Sokratis Papafloratos is a serial entrepreneur who has started, built, and exited. His newest venture into digital health is his biggest and boldest yet. The venture, Numan has attracted funding from top-tier investors like Kreos Capital, Anthemis Exponential Ventures, Paul Heydon, and VNV Global.
In this episode, you will learn:
- Business and pricing models
- How Numan is helping men
- Sokratis’ top advice for entrepreneurs
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For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend, Peter Thiel (see it here) that I recently covered. Thiel was the first angel investor in Facebook with a $500K check that turned into more than $1 billion in cash.
The Ultimate Guide To Pitch Decks
Moreover, I also provided a commentary on a pitch deck from an Uber competitor that has raised over $400 million (see it here).
Remember to unlock for free the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.
About Sokratis Papafloratos:
Sokratis Papafloratos works as a Founder and CEO at Togethera. Previously CEO & co-founder of TrustedPlaces, acquired by Yell Group in 2010. Engineering degree from York University.
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Read the Full Transcription of the Interview:
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Alejandro: Hello everyone and welcome to the dealmaker show. So excited today with the founder that we have. We’re gonna be talking about building scaling financing exiting exiting positively exiting. You know, maybe not so positively perhaps with some lessons learned. And then also being on the other side of the table making investment seeing you know, getting that pattern recognition of founders that have what it takes maybe the ones that don’t have what it takes and really placing bets but without further ado let’s welcome our guest today. Soretis Papa Floraus welcome to the show.
Sokratis Papafloratos: Thank you Alejandro! Thank you thanks for having me.
Alejandro: So originally originally born in Greece so let’s do a little of a walk through memory lane. So how was life growing up in Greece.
Sokratis Papafloratos: Um, life in Greece was was beautiful. Man. Ah it was I grew up in thesalonici in Greece which is the second city. It’s by the water we had a holiday place very close to the city where I spent three months every year and actually even time during the year um doing all sorts of of fun adventures things out in the water or in the mountains. Um, it was great. It’s fantastic
Alejandro: So at what point do you start? to? really think that maybe it’s time to um, do well first and foremost before going to the Uk I mean at what point do you really get into solving problems and the whole engineering you know, mindset and stuff like that
Sokratis Papafloratos: I had look when um, the the plan that I had was for me clearly formed if you like when I was a teenager when I was about fifteen years old and this kind of okay, it sounds in hindsight. Sort of you know a bit crazy but I was really fascinated about how technology was changing the world and my plan and ambition was to really understand and and and study engineering understand. Especially telecoms and mobile engineering that was the thing that was really interested when I was you know back then? um, study go abroad, go to the Uk get some experience then start my own business and be really successful and do that by the time I was 30 and actually as it turns out I mapped out that that course pretty pretty well you know it’s the whole like I want to go from a to b with a million other kind of paths and perutations along the way and it turns out that’s kind of how things. Played out so it was kind of I don’t come from a family of entrepreneurs I didn’t really sell you know didn’t have a paper routing or lemonade stand business when I was a kid but I had a very clear drive and ambition of what I wanted to achieve. I’m not really sure why or how but it it was there.
Alejandro: Now in your case you know instead of really going at it as an entrepreneur right away after your studies right? because you studied in in York then you went to London but instead of really going for it what you did is you did a little bit of corporate right? So you did the corporate route. You did voteafphone quaker. So.
Sokratis Papafloratos: Yeah, yeah.
Alejandro: So what do you think you know like what? what do you? think you took a little bit of time before really becoming on a entrepreneur. What what was there for you.
