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Josh Clemente, Founder of Levels

Josh Clemente, Founder of Levels
Josh Clemente, Founder of Levels, is a mechanical engineer and CrossFit-L2 trainer.

Josh Clemente, Founder of Levels, is a mechanical engineer and CrossFit-L2 trainer. At SpaceX, he led a team to develop life support systems that sustained astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on their May 2020 trip to the International Space Station aboard Dragon Endeavor: the first new crew-carrying spacecraft since 1980. Josh has also spent time designing and building Hyperloop technology and leading engineering for a company providing vehicle-based rescue systems for emergency response teams. Josh enjoys the outdoors, functional fitness training, technology, coffee, and restoring motorcycles.

Josh joins me today to discuss not only his founder’s story but his background at SpaceX and Hyperloop. He tells us about some of the things he learned there and what information he brought to his new company and some areas that he wanted to develop. He shares with us the technology and story behind his company Levels and the use of continuous glucose monitors. Josh tells us about some of the challenges and how he communicated the mission of the company during his round of fundraising.

“By using not just hardware, but then advanced software, machine learning algorithms and insights frameworks that can help people orient themselves and then make better choices in a very short period of time.” - Josh Clemente

Today on Startups for Good we cover:

  • How individuals can use continuous glucose monitors to learn more about their food choices.
  • How to get your product to reach the masses
  • The challenges to creating new technology
  • The challenges of transparency prior to and during fundraising
  • Working in public
  • Demonstrating progress during fundraising
  • How to pick a co-founding team

Connect with Josh on Twitter and LinkedIn or Instagram. Check out the Levels website:

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Transcript

Miles

Josh, welcome to Startups for Good. Thanks so much for coming on.

Josh

Thanks for having me on Miles, I'm excited.

Miles

I'd love to start with, why did you become a founder?

Josh

Well, I started this company with my co-founders, because I personally, kind of am patient zero for the need, and the need cases, for people to have better information about their health so that they can identify the ways in which they're making decisions that they may or may not think are bad for them, and how poorly or, or positively, they're being affected by those same decisions. And, and so essentially, like, starting at the beginning, I discovered that I had underlying metabolic dysfunction despite being a CrossFit trainer, and thinking I was doing everything right being physically fit. But just kind of stumbled upon this underlying metabolic dysfunction that was that was building and that unfortunately, many people don't identify. And the way I did this was with a really amazing piece of real time, technology called a continuous glucose monitor. And so my own experience and my ability to get a grip on my lifestyle decisions, how they're affecting me, and then turn that around for myself is, is kind of the use case that showed me there's an opportunity here to help a lot of people.

Miles

So the combination of a big need and problem in the world and experiencing yourself helps you connect with this for levels health, it's not the first company that you've helped start, right?

Josh

It's not. So I, I've worked at startups, my whole career, I started off at SpaceX, I went to Hyperloop, when they were pretty young. And then I started another company that was in the world of sort of rescue and tactical equipment prior to levels.

Miles

And I see a real through line there of mission and in almost all or all those organizations that you've worked at throughout your career.

Josh

I think so I I'm one of those people that just really gets motivated by the underlying scope of what we're working on. I, I, maybe I'm a little bit of a, I don't know, it's hard to say I'm not I'm not super sort of passion driven, necessarily. I like working on something that is going to be needed, I think that's what it comes down to is, I really like to solve problems that are relevant to large numbers of people, and certainly ones that are relevant to myself. And I think that's what it comes down to is just like, the utility of what it is that we're working on. And, of course, I love being driven by a big dream to and that, you know, the SpaceX, the SpaceX mission, it doesn't get much bigger than that. And so I just always refer back to that experience and how much it kind of drove myself and my teammates to do really good work and, and do so at a rapid pace.

Miles

What did you learn there that you're able to apply that you want to do the same? And what would you want to do differently than SpaceX?

