History of Product at Levels
David Flinner: I think there were two actual pork taco moments. One was when we originally had the graph built out and the ability to add your food logs onto the graph, they were always annotated with pork tacos. There was an earlier version of that, I think in the first app, this is where it gets a little fuzzy, but according to the screenshot, the first version of the app was pork sandwich, I think. And no matter what you logged, it stored as pork sandwich.
Ben Grynol: I’m Ben Grynol, part of the early startup team here at Levels. We’re building tech that helps people to understand their metabolic health, and this is your front row seat to everything we do. This is A Whole New Level. Building products is inherently hard. It’s just not an easy thing to do, whether you’re building a tangible product, something that people can actually hold, something with some physical form to it, or if you’re building a technical product, like an app or some piece of software. It’s really hard because cycles just aren’t quick. It takes a lot of time to think through product, and it gets more complicated when you start to think about products where there’s regulation involved like health tech products. Levels, for instance, a health tech product that’s built on top of hardware, a CGM, a continuous glucose monitor. Things are much more complex when you start to take into account some of these considerations.
Ben Grynol: So, the question becomes, how do you actually make something that’s inherently slow go a lot faster? So, David Flinner, head of product and one of the co-founders of Levels, he and I sat down and we talked through the history of product, how the app, the current iteration of Levels, how it came to be. What it started out as versus what it is now. These are two very different products. The early iteration of Levels was actually text. People would text Josh or David or Mike DiDonato, and they’d send them questions about what their CGM data meant. They’d take screenshots of their data and they’d send it and they’d say, “Hey, I did this. I ate this. I have this workout. Here’s the data that I saw. This is the feedback that I saw about my biometric data. Can you give me some insight? Is this good or bad?”
Ben Grynol: And the point was, would this channel, this distribution channel of texting the members allow enough insight to be created that there was some value being given to the members who are using the products? And this evolved into building an app. And the point of having the app was to give people deeper insight and a better holistic experience where things like content was integrated into the product so that people could really personalize their interests. They could start down their own education path of learning about metabolic health and making meaningful behavior change. And so, there’s a lot of thought that David has put into product. He never stops thinking about product, and he’s got an incredible mind when it comes to the vision of where product can go. It’s not just about features, it’s about benefits. It’s about value. It’s about creating something that is meaningful and is going to help people make behavioral change for the long-term. So, David and I sat down and we talked about his path to Levels, the history of product, where it came from and where it’s heading. Here’s where we dug in.
Ben Grynol: So, what we know is Josh and Sam had connected in may of 2019, and that ended up being an in-person meetup where they started discussing Levels with a few different investors, a few different people just to get feedback on it. And Sam had gone out and spent some time with you and Stacy, and it was one of those things where serendipitously you were like, “Man, I just happened to be looking into this last week, this continuous glucose monitoring thing. This is interesting.” And so, that was the signal that you were like, “I think this might be something to jump two feet into.” So, you came on board in June of 2019, I believe it was.
David Flinner: Yeah. That’s right.
Ben Grynol: Yeah. I mean, it was pretty quick, by the sounds of it, where you were right in.
David Flinner: From my side, what I thought was really interesting was I didn’t really know what metabolism was at the time. I just had this feeling that I was slowing down, I was low energy all the time, couldn’t think like I used to, and I didn’t really know what was going on, but I thought, “Oh, maybe this is what they mean when they say that your metabolism starts to slow down as you age.” Wasn’t really sure, but I was doing some Google searching and trying to figure out what could be related to metabolism, and it looked like monitoring your glucose could be related to that. So, yeah, like you mentioned, I didn’t really know what continuous glucose monitors were, but did some research figured that, “Hey, this could help provide some light on what I’m struggling with with these low energy issues.”
David Flinner: And just so happened that like 12 hours later Sam was coming by to stay in my guest room in San Francisco at the time. And I hadn’t caught up with him for a long time so I didn’t really know what he was up to, but when he walked in the door, he caught me up on what he was up to and it just so happened to be exactly that, providing access to continuous glucose monitors to solve the metabolic health issues in the country. So, that was the first serendipitous strange thing. And pairing that with just what I knew of Sam and how much I admired and respected him as a person and his approach to life just seemed like a no-brainer to have this be the next big thing for myself.
