Giant Robots Smashing Into Other Giant Robots

455: Hello Inside with Anne Latz

December 29th, 2022

Dr. Anne Latz is Co-Founder and Chief Medical Officer at Hello Inside, a company that specializes in scientific self-care.

Will talks to Dr. Latz about why glucose?, being a business-person first and what drove her to become a medical doctor, and where she sees wearable technology going in the in the next 5-10 years.

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WILL: This is the Giant Robots Smashing Into Other Giant Robots Podcast, where we explore the design, development, and business of great products. I'm your host, Will Larry. And with us today is Dr. Anne Latz, Co-Founder and Chief Medical Officer at Hello Inside, a company that specializes in scientific self-care. Anne, thank you for joining us.

DR. LATZ: Thank you for hosting me today, Will.

WILL: Yeah, I'm excited to talk about Hello Inside. And let's start there; give us a quick summary about Hello Inside.

DR. LATZ: So we are a German-Austrian startup, so we are based all over Europe, actually, all over the world, I have to say. And we help people by means of technology to understand their bodies best so to really become an expert of their bodies. And the technology we use is not only a smartphone app that shows data but a sensor that's called continuous glucose monitoring sensor that's like a little window you put on your arm that shows you in real-time your glucose data.

And we at Hello Inside have then an app and the service around that that really helps you to understand your data and become an expert of your body because this data really gives you immediate feedback on what you do in the sense of eating, moving, but also how well you slept, how stressed you are.

WILL: Wow, that's really neat. You said you had the continuous glucose monitor. The body is so complex, and there are so many ways that you probably could measure activity of the body. Why the glucose portion? Why are you doing glucose?

DR. LATZ: I think that there are two, maybe even three, reasons to that. The first one is we do not have so many tools like biosensors or technology on the market, which enable us to give really continuous data on different biofluids or markers in the body. So the first one is just that the market here is quite mature because we usually know glucose from the context of diabetes patients, and the technology has been developed years and years ago for those people. And that's why we have really, really good technology, really good sensors, which have high accuracy. The prices get lower and lower, so more and more people can really access this technology. And we just know already a lot about glucose management.

The second is it's a super, super potent marker. So I'm a medical doctor from my background. And I do not know so many markers in the body; maybe it's the heart rate variability or pulse that give us really immediate feedback to so many lifestyle pillars. So I think eating is quite intuitive that it does something to our blood glucose, but also movement does, also sleep and stress. And all these pillars immediately affect us, and we often know that. But this marker really gives us a take on how we can really visualize in the moment and then create a change from that.

And the third is probably that it's just a really hot topic, the glucose monitoring, currently, and that's actually not a good thing. But we have really not only an obesity epidemic but really a metabolic health crisis. So a lot of people have problems with their glucose levels, not aware of it. A lot of people have, in general, problems with managing; yeah, I would say, their metabolism and have an energy crisis in their body. You could put it like that.

And that's why we are really interested in glucose because if you manage glucose in the sense that you stabilize it, you can really improve your health in the short term and how much energy you have, midterm in the sense of what your weight is, and of course, long term to prevent diseases like diabetes or heart disease.

WILL: Yeah, definitely. I think you're correct; you know, glucose is the one thing, especially for me, it's diabetes, and I know it in that direction. But also that after lunch drag that you hit, the wall that you hit whenever your glucose spikes and then it comes down and spikes, I mean, then crashes. I think that's the other direction people understand glucose from.

DR. LATZ: Yeah, for sure. I mean, you bring up a great example, like the food coma after lunch. Everybody knows that, like, this energy and fatigue in the afternoon. But, I mean, you seem to be a little bit familiar with the technology, but a lot of people do not even connect the dots. They cannot really bring together what they eat and their behavior, for example, at lunchtime, how it really impacts them hours later.

And what we love so much about the technology and what we can also use the Hello Inside servers a lot for is really to find out what you do, like, what you think is healthy often. A good example is a smoothie you drink that might spike your blood glucose, but you don't really understand it because you thought it was a healthy choice. So it gives me more nuance as to what is healthy for you because it's...and we didn't even stress that, but it's also highly personalized. So you and I would eat the same lunch, and we would react completely differently to it.

So there's so much actionable data from it; that's what we love. And yeah, it's a little bit like running a lab test every few minutes of the day [chuckles] and give you the responses really on your smartphone to your hand and also some alternatives of how to create change there.

WILL: Yeah, definitely. And I'm glad you brought that up because one of the questions I had for you is, with Hello Inside, how do you see it combating the bad advice around self-care and dieting when you're getting great scientific data? It's kind of hard to argue with the data and the numbers.