Josh

Well the big things I would say are, there's a, there's definitely a few that one of the greatest things about SpaceX is its, its sort of first principles driven culture where you don't really accept the, the standard approach, right, it's always questioning the way things are done and finding opportunity for improvement. And that kind of comes from the highest levels like Gwynne Shotwell and Elon and the others, they're in leadership really do an amazing job demonstrating this all the time. And, and there's just a really strong accountability culture, you know, spaceflight has been riddled with unfortunate, and in some cases, unnecessary, lives lost and disasters, and it's, it's a culture, like the industry itself is kind of held back by that history. And so, you know, throughout the SpaceX culture is a real personal accountability, you know, it's each individual is responsible for ensuring that the end product is successful and for raising the awareness if if something is going wrong and if they're aware of, of a concern. And so, that can come down to like Elon, distributing his own cell phone number prior to launches to the entire company and saying, if there's something that you're aware of, that I should know about, call me and it's just, it kind of allows you to feel very empowered to sign off and hold accountable you know, yourself and your team for the end result. And I think, you know, when you're, when you're dealing with people's health, it's very similar. You know, it's important to to be building a product that you feel very strongly is, is the best one and and also to be transparent about your intentions and and ultimately to think from first principles and not kind of accept the way things have been done historically.

Miles

Is there anything in the culture there or somewhere else where you've worked that you thought, you know, I learned from that I want to do it differently?

Josh

Sure, yeah. I think, you know, just referring back to my, my own discovery of this underlying concern, I had metabolically. I was working at SpaceX, and I was honestly burning the candle at both ends, and had, I think, for several years, not not really even taken a weekend off, let alone a vacation, and was just not balancing the, the immediate term priorities with the bigger picture. So the work life balance just really didn't exist. And oftentimes, that was also driven by the culture, you know, and it's a place where everyone's very competitive and wants to get things done, and as fast as possible. And I think, understanding how that affected me has really been sort of formative for me, and in determining what sort of culture I want to build, or we want to build that levels. And so just being more intentional about the individual and the ensuring that we, you know, when, especially as a health care company or wellness company, that we're practicing what we preach and being more well rounded, respecting the individual, making sure that people are controlling, not just these sort of nutrition and exercise components, but also stress management, and sleep and, and relationships, you know, with their family, and friends, all of these are important to produce someone who, who is healthy and can, you know, perform at their peak and be just flourish, you know, so I think that's somewhere, that's an area where I definitely am going to be pushing to divert a bit from the SpaceX culture.

Miles

That makes sense. On that line, let's continue talking about the service Levels, can you can you tell our listeners about what it is and how it works?

Josh

Yeah, so Levels exists? To answer the question, what should I eat? And why? And the way we seek to answer that question is with data from the individual's body surface for them in real time, and so that the data we're using has to do with metabolism. And just to kind of define that real quick metabolism is the set of cellular mechanisms that produce energy from our food and our environment. So this is like, you know, the nutrients in our food, and then sunlight and, and other processes that ultimately produce energy in our, in our cells and tissue. And so, you know, when off track, essentially, hormones have to respond to other hormones in the body, and they can begin to sort of go haywire, where are these these feedback systems, in the body's chemical feedback loops, with with hormones being released in response to other hormones can start to bias in one direction or another. And these can have a whole host of detrimental effects. And so you know, what levels is doing is giving you the ability to measure one of these primary molecules, and this is glucose in the blood in real time. So what you're getting is a series of sensors. These are these were originally developed for the management of diabetes, but the sensors, you were one on your arm, and it streams your blood sugar information to your phone. And so now you can very quickly see the response to an action that you take. And this can be a meal that you're eating, it can be exercise, this could be the difference between a long, you know, eight hour night of sleep, or a four or five hour night on a red eye. And you can start to see the effects in effect in essentially real time through the levels, software and algorithms, which provide scores for you. And you can start to orient yourself around the quality or lack thereof of certain decisions you're making, and then see the opportunity to replace those choices with with alternatives. And so right now we're building that, that insights layer, essentially building the user experience, and the systems that interpret glucose information and score it according to the positive or potentially negative effects and surface that for the individual.

Miles

Yeah, I've been using it for a couple weeks now, independent of doing this podcast, I've been interested in this area for a while, and it's hard to get a continuous glucose monitor if you don't have diabetes. So part of what you're doing is opening up access right?

