Tina Randrup & Luisa Carvalho e Silva talk about their ‘dating process’ from strangers to co-founders of Welldium, on being women in tech, building a sustainable business with an inclusive team and how to cope with uncertainty.
Welldium is a dietary supplement dispensary. We sell supplements through health care practitioners to their clients. Our main focus is to make high-quality supplements more available. If you go to the supermarket you will find a range of supplements that's not always the best quality. And for the practitioners it is quite difficult to recommend high quality supplements to their clients. Welldium was born two years ago to try to make it easier and our journey has been quite exciting!
I have always been very interested in innovation and how to solve consumer needs in a new way. I did an internship at Lufthansa, I worked at Lego, always within consumer needs and innovation departments. But throughout my career I started to realize that being close to consumers and doing new things is not coming from corporations any longer, it's coming from startups. And then, I went through the traditional healthcare system with my dad. We went from one doctor to the other about his stomach pains and each doctor was like: well, organ one is fine, next doctor: organ two is fine. We were waiting and waiting, and he was not getting any better and we found out way too late that he had cancer. This entire process made me realize that I want to work with this problem from a business point of view, within the preventative side of healthcare.
Yes. Welldium was created by a venture studio here in Copenhagen in the beginning of 2020. They created the shell of the company based on an idea, plus the back end to build a minimum viable product, then they found us co-founders. Tina was first and I joined her shortly after. I have a business background as well, and for many years I was working in a very demanding job as a consultant. I was traveling a lot, so health became the second priority. Then I started having health issues. Everybody said all the tests are fine, you're not sick, and I started thinking - maybe it's psychological, maybe it's just stress. Nothing seemed to really help. It was not before I stopped working that I really started to look for an alternative way to look at my health as a whole. It was a long journey and it included a practitioner, who now is one of our clients. I found it very difficult to find the supplements that this practitioner prescribed to me, so I started looking into what could be done differently. Then I saw the job post for Welldium- It was a match made in heaven.
I did an interview process to join, and then I was part of finding Luisa. We went through quite a few candidates. There were a lot of people interested, but they didn’t understand the reality of being a founder without a team. Or they lacked the purpose behind the concept, which I believe is so important! So, when I started talking to Luisa, I knew quite quickly that we needed her. From there it was very much like a dating process, just a little more formal. We started out with getting to know each other. Then we had to figure out: are we aligned on what we are doing, on the values and on how much time we want to spend on this? And which areas do we each care about? Then just after Christmas 2020 she signed, and we were ready to go.
I think it’s a balance. You need the numbers to achieve the mission and you need to push everyone in one direction. So, you need to figure out how do you push towards what we need, which is orders, while not forgetting the mission. It’s a balance that we probably still need to find, but the mission helps and engages everyone.
But having the clear vision and mission means we have a place to fall back to when making the hard decisions. It always goes back to we want to help people in their health journeys.
When I am pitching to investors and there is a female in the room, I can really feel a difference. We have been through the same challenges, so the conversation is on a different level. The problem is, that it is rare to have a female investor in the room. When it comes to the business side, it does not change anything, but there are some challenges that are unique for female founders and dealing with them can be lonely. Last year I was pregnant and fundraising, I didn’t feel that was an issue for the round. With that said, it has definitely been difficult not to have a role model to look up to. For example, there was not a lot of examples on how I should tackle my maternity leave. I met with a VC who were very vocal about wanting to invest in female co-founders, so I asked them if they have some that I can meet that have gone through the same journey. They didn’t. For me, that was quite eye-opening, that even the ones that really tried couldn’t really come with examples. We had to figure out ourselves how to deal with it. I must say we found a very good solution. We planned from the very beginning to delegate and make sure the team and the business didn’t get affected. This is something that I would love to see more women doing, so it wouldn’t become an exception!
We try to create an understanding of how we are all different and that’s all right. We need to understand our differences and then use them as an advantage. We want to build a place where the team thrives, where we give autonomy, flexibility, where we trust in the people. We build a company where the team can also have a life outside it and manage the pressure.
The key point here is sustainability. Making sure that the decisions we're making now are bringing us to a sustainable growth in the long run. Right now, we are building the foundations in the team so we can cope with that growth. That's something that we very deliberately chose to do with the team from the very beginning. We see diversity as not just about gender, nationalities, or languages, although we are quite diverse in all those metrics, but we also see diversity as the different people and personalities and what each person brings to the table. When hiring, we look at if the person brings something different or are they thinking the same way as me and Tina? The easiest way would be to only work with people who think exactly like us, but that wouldn't add a lot of value to the company in the sense of being challenged, or finding any blind spots.
A startup is not a sprint, even though it can feel like that. It is a marathon. We do need to be able to be in it, not just the two of us, but the rest of the team as well.
That you are never done! I used to think that you have a plan, then you execute, and then you’re done. This is the first time that I’ve been in one role for this long, and I still don’t see an end to it. And that you are growing with it.
That you cannot control everything. Uncertainty is going to be constant, you just have to control the things that you can, by breaking down the strategy into tangible actions.
My biggest hurdle was taking the first step, jumping into the unknown. So, my advice is - take the first step and the rest will follow. Having examples or being able to talk to people that have done this before is a great way of understanding how to take the following steps.
You need to get yourself in the right environments to find the right people. Build a good network of people that can help you or support you, and the rest builds over time. Try small and if you fail, try again. Don’t give up! Having a co-founder is also very valuable, because you have someone that cares as much as you. You can also come to the Health Tech Hub Friday Bars and talk to all the other co-founders!
The power of the brain