DR. LATZ: For sure, yeah. I mean, we all know health, wellness, lifestyle. It all gets very close together, which has good sides and bad sides. But of course, people are still so confused in what is really good for them and their bodies. Because healthy, yeah, it's not a very specific term, especially in, let's stay with the example of food, what you put in, and different diet regimes you have. We see that there's so much frustration also in the market because all these one-size-fits-all recommendations in diet regimes or fasting regimes do not work for all people.

And that's really why these personalized approaches, and as you say, data-driven approaches, are so crucial because then you really get power back in trusting your body and understanding how your personal health and well-being is really influenced. At the same time, it's super hard because some of these trends and fad diets have existed for a long time and have a huge community who really love them. But we see it really as a conversation, like a conversation we have with the users, but also a conversation that users have with their bodies.

Because we know that creating change, especially behavior change, is like the holy grail for all health and also weight management tools. But it's also something that just takes a little longer because you need some experimenting. You need to find out what really works for you. But I'm quite convinced that when you see the data that's based on your body, that's something that you do not forget. If you see the foods that really spike you, surprisingly, this is really powerful.

WILL: Yeah, definitely. And I can understand the benefit of it, especially, you know, you're working out two weeks, and your body really is not showing you any signs of change. But I can see how this could help in showing you the change, even if it's small, how you can say, hey, you're on the right track.

DR. LATZ: Exactly. Yeah, it's like these small nudges. I mean, it's a monitor that already shows you the shortcuts and the little tweaks you make. For a lot of people, I always say if you find one food, one spiking element in your day and change that for the rest of your life, that's so much. For a lot of people, it's already in the breakfast. They jump on the blood glucose rollercoaster in the morning because they eat maybe porridge without any added protein to it. So it is very carb heavy, and they think it's super healthy and drink the oat milk latte.

I mean, in general, there's nothing wrong with those foods, but you can combine them even better and add something to it and not really eliminate stuff but just add a nice mix of protein and fat to your carbs. And you will be so much fitter during the day. You will not have this huge spike putting you on the roller coaster in the morning. As we are very habitual people, I mean, people eat like 60 different foods per week, which is not a lot; once you find out what really works for you, that's super, super nice for the rest of your life.

WILL: Yeah, definitely. And to be honest, I have been guilty of, oh, I just ate a very healthy meal. And then I go back and look at the nutritional facts, and I was like, what did I just eat? Because this was not healthy.

DR. LATZ: Yeah, we should always learn and make mistakes and learn again. And it's like a jungle out there. I mean, health, in general, the healthcare market is quite complicated. And I think that doesn't only apply to Germany but definitely to where I'm based but also to the U.S. and all the different markets. And for food, it's the same; I mean, that's a little bit the enemy we all are trying to deal with because the food industry is so powerful. It has so much lobby. And you get so confusing information that this is really what we can use our tools now for to understand what really these, I would say, not always healthy but claimed healthy foods do to us.

WILL: So, I have a question around wearable technology. So the last couple of years, there's been a trend of wearable technologies, the Garmins, the Apple Watches. This takes it to the next level. This is way more accurate than any of the wearables. Do you see this as the future in the next 5 or 10 years?

DR. LATZ: Yeah, probably in the next 5 or 10 years, we will see even more to it in the sense of personalization. And also, I personally believe that we really have a toolbox here of different markers we use. Maybe some are still invasive, like the CGM you put on your arm that really measures the fluids invasively. But also, there will be an array of other things we can really include into our daily health checks.

But this is definitely the next level of, as you said, Garmin and all these tracking tools because now we not only track data and have data, but we make them so actionable because we really put them into an immediate setting. So we can really calculate them now. I'm currently wearing my sensor, and I can have a look at my phone after we've finished recording and see, okay, what happened just now in my body? How did I respond to the setting? Was I super stressed? How is my lunch (because here it is early afternoon) affecting our body?

We really had already the switch of not only measuring stuff but making it really approachable, actionable. And yeah, I think CGM will be one of the first tools where we can really make this approachable for the broad public; then, we will have a lot of different markers and sensors to look at. And in respect to glucose management, I really am looking forward to when we get the press announcement of some company that we can also non-invasively and continuously measure blood glucose, which is currently not feasible, and a lot of companies are working on it. So this would be very exciting in the next years.

WILL: That's exciting. And I love how complex the human body is.

DR. LATZ: Oh yeah.

WILL: Like you just said, "How stressed was I?" And you can get that from your glucose level.