Josh

Definitely yet the two areas when I first used the CGM and realized that something was was very wrong with my own glycemic control. I became immediately interested in increasing accessibility of the technology because it just seemed to me so sort of niche and unavailable. And I myself had had over a year of trouble trying to get one to just to experiment with. And, and then after, you know, understanding just how powerful the technology the data was, I was sort of shocked by how it didn't seem to be, It was not getting the attention, I think it deserved, like, once I had used it, it was like, This is incredible. This is really, it allows you to understand so much about how your body is functioning that you previously couldn't. And it's so valuable for behavior change, you know, what am I missing that this is not more readily available, and so kind of threw myself into the research there. And I just think the, the way that the technology was developed kind of, defines its accessibility path, you know, it's historically been used for people who have type one diabetes. And you know, when you have type one, there's an acute concern, right, if your blood sugar, your body no longer produces insulin, which is necessary to keep blood sugar in the correct boundaries. And so these individuals have to use exogenous insulin, inject insulin into their bodies to control glucose, and it's very complicated condition, and they need the immediate access. And if the devices malfunction, it can be really detrimental can be dangerous. So the devices were were developed in that, you know, sort of framework where there's an acute need and a life threatening one. And so that kind of explains why the, you know, the FDA controls have been fairly stringent and why the accessibility has always traditionally been through a primary care provider and with a diagnosed condition. So that's the history. But now we're at a point where the technology is really evolved. And they're very convenient devices. And it's clear that the although type one is is an important condition, and those people certainly need to have access to CGM, one of the bigger concerns is this metabolic health epidemic, which is increasing at an increasing rate across the developing world. And this would be like type two diabetes, and the other metabolic dysfunctions like cardiovascular disease, stroke, Alzheimer's, pcls, and fertility conditions, all of which are related to insulin resistance, metabolic dysfunction, and entirely preventable due to chronic lifestyle choices. So it's, it's this area that I believe the technology can really contribute massively to intervening in the case of 88% of US adults who are currently metabolically unhealthy, according to a study by the University of North Carolina, and or the, you know, 90 million folks here in the US who are pre diabetic 84%, of whom don't know it. So you have this like, kind of growing wave of metabolic dysfunction, where people are making decisions, and they are no longer or they are not able to understand the effect of those decisions, in some cases for decades until they receive preventable diagnosis. So, yeah, increasing the accessibility is certainly one of the main focuses of the levels business model.

Miles

And are people able to get specific insights that are individual to them? Or is it more a matter of behavioral change? Because now they see it more vividly? I mean, everyone knows they should eat healthy and get some exercise. Right.

Josh

Yeah, I think, you know, it's, the difference between being told something and seeing something from your own bodies is pretty profound. And I didn't fully appreciate that, until experiencing it myself. And, and so I, I mentioned, you know, I had this underlying issue happening. And looking back, you know, I had a lifelong addiction to sugar. And because I wasn't gaining weight, you know, I didn't have a body weight problem. I just my metabolic dysfunctions were manifesting in different ways, and my family has hereditary, or, you know, some, some cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer's in my family tree. And so, I think that my family manifests metabolic dysfunction differently than certain other people might. And so seeing the effects of my decisions on my blood sugar, even as it relates to, to foods that I was eating that I thought were healthy, completely changed my perspective on unnecessary added sugars, which I would often you know, indulge on indulge in multiple times per week. And and so like that behavior change component was unexpected for me and it came entirely from the fact that this is my body telling me that this is happening, right? It's there is no sort of outside advice component, it doesn't feel patronizing in any way it doesn't feel like you're following sort of a one size fits all approach. It's, it's very much this is happening to you and you know, it's your body and conversation with you and, and so I think that component of it is really fast. Fascinating for behavioral change. But then there is the the personalization element. So, these devices, continuous glucose monitors were used in several trials, including one in 2015, which I would call the landmark study. But, you know, this trial showed that 800 people who did not have diabetes could have profoundly different responses to the exact same foods. So in one case, they had two folks who ate the exact same two foods, a banana and a wheat cookie, and had equal and opposite blood sugar responses to them. And the implication there is that if you're having equal and opposite blood sugar responses, you're likely having equal and opposite hormonal responses like insulin to those foods. And so the effects, the health effects could literally be opposite for these two people if they choose these foods continuously. And that's a really important finding, because it really shows just how much the personalization element could factor in in the long term, this, this whole development of a personalized lifestyle and a personalized diet could really be the key to us sort of unlocking at a large scale social health improvements, because you know, if if people are currently following kind of the average of the whole population, that may shift the whole population, you know, more towards the center, but it may not bring the tails together, it may not bring that person who responds super negatively to a banana, but is eating it because they think it's healthy, it may not bring them closer to the center, if that makes sense. And so if we can instead target the individual, empower them with their own information, to make personalized choices, we could very likely shift the entire curve closer to health

