite this, there are few clinically proven solutions out there. The few that exist are often expensive, or only serve a small segment of the population.
How did you identify this problem?
We’ve been working on health promotion, disease prevention, and disease management for over 15 years. We found that, over time, more and more organizations were asking us to help them identify a solution that they could easily implement, but that worked. When we couldn’t find one, we decided to build it!
Looking at the bios of your team members, it looks like the "Justice League for health." How was your team formed?
Since that analogy clearly makes me Wonder Woman, I’ll take it! I’ve been extremely fortunate to work with a lot of amazing scientists in my career. Gary had the (mis)fortune of being one of the ones who laughed at my jokes, so I kept finding ways to work with him. We shared a similar view on where our academic research should be leading and as we had more and more of those conversations realized we both wanted to do something in this space.
I have had some great mentors in my past life so the opportunity to work in space where mentorship and training are integral to the experience resonated with me. I’m a life-long learner and MATTER provides the opportunity to do that with people also working in healthcare.
How has the experience been so far?
Phenomenal. I’ve been able to attend workshops and meet with mentors. Each time those sessions end, I leave realizing every second of my time was well spent. MATTER was built with a focus on the start-ups and what we need to succeed. The MATTER team has taken the time to chat with the companies and learn what we need and have built everything (the space, the programming) around that.
What has been the main challenge in getting this startup off the ground?
Time and money. There never seems to be enough of either :)
A Starter School hoodie sighting at MATTER!
You've had the opportunity to work in the academic and startup environment. What are the main differences?
The approach to failure. I had never had a conversation about the benefits of failure before I entered the startup world. In academia, there is never a positive slant to failure. Related to that is the approach to when you plan and build. In academia, you have to design your whole study/program/platform before you begin and the result is typically a plan that requires lots of money. The lean approach is starting to make tiny breakthroughs in a few spaces, but it is still really rare.
You've gone through a great period of transition in the past two years, from professor to Starter School student, and now co-founder of a startup. What's the most important lesson you've learned in this time?
I have been blown away by the support I’ve received. I knew I had some phenomenal friends and great colleagues, but I didn’t anticipate how willing people would be to lend a hand, offer an introduction or drop everything for moral support cocktails. Practicing gratitude has been easy because I’ve been so fortunate.
What's the next step for Coeus?
Get out of the building!