Who: Joel Burgess
What: Nutrition App
Field: Health Tech
Where: London
Follow: @nutrifix | @joel_nutrifix


How to create a nutrition app

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Nutrifix is the app that puts healthy on the map. It locates the best places to eat and healthiest dishes on the menu to match your nutritional needs. It now has over 5,000 users and has acquired data for meals from over 9,000 locations and 90 vendors.


Introduce yourself and tell us where you’re from?
I’m Joel Burgess and I’m from Sussex. I founded Nutrifix two years ago and we now currently have a team of six and we are still growing.

Did you go to university, if so what did you study?
I studied at Bristol university where I studied Mechanical engineering. After three years, I decided I didn’t want to be an engineer so I went into property. I did a Masters in property and then went to work for Knight Frank after that. 

Were you a good student?
I always had a rebellious side in me and I was also a bit of a joker. However, I did study and worked really hard at University to get a 2.1 in Mechanical Engineering.


So the story of how Nutrifix started was back when you created these nutrition spreadsheets which you then sold onto friends? This was essentially a DIY database of the best places to get your healthiest meals and fitness back on track.

Tell us a bit more about the company it is today?

My job was in the restaurant property industry where I was opening up restaurants in and around London. I was constantly eating on the go and found myself in Pret every day. I was eating baguettes all the time and putting on quite lot of weight. I’ve always been into health and fitness but I’ve always struggled with my weight and I was really determined to solve that problem for myself.

As a man who loves a spreadsheet, I put together a document containing all the meals that I should be eating when visiting these chains. This solved my problem and made sure that I was on a calorie deficit, helping me to loose weight. I ended up selling this spreadsheet to fifteen people for £75 each. I remember thinking, if someone is going to buy this spreadsheet there’s got to be something in this and that’s how it started!

When did you start the company?
I started working on it in September 2016, but I officially formed the company in March 2018 which was when the idea came to me.

You’ve partnered with brands such as Deliveroo and Just Eat. Tell us how you made those connections and what it’s been like working with them.
Coincidentally, the week where I decided to give this a go full time it was food-tech week whereby I was invited to pitch. It was also the launch of Just Eat’s food tech accelerator program. They seemed to love Nutrifix, decided to invest and then acted as a mentor to us for 12 weeks. This got things up and running, which then allowed us to build a very basic app. After that, we raised finance with Crowdcube.  

Throughout the process I’ve always been talking to my customers and we found that the major problem was that city-goers were ordering Deliveroo three to four times a week so it seemed like a natural partnership there.

How did you partner with Deliveroo?
I basically stalked them (haha)! I went to events where I knew Deliveroo were going to, got their card and called them after. Eventually, there was one guy who was like ‘Yes I get it’ and he put me in touch with the right person.

They’ve been brilliant to work with (DELIVEROO) and this is a problem they’re trying to solve as well! 


Just Eat committed a £20,000 investment to the business as well as offering the team onto a 10-week intensive mentoring scheme. What’s the biggest thing that they taught you?
Adopting an agile methodology. The idea of launching way earlier than you think, testing and reiterating. At the time, my mind set was that what we were building needed to be perfect and I wanted to wait for it to be perfect before launching.

They forced me to launch and if I hadn’t I probably would have wasted all my money, launched and no one would have used it. We were working in two weekly sprints and every two weeks we’d launch something new or change something. Testing, iterating and speaking to users.

Feedback is so invaluable and improving different versions of the prototype. In March 2017, you guys launched a crowdfunding round on Crowdcube, which raised £200,000.

Tell us how you funded the business at the very early stages and also how you’ve managed to secure this funding?
Initially it was me who invested and I think investors liked seeing that. The fact that you’ve got skin in the game, you’re risking a lot and you’re clearly passionate about the problem. Then Just Eat came about and secondly, we raised on Crowd Cube.


Many people have good ideas for apps but it’s just the issue of executing it right? Tell us about how you started the app. Was the execution process easy, especially with no background in tech?
It was tough and I made every mistake. It’s amazing that we’re still surviving. I bought the book ‘how to build a billion-dollar app’ and thought this is how I’m going to do it. I went through three developers in the UK before finding the developers I’m using now who are based in Sri Lanka.