Miles

And have a healthier population, which was really inspiring. But how do you reach more than just The Techie, The Geek someone who's into quantified self? I mean, I live in San Francisco Bay Area, people are using continuous glucose monitors, I don't know, five plus years ago, because they're kind of kooky. But how does the How does this reach the average person?

Josh

Yeah, it's, that's our primary focus, you know, in the longer term is certainly making this a very accessible technology, not just in terms of having the access pathway, but making it attainable. financially. And, and the way that we're going about this is, is first, you know, targeting the early adopters, you know, the, we're kind of in the Tesla Roadster phase where, you know, the devices are fairly new, it's, it's kind of cool, it's got a little bit of a, an element of experimental, early adopterness to it. And so people are willing to give it a shot. But then we're demonstrating, you know, with our with both that the early adopters, and with our clinical research program, the efficacy of this. And so, you know, we hope in the next few few months and years to show the in concrete, rigorous, statistically relevant terms, how much this improves the health outcomes for the individual. So by using this device, you're not just playing with a flashy new tool, it's not like the new Garmin, it's not a Fitbit, this is something that concretely affects your quality of life. And then the quantitative risk of these chronic illnesses that we're trying to, to, you know, kind of reverse trends with. And so that's going to be the longer view and by doing so, assuming the efficacy trials, show what we expect them to show. That's how we can, I think, ultimately unlock, you know, coverage for perhaps self insured employers, insurance programs, etc, to to make this something that the average person is using, not just because it's engaging, and it has a really strong behavioral change component to it, but because it is the best mechanism for making better decisions and living a healthier life.

Miles

You see people wearing this all the time healthy people wearing it for years, or how does it work in that regard?

Josh

Well, I certainly see, you know, certainly, we see a lot of people who want to wear this continuously. And the reason is that, it's, you know, some people describe it as, once you have the data, it feels like leaving your cell phone at home to eat a meal without it, and you just feel disconnected. And there's a little bit of uncertainty. And so the confidence of seeing that positive result, every time you eat a good meal, it just sort of boosts confidence in your decisions and helps you feel like you're sticking to your goals. And so there's a really strong accountability component to this, which I think likely goes hand in hand with what we've seen was sort of closing your rings on the Apple Watch and getting your 10,000 steps and you can feel good about it every day at the end of the day. And you know, this, with the levels program, you can feel that same way about the nutrition side of your lifestyle choices. And you know, beyond that, even if people don't choose to wear it full time. It's one of those things that the human body is a dynamic system. We're a chemistry set essentially. And very small kind of, or seemingly small changes in our day to day environment can induce very large scale changes in our metabolic function. An example of this could be you know, becoming a parent, you know, having a newborn and suddenly your sleep schedule changes and you go from from having eight full hours of sleep to overnight, you're getting 2, 3, 4, fractured hours of sleep. And that can have a really significant effect on the stress environment this person is operating under. So with that in mind, we highly recommend that people use the program, if not continuously, regularly. So you can, you know, do a month, see how things are going experiment, understand exactly where you can focus, and then use those lessons learned for several months, and then you check in again, and make sure that you know, you're still on trajectory. And nothing's really shifted dramatically. And and or if something has find ways to adapt. And so I think that's, that's likely to be the way that the technology is used in, you know, those two sorts of buckets, such that, you know, depending on what type of personality you are, whether you tend to get somewhat obsessive about data or, or whether you're, you're kind of more of a hands off person and just want to pull the lessons out, we can meet you where you are, no matter who you are.

