People of Landscape - Napala Pratini, Co-founder & COO of Habitual

Napala is the Co-founder and COO of Habitual, which harnesses innovations in digital therapeutics combined with rigorously validated nutritional strategies to deliver scalable, personalised, and effective treatment for type 2 diabetes and prediabetes. She is based in London.

How long have you been a Co-founder for?

2.5 years.

Are you a first-time or serial Founder?

First time.

What's your backstory. How did you come to be a Founder?

My startup career began nearly 10 years ago when I joined a then 30-person fintech called NerdWallet. After two years, the company had grown into the hundreds, and I had fallen in love with being a part of the startup journey. I spent the next few years specialising in growth & marketing for early-stage companies, eventually moving to the UK and joining a small business that was doing research into the reversal of type 2 diabetes. It was there that I met my co-founder and we realised the potential for this research to help millions of people across the globe—so we left to start Habitual and to (hopefully!) deliver on that potential.

What has been the highlight of your Founder career so far?

I’ve absolutely loved growing our team—I think it became real when I realised we were paying for mortgages and new families. Plus, our team is >60% female which I’m super proud of.

What has been the lowlight?

Rejection is never nice, and as a founder you inevitably get some pretty tough rejections from investors. I’m really lucky to have an incredible cofounder to get through it with (plus Landscape to post a vindictive review… (just kidding!). And in hindsight I’m so happy with the investors we ended up with—they really were a better fit than some of the others we were bummed about at the time.

How did you come across Landscape?

Pitched a VC who asked us to review them back when you were in beta.

What is your biggest challenge right now?

As a DTC healthcare brand, user acquisition will always be one of our main challenges, and the recent changes in the digital landscape haven’t helped at all. So we’re thinking creatively about new channels and campaigns, but always welcome new ideas :)

What's the biggest mistake you’ve made so far and what did you learn from it?

Underestimating ourselves and our capacity to raise (which impacts both how much you raise and the deal)… confidence makes such a difference in fundraising, and as a first-time founder it can be really difficult to have. Obviously it’s a balance—we’re not trying to be the next Theranos—but we’ve taken a lot of lessons about how to position our progress and the opportunity.

What piece of advice would you give to other people in similar position as to you?

Make sure your cofounding relationships are super solid—so many companies suffer because they’re not. Nobody’s perfect, but my cofounder and I do our best to tackle any issues between us as soon as they arise, and also to take periodic founder time to catch up on everything outside of work. Liking, respecting, and trusting anyone you’re building a business with is so important!

What is the most frustrating thing you find about the startup fundraising ecosystem?

Coming from the US, the UK is really frustrating because the mindset is so different (there was a thread on this in Landscape's Anonymous Founders Slack community…). In general, UK investors look for all the ways you might lose their money, whereas US investors dream about the returns you could earn them. Of course there are exceptions, but it makes it tough for UK startups when they move from angel/friends and family funding to VC world.

What you would like to see change in the startup fundraising ecosystem within the next 5 years?

More ex-operators, fewer ex-bankers… I don’t have anything against bankers, but I’ve seen firsthand the incredible value that ex-operators can add to a business, even as minority investors, and think all startups should be able to benefit from this advice.

Napala is the Co-founder and COO of Habitual. Her LinkedIn profile can be found here & her Twitter here.

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