Sokratis Papafloratos: You know it was um it was a sense of uncertainty. It was a sense of kind of not being quite quite ready. It was um, you know Greek family. That engineering get a job kind of pressure thing. But I I mostly joke about that I wanted first to to learn a few things I didn’t feel like I had enough experience coming straight out of university looking back I was. Um, ah, full of energy completely. You know, oblivious to things like risks things that you can do but at the same time you know Vodafphon was a great school I learned things there in the three 4 years that I was there at the time that i. Still used to this day I met some great people. My first investor in my next company was the city of oafon uk who I did an internship for for for six months as so would it take to really drive people and drive teams of people and how you can make change even in those large organizations. I understood the thing that stood out for me at the time there was the kind of disproportionate exponential impact that a tiny number of people have in a team and in an organization especially in a large organization like like voafphon but I also just picked up. Ah a bunch of like really useful things that. That’s served me well in in everything I’ve done since then and the next step to go to to quicker was kind of that next transition this was in in 2005 that I got the job there and that was a startup that had just raised their series. They called it. The series F or something like that they had just raised money from sequoia now in 2005 I had to go Google what seoia was what the Vc was who sequoia where I didn’t really know, hardly anything about the space right? And then I was like okay this is pretty good. This can either go one way and. It’s going to be really successful or it might go another way and I’m just going to learn a ton but the main thing that the the time there did was like it it sort of took apart a little bit the myth of the founder and the entrepreneur because again. Back then you don’t have this celebration of entrepreneurship and all this kind of amazing content from like you put together. For example, you create so that you can really get close to what the founder does what kind of person that you know that mythical creature is so then when I met Seoul who.
Sokratis Papafloratos: Is like supremely talented super you know he’s very smart Stanford engineering graduate had raised money from sequoia but then you meet that guy and it’s just a guy with that happens to be smart pragmatic and has the energy in the drive to make something. Happen and create something and that was like a big teaching moment where it was like okay, cool. This thing is hard but it’s not like you know it’s impossible. This guy can do it. He’s okay, but he’s not like orders of magnitude better smarter than I am so I can actually I can do what I was planning I want.
Alejandro: So then in this case, trusted places. So how did you come up with the with the concept you know and and and what really allowed you to be at ease with taking the leap of faith and saying no to corporate and and and building your own destiny.
Sokratis Papafloratos: Do.
Sokratis Papafloratos: So let me answer the the the the last part of the question First. So at the time I was 26 and I had I had about 3 options. 1 ah was to do an Mba the other one was to continue. This is actually the the decision to do trusted place. It’s a little bit connected also with a decision to leave voter phone and join quicker right. Voraphon I was ah had an opportunity to join their global leadership program and that kind of I have a good friend who did that and he’s now like 20 years on a very very successful. Very very senior exec in vodafphon I have that path. Had the path of doing and Nba or had the path of actually living all that and joining a company that had 1 other person in London and doing something completely different and I chose that path because I knew that what I really wanted to do was start my own company. So I thought okay I learned a lot that voafphone. Why don’t I actually get some experience of what. Smaller company how it works and what what? that’s all about so that’s kind of the path that that I took and the decision was was not difficult because again I had saved some money at the time my parents were supportive I borrowed some money when I say some money. We’re talking about £50,000 in total mostly my savings and a small amount that like I think was ten or fifteen thousand that I actually borrowed from from my parents. Um and I could spend on money and again I I weighed things up right? It was the cost of doing an and Nba or starting a business. And again I thought if it doesn’t work out I will learn more than just going to school which is not really how I like to spend my time and the downside for me was very limited when you are at that point there’s not many things that can really go wrong unless you screw up something. In a big way or someone something that damages you so. That’s how I made the decision. The idea was a very natural idea so trusted places was a business that it combined user generated content with a classified model. So we asked you to review and rate and actually create points. Around your city for the places that you went to eat to drink to the businesses that you used so it was very much like local discovery through the people that live in that city and then the business was a classified model where we helped local businesses advertise richer local audience.
Sokratis Papafloratos: And then places like businesses that let you book restaurants and or to take away and we had like affiliate relationships with with those so it was a fairly simple business but difficult to build and scale especially back in 2006
Alejandro: Now you guys say first first first company first exit. So I mean at least you know it was a a good outcome. So how was that for you to be able to really see that full cycle of of going from the beginning all the way to the end. So.
