Adam Bataineh (Founder)

Span.Health

Adam Bataineh (Founder)

UK

Widen your circle of interest - that’s where innovation begins

Questions & Answers

Praveen

Thank you so much for joining us at Business Mocha. How did you begin your entrepreneurial journey?

Adam

After graduating from medical school and. I did not really know much about nutrition. it took me to meet my co-founder who was a technologist to understand how influential nutrition can be. When I met my co-founder, who is a Technologist, we were talking about a completely different project. At that point, I was interested in nutrition, but then he told me his story about being a pre-diabetic and reversing his numbers using diet alone. Because he's an engineer, he deep dived into the world of nutrition and diets and cured himself, so to speak. At that point I started getting even more interested in this space.

I had worked with diabetics and prediabetics before but until then never thought of using technology as a tool to help these people reverse their condition using nutrition. That was when it clicked for me. I started going into it more. And interestingly enough, there was a lot of research going on about type two diabetes and nutrition at the time, and how to reverse your diabetes using nutrition. Then I started talking about this to other doctors and GPs, and I found that the nutrition and lifestyle changes are recommended by the official guidelines. However, I was amazed to find out that 90% of diabetes patients are offered a lifestyle changing program and only 10% actually go for it. So most people are being offered this programme, but they don’t do it. Then they are started on medications and they progressively get worse over their lifetime.

I started wondering why aren't people taking up this programme. A few reasons I could fine were: the programme doesn’t work as well as it should; it’s not based on what is beneficial for those with type II diabetes; and mainly, it is an in-person programme. You have to book an appointment with a diabetes nurse, sit in a group and train. So I thought there has to be a technological solution to this and that's where we started coming up with a digital-based healthcare program.

Praveen

This is very interesting. What do you see as competition in the current market?

Adam

There are a few people who take different approaches to science. We are of the school of thought that diabetes is caused by surprise — surprise by sugar or high carbohydrate intake. So we adopt the low carb fasting approach. There are a few other companies that have different approaches to this. 

With all this, the whole space is still new. There's no one who has dominated the market yet. We're definitely not the first social network, but we want to be the last. 

Praveen 

Awesome. So, what separates Span Health from other competitors? 

Adam

It's two things: the marriage of personalisation with scalability 

The problem with most digital products is that they're not personalised. A lot of programmes out there sell it to a big number of people and everyone gets the same programme. And then you have one-to-one coaching from a diabetes nurse - that’s personalised, but not scalable.  

So there's kind of a sweet-spot... we're not actually there yet, but it’s where we want to be. We want to build a scalable but personalised platform. So, as part of the standardised programme, we have personalised consultations with nutritionists. We're making it scalable by adding each personalised question to a question bank and logging it as a new query. If someone asks something that was asked before, the system will give you a pre-prepared answer. So that way, the more questions we get from people, the bigger and smarter the platform becomes. 

Praveen 

So, I come from India and diabetes is prominent in the South Asian community. Do you see a global presence for your startup? 

Adam

Yes, definitelyI'm actually originally from the middle east from Jordan. In the Middle East, you also have one of the highest percentages of diabetes and metabolic syndrome, especially in the Gulf countries where you have the highest percentages of obesity.

However, in the Middle East, there aren't that many people working on this problem on an on a big scale, unfortunately. So I think there's a big role for a solution like this to be played in places like the Middle East and India, as you said. 

Praveen 

When you started on this journey, you were a doctor with a stable career. Now you have got involved in this startup. Did you have any entrepreneurial fear? How did you overcome it? 

Adam

I've always felt like medicine is like a black hole that like really sucks all your time, energy, effort and talent into it. And I've always felt that I'm trying to escape this black hole by trying different entrepreneurial endeavours, even when I was in medical school. Mainly because the career pathway of medicine is super clear and defined - You finished medical school, you go into residency, you do exams and you become a specialist and all of that. I wanted to escape this standard path.  

However, I did like medicine. I did like it as an intellectual pursuit, but I always wanted to get out of it in a weird way. But I never actually took the leave fully without having a safety net. I just kept doing things on the side and while having a medical career, and one thing that helped me was a programme in the UK called the NHS innovation clinical entrepreneur programme.

The aim of this programme is to help doctors who have entrepreneurial endeavours while still retaining them in the NHS. That actually did help me because it gave me the resources and allowed me to work on my project while staying within the NHS.  

Praveen 

What's your vision for the next five years? 

Adam

We want to grow in the private sector in the NHS and the UK, in the short term. We want to grow and sell to employers or employer programme. Obviously, there's a lot of focus now on health and how to help employees be better and healthier, and that's where want to help companies help their employees be more healthy.

So, we're doing that in the short term, but in the long term, we really want to be a one-stop-shop for diabetes and metabolic syndrome in general. So we would be offering a comprehensive nutrition programme to prevent and treat diseases such as diabetes..  

Praveen 

What was the impact of COVID-19 on your business?  

Adam

We were supposed to close a bigger funding deal before the lockdown and that fell through because the VC pulled out last minute. But we now have a very successful seedrs campaign running, which is helping us generate the funds for future growth. 

Praveen 

What would you call a success for your startup 

Adam 

I would say that if we build a sustainable online platform that is actually helping people with type II diabetes and metabolic syndromes, that’s a success for us. 

Praveen 

What would be one advice you would give to somebody starting on the journey based on your experience? 

Adam 

This is one thing that I was talking about with university students. I have this concept of your circle of interest. And I talked about how you should widen your circles of interest. So we have interests in different subjects, right. As a medical student, you may have a lot of interest in medicine.

But then you would have interest in economics business, wherever. And the more you know about a subject, the wider your circle is. I think innovation happens at the intersections of your circles of interest. For example, I had a lot of interest in technology, entrepreneurship and in medicine, and their intersection is what I'm working on now. So you need to find those unique intersections that kind of represent your interest.  

Praveen 

Any book you would recommend for somebody from an entrepreneurial perspective? 

Adam 

I like Naseem Taleb’s books. "Antifragile" and "Skin in the game" are my favourites.  

 

To find more about Span, please visit https://www.span.health/