Miles

are you creating any fundamentally new tech here? I mean, you've had a background as an engineer working on really hard engineering problems. Where's the challenge here for you?

Josh

Well, I think that the challenge is an exciting one, because the, the opportunity, essentially, this is an unstudied area, human metabolism, normal human metabolism, and then optimal metabolism remains to be studied. And much of it has to do with the fact that we haven't had this real time technology and the ability to scale it and perform really, you know, sort of large scale longitudinal studies with large numbers of people. But I think the potential here for us to, to produce really groundbreaking research is is massive. And that's one thing that really excites me is that we can by using, not just the the hardware, but then advanced software, machine learning algorithms and insights frameworks that can help people orient themselves and then make better choices in a very short period of time, we can start to demonstrate just how quickly you can take control of your metabolism, and improve metabolic fitness. And so, you know, that is the challenge, the challenge is building a system that is intuitive, elegant, delightful to use, and produces, in a very short period of time measurable improvement in health. And, you know, I think it's a very different challenge than any other I've worked on thus far. But it's one that's very close to me. And, you know, having been kind of immersed in just how big this problem is, I think it's one of the most important for our time, you know, we kind of have the clash of two epidemics happening right now with COVID, and the metabolic crisis. And unfortunately, outcomes here in the United States have been really bad. And much of that, I believe, has to do with the the correlation between the comorbidities of COVID, in the presence of an existing glucose dysregulation, like type two diabetes, or prediabetes. And so we're kind of seeing the unfortunate effects of the, you know, the lack of resilience we have in our society, and how subject people are to, to like, sort of unexpected factors, you know, like a virus. But you know, ultimately what it means is just that we we have to get healthier as a society. And in order to do so we have to empower the individual, you know, we can't try and solve this in one stroke with a piece of legislation, it just won't work.

Miles

Do you think that people should have access to this technology without a doctor?

Josh

I certainly think that it's case dependent, you know, the, the average person who is trying to learn more about their bodies and does not have sort of an acute medication dependent need, should likely be able to get this over the counter, at some point soon, I would expect that that's the direction things are heading. I certainly believe that if you have, you know, an existing condition that requires management, it's really important to have an expert in in the process along with you. And, you know, that's where the primary care physician, you know, certainly can can provide a huge amount of added value for, you know, designing a therapy that that works best for you. So, yeah, I think right now, what we're suffering from is a lack of awareness, a total absence of information for the vast majority of people who, unfortunately looking at trends are likely to end up with a chronic illness before you know it before the end of life. And that's where we need to focus is is by quickly and with minimal overhead, getting the average person in touch with the effects of their choices.

Miles

Do you foresee a world where continuous glucose monitoring is part of longer term wearables like built into your watch or maybe not even require breaking your skin.

Josh

I definitely think so I mean, as we start to demonstrate that there's such a large, not just market, but but appetite for this technology, I think we're gonna see a ton of great innovation. And you know, I would expect that the form factor will improve quite a bit, I would, you know, if I'm going to project forward, say, five to 10 years, I would bet that we'll be wearing a multi analyte continuous monitor of some kind that is checking not just glucose, but also other really interesting molecules like insulin, cortisol, potentially, you know, maybe maybe blood lipids. And that will be really an amazing kind of gold standard for understanding an individual's chronic choices and how they're affecting outcomes. And it'll be a really powerful tool, they'll go well beyond what we have in our current wearables. And I think it can do all of those additional wearable functions, like, you know, tracking activity and heart rate and body temperature, etc. And it'll likely be, I don't think that we're gonna see a fully non invasive sensor technology that can measure molecule concentrations in the skin for a very long time. You know, I I don't know that that's something we're going to crack with, like, optical techniques anytime soon. But I could totally be wrong. I think it will be in sort of a minimally invasive zone with maybe like micro needles, or what we currently have these interstitial filaments, which are very flexible and, and ultimately, like, not a inconvenient solution and provide really good data. So I think we'll be there for the foreseeable future. But I am, I'm really looking forward to seeing what comes.

Miles

And if only it can track your food for you. Yeah, that's,

Josh

That's, that's next, although I don't exactly know how to crack that one.