Sokratis Papafloratos: That was man that was a a character building for years I can tell you that it was 5 years actually in total. So that business we started. It took off really? Well, we. Again at the time we it was such a quaint startup scene in in London right? I remember being in ah at an event we didn’t know anyone and myself and my co-founder so we just had to go out there and. Every event every drinks every networking every conference we would just turn up and try to meet as many people as we as we could. We met our first investor like real investor. So the the first people that backed us like I put someone in the first thing I did I went and spoke to. Voteraphon Cto that I did my six month internal internship Ed and then a finnish friend of mine that was also kind of doing his own thing having moved in in the bay area in in California and that gave us that kind of initial seat capital that was I think. Close to £100,000 or something like that so we could get going but then the real institutional the first institutional investor we just met by speaking to somebody at an event. We didn’t know him he didn’t know us back then people thought that I remember somebody. Standing up at an event would you pass the mic around and make a crazy prediction about the future that person stood up and said that I think facebook is gonna be worth $4,000,000,000 one day and everybody laughed because the world was just kind of very very very different even though we’re talking about only fifteen years ago so yeah we we started we we kind of just when after it, we found some initial traction then we found you know that monetization was a completely different beast. We had to crack that the lowest point in that company’s trajectory was. We run out of cash so hard that our overdraft had finished and the check that I had sent to pay our commitments to our v commitments bounce that was like the lowest it it got right? But what got us through that was the fact that. Was working on a bit to be like white label deal I knew that our traffic was growing I knew that we were navigating the market and how things were changing quite well so I knew that we would we would pull through. We also went to raise money in september 2008 is when we.
Sokratis Papafloratos: Kicked off our our funding round at that time which was not a good time to be going out to to raise money you can remember um and so but despite we we navigated that started growing again. Took the company to profitability found ourselves in a place that where we could control our destiny raised some more money at that point and eventually found an excellent exit and an acquisition by yale group which was at the time the biggest classified company in the world. Yellow pages kind of company here in the Uk with some assets in the us and in Latin America as well and at the time I knew that you could see how the structure of that market was changing. You could see how Google would really own a lot more of that customer journey and not just become. And by passing away that first click of your kind of organic search results and I knew at the time that either you needed to raise significant capital in the hundreds of millions to build the the company that you needed to build there or you. You are much better off in partnering with a bigger player and doing it at that point so we managed to do that and get ah a great return for our investors. A great return for me as my first business. It’s the thing that kind of allowed me to do the things that I did after that. So yeah, that was. That was a great great four year journey.
Alejandro: So that was a first company first exit and then obviously as they say once an entrepreneur entrepreneur always an entrepreneur. We’re gonna be talking about what you guys are doing right now but before doing that you know once this exit happened with a trusted places you went and you started. Your next company. You know after doing that vesting and and resting as they call it with yale you know who acquire your business you then went at it again with together and they hear unfortunately the outcome was not. You know the desired one. So as they say you either succeed or you learn. So what did you learn here with the journey with together.
Sokratis Papafloratos: So what I learned there was the um, the kind of the power of that you can have to convince others but also to convince yourself and the the denial that sometimes. Founders can can find themselves living in so what we did with with together. Ah the the conviction that we had was the right 1 right? and that conviction was so let me like the product. There was a mobile app that let you it was actually not a mobile app but it was a cross-functional product that worked on mobile and web. Let you share photos videos and messages with the people closest to you in absolute privacy. So we built one of the first and one I believe one of the best experiences when it came to getting your family around a really nice timeline where you could share moments. Create groups for your your your friends as well and do that in a way that had no clutter, no advertising the enemy in quotation marks that we were after that were fighting was Facebook right? and there were very good reasons to. Take Facebook on and to believe that we could win what we lost sight of was messaging and what’s up and also what I could not appreciate but I felt very deeply as a competitor very quickly was the power of compound growth and exponential growth. So when we looked at Whatsapp at the time it had 50000000 users so like okay you know what? there’s a few billion people on the internet billions of families whatsapp is a messaging app. Facebook is massive. That’s who we’re after. And then within about I don’t know eighteen months or something like that. My numbers here are probably wrong in the timeline Facebook what’s up had 800000000 users and everybody’s family was on a messaging app and at that point you need to have the maturity to know there’s no way I’m gonna win. This battle this this this game right? I’ve lost here but we were led along by a bunch of false positives that we had and we were led along by the emotional connection that we had with the product. So what I mean by that we had hundreds of thousands of users. We had. Constant showering praise and feedback and direct emails reviews of how much people loved the product. We loved the product because we use it with our farming race. Our friends. Love the product. But really we you could very clearly tell that right.
