NovoEd Alumni Create Nutrition App
There is nothing probable about the creation of MEALS IQ, a health app poised to transform consumer food habits.
The app was designed by an international team from countries as diverse as Sweden, India, and Colombia.
Its members have never met in-person, nor do they have experience with start-ups.
And yet, in the last year, they’ve raised tens of thousands in venture capital and have signed several high-profile partners. They are on their way toward disrupting the food business.
The company came together at the start of a NovoEd course on Technology Entrepreneurship. The first assignment required that students work in teams to develop a mock business plan. Elena Gylling, the founder of Team Meals IQ, recalls the difficulty of managing a group whose members spanned eight countries.
“I have been a senior executive all my career and I am used to managing very large teams,” said Elena. “But managing a team spread on five continents, where no one owes you anything because you’re not their boss, was a totally new challenge for me – and a very exciting one at that. I remember my very first thought when I saw the course requirement to form a virtual team: wow, that’ll push my envelope. I’m all for it.”
Elena challenged her team to create a business plan for a health app, which would leverage nutritional data to help users make informed meal decisions. Team members became invested in the project, overcoming time zones and busy work schedules to iterate on improvements. “We would have Skype calls in the middle of the night and then my team members would go on working after the call, sending me great ideas at 3 a.m. It was just breathtaking to see,” said Elena.
The team received guidance from Benson Yeung, a serial entrepreneur and one of the course mentors. During conference calls on Skype, Benson would encourage his mentees to experiment with different approaches while staying within the framework of their original vision. Elena recalls how Benson used the occasional pregnant pause to push her team to reconsider hasty assumptions. “That’s when we would know we had to change whatever we were thinking,” said Elena. “I learned more from Benson than from anyone in my entire career.”
With Benson’s help, the team graduated near the top of their class. Eager to build on their success, they resolved to convert their business plan into a tangible product. Within a few weeks, the team had put together a working model of their app, raised capital, and developed a marketing plan.
“Amazingly, in this day and age, we still use cookbooks, read labels in the supermarket, and pore over shoddily worded menus in restaurants,” Elena said. “It’s about time someone disrupted that.”