Have you found difficulty in communication with the developers working remotely?
It’s actually been ten times easier working with the Sri Lankan team in comparison to the UK team. They’re excellent, their English is perfect and they ask the right questions. They also work really hard and don’t have attitudes, whereas the guys in the UK had a lot of attitudes.

I made every mistake under the sun. Right at the start, I didn’t speak to users or get it in front of people. I thought I could design it because it was a problem I was solving for me. It’s only over the last year or so where I’ve realised you just got to be launching rapidly, testing, getting it in front of users. It’s just a constant process of iterating and improving. You’re never going to get it perfect for the first time.

“As a non-technical founder, it’s been very hard. Whatever developers tell you, double it and then probably add another double.

It’s always going to take longer and cost more than what you expect” - Joel

When you developed the app, was this before or after the incubation program?

We had a very basic app during the Just Eat process and they forced us to launch. Subsequently after launching no one used it the second day, the third day or even the week after. It was just un-usable.


How does the App work?
Through the onboarding it will ask you a few questions about yourself, e.g. height, weight and dietary preferences. From that, we’ve created a professional algorithm which scores meals out of 100. Based on how close you think your calories and nutrition goals are, also considering sugar, saturated fats and fiber. We show you the highest scoring meals nearby and we try to make it super simple to show you the best meals for your personalised needs.

We’re constantly improving this on a bi-weekly basis. We’re adding in more data points e.g. mono saturated fat and refining it so you can really rely on that Nutrifix score.


How do you guys compare against My Fitness Pal? They’re a completely different business model but would you say they’ve been competitors of yours?
I see it more as an opportunity. Most of our users use us and My Fitness pal and they add what they find on Nutrifix to My Fitness Pal. We’re trying to speak to them about integration and we’re also speaking to Life Sum and Fitbit.

The way I see it is that it’s better to partner and integrate with these companies than try to do it yourself. Ultimately all these apps will talk to each other and if we can pull data from Fitbit that can then tailor your recommendations, that’s where we want to get to.

How did you market yourself when starting out? How do you get people to even know what the App is?
Two years ago, taking it back to the beginning we had no cash to do marketing. We really focused on social media and content creation.

“I started a blog and a newsletter to slowly build up the following. It was painful at the start, we’re talking like two or three people subscribing, but you’ve gotta have faith that it will keep going.

So, when we launched we had about 2,000 people to launch to, so these were our early adopters. PR has been a big success; we had an article in Woman’s Health and Forbes. We also try and leverage influencers”

Do you think more people should be tapping into influencers for their brand?
It’s got to feel right. Their message has to fit with your message and outlook. I think it has to be quite natural and you have to give them space to take on the campaign as they would. It’s also something we’re testing, so we give each influencer a unique tracking link. This tells us which influencer has the most engaged audience and then we hone in on the influencers which have got us the most results.

By results do you mean who has the most downloads? 
Yes exactly. If an influencer doesn’t have an engaged audience then it’s not going to be effective.  

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What’s a good way to start approaching influencer marketers and what kind of strategies would one use? It’s about reaching out to as many people as possible who fit your message. We would just ask them if they would you use the App, if they could document it and if it’s something that they would use and recommend.

What’s been your biggest challenge throughout the process?
The crowd cube raise was really hard, we had very little validation. I’d never raised money before. It was the most stressful month of my life. The problems just get bigger and bigger as the company grows.


What’s the one piece of advice for someone about to start their own business? 
Ask yourself, what is the one thing you can test to validate your idea, adopt this idea of ‘rapid testing’. I use this approach in my personal life and with Nutrifix. Every week we sit down and look at what went well, not well, what can we do better, what can we test this week.

If you’re not testing, you’re not learning or failing and in the early stages of the business you need to be failing and learning. The more you’re learning the closer you are to getting there. We don’t know the answers, we’re the first ones doing it. So we need to be asking the right questions.

Ask yourself ‘what is the one most important test I can do right now?’ and what do you need to do to get to the next stage.

As the business grows, how easy or difficult do you think it is operating in line with the vision you originally had for it?
I think this is why it’s really important to bring on the right investors. Your investors need to buy into your vision and why you’re doing it. If you see any slight difference in that from the start, they aren’t right for you. It shouldn’t feel like a fight.

I also need to take faith in the fact that they’ve invested in me so they’ve bought into my vision and that’s a massive validation for me.