Sokratis Papafloratos: That either you have an app that will grow exponentially into the hundreds of millions of users and you have a real valuable asset there that you may monetize at some point but you will figure it out so hundreds of thousands of users mean absolutely nothing or you have a product that you. Only monetize and it’s a premium product. There’s no free version of it and I had the moment of clarity when we were trying to raise money and um, we had a user who was one of our power users that is he’s the son of a very. Like his family has a family office and he’s the son of a very wealthy family and I was speaking to him about pitching to him our round right? and he was talking to me about the business model and our business model was a free me model that was about one ninety nine per month for an extra set of features. And he was like I love the bra I use it all the time. Um I was like look gar you on the premium person. it’s like no no no no no it’s like why well I’m not gonna pay for up I was like okay we have a problem here if this guy that is worth few hundred million is not goingnna pay one ninety nine for a nap to use that he already loves. We don’t really have a business here. So we. Stayed with it longer than we should have had we were quite stubborn. We gave it a really good. Go I would not admit defeat so we kept going a year and a half longer than we should have right? So we gave it 3 three and a half good years. We gave it a really good. Go learned a lot. We decided to spend the last three months of cash that we had building tools that would let people remove their content. We gave people about three months notice we looked for a home for the business we had aqui higher offers at the time that wanted to acquire the team and the technology but they wanted to kill the product. But you know life’s too short. Um, we didn’t want to do any of that stuff. So we just walked away everybody download the content we wrapped it neatly in a bow without leaving any debt behind or any liabilities or any disgruntled customers and just you know. Rolled along in the sunset.
Alejandro: Now after this happened you know, basically you spent a few a few years. You know, really like testing stuff doing things even making investments and and we’ll talk about that in just a little bit but you know following here on the entrepreneurial course and and and and Journey. You went at it and started again. You know and that was you know, essentially the company that you have right now going on which is quite a success which is called Numa. So So how did the opportunity of Numa come knocking and why did you think that it was the right one for you to take on an execute.
Sokratis Papafloratos: So you know the the opportunities the the come knocking. But you also you know you go knock you know on them. So this let me explain with Meman is Muman is a digital health platform focused on men. So we give you the the tools to take care of yourself. But we also give you a seamless unified experience that spans diagnostics prescribing delivering medication and having access to a team of doctors and pharmacists that can help you with allevating symptoms. For conditions that affect men’s health but also understanding and addressing the root causes behind some of those symptoms. So it’s using technology and data to close experience. Gaps that exists that exist in healthcare and to bring health and wellbeing a lot closer together. So we’ve been doing that for the last four years we do that here in the yeah uk we have now served more than a quarter of a million men in our home market and we have a lot more than that that engage with us. We’re one of the leading consumer health. Brands in in our category. We have very healthy economics behind the business and we are in a market where it’s it’s a gigantic market. It’s one that is still kind of one of the last places to be really changed by technology and data. We have a very clear path to delivering value to the people that trust us. But then also you know having a commercial model that works with that. Which means that we are in in a place that we can grow the team scale the business in a way that kind of can be. Ambitious and intense but make a lot of sense at the same time and the kind of the seed if you like behind this idea was kind of it’s been with me since about 2012 this is about a year after I had sold I had left the acquire of my. First business I spend a bunch of time back in Greece doing sailing building an outdoor basketball court that I always wanted to build you know myself or my life having fun chilling like do know that stuff and also I spend about. Four months in San Francisco in 2012 kind of meeting friends meeting investors looking at kind of different opportunities. It was that time that I also got the opportunity to invest in http://calm.com but also at that point I was really looking into.
Sokratis Papafloratos: How can we use technology and data to really optimize performance and outcomes and quality of life and where I kind of I couldn’t figure out at the time was the go-to market in 2012 and I decided to do something that was simpler with together right. And in 2000 so that one did not work out the way that I wanted it I took again a bit of break came back to the us spent a few months there helped a friend with his business and you could see straight after that when I came back to Europe how some of the models were beginning to emerge where. Really see the go to market very clearly and that was the time that I knew okay, that’s the go to market. We can start the business from this point which is like we can start with sexual health and with hair we can start acquiring customers and we can build the platform we can raise money. And we can build that kind of broader proposition and vision around generally kind of health that helps you be healthier have more vitality be more proactive about your health not just focus on on cure. So that’s kind of what was the it was a trigger but it was a trigger that kind of activated some thinking and some motivations that were there for for quite a while.
Alejandro: And in this case, how much capital have you guys raised so far for noma and this is now you know you’ve done multiple Rodeos at this time and you’ve really seen you know what it takes you know the type of value that investors also bring to the table. So how did you go about
Sokratis Papafloratos: So we’ve raised the total of $75,000,000
Alejandro: Identifying those investors and then you know really getting them enrolled to to to to share this journey with you guys.
