Nature meets nurture: Zeopi
Ask technologists what the future of healthcare will look like and they will show you the most advanced bionic limbs. Ask astrophysicists what the future of space exploration will look like and they will tell you the story of Space X. Ask the young scientists out of UAE University what the future of Nano-technology holds and they will present to you Zeopi.
Zeopi describes itself as a mission-driven biotech start-up that has invented a unique technique to transform key natural ingredients and good bacteria into Nano-sized nutrients that can improve digestive health.
“For instance, let’s take the case of contaminated drinking water. Using our technology, the effects of drinking this can be significantly reduced because our solution can eliminate all heavy metals and toxins from your body. Our initial studies have been very promising with results showing that our product can reconstruct microbial communities in your body, rest the flora, lower cholesterol as well as blood sugar levels, inhibit H-pylori and eliminate heavy metals, among other benefits,” quips Baraa Ahmed, the company’s Co-founder and CEO.
So, what made three young Emirati students come up with this ground-breaking idea? “We’re amid the greatest health crisis the world has ever seen. In the developing world, many people are suffering from e-coli, salmonella, listeria. In the developed world, people are suffering from obesity and gut diseases brought on my poor lifestyle habits. Solving this crisis was a major motivation for us,” Asma Al Yammahi, the company’s Co-founder remarks.
Poor lifestyle habits have put a tremendous strain on health care systems around the world. Around 70 million Americans are living with digestive diseases, according to NIDDK, which cost the US around US$100 billion per year. On the other hand, people are spending on their health and wellbeing at unprecedented rates. The global wellness industry is estimated to be a US$3.7 trillion market according to the Global Wellness Institute and this trend is expected to grow exponentially in the coming years. And this is the challenge that the Zeopi team seeks to solve. “Based on this data, we expect that there will be a significant interest in our product,” they predict.
A trip to remember
When Zeopi first started, it developed a natural process that could convert three types of water into drinking water. It spent the first and second quarter of the year heavily investing resources and time into research and development to perfect its product.
Moving into the third quarter, the ZEOPI team planned to put its research into action by building its product.
However, their plans were interrupted when they decided to participate in the Accenture Innovation Awards. “This was a welcome interruption for us, of course, because we emerged as winners of the competition. The jury comprised of senior executives from Accenture, Expo 2020 Dubai, Fintech Hive at DIFC and Etisalat Digital. The opportunity to get in front of such a power-packed jury was an honour. To win was the icing on the cake,” says the duo.
As winners, the Zeopi team walked away with an all-expenses-paid trip to Silicon Valley. The team at Accenture also assisted them in setting up meetings with potential investors. “Once we were there, Accenture helped us set up meetings with leading technology firms and organisations working with entrepreneurs, in addition to visits to Facebook and Google headquarters. At Nestle, we received strategic feedback and guidance from a consumer standpoint. The purpose was for us to get constructive criticism that would help us perfect our product while also pitching to potential investors. We came out of this experience with a robust strategy and a clear sense of what was needed to succeed. Towards the end of the trip, we had a defined plan of action as well as an impressive list of contacts that we wanted to create lasting relationships with.”
At the end of the trip, the young founders gained a whole new perspective on their business. “Throughout this trip, the Accenture executives helped us think bigger and beyond our factory. They made us realise that a factory would be very costly and that shipping water around the world would not necessarily be a viable business model. Considering their valuable advice, we shifted towards the idea of developing a pill, that would use the same ingredients that we had used to purify the water, but with a new nanotechnology angle that would allow us to purify our digestive system.”
This new direction gave Zeopi the vision to rethink its business model more effectively and efficiently. As part of this new strategy, it hired an expert microbiologist at the start of the year to perfect its product and scientifically prove its effectiveness. This, of course, presented its own set of challenges.
The level of R&D required meant accessing special laboratories, that were not easily available to them. The young entrepreneurs sidestepped this obstacle by partnering with people that had more experience in the field.
Support has also come for Zeopi in the form of funding. The team initially received seed capital and is now looking for its second round of funding to the tune of US$2 million. Speaking of the potential Zeopi holds for its future investors and partners, the Co-founders explain: “The probiotic market is huge. According to research by Global Market Insight, it is expected to grow to US$65 billion by 2024. Other key markets for us are in personalised preventative medicine and wellness, both of which are expected to grow tremendously in the coming years. Our technology is different from the others and is soon to patented. It is a fully vegan product that helps reconstruct the microbial communities and reset the flora in your gut and digestive system by promoting a full detoxification. Our product is of significant social importance and can have a global impact by improving the lives of billions of people.”
Foresight for the future
Zeopi envisions a future in which it can collaborate with data-biotech start-up to combine technological capabilities and launch a smart pill that will enable it to gather data from its customers. “The idea is to get data-driven insights and customise the tablet for them accordingly. Ultimately, we will look to put this nanotechnology into a ‘smart pill’ that will be able to analyse people’s microbiome and enable us to create a customisable product to suit each person unique needs,” explains Asma Al Yammahi.
Baraa Ahmed adds: “As indicated by several leading market studies, we expect that our industry will continue to grow exponentially. We also foresee technology being increasingly applied to wellness products to enable more personalised and effective treatments. And, when that happens, we want to be at the forefront of it.”