David Flinner: So, internally, I was looking to make some changes at Google. I was interviewing to switch into their life sciences division. So, I was already thinking about getting into the health space and pairing my own personal interest in solving my energy issues with working with an exceptional team, and just seemed like an opportunity that was too good to pass up.
Ben Grynol: Yeah. And you were doing payments stuff, right?
David Flinner: I was, yeah.
Ben Grynol: Yeah. So, you’re doing payments. Were the energy issues around the afternoon slump where you eat lunch and then you feel sluggish and you’re like, “I know something’s not right, but I can’t figure out what it is”?
David Flinner: Yeah. In retrospect, there was a lot to that. It was probably 1,000 little cuts, but you don’t really know how to connect the dots until you understand what metabolism is and how your energy oscillates with your dietary and lifestyle choices. At Google at the time, you may know that they’re infamous for having these micro kitchens that are stocked with all sorts of food: healthy options, unhealthy options. And when I was there, one of the reasons I think, in retrospect, that I was so low energy was I would make frequent trips to the micro kitchen and grab a snack. And oftentimes, they’d be a healthy snack, like a “healthy snack,” like a Cliff Bar or the equivalent of that. But then also, often, it’d be something that would be some sort of small candy, like a fun size Kit Kat bar.
David Flinner: I started every day at Google with a bowl of granola. That was what they had in the micro kitchens, and I loved that. That was coming off the heels of an hour and a half long car ride to get to work. So, I was starting out the day really early, arriving, super stressed after a long commute, eating what I thought was a healthy breakfast, snacking throughout the day. And in retrospect, probably all these things were leading to increased stress, jumping blood sugar levels with the corresponding crash. And so, just all these things were adding up. And actually, after I did get my first CGM, I did have one of those fun sized Kit Kat bars again, and I think it sent me probably the 180 or something, which is well above the normal range. And certainly, I was surprised by the outsize punch that such a small, fun size candy might have.
Ben Grynol: Like you’re talking to those ones that you get on Halloween, like the tiny little two sticks.
David Flinner: Right. The tiniest ones. Yeah. The smallest bite.
Ben Grynol: Wow. I mean, when you say fun size, that’s like two tiny sticks of… I mean, it’s pure sugar and pure refined carbohydrates, so I understand that-
David Flinner: Well, that plus that coming in in that highly stressed state, so stop and go traffic for an hour and a half. It put me personally at a very high stress situation. I get motion sick very easily, so I think I was just perpetually elevated stress levels. And that can impact your response to foods, as well.
Ben Grynol: Yeah. It’s wild because it’s really hard to link… Everything in hindsight, it’s easy to look back and be like, “I can’t believe I thought that was normal,” knowing what we know now, but at the time, healthy options like granola, and I say healthy facetiously, but these healthy options in what we deem or what society has prescribed as being healthy, they have these drastic impacts on our productivity. There’s just no possible way that somebody can be as productive with the energy levels that would be the outcome from having something that might have some type of sugar or some type of, as Andrew would call it, metabolic jet fuel carbohydrate nutrients. It’s interesting to hear that that was something that you started exploring on your own, and then the serendipitous interaction with Sam is what really led to the next steps.
David Flinner: Yeah. And we’ve come so far, but looking back, we didn’t know how all the different aspects of your lifestyle choices could affect your glucose levels, it could affect your near-term health goals and how you feel. But we started to unpack that as soon as we did start building the company and all the one-on-one interactions that we had in the early days, we really did this broad approach where we knew there was something here. I personally have experienced that there was something here, but we didn’t know how it… I’m just one person, I have one life experience, but we didn’t know how that related to other people with different goals coming from different points in life with different diets. Yeah. It’s been really quite an adventure trying to unpack and discover what this means to different people, how people relate differently, all that sort of stuff.
