PhD student David Dunne has worked with Harlequins, QPR and the Ryder Cup team to maximise the physical potential of athletes. Together with ex-PhD Sam Impey, he has raised £450k to launch training companion app Hexis, claimed to be the world’s most intelligent nutrition system. He spoke to us to explain more ….
Q - Tell us how Hexis works and who it is for.
Hexis is a performance technology for fitness enthusiasts who want to get more from their body. It uses sport science to optimise your body every day and perform when it matters most. It uses artificial intelligence, to predictively periodise your body’s needs to the demands of your workout, lifestyle and goals.
Q - Have you launched yet - how did that go?
To date we have built our system and tested it rigorously with over 1,000 fitness enthusiasts and elite athletes. The trial was a great success and is currently being written for multiple publications. We raised a £450,000 seed round at a pre money valuation of £6.5m as we prepare to go to market live in both the App and Play stores in early 2022.
Q - What is the gap in the market here and how did you spot it?
Nutrition has been stuck delivering static, generic solutions for decades and is ready for disruption. Fortunately, the information age has armed the world with an improved understanding of human performance. Fitness enthusiasts all over the world can now harvest their body’s physiological data and quantify their outputs. For example, today anyone can track their sleep quality, heart rate variability and resting heart rate to get a detailed understanding of what their body may be capable of on a given day. This progress has helped the world exercise smarter. However, nutrition has been lagging behind and the world is ready to fuel smarter.
Getting to these observations was really inspired from Peter Thiel’s book “Zero to One”. This book helped me ask better questions and exposed me to new conversations and challenges. As a result, I was fortunate to meet some great people, with very different skill sets and expertise, and together as a team we shared the same vision and co-founded Hexis.
Q - What is Hexis's USP?
I don’t want to say too much here as we have some big news coming soon. However, to provide a quick teaser, as well as predictively personalising and periodising your nutrition to the ever-changing demands of your lifestyle, Hexis is making nutrition LIVE. Watch this space for more.
Q - What has the feedback been like and from what sort of quarters?
Our beta trial went great, and we received some phenomenal feedback. Overall, users are talking of improvements in energy levels, performance and body weight and composition management. We originally planned to shut down the beta after the trial to work through the thousands of data points collected but we decided to keep it running as the demand was high with a range of the trial participants requesting to pay to carrying on using the platform.
Q - Tell us about the team behind the app.
We have a world-class team of experts in the fields of nutrition, exercise physiology, behaviour change, computer science, statistics, data science, marketing, product and technology. We originally met through PhD research projects where we assembled a multidisciplinary team to tackle some complex health behaviour change problems. After three years of working together academically, we decided to incorporate and were fortunate enough to be given a place in Cohort 1 of UCL’s Conception X accelerator program. We haven’t looked back since and continue to grow stronger as our team expands.
We are very fortunate to have such strong support from the LJMU community. Myself and Dr Sam Impey are co-founders and part of the LJMU family where we both met on our PhD journeys. This LJMU connection has deepened further with alumni advisors and experts joining the team as well as world class nutritionists, S&C coaches and performance scientists. We really value this support and are delighted to get more of the LJMU community involved and adding value to the company.
Q - What are you hopes for the impact of Hexis?
Hexis will disrupt the field and change the way the world thinks about nutrition. We hope to show practitioners that there are different ways of doing things that can be discovered when you collaborate and think deeper.
Q - How does it feel as an academic 'going into business'?
I know the rest of team all have different experiences but personally, I love it. Business was always a passion and strength of mine. I took a non-traditional route to academia, self-funding my own PhD after running my own business. Working on the front line, I made some observations I was keen to explore further and this is what led me down the academic route. Getting to marry both passions with a great team is really a dream. I absolutely love what I do, who I’m doing it with and the energy it gives me.
For more information, go to https://www.hexisapp.com/ and read our other Sport Science research https://www.ljmu.ac.uk/research/centres-and-institutes/research-institute-for-sport-and-exercise-sciences