DR. LATZ: Yeah, it's super complex, and it really takes the time to also figure out what...because just measuring data is not really exciting anymore. Then you have a lot of data, and then you're like, so what? So to really figure how interdependent these lifestyle pillars are of movement, sleep, food, et cetera, that really takes some time, but once you understand it, it makes so much sense.

For example, stress is like this fight or flight response we've all heard about, and of course, you need energy for it. And that's why your blood glucose might go up because your body gives you energy to, for example, run away, [chuckles] or be alert. And then always breaking down to why our body does things always helps me to also make sense of the data.

WILL: That's amazing. Really amazing.


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WILL: So tell me what excites you about Hello Inside, the company.

DR. LATZ: I mean, we founded this company with a very clear vision that we really want to help people to become experts of their body and really learn their body's language because this is a quite messed up system. We do not really understand our bodies' signals in the daily life. For example, hunger or thirst, a lot of people cannot really tell what the body is talking to them, so we think it's a super emotional topic.

And especially the combination of these really approachable, emotional, real-life moments with newest tech is, I think, an amazing combination because we can reach people really where they are. We can give personalized insights of your personal body. This is also something that makes you so much more reliable and compliant in what you do. Then we can really display the data in a way that you can experientially learn from it.

To give you an example, in our Hello Inside app, one of the favorite features of mine is the experiment feature, so you would have a food event. Let's make it super simple, eat an apple and feel your body in the next two or three hours. So that's usually when we take into account the response to that food. And then you compare that to one factor you change, so you eat the apple with some nuts or nut butter. I would suggest to most people, but of course, it's hyper individual, and what extent it changes in the blood glucose response just because you included the nuts, which include fat and protein.

You can put these two graphs, these two blood glucose curves together, and you really see the gap between it just from including nuts in your diet. And this is this nice combination of visualization, data-driven insights, and also something where you, I mean, people love to take pictures of their food. And that's what you can usually do here.

WILL: Wow, that's amazing. You were talking about your story behind using Hello Inside, the CGM. Do you or any of your clients have any success stories that you would like to talk about?

DR. LATZ: Yeah, for sure. I mean, we are quite a young company. We launched only in June and are live now in seven European countries. And actually, I have some really, really cool stories. We launched with a very strong focus on women's health. So we have developed a program which is called Hello Hormones, which helps women along the cycle via the Hello Inside app. And this continuous glucose monitor really improves symptoms like PMS, which can be like bloating, pains, et cetera.

And a lot of women didn't really understand (And how would they?) that your body has a very variable response to foods depending on the menstrual cycle. To visualize that, a very simple example would be eat in the first half of your cycle, before your ovulation, a banana, and eat the banana in the second half of the cycle. And I can promise you; you will have a different response to it which is super physiological. It has to do with insulin sensitivity. But you cannot really make sense of that (You feel differently in the phases.) which you now can really do when you saw in the data, really compared it, that you have higher levels of blood glucose maybe in the second half.

And you can make small tweaks which help you then to really increase well-being also in the second phase of the cycle before you have your period, which can be by reducing inflammation by changing how you move during that time, et cetera. And this is what a lot of people, a lot of women, resonated with trying out the program. And then, of course, we have these super nice glucose hacks you might have heard about also, where some of my favorites are definitely also always connecting what you eat with movement, so moving your muscles after your meal.

And I would say daily, we have such a high blast of user-generated content because people try it out, try the hacks, and then share their blood glucose response with us on social media. And this is so crazy to see. Also, people who are really into their bodies say, "I have these aha moments all the time just because I now understood, okay, it makes sense to have this type of breakfast. It makes sense how I eat my carbs, in which order I eat my food."

We have next to the social media content also some coaching sections we offer for our clients where we also hear a lot of those stories that they're really often so, so surprised and so happy that they finally made sense of their body signals.

WILL: Yeah, that's amazing. I'm a science geek; I'm just going to say it.

DR. LATZ: [laughs]

WILL: So I love how you can run your own scientific hypothesis and stuff. Like, you eat a banana at this time, how did it affect me? Okay, at this time, let me eat another banana. I just love that aspect because I don't think we have anything accurate enough right now that I know of besides actual drawing your blood in the lab or something like that that can actually give you that type of information.

DR. LATZ: Yeah, and especially if you take a lab just like once a month or once a quarter, then it's also really like a snapshot of the situation and might even have depended on how much did you drink? How was the night before? Like, what did you eat? And put some markers even there. And now you really have the ability to make it, yeah, it's a little bit more playful. Because of course, we recommend experiments you can make, start with an apple, eat the chocolate, do the pasta versus the rice.

