Pictured: Aonghus Shortt, founder and CEO of FoodMarble
Aonghus Shortt is founder and CEO of FoodMarble, which manufactures a device to help people measure the digestive process to overcome chronic digestive conditions. The team at FoodMarble created a world-first personal digestive breath tester, and is now building an at-home platform to guide care for complex chronic GI conditions.
What was your first job?
My first proper job as a teenager was in McDonalds. I wasn’t keen on the idea initially, but I was so glad I did that in hindsight.
What pushed you to pursue a career in this field?
I got into digestive health indirectly. My now wife, Grace, was really struggling with her own digestive health. I was recently out of a PhD, so I dug into the scientific literature and came across breath analysis, as performed using big desktop devices. I decided naively to make one myself for Grace. The first prototype was very basic, but it gave an indication of which foods she could actually digest without feeling terrible!
What would you regard as your greatest achievement to date?
When we first started, we did a pre-order campaign. It attracted $1m of paid pre-orders, which was great. Yet, it was perhaps even better when we actually completed that first batch of devices and got them out to those early backers.
Career wise, would you do anything differently?
No. Looking back, it all led me where I am now.
In one sentence, how would you define success?
I think it’s about making use of our short time on this earth to make it a little better, as best as we can.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Our first chair John O’Dea, who’s a legend in medical devices, advised that you need to start with the validation and put significant emphasis on proving the value of what you do with the top people in research. We did a pretty good job of that I feel, and it has really helped.
How do you motivate yourself and your staff?
Helping people think bigger (for example, how would we grow this business) can be a great motivator since it makes people think in radically different ways.
How do you handle adversity?
Problems are often not as bad as they feel emotionally in the moment, or at least, there’s generally a way out. Having control over your emotional state in the moment and knowing what mode you need to switch into, so your team responds appropriately is key.
How do you relax?
I love doing little bits of DIY when I’ve a chance. It’s very different from my normal routine.
What is your favourite (non-business) book?
That’s a tough one. I really like Passage to India by E. M. Forster.
What are your aspirations for the future of the business?
A world where the normal thing is to have a device like ours, as a life-long gut health companion. You would use it more at first and at certain points in your life, but the data would help you adjust your diet continuously to achieve your health goals. People are starting to realise that your gut health is perhaps the strongest determinant of long-term good health.