Ben Grynol: And so, in June, we’ll call it July. Right? Because it was the end of June when everyone started working on product and just getting things moving. What were some of the first steps that you took? Because it’s not like, A, products are inherently hard to build. Technical products are. I mean, any product, it’s hard to get some MVP out the door. That’s one side of it. And then, two, building a layer on top of an existing piece of hardware is hard in itself. So, what were some of the steps that you started thinking about as far as like, how do we get feedback from people to know whether or not this works and what we should build?
David Flinner: Right. Well, I think the most obvious one is, maybe even too obvious to me, just because in order to get that feedback we had to actually help people get access to a continuous glucose monitor so we could start engaging with them on how they experienced that and how it could help them. So, one of the earliest things that we had to focus on was solving the access issue. As you know, in the United States, these are prescription only devices, so our initial approach was to figure out how to solve the access problem for this. And then as a small team, we all had independently received prescriptions from family physicians, things like that. So, we were starting to experiment amongst ourselves and seeing some of the early insights that we can pull out of CGM, but it started there. And the first problem that we had to solve was that access issue. So, we didn’t really go deep, I would say, into getting lots of customer feedback, because we were blocked on getting access to the devices, I would say.
Ben Grynol: Outside of your core group of three people.
David Flinner: Although the core group was very fascinating. So, some of the early things that we saw from that, just the inherently social nature of these findings, people discovering for the first time something that they didn’t know was causing them to experience issues, and the excitement that you would have to share that with, with friends.
Ben Grynol: So, I’m guessing you had, between the three of you, you had probably a text thread that was like, “Oh man, I tried this,” or, “Look at my data from that.”
David Flinner: Yep. Yeah, exactly.
Ben Grynol: And that’s almost like that really dictated V1 or like alpha 0.01 of the product. Right? Or what it ended up becoming once you solve the access issue.
David Flinner: Yeah. So, there’s that, and then we branched out a little bit with just a close circle of friends who also were able to get in touch with the same family doctor who would prescribe a CGM for them for nutritional purposes. So, we branch out with just a very small group of people exploring this. And then even speaking for myself, Josh had used a CGM before I did, and so when I got access, I found myself always pinging him with questions, like sharing screenshots with him saying, “Hey, this is interesting,” or, “Help me understand what this means.” And so, very early on, we saw that there might be this thing where people don’t know what the data means. The raw data stream coming out of the CGM is not intuitive to understand. It’s the first time that people are ever tapping into this metric. It’s very interesting. It’s lively. And it responds to things you do. So, it’s inherently intriguing.
David Flinner: But turning that raw data stream into something that makes sense, we saw didn’t really come for free. We had to engage with other people to help understand it. And that formed the stage of where we saw the direction of level’s going, potentially, but we still didn’t have enough people to inform that… But the hypothesis was this raw stream of data is not going to be enough. There needs to be some sort of value on top of it through education, helping people understand what it means, connecting it back to their goals to help them improve.
David Flinner: If we can fast forward past getting the access to the CGMs, I think that’s where, in my mind, it really got interesting. The very first order that we had shipped from Truepill arrived in a cardboard box with no instructions, just some CGMs in it, and that’s what the Levels experience was. You got this cardboard box with your approved CGM devices. And then we engage with every member over email to set up video calls and what the Levels program was, which was what we call internally, is Davidbot, which was the member would… They were instructed to apply to CGM, install the manufacturer’s CGM app that lets you read your glucose levels, and then texts us screenshots of what you’re seeing throughout the day, texts us pictures of what you’re eating, and texts questions that you have.
David Flinner: And that’s how we got all of our data, so it was very immersive. We’d start with a video call, we’d have a midpoint video call, and a debrief call. And then for 28 days, I was just monitoring SMSs coming in with food log pictures, screenshots of glucose charts, and getting questions. And so, it was really a full immersion into the full spectrum of things that people were interested in learning about and what they were doing day to day in their life.
Ben Grynol: And when that was happening, was that framed as a mandatory thing where it’s like “Text us every meal,” or was it, “Text us when you have questions”?