Sokratis Papafloratos: So that’s ah one of the things that I’ve done very differently in this in this business where I focused on first of all I committed myself to going after really big outcome with this business and I did that. Not just because it’s something that obviously is is is personally motivated. Actually it’s not obviously but I am you know I’m at the point now in my life where like you say I’ve I’ve been in a few rodeos there’s only so many Roos you can can get on. So I want this to be meaningful and I want this to be challenging and I want this to be bold and to go after something that has like real meaning real impact and and see how far we can actually take it right and the the goal and the ambition that we have for the business is really high. And when you commit yourself to doing something like that the way that you take it all the way back to the beginning means that you capitalize the business in the right way again, right? The conditions that you need to have is a really big market. A really big opportunity the right timing around that market. When that happens. You’re not obviously the only one that is thinking about that you have competition you have now especially tons of really motivated talented people with access to capital as well. So you need to move quickly. You need to find the right investors you need to commit to the to a shared vision. And that’s kind of what I did so we raised aggressively and a lot more earlier on in the business. The investors I found them through friends through people that I worked with before through people that we worked with together in the first few months of the business and there are a lot of them investors that have made. Other investors in Digital Health Angels that have a connection with the space as well. So people that can add much more than just capital
Alejandro: Now in this case, imagine that you were to go to sleep tonight and you wake up in a world where the vision of Numa is fully realized what does that world look like.
Sokratis Papafloratos: That that world is a world where men are drastically healthier. The quality of life is much better, especially when they’re going through and exiting that middle of life stage right. Middle of life is the kind of your from your 40 to your sixty s is that middle of life. It’s the point where you are at your most productive you are at your prime you have you? you’re building in your professional sense. Kind of the your your legacy and the thing that will have the biggest impact you have your family your you’re growing your family but it is also that stage of life where increasingly you have things like obesity and diabetes you have a mental health. Pandemic that has only been you know, accelerated with everything that’s going on you have increased rates of suicide for Men. You have a lot of things that kind of not only just stop you From. Let’s say being at your best but in often cases they. Put you on a path that can lead to premature avoidable death or disease later in life that can be debilitating and and very very cost to you and to the public Healthcare system What I want us to do and the the impact that I want us to have in the world is that the men that come to. To us in their late 20 s in their 30 s in their forty s for us to be able to promise them and prove to them that we’re gonna put them on a trajectory that is going to have them being healthier happier and better throughout that middle oftage life and Beyond. That’s.
Alejandro: I love it now. Imagine I put you in a time machine and I bring you back in time to that moment where you were building or thinking about maybe starting your first business trusted places and you had the opportunity of giving that younger socrates one.
Sokratis Papafloratos: That’s what I would want us to be.
Alejandro: Piece of advice before launching a business. What would that be and why given what you know now.
Sokratis Papafloratos: Wow 1 piece of advice ah would be to take better care of yourself that would be the the advice right? of um I did that those 4 years and I remember somebody asking me like what’s your favorite book at the time and it still is one of my favorite books but it was a day in the life of yvanne de nisovvitz which is written by Shola Nitche and it talks about the daily life of a kind of kuak in the 40 s which is like really when you saw you you say this out loud. It’s like dude you must have had like a difficult life. But. That speaks this kind of stoicism and being able to really go through difficult things I find the the joy in the moments in in your life. But um I did neglect my health at the time I took on like extraordinary stress I did not invest in my in my health in my wellbeing. My relationships really frankly, it was just you know a single minded extreme focus on just that and you know what I don’t think to be honest I was more protective or or anything like that. Um I just kind of that’s how I was at the time. So. Yeah I would advise that to to anyone in that point to invest in those kind of foundations for your health your body and your mind back then.
Alejandro: Amazing now for the people that are listening socrates. What is the best way for them to reach out and say hi.
Sokratis Papafloratos: It’s they can email me directly. It’s my first name at http://newman.com that’s probably the the best way they can find me on Linkedin and send me a message there as well.
Alejandro: So amazing was socrates. Thank you so much for being on the deal maker show today.
Sokratis Papafloratos: Alejandro thank you for having me I’ve been a fan for a long time. So it’s it’s it’s an honor and a pleasure to to be on it.
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