What’s the big dream for Nutrifix? The 5-year plan?
I would say this is my life project. I’ve never felt so much purpose and passion. For me, healthy eating and eating a healthy life has changed my life so dramatically.  

For me, it’s about how many people can I share this with and impact their life? What we want to do is completely take the stress out of healthy eating and automate your diet. Healthy eating is hard, there are so many temptations and mixed messages. We want to completely simplify it so that you don’t have to think. It’s a global problem and a very scalable idea. We want to prove it in London and replicate it in busy cities like NY and Boston.

How has a failure set you up for later success?
Probably my first app launch with Nutrifix. It’s taught me that you’ve got to speak to users and you’ve got to get out earlier than you think. Don’t rely on your assumptions. People will also say and do different things. People may say they’ll use it but the way that they use it will be different. You’ve got to get it in people’s hands and see how they use it?

Did you get much feedback?
We have a power group who we go to constantly for feedback and ask for comments. That’s really paid me in good stead and we’re constantly engaging with them via four to five interviews a week.

Where did you find these people?
I just contacted them through the app or via e-mail. It’s good to have the same, consistent group of people.

It takes a certain level of focus, resilience and character in each individual to drive routine and want to make their mark on the world. What do you think taught you to be this way and what childhood influences which have contributed to this?
My dad is a business owner. He is unbelievably hard-working. I’ve always been a hard worker in everything I do and have always gone the extra mile. I originally wanted to be a professional rugby player. Back when I was training, I used to be the only one there still training. This work ethic has come from my dad.

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In the last five years, what have you become better at saying no to?
Something I genuinely struggle with is FOMO. I’ve now learnt to only say yes to things that I know I’m going to. I’ve learnt now that if I say yes to something I’m going to commit to it. I won’t be half in half out. I say yes or no. It’s so easy to see what everyone else is doing on Instagram stories and compare, but it’s about being more present.

When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused (at work or when you don’t want to work out) how do you stay focused?
I never struggle going to the gym, for me it’s my happy place. I go six times a week and four of my sessions are an hour and a half. It’s like meditation for me. It’s the one time in my day where I’m not thinking about Nutrifix and I need that.

If I’m feeling unfocused I’ll go to the gym and I’ll come out feeling buzzing and full of ideas.

What do you do at the gym?
I love these grinding sessions, which is an hour of agony. For example, an hour on the assault bike. I love taking myself a really dark place so I can challenge my mind and my will power. I always feel like when I come out of that I know I can keep giving more and working harder.

What’s your secret health tip?
Start making small changes. Every two weeks I’ll try to make a change to my diet or health and see if it sticks. It might be mediating or cutting out bread for two weeks.

Through this testing process you’re constantly testing and learning about yourself. If you feel better without bread. By breaking it down into small tests, it feels way more achievable. They need all conditions to be perfect. But just make small changes now and keep improving.

If you had to gift one book to someone what would it be and why?
The ‘One thing’ by Gary Keller – adopting that mindset has completely changed my life. It makes everything seem way more achievable and it makes you action things and prioritize. Also, ‘Think and Grow Rich’ by Napoleon Hill is a really powerful book, which is about understanding the power of your mind.

What does your morning routine look like?
I wake up at 6am, gym. I’ve tried meditating in the morning, it just doesn’t work. I just want to start my day and I find it really hard to pause. When I get to work I write one thing that I’m grateful for and then I write a little commitment for the day. For example, ‘to listen more, or ask why’.

I try and leave my e-mails until I’ve done the one most important task of the day. I’ve got a thing called the productivity planner and the night before I’ll write my most important task for tomorrow. So, when I get in I’ll right those two things down, start on that project and then only after will I check my e-mails.

What about breakfast?
Most days (around 5 days a week) I do intimidate fasting and I won’t eat until lunch. If having breakfast makes you eat less calories in a week or a day, then that’ll work for you. I find that if I have breakfast, I will get hungrier and end up eating way more.

If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it, what would it say and why?
When I was 13 I wanted to be a professional rugby player. I had ‘to be number one and train like you are number two’ posted up on my wall. That for me is something I’ve taken throughout my whole life. If you want to be the best, act like you’re second best and work to be the best.

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20 AUGUST, 2018


Article Credits

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Karmen TanG