David Flinner: Yeah. That’s a really interesting question. I remember thinking about that, and I believe what we tried to do was push people towards logging everything, so very similar to what the end Levels experience ended up being. And the reason that we wanted people to log everything was because we were curious what sorts of things would elicit responses in the glucose curve? This is the first time that anyone’s really been looking at glucose information from a non-diabetic perspective, paired with lifestyle choices and activities. So, we didn’t really know, there were multiple prongs that we didn’t know that we were exploring the value space. One was, we don’t know where people are going to find value with continuous glucose monitors and metabolic health, but from a data side, we also didn’t know the relationship between choices and metabolic responses in a deep way. So, we wanted to have people bias towards sending us as much information as possible and then, hopefully, our bet was that we could then look at that and find a way to turn that into a valuable insight for the member and share it back to them.
Ben Grynol: And so, how are you managing everything, though? Assume that there’s N equals more than one. Right? And so, if you’ve got like 10 or 20 or more people that are emailing… Emailing you. Texting you constantly, you’ve got all of these photos and all this data to keep in mind so that it’s like, “Oh, I remember Billy had this yesterday,” so that’s actually actionable and insightful.
David Flinner: Yeah. I think that’s a classic example of one of those things, two things that don’t scale. I mean, I was spending a lot of time, I was spending long days looking at people’s screenshots of the food they ate and then logging it. I would take all the data… We actually built the tool to extract out the glucose trendlines from screenshots to turn it into data so then we could put that into an Excel spreadsheet, marry it up with the food photos, and then do analysis on that to try to figure out like what are the relationships between the food activities and the glucose responses. And then I would spend days working on a…
David Flinner: As part of the of the experience that you were buying, you got the tele-health consultation, a month’s supply of continuous glucose monitors, the one-on-one consultation with the team, with me, on the SMS thread, and then a takeaway report at the end. And the takeaway report was supposed to pull out all the food logs that you did and provide an analysis on just raising awareness of your choices and how that related to your metabolic responses. So, for me, it was really instrumental, just immersing myself deeply in all the photos and responses to get an intuitive sense as to what happens and also how people react and what they actually care about and don’t care about, and then summarizing that all into a takeaway report at the end to see what they liked and what to take forward into the future.
Ben Grynol: And then, as far as the Davidbot went, did you try to scale that where it was the Davidbot and the Mikebot simultaneously so that you’re trying to… And maybe we should frame it, Davidbot being you, actually receiving text messages, and Mikebot. These are not real bots. These are people. So, Mike DiDonato was receiving text messages and doing the same thing. So, it was the idea with product, like let’s scale this scrappy thing and get more cycles out of that before building actual product. Or how did you approach that?
David Flinner: Yeah. So, having Mike come on board was a huge help. That was just amazing. And he’s been such an asset towards understanding our members. He was one of the first employees we brought on to engage with customers, and that did, I guess, in some ways, scale what we were doing there. But I think we were very intentionally trying not to scale too quickly. We were trying to bias towards learning and getting speed of iteration on picking up where potential value was from our customers. So, we were trying to talk with them a lot, especially in the early days, lots of conversation, picking up on where there might be friction points that they were experiencing, things that they asked for, and our goal at that point, because we’re so early on, you just don’t know what you’re going to end up building.
David Flinner: We were focused on trying to figure out what is the next pressing problem that is presenting, and then we would go build that. And so, in terms of scale, we were only thinking about what we would do, like what is the next pressing problem to solve, and then trying to tackle that in as lightweight way as possible before moving on. And one example of that would be, and as silly as this might sound, we didn’t actually have a Levels app at first, and we waited until customers asked us like, “Hey, texting you is great, but I really want to be able to log all of this and see it together in its own app.” And so it’s like, “Okay, we should build a Levels app for that.” And then the first Levels app didn’t have glucose in it. It just had the ability to log food. And then we waited until people said, “I can log my food here and that’s great, but I can’t see it with the glucose information. I want to see it in context.” It’s like, “Okay, we’ll focus on building out an experience to bring in the glucose information.”
