Shem Richards is the Founder of the BioMed company Goldilocks, a hi-growth start-up based in Adelaide, Australia, is definitely a company to watch for global success in the future.
Shem’s Background pre-Goldilocks:
Shem grew up in Adelaide, attending the local High School. He knew he wanted to be an engineer and an inventor, but Shem also wanted whatever he worked on to have purpose and impact.
BioMed was very new at Adelaide’s Flinders University at that point. Still, when he saw the course offered, Shem thought that it could be a route that would give him the ability to create the positive human outcomes that he was looking for from his engineering. He also thought it would be good to expand his business knowledge and so he trained as a PRINCE2 practitioner, a globally recognized project managers’ certification.
Shem spent eight years working for a variety of healthcare facilities. He managed the servicing of all medical equipment at Lyell McEwen Hospital and assisted in managing and planning their medical devices. Working for SA Health at the Modbury Hospital, Shem was Site Manager and their Specialist Biomedical Engineer which involved him in every aspect of their medical devices from Research and Development through to repair. He freelanced as a technical consultant and Biomedical Engineer for healthcare, engineering, and startups.
The different experiences meant Shem gained experience in both the design and maintenance of world-class medical devices. He also invented his own. The most successful of these was a device that helped visibly impaired users navigate and clipped onto their white canes. It was commercialized by Flinders University and the Royal Society of the Blind.
Meanwhile, Shem’s eldest child, a daughter, had made her appearance. All was well in the hospital, but as they journeyed home, she was crying. Like all new parents, they were emotionally overwhelmed and physically exhausted and continually were asking themselves if she was cold or hungry or tired without any answers – and continually worrying. Shem says that the problem was probably something as simple as her beanie had come down over her eyes.
Of course, this is something which will sound familiar to all new parents. There are so many questions, so much worry. Shem started on a quest to solve the problem and provide the answers.
This quest was to lead to the start of the Meditech company, Goldilocks, in 2017.
Shem had loved working with doctors and patients and derived immense job satisfaction from the results of what he did. He knew from that BioMed work that in ICU’s machines were developed that could tell doctors more about how patients felt than they could themselves. For example, if someone is short of breath, they can tell the doctors, but only a machine can find that the cause is arrhythmia.
Shem was also interested in the concept of SMART clothing, which has been enhanced by technology. Many SMART clothes connect with Bluetooth or Wi-fi. There is SMART activewear that can record your fitness, SMART sleepwear to increase sleep quality. Pizza Hut had even experimented with smart shoes that can order pizza.
Shem thought SMART clothing could provide the answer to helping stressed and worried new parents with all aspects of parenthood, from monitoring their child to answering all the questions that continually come up so that would provide the basis for the Goldilocks Suit.
The engineering side didn’t balk him. However, Shem was worried that he knew little about business. He discovered that Adelaide University ran an entrepreneurs’ competition. Anyone could join, and they would have access to a co-working space for a few months, plus access to the equipment they needed. Also, they were given a mentor for a year. This combination gave them a chance to develop the Goldilocks Suite idea further and build better prototypes.
Shem won the scholarship with entry to an accelerator program, which, he says, gave him the belief that he could see his plans through and bring them to life. By that time, they had a great looking prototype, so the next step was raising money. Shem tells me that there is little pre-seed investment in Adelaide, so they had to go to Victoria to find a VC company to fund Goldilocks next stage.
The VC’s paired them with the MedTech Actuator. MedTech is an accelerator for MedTech, HealthTech, and BioTech startups, that plan to take their companies from seed investment to Series A within 15 months, a much shorter time than the average.
MedTech helps not just funding, but by providing a vast network of specialist partners globally of hospitals and research institutes. It was, Shem says that bringing together everyone who needed to be involved with the product was one of the biggest challenges. MedTech is relatively new, having only appeared on the scene in 2018. Artesian Venture Capital provides a Fund behind the Actuator and both invested in Goldilocks.
Through the accelerator, they worked with expert partners, including Mother Nature and Wink Sleep. These partnerships provide the content within the app so that user-parents can receive advice at a clinician level.
The Goldilocks Suit, now fully developed, is an app that provides an all in one baby helper for parents. It monitors your baby’s breathing and temperature and records feeding patterns and development all through sensors in a singlet. It then relays the information back to the parents. The Goldilocks Suit has already won several awards.
Generally, as a pre-revenue and pre-product company, they have been less affected than many by COVID. They had problems in their supply chain from the Chinese factories being closed in their lockdown during the early part of the year. Now, they have brought their whole supply chain onshore. They can manufacture in Australia, which Shem says will work out better as it makes their supply chain much more secure.
Shem’s fellow director is his brother Jamin, who is also the Product Development Manager. Jamin worked as a Private Enterprise accountant with KPMG and moved to New Zealand to lead Kiwibank‘s operational improvement Squad, before joining Shem. His financial background makes the perfect pairing. Shem says that it has been a huge additional help during the lockdown. Being close brothers, they can anticipate what the other will think. In the lockdown, working with someone else distanced would have been very much more difficult.
They were prepped to raise funding earlier this year but thought they would leave it till things improved from COVID. As the year went on, it has become clear that this wasn’t going to happen. Larger investment allocations had been affected. They turned to crowdfunding as a way to raise the rest of the money.
Crowdfunding is more common in the UK. Oliver Woolley of Envestors in another interview speaks of how now he recommends every company to consider. In Australia, it only became officially legislated and regulated in 2018. Leading the pack of those licensed companies was Birchall, who Shem selected. The Goldilocks Suit will be the first infant product to have been hosted by Birchall starting in July 2020.
The offer is gaining huge volumes of expression of interest, but Shem admits he will never be fully confident until the money is in. Shem says with every stage, being an engineer, he sees what can go wrong.
The finance will enable Goldilocks to complete the product release, launch, and manufacturing the product itself. Shem plans to produce 50-100 units later this year to prove supply and then roll out full production early in 2021.
While they are only marketing in Australia initially, the Goldilocks Suit should be available worldwide by 2024. Australia sees only around 300,000 babies born each year. Somewhere like the US sees 6-7 million, so the market potential for Goldilocks globally is a no-brainer.
Shem on Incubators/ Accelerators
As someone who has recently gone through these processes with Goldilocks, I was keen to ask Shem to share his advice and experience for others who are thinking of applying to incubators or accelerators.
His first point is that there is an awful lot out there, and some are very much better than others. It pays to do your research.
The first thing he looks at is establishing precisely who are the people behind it. Shem recommends finding one backed by people who have been there and done it themselves. A few are run by someone fresh out of university or even someone from a large corporation who hasn’t experienced what it is really like to start and grow a business.
A co-working space can be of enormous benefit if you look for one where everyone is involved in your specific sector. It would be no use going to one full of energy specialists if you were, as they were, wanting to work in health or even pediatrics. Working with peers who have similar issues and are at the same stage means you can all work on solutions together.
At the start, you simply don’t know everything, and you need to surround yourself with really smart people to advise you. Of course, however much advice you have, ultimately, the decision lies with you.
A great set of advisors brings a network that you couldn’t possibly have reached on your own. Again, this is why it is critical to stay within your niche or sector, so the people are relevant, both as advisors and in the network which they bring in. Shem says you can never under-estimate contacts.
For Goldilocks, he needed to have experts in software, hardware, design, clinicians, and parents, all feeding back their input. It is easy to see how to build something as an engineer. The challenge is to ensure that what you build meets people’s needs.
You might also enjoy this on another meditech entrepreneur