January 10, 2023
Why Chris Edson founded Second Nature
Chris Edson is CEO and co-founder of Second Nature, a fast-growing digital platform to help with lifestyle changes. He recalls how he faced the strongest storm with his startup, what it took to build internal resilience, and tells us his main learning from the pandemic.
The hardest part about starting a company is managing your own psychology. What matters most is yourself and the way you approach life, not so much the external factors. How you get to grips with things when everything is really stressful. If you fail to build internal resilience, the company will kill you. I have been running Second Nature for more than six years and always come back to this.
“If you fail to build internal resilience, the company will kill you"
Second Nature is a digital programme that help people change their lifestyle habits. Two in three people will die from a disease they could have prevented. Our approach is to combine behavioural science with smart technology to help patients change their habits and take control of their health, battling chronic lifestyle diseases like diabetes which affect more than 400 million adults worldwide. Our app provides tools such as tracking, measurement and education on nutrition, exercise, sleep, stress, and well-being.
“Enjoy the ride” is the key value at Second Nature. We experience ups and downs all the time, but you must get on board in the first place to be part of the journey. When you are comfortable with the present and embrace change, you will be able to weather any storm. Being happy in the moment is probably the most important skill to achieve resilience. As a founder, that means accepting the progress of the company, and not focussing too much on outcomes.
“When you are comfortable with the present and embrace change, you will be able to weather any storm”
My most severe storm experience so far was the time when we were raising our seed investment round. We were turned down by at least 70 investors. My co-founder and I maxed out our credit cards, and were weeks away from running out of money. I did not tell anyone else on the team because they would have worried too much. However, we succeeded, and Second Nature became one of the fastest growing companies in the UK. Funding rounds are still stressful, but we are popular with investors now.
Lucanus was one of our early backers, back in the days when he was at Speedinvest. He genuinely cared about us, his “baby”. We are excited that he started Calm/Storm and invited him to invest in us again. They are a great fit for us, with their focus on digital health. We can relate to the sailing analogy, too: “Weathering the storm” was always our mantra, especially during the pandemic.
We fared well through the global crisis as many people were paying more attention to their health. In 2020, Second Nature tripled in size, both in terms of revenues and headcount. Lifestyle issues often come about when you go through change and get out of a normal routine. Throughout the pandemic, we have seen a lot of change, and I expect even more going forward. We are well positioned to help people with the new challenges they are going to face, because it is more demanding to develop routines when the circumstances vary all the time.
But we must be careful not to mix up long and short-term trends. In March and April 2020, when the coronavirus hit with full force, companies were panicking, wondering how to adapt their products to the “new normal”. I realized we were making quick fixes to Second Nature, which were helpful to users. But would they help us build a global brand in lifestyle change? We were dealing with the knocks and punches the world was throwing at us, but by May we made the deliberate decision not to focus too much on the pandemic. We started focussing on building a great business. That is my main takeaway from the pandemic: we need to make our company more resilient – anti-fragile – in the long run.
A digital companion to help prevent type 2 diabetes
Co-Founder & CEO Second Nature