Ben Grynol: And so, then, what was the catalyst where people said, “Hey, we need an app. This like texting thing is not working anymore,” but what was the catalyst or what were the first steps that you took when you thought, “Okay, we actually have to build an app’? Because apps can take weeks and months and years, and it can be as slow as possible or it can be one of those things where it’s like MVP and it’s basically skinning text message so that it feels like an app.
David Flinner: Yeah. Totally. So, I think there’s maybe two things that come to mind with this. One is what we would actually build and then the approach we take to it, and from the what we would build standpoint, we were thinking about what is foundational and a next step. We termed that get the data. So, there really wouldn’t be a Levels app for the future if we didn’t have the table stakes data that you would imagine in that app. So, that would be starting with the food logs. Of course, we always imagine that you would probably would want glucose data in that as well, and in fact, people did want glucose data in it. But we would start just with a single foundational thing. We didn’t lay out a roadmap for, “These are all the things that it’s going to have, and we’re going to build them all out and then have one launch.” Instead, we biased towards just one incremental thing, and then we would launch that quickly and get feedback from it immediately.
David Flinner: And the second part I mentioned was the approach, which is one of our core principles is just… Maybe not the principle, but something that we really hold deeply is a bias towards speed and keeping our velocity very high. So, I always say that I’m uncomfortable when I release any new iteration of a feature because it’s not there yet, it’s not quite done, but we try to hold ourselves towards shipping any way to get feedback fast and try to not spend too much time overdesigning a feature before we know if people find it valuable. So, I think what we’re biasing towards is trying to find and discover these spaces that are truly valuable to customers. And it’s really about trying to find all of the value, not necessarily delivering all the value upfront, but scanning the surface area, trying to see, “Okay, does this have promise? If so, yes, great. We know there’s promise there.” We can also explore adjacent to that or in some other direction and see if there’s also value there and maximizing the value discovery, versus the complete feature development, I would say.
Ben Grynol: Yeah. And it was also a matter of just being scrappy in putting together some code pretty quick. So, it sounds like Sam jumped in, and I think Josh had mentioned that he wrote the pork tacos version of the app, which was the very first version of the app that had food logging, had the label of pork tacos only. So, if you had, what you call fun size Kit Kat bar, it would still be pork tacos.
David Flinner: Yeah, yeah. Actually, I was talking with Josh the other day about this and I found one of the original screenshots. I think there were two actual pork taco moments. One was related to the graph, which was when we originally had the graph built out and the ability to add your food logs onto the graph, they were always annotated with pork tacos. There was an earlier version of that, I think in the first app, this is where it gets a little fuzzy, but according to the screenshot, the first version of the app was pork sandwich, I think. And no matter what you logged, it stored as pork sandwich.
Ben Grynol: And was that Sam or was that you? Who chose that label?
David Flinner: These are Sam. Those were Sam choices.
Ben Grynol: We’re going to have to dig into that.
David Flinner: Yeah. But I remember Sam whipped out the first version of the app probably in under a day. It had the bare basic skeleton pushed out and very minimal features. It had no coloring, it was all white, and a big button. You could add a food log. And when you did that, it was like pork tacos or pork sandwich or something, and that’s what we shipped to customers. It was not very useful, but we had shipped it and we shipped another version two days later, and then we kept changing it.
Ben Grynol: Because I think it was January of ’20 when the first version of the app launched, and from there it’s been pretty fast cycles and pretty fast iteration. As much as the core foundation might feel somewhat similar to the original vision, it’s evolved immensely in features, in UX, in UI, in the overall product experience. And so, how did that evolution unfold?
David Flinner: Yeah. It’s come a long way. There’s still quite a ways to go. There’s so much more we can be doing and will be doing on our journey here. We largely extended the idea I mentioned before on solving the next pressing problem based on customer feedback. So, our member calls were really critical in figuring out what was working and what was not working for any given app iterations experience, and through those feedback sessions, new themes would emerge on what people were… where they were getting stuck, where there was opportunity to double down and provide more value. For example, after we had the table stakes features in the app, glucose information, food logging, people were still struggling to understand what the data meant. It was still rather raw and it hearkened back to some of the early feedback I had from the Davidbot days, people want to know what that data meant, how did these curves, like, what do they mean?
