Benedikt von Thüngen: Just give up your whole life and let the start-up consume you. Which start-up life can sometimes feel like. (Tongue-In-Cheek, sort of)


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Hi, I’m Benedikt, I’m the CEO and Founder of Sanome.

I’m an entrepreneur at heart. Having built and scaled 5 businesses, I have been incredibly lucky to have had one exit and 2 companies are still going and with Sanome, founded in 2020, we are rewriting healthcare.

My academic background is in biosciences. I studied biotechnology and management at The University of Edinburgh, with a year studying at the Universidad de Salamanca.

Several years after graduating, I completed my masters in Bioscience Enterprise at The University of Cambridge. I started my entrepreneurial journey during my undergraduate degree and have since built multiple companies across renewable energy, enterprise software, AI, drug discovery, and healthcare.

I love building and scaling winning teams in exceptional companies. Along with my experience in building software companies, I am so excited about the interface of the two fields and how they will change the healthcare industry.

I am a mentor for the Royal Academy of Engineering, which is an enormous privilege to get to work alongside some of the most innovative and passionate upcoming entrepreneurs. I am definitely learning about myself whilst mentoring.

Outside of my passion for start-ups are my other passions; travelling and cooking, alongside a few slightly more extreme sports such as kite-surfing and snowboarding.

What do you think is the single biggest misconception people have when it comes to startups?

That you’re going to be rich. You shouldn’t go into a startup to make money.

I think there is a lot of media portrayal of outliers, or outlier startup founders that have become extremely wealthy but the vast majority of people don’t make any money, or make very little money.

If this is your motivation, to get rich, you’re not going to make it. You’ve got to be passionate about your idea, you’ve got to be passionate about what you do because that’s what’s going to carry you through.

If you want to make money, become a lawyer or investment banker, or something like that. The hours are going to be similar but at least you have a much safer way of making money.

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If you could go back in time to any moment from your journey, and give yourself one tip, what would it be?

Hindsight is always so clear isn’t it? So this is a hard one, but thinking about it, a time that stands out is back in 2007/08.

There was a situation back in 2008 in one of my early companies where looking back on it, it was very clear my gut at the time was telling me that we didn’t have the right team in place to build what we were trying to build.

But, I was younger and didn’t have much experience of growing a team, or rather, given that the people around me were vastly more experienced – grey-haired, seasoned or what I thought were seasoned business-people, turned out not to be the case and I should have listened to my intuition telling me what to do.

It turned out that they actually didn’t know a lot of the stuff they seemed to imply they did which caused alot of avoidable difficulty.

Sorry, that’s not going into much detail but since then, I’ve definitely learnt to trust my gut.

What makes you stand out as an entrepreneur?

Tenacity. The thing that makes me stand out the most is the ability to learn very very quickly and learn from mistakes and learn from feedback.

I built five companies in four different industries and the only way to do that is by being able to learn really quickly and that now gives me the unique ability to take learnings from one industry and apply them to another one.

What are some of the best working habits you’ve gained over the past couple of years?

Tongue in cheek – just give up your whole life and let the start-up consume you. Which start-up life can sometimes feel like.

But seriously, some of the best working habits I have developed over the past few years, are almost in a mindset – that sometimes you’ve just got to hustle and you’ve just got to do some extremely menial tasks and got to get on with it.

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For example, doing commercial outreach, or data entry, or receipt reconciliation etc. None of it is glamorous but sometimes from a working habit perspective you have just got to get it done.

It can highlight what you need help with, what you need to get automated or how important it is to the business.

Give us a bit of an insight into the influences behind the company?

Sanome has multiple influences, having seen how healthcare can work; and conversely having seen how healthcare cannot work; firsthand experience of seeing the disastrous impact of what it means for a disease to be detected too late; the impact data science and large amounts of data can have and the ability to use it.

These personal experiences not only influence and motivate me but also the brilliant team working at Sanome.

We all have personal reasons behind our motivation but ultimately we’re influenced to use the skills and technology we have to create a proactive healthcare system.

Where do you see your business in five years?

Rewriting healthcare. In five years time, we would have shown that we – Sanome – can do data driven medical device development in the healthcare sector. We will be a publicly traded company.

What do you think the biggest challenge will be for you in getting there?

At the moment, the politicisation of the NHS. All the building blocks are there.

The data is there, the teams are there; the clinicians, the clinical teams, the MDTs; everyone wants to enact change but very often the system or rather the politics around the system that stops that from happening.

The second biggest challenge are the frequently changing regulatory environments and geopolitical changes such as BREXIT.

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Talk to us about your biggest success story so far?

Winning the first partnership hospitals and working really closely with clinical teams feels like a huge success.

Running ideation workshops with the clinical teams and co-designing bespoke data-driven solutions for them, essentially taking their hypotheses and showing that their ideas could work in clinical practice. That has been amazing.

It’s exciting because there is so much innovation in health teams and we are building the toolbox that allows people to ideate and innovate.

Seeing the real world human impact that this could have is truly an incredible feeling – especially when the team put so much of themselves into the work we’re doing.

How do clients and customers find you? Are you much of a salesperson for yourself?

I love LinkedIn! In terms of sales, its a combination of cold-hard-outreach a.k.a Hustle hustle hustle and trying to speak to as many people in the arena of healthcare and digital health as possible.

I’m always learning from others and also happy to share the knowledge and networks that I have. When we work together, we move faster.

What one tip would you give to fellow startup founders?

Not sure if this counts as a single tip but definitely if you think you’ve found the niche that you are willing to sacrifice everything for, to make your start-up a successful company you have to change your mindset to: Hustle and hustle hard.

Definitely validate your ideas, speak to as many people as possible, and build your dreams on very concrete foundations where you can learn from the mistakes or journeys of those that have come before you.

And finally, what do you hope the future brings both you personally, and your business?

A future that we are changing healthcare to at least the point where we can detect the earliest changes of health, enabling clinicians or clinical teams to act.

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