Lucie Glenday responded to personal tragedy by building a high-tech-health business to improve the lives of millions.
Entrepreneurs get their motivation from many sources. For some, money or ego may play a role, but a select few are driven by life-changing events. Their businesses spring from powerful, often highly emotional experiences that alter the lens through which they see the world, compelling them to pour their talents into new, unforeseen directions. Lucie Glenday is one of those entrepreneurs. Full of intelligence and drive, she was always going to succeed as a businesswoman. However, personal tragedy conspired to completely reconfigure her motivation. Fate handed her a mission that she had to embrace.
In December 2006, Lucie’s sister died from a rare form of motor neurone disease. Having been diagnosed just nine months earlier, the 23-year-old’s rapid decline was a whirlwind that left family and friends bereft and bewildered. Lucie was living in Japan at the time, having just sold her English-language teaching business. She says: “I spent days flying back and forth, doing everything I could to care for my parents and my sister. Every time I returned, I saw a deterioration. It was devastating. Her illness was such a rare form of MND that we were desperate to find out if there was another explanation, but it felt like no one could provide enough information or support. I’m not an angry person, but I was left feeling bitter. The system felt broken. Those feelings of despair and futility were a huge driver in launching my business.”
A new mission
Ten years later – in 2016 – Lucie founded a health-technology company, MySense. But in the meantime, she got busy with her new mission of mending the UK’s health and social care system in any way she could. First, she worked on a programme to improve stem-cell research, managing collaborations between large universities. Next, she worked with the Big Lottery Fund, focusing on numerous relevant bids. Then, in 2011, she became head of business transformation for Government Digital Services, overseeing HMG’s move from analogue to digital – a change that would have enormous and long-lasting implications for health and social care.
Lucie says: “Looking back, everything since 2006 has been therapy to some degree – me trying to figure out how to deal with my sister’s death, how it was meant to change my life, and how we could get something good out of it. I felt like there had to be a good ending. I don’t believe in fairy tales, but if something like that happens, you have to try to build something positive from it.”
Next, Lucie joined local government – an unusual step for someone at the heart of Whitehall. Colleagues were surprised, but it made sense to her mission. “Working for Surrey County Council put me in control of a transformational agenda for all of our residents, but my focus was to improve the lives of the most vulnerable people we had a duty of care for,” she says. “I spent two-and-a-half years there and did some amazing stuff, but at the end of the day it still didn’t feel like I was really fixing things.”
However, in her last month at the Council, Lucie designed a pilot scheme that provided the exact opening she was looking for. In that pilot project, her team built a model that used basic sensors to monitor patterns of behaviour in vulnerable people. Lucie, a self-confessed data geek, quickly recognised its potential. With the right monitoring technology and strategy, she could build a business with the capacity to improve the lives of sick people and their carers.
MySense is the result. Launched in 2016, it is an ultra-high-tech version of the Surrey County Council’s pilot scheme. It employs 40 people, has raised £3m so far, and will have grown to 65 staff by April 2020. The business is expanding fast, and Lucie and her team are about to embark on their next funding round.
She explains: “MySense uses IoT [Internet of Things] sensors in people’s homes to collect 10,000 pieces of data per person per day. The sensors sit on things like chairs, kettles and beds to reveal patterns of behaviour. Using Artificial Intelligence, the data reveals trends like reduced mobility, dehydration and loss of independence. But crucially, we overlay these core figures with other data – information such as resting heart rate and body temperature. We don’t over-rely on any one sensor; we look at them all together in order to build a rich, holistic picture, thereby enabling good decision making.”
Massive growth potential
In MySense, Lucie brings all her skills and experience together. As well as being the pinnacle of her response to her annus horribilis of 2006, it is also a carefully considered, hard-headed, strategic business play with massive growth potential. She says: “We set up as a business-to-business company because we felt the market wasn’t yet ready for a business-to-consumer offering. Broadly, we’re trying to solve three things. First, hardware – how can we best utilise the tech to get top-quality data points? Second, analytics – once we’ve got the data, how do we design and build algorithms that understand multiple factor nuance and then present it? Third, customer focus – how do we make the end to end product experience the best it can be? Most organisations in our sector try to do two of these, but very few try to do all three.”
Big-name customers and channel partners
The market is suitably impressed. MySense is working with big names such as retirement-home developer and manager McCarthy & Stone, health and welfare charity Leonard Cheshire, and numerous public sector bodies. They are scaling up internationally “our commercial model is built upon an incentivised reseller programme, we have landed some big channel partners in the UK, spanning insurers, telco’s and connectivity partners, but its just the start and we want 250,000 subscribers over the next three years”. The company is currently launching in Canada, where it has already secured two contracts, and it is eyeing up other international markets.
Building for the future
Lucie continues: “We’re not in this for the short-term. We’re playing a big, long game – we want to make a decisive impact on health and social care around the world. We’re working with Imperial College and King’s College in London to hone our product further, and our mission is to reach 20,000 data points per day per user by the end of 2021. This will further enhance the insights we provide. For example, in two or three years, if we’re monitoring, say, 30,000 people with a certain type of Parkinson’s disease, we want to be able to analyse their data as an individual group. Then we’ll have the ability to pick up patterns for that particular type of condition. Next, we’ll share our insights with organisations such as Cure Parkinson’s so that we can make a genuine difference on a macro level as well as on an individual level.”
However, behind all the cutting-edge technology and ambition sits a very human aim. In Lucie’s words: “My driver – the reason the company exists – is to give people independence and dignity, no matter what scenario they find themselves in. Whether it’s a long-term chronic condition, a terminal illness, or general frailty, MySense exists to get a clearer understanding of the patterns of decline so that doctors and loving medics, friends and relatives can make the right decisions. It’s about empowering people and improving their lives.”
CLIC’s final word
MySense is an inspirationally fitting tribute to Lucie’s sister, yet it has become much more than that. It is practically improving the lives of countless people and has also grown into a hugely exciting company from a business perspective. And that is all down to one woman’s mission to build something positive from a personally devastating experience. They say that business is business and it’s never personal. MySense proves that assertion to be totally and utterly untrue.