Edward Likovich of Nymbl Science
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Meet Edward Likovich of Nymbl Science. Nymbl Science was founded on the idea that balance training is the key to preventing falls for a large portion of our population. We had the opportunity to speak with their founder, Edward Likovich, to learn more about his journey, rapid growth, and balancing it all while raising four daughters. Learn more about Nymbl Science, their team and the cool things they are working on.
What’s your story? How did you get here?
I grew up in the middle of nowhere western Pennsylvania with my grandparents, who were immigrants from Hungary. They really sort of lived the American dream, coming over from Europe and settling in western Pennsylvania, where a lot of people from his country did, and he built a steel pattern business from scratch. Back in the old days they used to produce a bunch of steel in western Pennsylvania and he had a giant workshop where they would build these massive forms. They were stories tall and they would float them down the river on barges. He was this thriving entrepreneur in his 70s and he had a really bad fall and hit his head. He also messed up his knee and never really got back on his feet. Then, for two years he was in a semi-bedridden state and that was difficult for somebody who is completely active. To see him go from not being able to really function, that was really impactful.
And then fast forward. I was in Denver in 2016 in the venture world, but I just wanted to get back to the operating side. I met a guy at a networking event who is now a retired spine surgeon, Dr. JP Farcy. Dr. Farcy grabbed me with his French accent and said that we needed to work together. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to these networking events when a person runs up to you and starts shouting at you – typically not a person you want to talk to. My first thought was get this crazy person away from me. And then I thought, well this guy seems to know what he’s talking about and there seems to be something here. He had a rough prototype with some other folks that he had worked with and they were looking for somebody who could do it full time and turn it into a business. I jumped at the opportunity to help people’s lives and address something that happened to a loved one. Unfortunately that story is all too common.
What problem are you trying to solve?
When we started off, the problem we were trying to solve was the problem of older adults falling. Researchers agree that most falls are preventable. Not many, but most. Society and most of medicine seem to accept you’re old and falling is just a part of aging. While it might be common, it isn’t normal. So how can we address that and how can we empower older adults in the comfort of their own home to make decisions about their own health? So rather than dictating a solution to them, we are inviting them into the conversation and asking, is this something you want to work on? If not, that’s fine. So that’s where we started. What we found was that we actually had a tremendous ability to connect with older adults and build trust with them. And I’d love to say that we have a secret amazing magic sauce, but what it is is treating people with dignity. It’s giving older adults a tool, it’s making something for them. It’s letting them be a decision maker. It’s delivering value to them first. And what we’ve seen is the older adults responding.
The common thread we hear is I’m feeling better. I’m better with my mobility, I’m better with my balance. What else can I do? And we’re like well, we don’t have anything else for you. But what are you interested in? And they’ll rattle off a zillion things. And we say, well, you can go here, this is a great part. And this is a great part and they say no, no, I trust you. I want to do more with you.
And so what we think we have here is the ability to create a platform for older adult health and wellness and our starting points around mobility and so we’ve started off with doing fall prevention.
Next we’re getting into urinary urgency, which may seem totally unrelated but it is something that holds them back from leaving the house. They don’t know if there’s going to be a bathroom nearby. Because what’s more embarrassing than that? And what we hear consistently is older adults say I mentioned it to my doctor, and they say, oh, yeah, you’re just getting older, you should go buy some diapers, that doesn’t feel good. They try to search for information, but they can’t find it because there’s no information written, especially for older adult women. We talked about marginalized populations, older adult women are right up there, because the healthcare system is not designed for them. And they’re often told, hey, yeah, just deal with it’s just part of life.
So we’re developing and hopefully releasing something late Q2. That’ll move us from a single point solution to a platform.
Have you had to pivot since your initial solution?
We didn’t with the product, but we did with the end market. We started out in senior living, because we thought well, that’s where the old people are. So let’s go there. And what we didn’t realize was that the economics and a lot of these buildings can be really challenging to initiate a new program. The wealthiest ones can afford it, but then it becomes pretty difficult as you go downstream from there. So we stepped back and said, well, where’s the money? It’s with insurance companies. It’s the Medicare Advantage plans that are spending money to pay for these claims that happen. So we hopped over to that side and we found a lot of success there in helping to reduce claims and improve the quality of life.
