Start-Up Stories: Dietary Assessment Ltd
Tell us about your business, what does it do? (in less than 100 words)
Dietary Assessment Ltd provides a tool, myfood24, to help easily measure food and nutrient intakes. This robust system is underpinned by high-quality research and development, funded by the Medical Research Council.
It has a unique food composition table at the heart of the system, allowing users to select the foods they have eaten. myfood24 is being used in research and teaching in universities. We already have international customers and have developed myfood24 for use in Germany and Denmark with relevant languages and databases. Now we want to take myfood24 into the health service, supporting patients and healthcare professionals.
What did you do before you started this business?
I am still a full-time Professor of Nutritional Epidemiology at the University of Leeds. I lead the Nutritional Epidemiology Research Group which has just been recognised by the World Health Organisation as a Collaborating Centre, helping diet surveillance across Europe.
What inspired you to start up?
As a researcher trying to find the complex relationships between diet and disease in large population groups, there were no tools available to me that we could use to measure food and nutrient intake in detail. People either used questionnaires, which are limited, or asked people to write down what they were eating using pencil and paper. We needed to do something to move our work into the 21st century!
How would you describe your business to your grandma?
Dietary Assessment Ltd is trying to help people to understand more about what they eat and how to eat more healthily. With our tool myfood24, people can easily record what they eat using a computer, tablet or their smartphone. This will help them to make better choices to improve their health.
Where do you get advice, support or help?
Our Managing Director, Steve, is very experienced supporting spin-outs. I value his guidance and opinions and trust his business acumen. Academically, I have great colleagues who work with me and can help add value to what we are doing in the company. We have also recently completed Elmwood LaunchPod, a 12-week accelerator programme run by Leeds-based global brand design consultancy Elmwood.
This provided fantastic support, helping us to tell our brand story and delve deeper into our value proposition and business development strategy.
Finance is one of the most common barriers to starting up. How did you access the finance you needed?
As a University of Leeds spin-out company, we were able to draw on support from the Innovation Service. In addition, early customers also saw the need to pay for the system to help their research.
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
Maybe not one thing, lots of small steps – recently we have completed an Innovate UK feasibility study to help us understand more about how we can adapt myfood24 for use in the health service.
How do you differentiate your business from others?
Whilst there are many apps out there which try to help people, for example, lose weight; none of these have the academic rigour and development underpinning myfood24. Our system has arisen from world-class research and the quality of the outputs are accurate.
What’s it like to be your own boss?
I like to be able to set a vision and help the team to reach its goals. It’s a ‘team thing’!
Where do you see your business in five years' time?
myfood24 will be the ‘go-to’ dietary assessment system used throughout the NHS. It will also be supporting major research studies in academia, the majority of universities that teach nutrition at any level will use our system, and in private healthcare and wellbeing programmes.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Go for it! Be tenacious, expect knocks but don’t let them get you down. Get the best people working with you – you can’t do this on your own.
Published: 18 December 2018