Growing a Good Business Takes Time
Several folks have emailed us asking why the Allergy Amulet isn’t available for purchase yet, and we hear you! We’re just as eager as you are to get our product out on the market.
Here’s the skinny.
Starting a company, particularly one that involves a nascent sensor technology and a physical product (we’re not just an app!), means that a few things have to fall into place before we can launch. We also don’t want to start pre-sales too early and keep you all waiting while sitting on your money—that doesn’t seem right.
If you’re thinking, OK, but it’s been a few years now, what’s the hold up?
First, there’s some R&D involved with what we’re doing. If you look at comparable sensor technologies and the amount of money and time required to bring those technologies to market, we’re way ahead of schedule. That’s in large part because of our Co-Founder & Scientific Advisor, Dr. Joseph BelBruno, whose work around our core technology spans decades—that gave us a bit of a head start. You can read more about his work in this blog post.
After securing funding, we spent a good chunk of the first year hiring a team of scientists and training them in our company’s technology. There are very few scientists familiar with the core technology, and even fewer in Dr. BelBruno’s application of this technology to sensors.
The subsequent two years focused on optimizing our sensors for allergen detection, product design, and controlling for different food conditions. As of this quarter, we’re finally moving our food sensors out of the lab and into the field, and we plan to kick off beta testing later this year! From there, it’s a matter of tooling and manufacturing, which takes approximately nine to twelve months.
Can we move any faster? Good question.
Start-ups are pushed to move at a breakneck pace—you may have heard of the “move fast and break things” approach championed in Silicon Valley—but too much speed can backfire. This article by a former Google exec does a great job of summarizing those risks. And when there are high technical barriers to entry, as is the case with our product category, it can be worth taking a little extra time.
Over the years, our company has benefitted from a slightly slower, smarter, and more strategic approach to growth. This method has helped us develop the right core team, avoid mistakes, build strong strategic partnerships, and save time and money. After all, it takes time to identify the right hires, develop and validate a new technology, ensure product-market fit, and build consumer trust. Taking shortcuts in any of these categories, or succumbing to external pressures that don’t align with the company’s needs or best interests, can be far more costly and time-consuming in the long run.
For the sake of transparency, since you know we're all about that, here are a few cautionary tales of our own that speak to the dangers of moving too fast.
You Can’t Rush Science
Last year, we made a bet that I thought we might not survive from.
We were pushing to develop the next iteration of our prototypes and had two working systems in front of us. We had to choose. Each system relied on a different electrochemical method for translating the presence of our allergenic tracers on our imprinted films. We inadvertently chose the wrong one. This was a costly bet that set us back about six months—and a six-month setback in the start-up cycle is lethal enough to kill.
Our team based this decision on the best available information at the time, but the decision stemmed from pressures around our fundraising cycle. Had we taken the more prudent, slower course of action, we would have saved approximately three months and tens of thousands of dollars.
Burnout is Costly
You’ve probably seen the stats surrounding start-up burnout. They’re not pretty.
Burnout can lead to lower productivity, job dissatisfaction, and high employee turnover. The fact that our first employees are still with us suggests that we must be doing something right, but there are definitely times when members on our team have felt burnt out.
A few things our team has done to help manage for those exhaustion peaks include open lines of communication, flexible scheduling (especially for those employees with kiddos), and annual company retreats in the foothills of Vermont—the last one was at a goat farm. 🐐
The start-up grind can take a pretty significant toll on health and wellbeing, so it’s important to celebrate milestones, team achievements, and the hard work that goes into the hustle.
Consumer Trust is Key
Consumer trust is imperative for our product category—and once lost, trust is hard to earn back.
I have a lot of respect for the founders and CEOs of our two competitors. Both are women spearheading a new product category and are expected to beat impossible odds—which they’ve done already. After all, only ~2% of venture capital goes to female founders. Being first to market in a new product category also comes with its own unique challenges.
Consumer trust is important for all of our products. Knowing this, our companies worked collaboratively on an international stakeholders guidance document to advance the dialogue around best practices for consumer allergen/ingredient detection devices. While we’re all using different technologies, how we communicate the efficacy and inherent limitations of our tests is key to keeping the food allergy community safe—which is the ultimate goal.
In the end, our team will not put anything out into the world that we would not use ourselves or for our children. That means taking the time to get it right. We not only want to bring you a product that you love, but also that you can trust. That’s my promise to you.
So stick with us a little bit longer, because I intend to deliver on that promise.
Abigail Barnes, Co-Founder & CEO