David Flinner: And so, in thinking of a more scalable solution to this, we though, how might we simplify this information for our members? So, then we focused, since the pressing problem was people didn’t know what the data meant, we introduced a series of changes, like scores. At the time it was just a simple meal score, and then I think we also color coded the glucose line from… It would be green in the optimal range, and it would go up to a shade of red if you traversed a little higher than that. And one of the principles we did here was trying not to overthink these features and taking what the customer is telling us and trying out a small experiments to see if our hypothesis was right. If we could provide that level of understanding, if they were getting confused and didn’t know what it meant, could we provide clarity and can we do so in a lightweight way?
David Flinner: And we were often surprised that some of the things that we envisioned would need a lot of work were actually solved with the very first thing that we tried, and it was a very lightweight code change. And we haven’t had to revisit it since then. For example, the colored trendline, I think, was a very small change, but after we introduced that, we saw a substantial reduction in the number of support tickets not knowing what the glucose line meant at a certain level.
Ben Grynol: Yeah. There’s a couple parts to it, but the hard thing about the data is that the scale that it’s measured on is not an average scale that society understands. We understand a scale between zero, let’s use Fahrenheit, between zero and 100. Everyone’s going to have some idea of a benchmark knowing 100 is probably hot and zero is probably pretty cold. But the scale of glucose data, like low glucose, if this happens during the day, not at night because of sensor pressure or anything, but 40, what does 40 mean? Is 40 good or bad? What does 300 mean? And also, higher is better with a lot of things where it’s like, “Well, that’s higher, it’s better,” and that is not true for glucose data. And so, people would feel lost based on the scale not understanding that.
Ben Grynol: And then the numbers. The actual numbers, the difference between 20 points, it’s hard to say whether or not that is… Is that good or is that bad? And then the other part of it is how long… It’s less about the min and the max. It’s more about the period where if you are in a sustained state of hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia, it doesn’t matter, that’s more concerning than if somebody goes up and comes down relatively quickly. And so, these are all these things where it’s new technology, the numbers are meaningless without some insight or some level of awareness and education behind them, and that becomes a really big product challenge to communicate that to people in a simple and clear way where they feel comfortable.
David Flinner: Yeah. I would say a couple of things on this. One is because this is a novel data stream, we had a couple of challenges. One is there’s a table stakes level of education that we’ve had to do to raise everyone’s awareness about what does metabolic health mean and how do you think about glucose in relationship to how you feel and the choices that you make. That doesn’t often happen, I think, with many other areas, but we’re simultaneously trying to expand the awareness of metabolic health and why it’s important broadly, even outside the Levels app. But then, if you are a levels member and you’re coming in for that one month experience, we have to get you up to speed to a base level on what it means and what this can do for you. And then we also then have to separately take you on that journey of metabolic awareness and help you figure out if your choices are working for you, point the direction towards how you can improve, and what levers you can pull for that.
David Flinner: And then I would also say there’s another aspect to this, which is really dependent on the user segment that you’re talking to. The type of member that has been using Levels has changed since our very beginning until now. And we’re at the precipice on even more changes that are going to come. The product that we’re building, it’s different for each of these people groups, and one of the challenges that we’re trying to face is building a product for the people who are using it now, but being aware that as we expand our access, we’re going to be opening this up into new segments and building a product that can be gracefully extended to support these other needs that different user groups might have.
Ben Grynol: Yeah. That’s exactly it. With any tech, there’s always going to be early adopter segments that are completely different than what becomes, we’ll call, an average segment over two years, five years, 10 years of time. Take the DVD player or the fax machine. Right? Just examples of the type of people who use them and then the type of people who ended up adopting them.
David Flinner: Sure. Totally. Yeah. And for us, we started with very tech savvy biohackers, because these are the people who already had heard about continuous glucose monitors and they wanted access to them. So, the very first audience that we had was that audience, and so we built a product that was a better version for data analysis that they couldn’t get from the manufacturer software, things like providing access to these metrics, like the broad metrics, better interactivity with the data. But then we expanded out to what we’ve been calling the health seekers, which is someone who tries to take the right steps for their health, they might be taking intentional steps to buy products that they think are a little bit better for them on the health spectrum, try to work out a bit, don’t overdo it, and these people are a little bit… They’re still mindful of health. They’re still proactive. They like to take charge. And so, presents it with the tools and the awareness program, they can then take the learnings from Levels and then intentionally make changes to their life.