But then you can customize it because it doesn't make sense to do experiments and try stuff out that you would never do in your daily life. So we always recommend start from where you really are. Wear the sensor for two, three days, just observe, and then look at what you really think is the problem for you. For a lot of people, it's the afternoon fatigue. So what could be the labor here? Where can we make a small change?

And then you really, as you say, a little bit of research on your own body and experiment around and tweak here, tweak there and that's the nice part. Then you come to changes that you also stick with. This is what we have also seen on our team, which are like the early adopters, and we worked on it for over a year. We really see that we get better blood glucose response in the mornings. And we just changed a little bit what order we eat.

If we go for ice cream, we just do a walk with the ice cream and all these small things which are really feasible and very, very contrary to what we also have in the diet culture, a lot of restrictive things. You cannot do that; you shouldn't do that. I always say it's very positive psychology; add that, combine it here, do some habits tweaking here. And you can really include that in your life further on.

WILL: That's amazing. Let's transition and talk about the starting of Hello Inside. What's the story? How did...because I think it's you and three other founders. How did y'all come about starting Hello Inside?

DR. LATZ: We are actually from very, very different backgrounds, but we have had some friends in common and some contacts, and, I mean, as I said, I'm a medical doctor. I have a digital health background. So I worked in digital health and other startups for over three years. My other co-founder is very much into the product and growth marketing. He was with Runtastic, which is now part of Adidas. So he has a sports lifestyle background and also expertise for the product.

The other one is responsible for brand and community investor relations. He really built also his own companies before. And the fourth is the tech guy who also worked in a medical startup and had his own agencies. So really, as you see, different backgrounds but very nice combination because we bring a lot of skills together and combine them from very different angles, and yeah, this is also, I would say, our power, and of course, it's also at the same time a challenge because not everybody is familiar in the same depth with the topics.

But I think that's often the point with diverse teams that you just have to communicate well to help the other people understand where you're coming from. We have to remind him to make research very understandable and really also explain that the tempo there sometimes is a little bit different, whereas I learn so, so much on what it means to build a product really at a high speed, to really iterate here and there.

So when we met, of course, the idea was to do something really with impact, to do something in the healthcare space but not too far into med tech. And we're really, really focused on this preventative field. I mean, you always say there's no glory in prevention. Prevention is super unsexy [laughs] for the individual but also the society, and we really want to change that.

Of course, Hello Inside was not Hello Inside from the beginning on then we found the name. And we're super happy with the company name, with the case we can make with looking inside, et cetera. Yeah, we're very much looking forward to building an even bigger company in the next years.

WILL: That's amazing. Your background is the medical portion of it. And you have experience in patient care in private and public healthcare, so tell us more about that. Are you still practicing? And how did you get into becoming a medical doctor? What was that drive for you to become a medical doctor?

DR. LATZ: To be frank, I was a business person first. [chuckles]


DR. LATZ: I did first business bachelor, but that was like, for me, ages ago; [laughs] it feels like it. And after I finished my bachelor's, I was like yeah, okay, I want to do something else and applied for medical school, which was never on my mind before. And that's how it all started. I also had the chance to do my master's in business at the same time. So I always was like very open to look left and right.

And then, I started working in patient care, just very classical, like in a university hospital in psychotherapy. And I loved it a lot. But also, I was missing something to bring in this more innovative, creative part of my interests. I had the chance in a startup to work at some time in the U.S. It's called AMBOSS. It's an ad-tech startup. That's where I came really in the startup field and understood from a very junior position more and more about what it means to build a company.

Then I worked, coming back to Germany, for the ministry actually a little bit in the field of public health and prevention for diabetes. So here you see also how it now very well fits with what we're doing now, but of course, I can only say that now looking back. And I got certified in nutritional lifestyle medicine. And this is also something that really fascinates me a lot, like how these pillars really affect our lives all day, every day. And we do not learn so much also medical school about it, and that's where I learned for myself that this is really why I want to double down on these topics.

And a little bit before the first pandemic wave started, I found my way into digital health for a startup, being one of the first employees there, and had two years then to really learn on the market, with the market what it means to create a digital health company, and did my postgraduate certificate in Harvard at that time. So I learned patient safety, quality, informatics, and leadership.

And all these puzzle pieces then really fit well together last year when I met my co-founders, and we really iterated the idea more to build a company that combines all that, like, digital health and health and prevention with also metabolic health and lifestyle medicine, and, of course, all the innovative things we didn't know that they exist before and we are now learning on the market with. So this is how it all happened to me, and looking back, it all makes sense. But of course, there were a lot of segues. There were a lot of decisions to make on that journey.

WILL: Yeah, which I'm glad you brought up the decisions. That was my next question. What have been some of the toughest times in the startup? And what have been some of the most exciting times in the startup?

