Alessandra Sollberger – Transforming our Nutrition!
Alessandra and I met at 10 Downing St at the inaugural Founders of the Future event and she is one of the first members of the network whom I have had the pleasure of interviewing. We subsequently downgraded from Downing St to The Wolseley for breakfast for the interview (and forgot to take the selfie)! Alessandra has traversed the investment spectrum gaining experience in M&A, private equity and venture capital before founding her company Evermore – the new standard in bespoke nutrition. Fortuitously her two passions of health and science are some of the hottest tech trends and she is building a consumer brand in the intersection!
Current Job CEO and Co-founder of Evermore
Education I graduated in 2012 with a masters from Oxford, which included finance, business, law and economics
Favourite book I read all the time, so it’s difficult to choose! Last weekend I read Finite & Infinite Games by James Carse. It’s a philosophy text looking at our actions and seeing them as either finite, with a definite beginning and ending, or infinite. The theory behind finite and infinite games offers an interesting framework to think of a company’s long-term vision vs its short-term tactics and medium-term strategies. It applies to our own lives as well…
Necessary extravagance I love going to the sauna after a gym session!
Female inspiration in business Coco Chanel came from nowhere and never apologised for her ambitions. The society she lived in was very different from our own – yet, she built one of the most iconic brands out there. Chanel outlives her.
Top networking tip Be yourself and take time for meaningful interactions with people
Favourite tech company at the moment Slack – aside from using it with my team and finding it a good tool, I also think it is a company passionate about delighting users and with its own personality
You have experienced all levels of the investment paradigm – beginning at Goldman in TMT M&A, then at Blackstone in private equity rounding off with venture capital at Mosaic Ventures. What was your biggest learning from each tenure?
At Blackstone I learnt a lot of hard skills like data analysis, building financial models as well as requiring the discipline to be organised, structured and the power of just sheer hard work! I already started working as a kid, from setting up my resale business to teaching windsurf in summer. That’s always been a key part of my identity, so I got involved in start ups during my studies and even during my time in private equity. It taught me so much along the way – about myself and about the kind of company I want to build. Coping with chaos, learning all sorts of random skills every day, reading about everything and learning from other people… If you realise that world is for you, there’s no coming back! Coupling that with the training I had in M&A, private equity and venture capital gave me a good idea of the sectors I’m passionate about and how a company concretely looks like from setup to IPO stage.
What stood out to you when assessing early stage companies?
It comes down to the team, the market, the business model and the trends that are taking place over the short-, medium- and long-term. Companies might start tackling something very specific and then expand into a broader sector. You look for a specific go-to-market focus and an ambitious long-term vision at the same time, but the two also need to co-exist in a thoughtful, logical way. I personally believe that focus is key when launching any new product or service. In parallel, I think about the trends driving the sector in one, two, five, ten years. Hell, I love sci-fi and imagine it in 100 years from now too! There’s also an objective assessment of the company itself, its employees, its culture, the way they’re approaching the opportunity at hand and how they’re developing the strengths of their own business model.
Tell us all about Bright Mentors!
It’s a tech non-profit that I set up on the side while I was at Blackstone. I did it because I think we all have a responsibility to help inspire the next generation of STEM professionals. By bringing together technical talent and kids in secondary schools, I’ve also seen our mentors being enriched by teaching skills, talking about what they love about their jobs and observing their own impact. Since I had to teach myself most of what I know in CS and biotech, I firmly believe in practice before theory!
What is Evermore?
At Evermore, we’re building the brand for bespoke nutrition. We’re starting with the breakfast market, delivering personalised smoothies on a weekly subscription basis. Our customisation takes into account your current preferences, but also what you should actually be eating. That’s based on demographics, lifestyle and habits. Our products are meant to get “smarter” about your needs over each delivery. Eventually, we create a nutritional fingerprint that you can apply across our whole ecosystem.
Where did the inspiration come from and what is the evolution to date of the company?
We’re a mix between a lifestyle brand and a science company. These two areas, often unrelated, have always been my passion and are closely interrelated when building an end to end, vertically-integrated company. There’s so much that will change in the nutrition space. The consumer trends in the health and wellbeing market are really strong and in terms of science, I’ve witnessed what’s happening in biotech by being an angel investor in the space over several years. I think that the current developments in synthetic biology and cloud biology, along with the increase in accessibility and drop in cost for DNA / blood / microbiome testing, will result in a real revolution in life sciences over the next decades. It will bring a level of efficiency and accessibility which is comparable to what happened in computer science and the internet over the last decades. Currently, there’s a lack of reproducibility in biological experiments as well as a lack of protocols to work in a scalable way with biological complexity. This is starting to change. We’re bespoke and that’s part of our own brand identity & tone of voice, but it’s also something that will become increasingly relevant through scalable R&D and data analysis within precision nutrition.
What might surprise us about the health and wellbeing market?
The growth in health awareness touches every consumer vertical, from food & beverage to clothing & apparel. Beyond this, there’s also a shift in the type of consumer spend. Millennials like myself are much more focused on experiences, so what’s better than a cool and exclusive spinning class that gets you out of your comfort zone while also keeping you in shape? On the other side of the coin though, you have something much more profound going on. 72% of millennials feel like the public health system will fail them and are therefore particularly motivated to take care of themselves. This is mainly impacting immediate spending habits, which are actions perceived as more measurable than those taken over the medium- to long-term. The overall trends within healthy foods, fitness experiences, athletic clothing and quantified health are definitely here to stay.
What are the future ambitions?
Becoming the global brand that is synonymous with bespoke nutrition, both physically and digitally, and creating a company that sets standards by innovating all along the way. We’re starting with a clear focus – that goes for geography, product, distribution channels and digital presence. It’s important to be able to measure your activities and target your efforts to nail the initial business model, then expand from there. We want to have a blueprint and a strong understanding of our customers before starting to develop our long-term ecosystem, which is what’s the real game changer.
Women in Tech
What advice do you have for women looking to start their own business and raise capital?
I think it’s really important to spend time understanding what you’re passionate about and what drives you. By going through that process over time, you will understand whether you’re ready to commit for the long term. You should also build a genuine network around yourself. That goes for raising capital, but also for hiring and for advice on the many new things you’ll come across! Otherwise, there’s also lots of admin you’ll have to deal with. No rocket science, you just have to get on with it. Summing it up – know yourself, know your market and know people ready to help you get started. Bonus points for mixing a positive, can-do attitude with a thick skin and a clear mind.
What business support networks do you value?
I’m part of several networks for entrepreneurship here in the UK, in the US and globally. In the end though, it really comes down to genuine connections and building strong, long-lasting relationships.
What is your opinion on the women in tech conversation? How can we do better to attract and retain more women?
The topic is often controversial and it shouldn’t be leveraged just for the sake of headlines. We can all do something about it, but most importantly it’d be best to remove much of the fuss around it. Be spontaneous and take your chances! Charting unexplored territory is an adventure we can all be part of.