David Flinner: We’re starting to branch out beyond that into an even broader spectrum where it’s becoming clear that we need to do a little bit more on the education side, more on the motivation side, helping support more magical experiences that don’t require being so proactive, instead of giving you the tool, can we help produce the outcome automatically without just giving you the lever to pull. Things like that.
Ben Grynol: Yeah. Because the goals are so different. Right? The biohacker is already educated. We’ll make an assumption. Somebody who is a biohacker already has a foundation of knowledge or some level of education about performance and optimization, as it pertains to diet, sleep, fitness, stress. Like this segmentation group, or this group of members, they’re intrinsically motivated to seek out that information, and they’re always trying to make themselves better. But if we take a segment such as… And it’s serendipitous because we’re just working on member personas 2.0, but we’ve got one category called the discouraged dieter, and their goal is to lose weight. And so, they’ve tried so many different programs and platforms, and their level of CGM awareness, it’s completely different than a biohacker. And so, building a product that spans both of those segments is very difficult.
David Flinner: Yeah. For sure. And I think the broader opportunity… I mean, as you know, only 12% of the US population is metabolically healthy, and I’m sure there’s a similar statistic as you look out across the entire world. And so, we want levels to be a product that pretty much everyone can use and benefit from. So, we’re going to have to branch out beyond the biohacker use case, and indeed, we are. The way I’ve been thinking about this, though, is that a lot of the biohacker use cases are actually the table stakes, foundational layer of the platform. It’s more of the raw data, a bit more of the tools that you can pull. And then we’ve been thinking about having the table stakes metabolic awareness platform, or experience, and then on top of that, we’re starting to build out tailored journeys that have a little bit more handholding, that are more personalized, that are goal-oriented, things like that that can start to take people beyond just simply awareness and the tools towards actually guiding you on a journey towards hitting your health goals.
Ben Grynol: Yeah. And we’ve been down this path where… Let’s rewind. So, there’s ,get a bunch of feedback, turn Davidbot into an app, iterate on the app based on feedback. Eventually, things like food logging, data, content, like content got incorporated in, I think it was November, November or December of… What year are we, ’21? So, 26-ish months ago. Now we’re at a point where we just brought on Alan, who is lead designer, and he’s been instrumental in already making changes and working with you on taking the app to its next iteration and its next phase.
David Flinner: Yeah, totally. And I’ve been so excited about that. Having Alan on board has been just a huge boon for us. His empathy for members and experience in the space and experience with the data visualization, product design across the board has been hugely impactful already even with… He’s been here for about a month now. There’s so much that we can do looking forward. Yeah. It gets me excited. I think keeping my head closer to where we’re at now, we’re gearing up for launch, we’re still trying to figure out, not figure out, but we’re still making progress around what we want to do to get launch ready in the core experience, polishing up some of the design. As a consumer app, there’s a large aspect of this that isn’t necessarily about metabolic health, but it’s just about a delightful experience. So, that’s one of the big things that I want to have in their launch as a consumer app. You want it to be a delightful, you want it to come across as very trustworthy. You can think this is a product in the health and wellness space.
David Flinner: A lot of what we’ve been doing so far has been very scrappy and minimum viable experiment to see if there’s value, but at some point, you also want that app to reflect your health goals too. The experience that you have interacting there needs to feel really optimistic, put together, in the same way that we’re hoping that Levels can help you achieve your best, whatever that means for you. So, I guess that’s just one aspect of this I’m focusing on. But the future of Levels is so bright, getting much more personalized in towards understanding your goals and your behavior, helping guide you towards a full spectrum understanding of what works for you, what doesn’t, and how to improve.