How are you funded?
We’ve raised close to $20 million to date. We just closed above $13 million in January, actually. This time was a slog. I mean, as I’m sure you know, the market kind of dropped out. So we had this real, this kind of weird cat and mouse game where we had the money. I mean, it was like, what’s the valuation of the company and no one would, no one would step forward and do that. So we had the interest and finally we got it done. And it turned out just fine. But it was not easy.
What keeps you up at night?
I think it’s this growth process we’re going through. We grew from 15 people to about 35. It feels like almost overnight and that changes things. It changes my role, it changes my senior leader’s roles. I joke, but it feels like all I do these days is send emails. It is a different type of work. I think there is a maturation that we’re going through and processes we need to get better at and that we aren’t there yet, especially around collaboration across departments. When there are 15 people everybody knows what’s going on. When there’s 35, it doesn’t happen anymore. And we aren’t all geographically together. Communication doesn’t happen naturally anymore so now we have to make time and prioritize that, which always doesn’t feel great as an early stage company. We attract people who are hardworking and driven and want to get stuff done. To tell people that they have to take a step back and collaborate feels like you are going backwards. I think we are good at it, but not excellent at it and we need to find a way to get excellent at it.
Are you a risk taker or did you learn to embrace risk taking?
I’ve always been a strong risk taker. My wife and I had this conversation the other day, and I asked her if I’ve changed and she said no, you’ve always been that way. I think that’s just who I am. I wish I could say that it was learned or deliberate or studied, but we are all different people. We all come a certain way and that’s the fun part of diversity. I joke that I would run off every cliff without looking if I had a parachute.
What is something that fits into the “If I knew then what I know now” category?
Sometimes people just want to hear what they need to do. They want someone to be direct and say, this is what is going on, this is the goal, this is what I need you to do and I need it by this date. And I think that for a lot of my career I would try to lead people to that goal. And that can sometimes feel a little passive aggressive vs just saying, hey this is what I need you to get done. Some people are looking for that direction and goal to kick butt and that is ok and that’s a good thing to do.
What are some of your passions and interests outside of work?
Well, I’ve got a bunch of kids. I have four daughters aged eight to one. That takes up a lot of time and is a lot of fun. I enjoy a lot of typical Colorado things. I enjoy hunting. I hunt elk every fall which is a lot of fun. I ski a bit. I’m getting more into it. I like music a lot, I’ve got a ton of music – across genres and I really enjoy it. I like live performances in general. I like food too but who doesn’t?
What is a misconception about being a founder?
There’s a lot of them. I think one is the glamorous aspect of it, right? Like being a startup CEO is glamorous. I took a day off on Wednesday, my wife and I and two friends went skiing and of course there was a crisis. And some people could say, just take the day off, just turn off, take your day. The issue was we had a state tax thing that we had to pay by a certain point. I was the only one who could tell people when they’re asked, what do we need to do? Basically they just needed someone to approve it. That’s me. Not very glamorous.
Then there is this weird fallacy that people believe they come up with an idea, create a website, and people are gonna find it and buy it. And that is not the case. The amount of time and effort and skill that goes into marketing and branding – it is a true art and I think it really gets discounted. People really believe they can have a cool idea and people will just find it – there is a lot of hard work that goes into this.
What advice would you give someone starting their own business?
I have really good advice for people who aspire to be founders or are interested in starting something but don’t quite know what they’d want to do. I got advice from a close friend of mine, Ben, who started a really interesting company. His advice was just pick something you are interested in and just go as deep as you can in it. Stop thinking about the business you are going to create, just learn, learn everything and if you immerse yourself there you are naturally going to see what problems are there. In his case, he was really interested in mental health and happiness. He spent time with the monks in Tibet and just kind of went out there and lived with them for a while. And things came together.
Being in healthcare there’s a zillion problems, it can be hard to pick one. And so it’s sort of what do you want to do? Go shadow a physician for a while, volunteer in the emergency department, volunteer at a senior living facility. Do that for a month and you’ll naturally see things that you can impact.
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