CEO Lihi Segal, Marius Nacht, and chairman Yuval Ofek
Marius Nacht, Johnson & Johnson, Seventure Partners, and the Mayo Clinic
DayTwo, a company that provides personalized nutritional recommendations on the basis of research into intestinal bacteria, began attracting attention a little less than a year ago. Dr. Eran Elinav and Prof. Eran Segal conducted the research at Weizmann Institute of Science. DayTwo was the first life sciences company to receive an investment from Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. chairman Marius Nacht through a fund he established for life sciences investments.
DayTwo chose to launch its product in Israel, and only later in the US, an unusual way of proceeding. The company promised healthier nutritional recommendations for the entire population, but its initial focus is on preventing the onset of diabetes in people with a pre-diabetic condition, and improving the health of diabetics. This is what happened to Nacht, who discovered that he was liable to develop diabetes. Nacht says that after being exposed to the technology, he managed to prevent his health from deteriorating, which gave him motivation for founding the company.
"The launch was excellent, but nothing prepared us for the customers," says CEO Lihi Segal. "When you develop a product and bring it into the world, the stage of guessing what consumers will like, with a little help from scientific and marketing experts, is over. In the launch, you discover what people really like and what they don't like."
Segal admits that the first product was "inadequate". "The first version was too complicated to use," she says. "For example, the marks that we gave food were not unequivocal enough. There were people whom we told that ice cream gets an A classification, meaning that it doesn't cause an increase in blood sugar. But if someone eats a liter of ice cream, the classification is downgraded to B. People didn't know exactly what to do. Our challenge was to translate proven and well-established, but complicated, science into a service that people can really easily integrate into their daily lives, and use it to change their behavior, and that's no trivial matter. We've made a lot of progress since then, but we can't say that the problem has been completely solved."
"We still have two challenges," Segal explains. "The first is not to lose credibility when we tell someone that ice cream is an A product for them, because after all we all know 'ice cream is unhealthy.' The next challenge is, once someone has been persuaded, how do we prevent him or her from eating ice cream all day? Another challenge is explaining to people what machine learning means. If the classification you receive for a given food item changes as a result of your use of the product over time, because the machine knows more about you, what does that mean - that it wasn't true before? For some reason, people can see Google improving in the results it offers them, but do not recognize such learning when it's about their bodies.
"We're handling all these challenges through very close contact with the customers. We have a great deal of work ahead of us on how to put the nutritional science together with the behavioral sciences. One of the things we learned was not to tell people that certain foods are forbidden for them, but rather to inform them what protein can be combined with what carbohydrate so that it will be permitted."
In retrospect, did you launch the product too early?
Segal : "No, not at all. Had we launched it later, we wouldn’t have learned yet what the challenges were, and we wouldn't have already developed an application that is easier to use. I have always thought that a company has to develop with the market, and not to be shut off in focus groups. The application today is very good - the customers are reporting that they're using it, that they're getting slimmer, and that their sugar measurements are improving. It works very well as long as we provide support. I want it to also be scalable. Incidentally, the group that interests me the most, the pre-diabetics and the diabetics, are also the ones for whom it works the best."
The company cooperates with many parties in health and nutrition, including fitness company Studio C. DayTwo got more good public relations when Israel's national basketball team decided to use the technology to personally adapt nutrition for each player. "Omri Casspi eats nothing that isn't classified A. These are serious people," Segal discloses.
The company's current aim is to demonstrate the medical contribution of its product in order to encourage the health funds to offer it to their customers with a subsidy. "This dialogue is beginning," Segal says. "We're talking with the health funds in Israel, and with insurance companies in other countries."