Hamish Grierson, CEO and co-founder of Thriva, on hiring tech talent and battling self-doubt

Hamish, Thriva

I caught up with Hamish Grierson, CEO and co-founder of Thriva, an award-winning startup which has so far raised £1.5m in funding.

Thriva also won ‘Best in HealthTech’ at UKTN’s Elevator Pitch last year.

Here’s what Grierson had to say.

Q: What were you doing before Thriva and where did the idea for the company come from?

Before Thriva, I was head of innovation at Travelex and was responsible for launching Supercard which secured 86,000 registrations in 36 hours.

I worked with Eliot (we are two of three co-founders) at Travelex. Eliot inherited a high cholesterol disease and as a consequence, had to frequently ask me (his manager) for time off work to go and get blood tests done.

I had become a passionate advocate for all things bio hacking and started challenging Eliot as to why he’d never tried to reduce his reliance on Statins. When we began to look into the system more broadly it became immediately clear that the current model of healthcare simply isn’t designed to empower people to take control of their health proactively. So, we set out to build Thriva.

Q: In your experience, what are the best and worst things about setting up your own company?

There is absolutely nothing that compares to the feeling of seeing this fragile, high intensity, volatile thing come to life and begin to become not only real but begin to stabilise. But on the flip-side, the self-doubt is never ending! Trying to navigate the wave between the confidence in your convictions and the ocean of self doubt is.. ‘tricky’, as my two year old son would say, but it keeps you learning and challenging yourself and your team.

Q: What business challenges have you faced to date and how did you overcome them?

When we went out to raise our Seed investment, the investor market just wasn’t ready to buy what we were selling. I pitched 140 investors. It was utterly brutal. We got there in the end through sheer brute force but also because the rest of the team just kept their heads down and grew our metrics to the point where people could no longer argue this ‘isn’t a thing’.

Q: Do you think of yourself as an entrepreneur, innovator, or disruptor?

Innovator. To me it’s the word that best describes what I actually do every day: solve problems and try to communicate effectively

Q: What helps you switch off? How do you achieve work/life balance?

Two or three nights a week I’ll make it home for bath time then dinner with my better half. They’re an indestructible tonic all of life’s foibles.

Q: What’s the most difficult thing about hiring and retaining talent?

You can’t find Ruby developers for love nor money! Because the best talent don’t need recruiters to represent them, you have to try and poach, which is a massive time soak.

Q: You won Best in HealthTech at UKTN’s Elevator Pitch LIVE last year, what have you been up to since then? Can you share any metrics?

We’ve doubled our turnover and quadrupled our team size. We have launched the ‘leading’ thyroid tracking product in the UK and tripled uptake, and we raised awareness of internal health by placing a giant fatberg on the banks of the Thames!

Q: What technologies hold true transformational value for the Healthcare space?

The reduction in cost of microbiome and DNA sequencing technology is going to reduce barriers to adoption in the mass market, which is exactly what needs to happen to help us better understand what the data represents on an individual basis

Q: Finally, what advice would you give to any other entrepreneurs or founders in the UK?

It’s fantastic that we live in a world where innovators are seen in such a positive light.

However, I’d encourage anyone thinking of starting a company to really challenge themselves as to whether they need to be a venture backed startup to be truly happy.

For some businesses it’s an essential part of their story but for many others, I truly believe they’d have much more fun simply starting and seeing how it goes with a view to creating a business that can deliver a good salary which they have total control of. If things go well then you always have the option of venture backing.