Startup Stories: Ian Chong, Co-Founder & CEO of OSbiome

OSbiome co-founder Ian Chong joined us on Startup Stories to talk about the inspiration behind his startup, the Singapore startup scene, and more.

by hao-nguyen on August 9, 2022

Ian Chong is the co-founder & CEO of OSbiome, a personalised digital health company, combining gut microbiome technology and AI to provide bespoke nutrition and lifestyle recommendations.

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Hey Ian, great to be chatting with you again. For those who may not know, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and OSbiome?

Glad to be back to share more about our journey. I’m Ian, co-founder and CEO of OSbiome, together with my partner Dr Maria CTO. OSbiome is the world’s first personalised health game that allows users to optimise their gut health in a fun and rewarding way. Users can interact with their digital pet Ome in their mobile, receive and track daily health quests that’s generated specifically for their body’s needs based on our bio AI and get rewarded for completing them. 

What inspired you to launch a startup focused on combining gut microbiome technology and AI? 

Our understanding of the gut microbiome and its impact on our health will skyrocket in the next few years. About 90% of chronic conditions are linked to the health of the gut. However, there is still a gaping hole in our understanding of the field especially in Asia Pacific where chronic conditions are spiking the highest globally. By making access to microbiome DNA sequencing technology barrier-free and making the entire process simple and fun, we would be able to use AI as a perfect tool to process the millions of complex bio data points and help save millions of lives otherwise unnecessary lost to preventable chronic conditions every year.

You’ve been involved in the Singapore startup scene for a number of years now. I’m curious to know how you’ve seen it evolve over the past decade? 

Especially with the more traditional culture being in Asia, the commonly touted road to success has always been through the corporate ladder. However, in recent years, there has been a drastic shift to a point where bringing an entrepreneur seemed to have overtaken as the default path for most. There has also been a larger increase in the supply of engineering and its related talents coming out of our education system as computing was nowhere as competitive to enrol in versus today.

We are also seeing the fruits of our labour for the past decade take shape with more unicorns such as Grab, Secretlab, etc. as they mature and take their place in the regional space. Newer startups are starting to evolve and venture into solving deeper and more technical problems like space, bio and healthtech, and moving away from marketplace, consumer-type sectors.

Funding wise, the local brands have proven their track record and started closing bigger fund sizes and hence focusing on later stages. Another category of venture capital is also getting increasingly popular in family offices due to Singapore’s position as a stable and friendly site for capital.

What do you think has been your biggest challenge as CEO since launching OSbiome, and what sort of lessons have you learnt? 

Setting and maintaining the culture and pace of the team is one of the biggest challenges I have faced. As we scale and grow the team, it gets exponentially harder for us to maintain the same level of passion, pace and relationships especially when we are a remote team. The biggest lesson I have learnt is to ensure that irregardless of how busy or tight our timelines are, there must always be an allocation in time for team bonding and forming relationships as people within the team. 

If you were looking to hire new team members to join OSbiome, what do you think the company’s biggest selling point would be? 

We are tackling one of the world’s biggest problems – 20M people are dying every year due to preventable chronic conditions – and the age at which people are suffering is getting younger. If we shut the world down with covid, potentially we are dealing with an issue that’s multiple folds in severity. With our unique approach to health tech, we would be able to provide real world impact much quicker than any traditional biotech companies which require at least 8-10 years timeline.

One last question before we let you go, what’s next on the horizon for OSbiome? Where do you see the company in the next few years? 

We have pre sold the world’s first personalised health NFT game earlier this year and have received amazing feedback with our early supporters. In the next few years, we want to make personalised health accessible for everyone in the most simple manner and fun manner. 

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