Tamara Rajah Founder and CEO of Live Better With talks to Maria Josife, Partner at Erevena, about her decision to launch an innovative health and wellbeing platform that aims to improve the quality of life for people with long-term health conditions.
Tamara’s many industry accolades are a testament to her determination to make a difference through technology, from ComputerWeekly’s Top 50 Influential Women in Tech to Red Magazine Top 20 Career Shifters. The ability to pivot to a new business model – even a new business – has characterised her career, which has seen her found several entrepreneurial ventures before she set up the award-winning global consumer healthcare platform Live Better With.
What is your background in healthcare and tech?
I am a scientist and started out in biotech before moving to McKinsey in 2004, where I learned about business. I spent 11 years at McKinsey focusing on healthcare, including hospitals, public health systems and pharma companies. This gave me insight into how operational patient care is provided. As I took on more senior roles, I worked with governments on country strategies for particular health conditions, including cancer and dementia. After becoming a partner in 2013 I moved to the US, where Obama Care was coming in.
Tell us a bit about Live Better With and how it came about
While in the US, I focused on chronic condition planning, state-by-state. I soon realised that while so much was done on the medical side of things, there was little available non-medically to help those living with conditions on a day-to-day basis. Information on practical matters like how to manage symptoms and side effects simply wasn’t available digitally. This lack of knowledge was lowering the quality of people’s lives. In 2015, I left McKinsey to set up Live Better With to fill this gap with information, product suggestions and a place for people with long-term conditions to find a community.
Was it a risk to leave an established career to set up on your own?
Yes and no. Changing career is always a risk, but it wasn’t the first time I’d set up a business. For example, I had previously run a clothing company in tandem with my ‘day job’. I saw and learned so much at McKinsey and felt the time was right for the new venture. I’d saved enough to kick start things myself and secured pre-seed funding from Forward Partners. I also won an award from MassChallenge, one of the UK start-up accelerators, which gave me a cash injection at the start of Live Better With.
Can you describe your business model?
It is a one-stop online platform for people living with long-term health conditions, either going through it themselves or caring for loved ones. We organize the website content by condition – cancer, dementia, menopause and, more recently, stress and anxiety, bringing together all the content we can about living with each condition.
It’s subscription-based and features a personalised assessment so that people can receive tailored recommendations based on their individual situation.
The Live Better With model is built on three pillars:
- Articles, information, practical guides and tips and advice both from people who have first-hand experience of the conditions and from our team of experts. Why symptoms happen and possible treatments, as well as how others have managed, are all covered.
- Our Expert Q&A Hub offers advice from qualified health professionals, breaking down barriers by providing written answers in a forum where people don’t have to give their names but where other members can read and benefit from the responses.
- Curated non-medical products and services, including information on products that might ease a condition or make living more comfortable: e.g. the best bras for women who have had a mastectomy, consumer products suitable for itchy skin that is often a side effect of cancer treatment, and recommendations when it is difficult to swallow.
One way to describe the model is that it provides ‘community wisdom’ – from experts and those living with long-term conditions.
What plans do you have for growing the business?
We are already pushing ahead with a proposition for employers that moves us on from our traditional consumer focus. We recognized that there were a lot of health and wellbeing platforms targeted at the corporate world, but they just scratched the surface when it came to the non-acute conditions that impact an employee’s productivity. For example, someone managing their partner’s or a parent’s dementia outside work might not feel confident enough to talk about this in the workplace. A woman going through the menopause, may avoid discussing her condition with a line manager. Instead, they might spend hours Googling their symptoms or taking time off work to manage debilitating symptoms and side effects.
This ‘below the surface’ gap in workplace health and wellbeing support is estimated to affect 46% of the workforce. Now, more than ever, we’re seeing a shift in corporate thinking to better manage it. There is, of course, a business value in terms of productivity and absenteeism, which employers understand very well. Some 90% of people who use the Live Life Better platform say that it improves their quality of life and this has the potential to improve the ROI of the workforce. I’m really excited by our move into workplace services.
What is the most commonly used area on the platform and how have you evolved?
We started out focusing on cancer, so that has had the biggest uptake. Now, however, dementia is catching up as we support more and more people with the disease and those providing care. An interesting development came with those living with menopause. We first covered it as a common side effect of cancer, but quickly realized that it had a life of its own beyond cancer and established an area specifically for menopause. As we develop the platform, we will add other long-term or non-acute conditions, such as migraine, back pain and dealing with miscarriage. I want people to feel that Live Better With is there whenever they need it, whether that’s helping them live with cancer today, supporting them with menopause or dementia tomorrow, or managing a stressful situation at work.
“I want people to feel that Live Better With is there whenever they need it.”
Can you expand on the stress and anxiety angle?
This ties back to our push into the corporate sector where stress and anxiety are cited by all employers as having an impact on the workforce. The long months of Covid-19 lockdown have made managing this an urgent priority. In fact, low lying levels of stress are endemic in the workplace. Employers know about it but running workshops and other initiatives don’t get to the root of the problem because people won’t talk about it. So, it goes on and on. That’s where our platform can help. It’s anonymous and gives employees access to professional psychological support and content on self-management, with no strings.
“We recognized that there were a lot of health and wellbeing platforms targeted at the corporate world, but they just scratched the surface when it came to the chronic conditions that impact an employee’s productivity.”
It feels timely to be offering stress and anxiety support, especially as employers are now part of the support network. As people continue to work from home, employers can no longer detach themselves and will ultimately be judged on how they managed their employees’ emotional wellbeing during lockdown and beyond. This all plays to the battle for talent going forward.
What about your own talent and attracting the people you need to drive your growth?
I have certainly learned a lot about hiring since setting up Live Life Better. We always lead with our mission to make everyday living a little bit better. Yes, we have huge ambitions to grow the business, but our mission is what drives us on. I would not want to work for a company without a purpose-led mission. I want to feel that we’ve made a difference and that’s what we convey to the people we hire. Of course, it is easy to attract people with such a strong mission, but it remains a challenge to combine purpose with profit, so I believe we should try people beyond the interviews and see how they get on.
What other challenges have you faced?
There are new challenges every day but one in particular that we’ve addressed is knowing what to focus on – and when. I have learned about the power of growing our business in seasons, quarterly or over a six-month timeframe. We focus on these seasonal growth perspectives, so that we’re not always in a constant sprint for everything.
Another key learning has been around how we market ourselves. We’ve gone from a lot of paid advertising, around 80% of our spend, down to 30-40% paid-for and now zero. To achieve this, we’ve worked hard on our content, with a big effort on our Google ranking via site engine optimisation, and on our social communities, via the likes of Facebook and Twitter. We also use email heavily and have several co-promotion partnerships.
What next for Live Better With?
We have three key growth levers. First, we will continue to push into the workplace, engaging with companies both in the UK and further afield. Second, we want to build our business globally. Currently around 40% comes from the UK, with 20% based in the US and the rest from elsewhere. The support we provide is needed in every language, just with local nuances. Finally, we will keep adding to the conditions covered as we focus on our mission to help people living with long-term conditions.
“We have huge ambitions to grow the business, but our mission is what drives us on. I would not want to work for a company without a purpose-led mission.”