DR. LATZ: Yeah, I mean, I would even broaden up a little bit because just this week, we will launch a book which is in German but will also be in English soon, which really is quite personal. I wrote it with two other doctors, which is called Beyond Bedside. You could translate it. So we are all medical doctors who left bedside and found some new pathways, and two of us also as entrepreneurs.

And we had a lot of those hard decisions to take. I think one of the biggest learnings is always...and I think that also applies well for the startups: what got you here won't get you there. So you need this willingness to unlearn. You need to really understand, okay, now I'm a medical doctor, and I learned a lot, but in the startup, I'm just one of many, and I need to learn from the others. And I need to be really, really humble about what I can and cannot do.

I think this is always a problem of running a company. You want to be speedy because that's why you're a startup, but you also, especially in the healthcare space, need to do everything properly. And you have to navigate between really having a high quality, having everything according to guidelines because you're always working with people. It's always something you really need to be responsible of. This is also something that we need a lot of patience for a lot of things.

But yeah, in general, I would say we did quite a good job as we are a remote-first company. So it was during the pandemic that we founded the company. We have people all over the world working for us. I mean, that's not really specific for our company. But from what I know from colleagues as well, you just need to communicate, and communicate, and overcommunicate in different time zones to really make everybody really aware of the vision, the mission, repeat it again. And strategic decisions need to be clear to everyone.

So we put a high effort also on building a nice company culture and working on our ideas together and also get some on-sites where everybody can meet up. And yeah, this is sometimes really hard when you're so in your daily struggle, and there's so much to do. But then we need to take a step back and really say, okay, we need to invest in building an even better team.

WILL: Yeah, definitely. Wow. Wow, wow, wow, that's amazing. You've done medical school. You've practiced, and you've founded. Those are hard. Let's just be honest; those are hard things that you have accomplished, so congratulations on that.

DR. LATZ: Thanks, Will.

WILL: What has been some of the best advice that you received to help you keep going when those things got hard?

DR. LATZ: Do not ask the people who are in the very classical fit for...let me give you an example; I would not ask my chief when I worked in a hospital if I should leave the hospital because people who have always done it like that they would never recommend you to drop out and do something new and be innovative, and maybe also a little bit braver. So maybe the good advice from it would be ask the right people, ask a lot of people.

And then, looking back, one thing I really learned myself is also it's really hard times you have, and sometimes it's really you're doubting yourself. You're really overwhelmed. There's a lot going on. Especially those times will be, looking back, the ones that can be your hero story. Those are the ones that make you an even better person in the sense of being a coach for others and also for yourself later on. So you really need those struggles to understand and carve out what really moves your heart and where you really want to be invested. And there's also, and this is probably also still hard for me, saying no to a lot of things.

WILL: Hmm, that's really good advice, yes. Especially because you have experience in so many different areas, you can quickly overwhelm yourself by saying, "Yes." So, wow, I really like that advice. So in closing, is there anything else that you would like to share with us or with the audience?

DR. LATZ: Maybe something that I observe, I mean, I don't know if it's in U.S. the same, but I could imagine it's like a trend that's going on. Everybody thinks he or she needs to be an entrepreneur, founder, like own something, be by yourself. It's just not for everyone. I think that's okay. And I think that it's great that it's not for everyone. We need all the diverse roles. We need all the diverse employees. And being something for the sake of just being it is not a good motivation.

I think that nobody should really try to force him or herself into a role just because he or she thinks it's cool. There are many things you can do in your life and that you really should trust your gut and be also really brutally honest to yourself. And, like, I just want to be it sounds better to say, "I just want to be a doctor," that's great. We need doctors; we need teachers; we need employees. There are so many great jobs, and there are so many days where I wish exactly the same.

At the same time, entrepreneurship gives you so much freedom of thinking. You learn so much on the job from other people, from your whole team. So there are many roads in crazy town. [laughs] There are many roads in the world. And this is really something we need to be aware of, this exactly, that it is really, really cool that we can do so many things and have really diverse roles in our society.

WILL: I love that advice because I 100% agree with you. Because I think there are people that are CEOs and they love to get out in front of people and talk and sell the company. But then you have a CFO or a CEO that's like, I just want to run the day-to-day, the books, or whatever that is, that's what I'm great at. So I love that advice.

DR. LATZ: Yeah, exactly.

WILL: Wow. Anne, it's been amazing talking to you about Hello Inside and just getting to know your company and you better. Thank you so much for being on the podcast today.

DR. LATZ: Thank you for your great questions, Will.

WILL: I appreciate it.

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