FITFILE founder: Think laterally about hiring – Fi5

FITFILE founder Image credit: FITFILE / UKTN

Philip Russmeyer is the founder and CEO of FITFILE, a startup that has created a platform to pull together anonymised health data records for medical research.

Russmeyer, who has a background in investment banking and corporate strategy, founded FITFILE in 2020. The London-headquartered company says its platform opens up real-world health data to researchers “in full compliance with data protection regulations”. The aim is to deliver insights that could ultimately improve patient care and save lives.

In this week’s Founder in Five Q&A, the FITFILE CEO shares funding advice for first-time founders, why companies should “think laterally” about hiring, and why entrepreneurs should be wary of “instant reply culture”.

1. What funding advice would you give to a first-time founder?

Philip Russmeyer: Don’t panic and rush your funding journey. Founders often feel pressured to close rounds as quickly as possible, but this won’t result in the best outcome. Fundraising is currently getting longer and may take six to nine months or longer.

If you can have regular conversations with a number of potential investors well ahead of fundraising, mutual understanding and trust will make the process much more rewarding. In tougher markets, it’s important to invest time in finding the people who are best placed to support you with advice and connections in addition to cash. And, importantly, you should like each other and want to work together!

2. How do you promote diversity in the workplace?

PR: One great way to promote diversity is to expand your recruiting beyond traditional channels. If you’re always recruiting from the same place (be that universities, personal networks, or LinkedIn ads), you’ll get the same kind of applicants. Think laterally: partner with talent programmes, attend job fairs at various kinds of institutions, and use job boards that cater to diverse candidates.

This will let you access a richer, deeper pool of candidates offering a variety of backgrounds and experiences. Once recruited, always make sure to understand, endorse and celebrate diverse perspectives that enhance your team’s performance and your company’s success.

3. What are the best and worst parts of your job?

PR: Being a founder in the health sector, one of the best parts of my job is seeing how FITFILE’s platform helps to deliver better care for healthier, happier and longer lives. By channelling the team’s strong expertise, I can take great ideas and transform them into real solutions with the potential to shape the future of healthcare research, planning and delivery.

However, with this huge opportunity comes unrelenting pressure and lots to do. It’s not always easy to quickly have enough facts to hand to make well-founded decisions with the time and resources available to a fast-moving, lean startup.

4. How do you prevent burnout?

PR: The instant-reply culture can take a heavy toll on mental health and founder wellbeing. I think it’s important to take breaks that don’t involve frantically checking and responding to emails.

Real, unplugged, time off should be scheduled into every founder’s diary – and I’ll keep working on that!

My favourite way to spend non-working hours is with my family, preferably involving activities in the sun and the sea. Whatever it is you enjoy doing that relaxes you, and takes your mind off work, do it. You might be surprised how much disconnecting for a day improves your productivity, focus and passion.

5. Excluding your own, what’s a sector that is ripe for distribution?

PR: I’m passionate about working to unite health sector data, but the potential of connected data stretches far beyond this sector. I think that innovators and leaders in the climate tech sector could benefit immensely from access to better data. There’s a huge amount of valuable information and research data accumulating from research studies, NGOs, governments and private companies.

However, much of this data is locked up in silos. This is stalling progress – and we absolutely can’t afford to waste any time in the fight against climate change. Uniting this data for rapid, shared access could lead to faster breakthroughs.

Founder in Five – a UKTN Q&A series with the entrepreneurs behind the UK’s innovative tech startups, scaleups and unicorns – is published every Friday.