Miles

Yeah, I mean, maybe part of the behavioral change comes from becoming aware of your food, and the tracking makes you more aware of it. I'd love to turn the conversation a little bit more back to the company, you recently announced that you raised a nice round VC round with big name venture capitalists, and we'd love to hear you talk about that process and how that came about.

Josh

Yeah. So we did announce the round A16Z took lead. And, you know, we're really excited about the potential that, you know, the additional financing brings for this next phase. And, you know, it was definitely an interesting process, given that we actually started the process, the week that COVID kind of made landfall here in the US. And so that, that put a real, you know, many, many issues came out of that, obviously, but one of them was that we just kind of put a hold on our process and tightened up the belt and just decided, you know, what, we're gonna buckle down and keep focused on product and see what happens with the world, you know, and if the investment market is, is receptive, sometime soon, hopefully, we'll be able to kick those conversations off. And, and so we kind of like went back into product mode for a few months, and really made some some exceptional progress, I think, in that time. And so, you know, once it became clear that the VC, you know, landscape was opening back up again, we had some really excellent, excellent progress, I think, to show and since we had kind of kicked off conversations with some of these VCs, at the beginning of the year, we were then able to show like a large degree of delta in the conversation, and when we picked them back up towards the like, the late summer. And so that was really interesting. I think that benefited us significantly, because it showed that we had not only not slowed down in the post COVID situation, we had actually accelerated, and that there was arguably an increased desire and attraction for the product, because the correlations, as I mentioned, between COVID and metabolic health could potentially be driving some of it. So we had really strong conversations towards the end of the summer. And, you know, ultimately, we, I think, you know, we closed around that was, it was all virtual, I still have not yet met the partners in person who invested in our company in this round. And I think that's really interesting. And it's, it's kind of cool to be a part of, and I think the process was just really efficient. And right to the point, we were able to share a lot of data asynchronously, we were able to just keep people in the loop with continuous little kind of micro updates. And we kept a very transparent process going which I credit, my co founder Sam with, you know, he's he's all about radical transparency. And so we kind of made our documentation readily available to anyone interested and and that just allowed us to kind of work in public, you know, and let people see a glimpse into the team. And I think that that further kind of strengthened the the Investors sort of personal belief, I think in the success of, or the possibilities of success for the team, and the mission is just seeing it happening in a remote environment in a post COVID environment, and being able to like develop a sense of confidence in us, despite having never, you know, met us in person in a partner meeting.

Miles

Can you say more about what it means to work in public? What are some examples of how you're doing it? And how that would be different if you weren't working in public?

Josh

Yeah. You know, one example is that, essentially, every person that we talked to, as a potential hire, or as a potential investor, you know, we'll have an intro call, but we will share a huge number of internal memos with them as a follow up to that call. And we we share the links directly, and they can see comments, in addition to the actual text of the memo. And, and those are living documents. So we work out of those we, we continue to collaborate inside of them as a team. And I think that is certainly non standard. And of course, we don't share anything that has, you know, any sort of customer information or patient information in it, we just stick to kind of the business memos. But the point is, is that we were very, very open about our strategy, our our current blockers, like any major problems that we're working on, as a company are focused on. And so just really airing, the good with the bad. And I think that that radical transparency, it, it works in two in two directions. It first is unexpected, so people are sort of disarmed by the transparency, and that that immediately takes down any barriers. And then second, it allows them to see that the quality of what we're doing, we don't have anything to hide in that respect. So once people can see like, into the, the kind of minds of the team, they immediately understand how we start, how we go about solving problems, how we collaborate. And, and also, I think the quality of our decision making the execution or the, I think, the way in which we confront failure when we do so I, you know, this is an experiment for sure. Like, I've never worked at a company where we've been so transparent. And so it's, you know, it's a maybe a bit of a risk that some people might think we're taking, but the problem is that we need to overcome in order to succeed as a company don't really have to do with transparency issues. I think it's fundamentally better to build an environment where people, you know, have seen under the hood and believe in it, than in one where there's lingering doubts over what's actually happening behind the scenes.

Miles

I think that's really interesting advice. Many an aspiring founder, has that first impulse to keep my idea secret, and not to share it. And it sounds like you're saying, No, do share it, and people will see the quality of your thinking in there. And they'll be attracted to it.