David Flinner: And I see that happening through a few different levers. One is through the automated insights that Levels provides, and that’s key towards our company objective of providing accessible access to this. As many automated insights as we can get, that’ll be key to that. And then a community layer that we’ll be building out. We’re already seeing community having such a big impact outside of the Levels app experience. It’s organically forming. People are sharing with each other, connecting. We see a huge potential to leverage community and build a movement of people helping each other, understand where they’re at, and how to improve along their path. And then Levels as a platform, bringing on experts, whether it’s your trainer or coach or a nutritionist or sharing data with your doctor or things like that, are all going to be critical things that Alan and the rest of the team and I will be thinking about moving forward, looking beyond launch.
David Flinner: But these are all unknown, I should call out, these are just hypotheses that we think are going to be interesting to explore. We don’t really have a lot in those areas so we’ll have to let the member feedback and experiments guide us.
Ben Grynol: Yeah. And it’s so cool, too, because Levels as a marketplace versus Levels as a platform… And semantically, these can have overlap and they can… That’s a different conversation that everybody can debate into perpetuity. But Levels as a platform in the sense of we have a technology product that people can build upon, like other companies can build upon. Amazon’s a great example where is Amazon a marketplace? Is Amazon the parent company a platform? Is it all of the above? It really is because they’ve got AWS, they’ve got S3, you name it. Got all these things. Right? And then they’ve got Amazon in the marketplace.
Ben Grynol: And if we start to think about Levels as a platform from a technology standpoint, Levels as a marketplace from a consumer or a to market standpoint where we aggregate, as part of the product experience, we aggregate coaches, we aggregate products, other health and wellness products and services, we start to aggregate all of these things to make them available to members, that in itself is a wild… They’re linked, but they’re very far apart in execution, like a technology platform and how to build that from a product standpoint, versus the business model of being a marketplace and Levels is a core product within this marketplace. I mean, that’s what gets really exciting about all of this, is there are so many directions we can take product, we can take the company, we can take the business to really build this movement and provide the best possible member experience.
David Flinner: Yeah. I think there really are a lot of different routes that could provide value towards our members looking forward. And thinking back to the Amazon example, one thing I really like about them is that they were willing to innovate outside of their core area of competency and stick at it for many years until they found different streams that ultimately do provide value for their members. I think it’ll be a similar journey for us at Levels. We definitely see promise in these areas. We can’t build out all of those end to end complete technology stacks and experiences right now. It has to be the same approach that we took from the start. We have to test the waters, figure out how can we see where the value lies in this community idea, or do people actually… We’ve heard people like nutritionists, would actually value a marketplace for that? Can we build that in a lightweight way and test it now? Versus building something out that takes a year to code and then launch all at once. So, those are some of the things that we’re trying to explore right now.
Ben Grynol: Yeah. It really is endless. And we don’t know what we don’t know in the way that Amazon in the late ’90s didn’t know what it would become from a marketplace standpoint. Carry that on into, we’ll call it, the 2010s, early 2010s, and the reason why Amazon built AWS was because they were tired of being at the mercy of Oracle. And now, we can see that AWS is a significant portion of Amazon’s core strategy, their revenue, all of these things, and a very profitable revenue stream for them because of the actual product, or products I should say, that they provide. And it’s like, where can Levels go? We can have all these hypotheses, but it’s like, you just don’t know what you don’t know until you find those nuggets like the Oracle example, and then all of a sudden you go, “Whoa.”
David Flinner: Well, I think they’re also all unified by having radical alignment towards the customers’ interests, and that’s something that I really appreciate about the team here, is that I do truly feel like we’re intentionally only taking steps that are going to align the interests of Levels with the true interest of our members. I think no matter what we do and where we experiment, it’s going to be unified by that. And how do we provide something that is truly the right thing to do, even if it’s not immediately profitable or the right… If one obvious way to do something that might, I don’t know, give us short-term profits or something like that, but it’s not exactly aligned with the customer, we’re not going to do something like that. So, trying to find the opportunities that allow Levels as a business to align our incentives with the wellbeing and the trust that the member places in us, and build a company that is radically aligned with that, I think is a really cool opportunity.