Names: Will Welton and Javier Navarro
Company: Floe Oral Care
Answered by Will on behalf of the company.
- Tell us about your company and the inspiration behind it.
Javier and I set up Floe in 2019 and launched in September 2020. Having seen the adoption of subscription services ranging from recipe boxes to razor blades, we were attracted to the commercial opportunity, but the real inspiration for Floe is shifting the dial on how we engage and manage our oral health. Our view was that a comprehensive subscription for dental care represented not only a compelling potential business, but more importantly a platform to deliver better oral health.
Ultimately, there remains an urgent and unmet need to reduce the prevalence of oral care diseases, and for people to understand the impact it has on systemic health. We want to improve lives at scale by not only providing the right products – delivered at the right intervals – but also visibility of what’s happening inside your mouth via the use of salivary biomarkers.
There are also wider financial benefits to improving oral health. For example, if we can help contribute towards the elimination of gingivitis (the most common cause of gum disease and first step), this alone would save the UK £30bn over the next 10 years whilst also significantly improve the quality of people’s lives.
- What do you know now that you wish you knew at the beginning of your journey?
Going from concept to reality inevitably took longer than we anticipated and also required more capital than expected. Whilst we knew we were launching with a tight budget, on reflection we would have perhaps identified another suitable cornerstone investor. We started the business in our late twenties – there was a lot that we didn’t know then and it’s certainly a constant learning curve.
Fundraising is an inherent part of launching a business and in most scenarios crucial to the survival of the company. A key takeaway for Javier and I would be that from a very early stage – i.e less than 12 months trading – investors are going to place less scrutiny on your numbers and more on how compelling the opportunity is, differentiation, chemistry and passion of the founding team. You’re unlikely to shoot the lights out within a few months of passing go, and in reality, are testing everything for the very first time, so those points are the ones to major on…in our experience!
- What specific challenges have you faced as an entrepreneur and how have you overcome them?
Speed to market has been a challenge for us particularly as we develop the technology around analysing proteins in saliva and presenting that data in a visually compelling format to consumers. When there are multiple unknowns it’s easy to lose momentum and spend a lot of time talking about potential solutions to various problems. Whilst that’s important, we have found that standing still isn’t an option – you’re either moving forward or backwards. How do we mitigate against this? Put a shovel in the ground and take one tangible step forward every day. Steer clear of the doldrums!
- How do you view the impact of skill vs luck in your company’s success to date?
I would summarise our experience to date with the following ethos: the more pro-active you are then the more opportunities you will create to be lucky. The skill comes down to what you do with them when they arise. And finally, if you have some good cards in your pack to start with – then utilise them well!
- What are your aims for the next 1,5 & 10 years, for the business, and personally?
We have been trading for less than 18 months, so are still finding our feet in many respects – teething might be a more accurate metaphor. The aim over the next twelve months is to successfully launch our salivary diagnostic product, electric brush, and continue to grow the core team.
Over the next 5 years, it’s all about creating impact. We want our salivary diagnostics product in particular to benefit over 400k users in the UK by 2027 and provide a sea change in the way that we address oral health. If we can shift people from a reactive to a proactive approach, where they are taking ownership of their oral health, then not only is this going to improve people’s lives at scale, but also improve productivity across the country.
Javier and I are hugely energised in addressing all of the above, so on a personal level our aims are to keep bringing passionate people into the company, and to enjoy the journey.
- Which other businesses, leaders or entrepreneurs inspire you and why?
We’ve got a fantastic Board and Medical Advisory Board (MAB), so regular exposure to both of them provides an evergreen source of learning and inspiration. Specifically, Julio Bruno (ex-CEO, Time Out) and Stephen Welton (Executive Chair, BGF) on the board, and Professor John Deanfield CBE (UCL), who chairs the Floe MAB – a cardiologist by trade, who shares our vision that prevention of systemic disease starts with the mouth.
More generally, their ideas and thinking are helping us build a culture focused on candour, zeal, and high impact. Businesses that have built meaningful brands and changed the way that we operate are also a source of inspiration to us both. Examples would include the likes of Huma, Babylon, and Dyson.
- What is the best piece of advice you have been given throughout your journey so far and where did it come from?
Always back yourself 110%, Sam Galsworthy of Sipsmith Gin. A good play on Kipling’s ‘trust yourself when all men doubt you but make allowance for their doubting too’.
- Do you work with advisers in your company, and if so, where do you feel they add value?
Both the board and MAB add major value and guidance. The latter compromises of world leading experts from Madrid, London and Italy and help inform the science for us to execute against. The former has a wealth of business experience which is key in refining our strategy, and also in providing accountability which is really valuable as a small company.