Josh

Yeah, yeah, I think the way Sam puts it is that if the concern is that just simply sharing the idea is enough to lose the idea to someone who can execute better, then that's a concern that you should think deeply about. Because if you don't feel that you're capable of executing with all of the information that you have, and the team that you're building on your idea better than any other, then you probably need to focus on building a better team or on some other version of the plan. And, you know, of course, there are some limitations to this, but it's just, generally speaking, have confidence in yourself, you know, you're taking on this project, it's unlikely that someone is going to just see an idea and be able to out execute on it. And it's tough, you know, I certainly understand like I it's, it's very tough to kind of internalize that, and then go and put it into action, and just share, you know, what, what you've been working on for a long time, and that you feel as vulnerable still. But I think in practice, it's it's worked so well, that I'm, I'm certainly a believer in this approach.

Miles

Well, thanks for sharing that with us. That's very concrete, actionable help that people can use. Talking about your fundraiser a little bit more, you said you were able to demonstrate progress. How did you do that? What were the metrics you chose? And

Josh

So we've been, we came out of stealth mode in January, and we were just installed. We just didn't have any public presence to speak of. We launched our website in January of this year. And then we started releasing the first version of the app. And, and yeah, just trying to bring on the first few beta customers. So our product is still in beta. You know, we're very much in development on the software. And we've been running a data program where we essentially handpick or invite people into the, the 28 day program. And they get to try the software and provide us with feedback. And we like to get video or video and or phone calls with as many people as possible to really maximize the feedback. And so, you know, when we first started the process, we were very early in that beta. And by late summer, things had accelerated fairly dramatically. And we had had 1000s of orders, our revenues, even though we weren't tracking those, the the top line metric, we were still tracking feedback and development milestones, our revenue had climbed significantly, and we had had a massive influx in signups for our waitlist. So the waitlist was originally supposed to be like the signup list to get into the beta. But it it, we are now I mean, as of as of this moment, we're at like 63,000 people on the waitlist, but by mid summer, we were around 25, or I believe, like 15 to 25,000 when these conversations were happening, and you know, from nothing, and with no marketing, and so just showing like that acceleration and interest through essentially organic mechanisms, just people sharing from the beta on Twitter, and through our content, you know, we're writing a lot of blogs, and our SEO had moved dramatically upwards. And so there was like, all of these indicators that were across the entire business, that were all moving very quickly upward. And, and in with an entirely technical team, like a non marketing driven result, I think it caught the attention of, of, you know, the investment groups, and mostly because, you know, we're opening a new market, you know, this is something that is not well demonstrated, and there's definitely some some hesitancy from certain people about whether this is interesting to the consumer. And so all of those metrics moving so quickly, and all of the sort of variety that we brought to, well, all of the variety we were seeing in terms of customer profiles were coming to us and, and the number of channels.It all painted a pretty compelling picture that this has legs.

Miles

How did you communicate during that fundraise about mission?

Josh

Well, we we wrote about it, we we wrote the Level Secret Master Plan, which is shamelessly ripped off from Tesla, but essentially describing why we're doing what we're doing, what we intend to build and for whom. And to answer those, it's, we want to reverse the trends of metabolic dysfunction. We're, we're building the device, the system that will allow immediate behavior change, driven by individual biometrics, and we're building it for everyone. We want to make this attainable by the individuals who need it most, which if you look at the metabolic health, or lack, you know, the metabolic dysfunction trends in this country, they're, they're very closely tied to economic status. And unfortunately, they affect people who, frankly, can't afford a $400 one month program. And so we're very clear eyed about that, we know that the technology ultimately has to be scalable, and it has to be there has to be potential to bring the price down significantly and or get it covered in the long term in order to really move the needle on metabolic health. And so just being I think, again, being transparent about the fact that we're prioritizing, you know, we're starting off with the Tesla Roadster phase, and we intend to get to the model three, or, you know, even more affordable commuter car version of the Levels product as quickly as possible.

Miles

That's inspiring. If you've had some good success so far, I'm wondering where been the challenges along the way?

Josh

Well, you know, certainly the regulatory environment is tricky, you know, we're working in a space where we ultimately want to do best by the user of our product. And we are striving to help people make better choices and become healthier. But, you know, the the healthcare industry and and certainly anything dealing with a prescription product is, is somewhat slow to change, and certainly not. It's certainly not an area that you see a ton of disruption happening in and, you know, we, we really see that as both an opportunity and a challenge because, you know, we want to make sure that we're abiding by the spirit of all of the regulations and, you know, with with the best interests in mind, however, you know, certain things just haven't contemplated the pace of technological progress. So, you know, there's a there's a lot of work to be done. I think in the healthcare industry broadly speaking, to improve the use case for health data, you know, if you just zoom out and think, when was the last time you used your own health data to make a choice, like when was the last time you used anything from a blood panel, or, you know, that you received from a clinic to decide what to eat for lunch, or you know, how to exercise or how to sleep, it just doesn't really happen. And I think that's critical. And getting there is going to have to be, you know, we really do need to collaborate with the regulatory bodies, and the industry professionals, you know, the medical practitioners were out there doing this every day in order to find the best solution. And so, you know, I think, just getting to the point where we have a business that is stable and is, you know, working within the intentions of the regulations across HIPAA, and across patient health data, you know, requirements, and logistically fulfilling prescription devices across all 50 states, it's been a real challenge. And, you know, certainly I'm proud of the progress we've made, but I feel like there's a lot of ground to cover, to get to that end state where, you know, we can really get these in the hands of many, many more people than we than we currently can.

Miles

Do you have any advice for aspiring founders?

Josh

Well, from from my own perspective, I think, you know, a lot of people can be somewhat hesitant to bring on a co-founding team, or co founder or co founding team. And certainly, it's been absolutely amazing, from my perspective, to see just how critical that that has been for the progress we've made. I think this kind of goes back to the same sort of security question about how you know, who to share information and ideas with, and, you know, there can be a lot of hesitation to like, you know, Share, share the business and the vision with, with someone else, when you're just getting started. And I just have to say that, like, you know, my co founders are absolute force multipliers, you know, they have a diverse set of skills, and expertise in areas that I do not. And together, we, we've put together, I think, a really exceptionally execution oriented group, and I don't think we would be where we are with without any one of us, you know, and, by the way, we have five on the founding team. So it's just been really awesome to feel sort of vindicated by the, you know, the strength and numbers approach there. And certainly, you know, that definitely takes some, just careful and intentional approaches to, to business operations, you know, making sure that how decisions are made, and by whom, and you know, how things are documented, are is all very important. But I would just encourage people, you know, who are maybe feeling stuck, or, you know, trying to do everything themselves to consider, you know, bringing on someone who has a complementary skill set and sharing the burden and, you know, multiplying your effectiveness.

Miles

If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far go together. Hmm.

Josh

There you go.

Miles

Do you have a piece of content, you would particularly recommend a book, blog? article? podcast?

Josh

Yeah. Let's see, I'm gonna, I'm gonna recommend a few things, I recommend the podcast the drive by Peter Attia. For anyone who wants to understand the mechanisms of metabolic dysfunction, or just health generally, I think I've learned just so much from his episodes and show notes, I can't recommend that enough. I highly recommend the Levels blog, we we take a lot of the information out there about metabolism and break it down and make it approachable and, and help people understand that this is not something that's just has to do with diabetes, this has to do with quality of life, the way our energy is produced and and where it goes. And so helping folks understand that and and then lastly, there's a really great book that recently came out by Ben Beckman who is one of our research advisors, but it's called Why We Get Sick. And this is, I think, an amazing read for anyone who, you know, audio format, or, or hardcopy, but it describes just how rampant insulin resistance is in modern society. And I think it's that as a single point, it's a couldn't start with a better resource than that.

Miles

And where can people follow you and your work online?

Josh

Well, I I personally am @Joshua'sforest on Twitter, and I'm also on Instagram at Josh.F.Clemente but you can also just follow levels on both Twitter and Instagram at Levels and highly recommend going to our homepage, sign up for the waitlist and check out our blog there at levelshealth.com

Miles

Thanks so much for coming on the show.

Josh

Thanks so much for having me Miles.