You will fail, learn from it. You would think as a researcher this would have been a given, but it took a while to get comfortable with failure. For anything from product development to complex problem-solving, failure helps drive progress forward and gives you knowledge along the way if you take the time to learn from it.
As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewingStephen Phipps.
As Chief Innovation Officer, Stephen is responsible for creating and implementing innovative new product development plans in collaboration with internal and external science, manufacturing, marketing, and regulatory experts. He provides strategic counsel and assistance as appropriate to the company to launch products and drive revenue generation through an exceptional portfolio. In addition to this, he reviews areas of innovative growth that align with, and may complement the existing portfolio. Prior to his role, Stephen was a practicing Naturopathic physician in the Seattle, WA area. His emphasis and clinical training was in clinical education and community health. He completed a two-year residency at Bastyr Center for Natural Health where he led student teaching shifts, taught classes including Basic Pharmacology, Clinical Pharmacology and Drug-Herb Interactions, and participated in clinical research.
Prior to becoming a practicing physician Stephen received his PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences where his studies and doctoral research focused on bio-guided fractionation of plant extracts used for medicinal purposes, specifically in mental health. Afterwards he focused on medical writing for supplementation formulation, claim substantiation, clinical research design and statistical analysis for the betterment of industry standards. Stephen’s research experience has been ongoing since his undergraduate studies when he began his research career in integrative pest management at the USDA-CMAVE facility in Gainesville, Florida. His diverse research experience allowed for him to gain knowledge in both analytical techniques as well as clinical based science. Stephen earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Botany at the University of Florida, a PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Florida, and his Naturopathic Doctorate at Bastyr University. He is also a member of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians and the Naturopathic Academy of Primary Care Physicians.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
It was a zig-zag across various science focuses in school, as well as working as a chef in restaurants and learning about various cultures. At the end though, the first real moment where my brain was like, “This is something amazing!” was my first Ethnobotany class. Learning about the relationships we have had, as humans, with plants and plant-based compounds, since probably before civilization began, was incredible to me. Each group, or culture, had a slightly different spin, but for the most part there was a lot of cross-over, even in medicine. So, for me I wanted to focus on medicine in a way that brought food and natural products into people’s lives to reinforce health and wellness.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Honestly, the Effusio project is the most interesting thing that has happened. Building out the product line and seeing a project we have worked on at the bench level for three years move toward full-scale production has been the most interesting thing to date.
Can you tell us about the Cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?
Right now, we are working on several different things. One involves new product developments in the immune support space. We are focusing on a bioavailable quercetin with additional supporting vitamins and minerals, like vegan vitamin D3, with the hope of supporting an optimal immune response in areas like respiratory support. With increased bioavailability, we should be able to really see how bioflavonoids, like quercetin, can have a huge impact on immune function. On the other side, we are busy working on personalization in a way that can really be sustained at the smaller level, not just large buckets that sub-group the population, which is what we see now. Lastly, we are working hard with our sustainable-packaging partners to get to a place where our line will be totally home-compostable.
How do you think this might change the world?
I think there are a lot of ways we could see these breakthroughs change the world. We could see new ways to deliver nutrients to areas with the greatest need. We can deliver efficacious complex nutrient offerings to individuals with difficulty swallowing capsules. We could begin to economically look to create wellness plans that support health care at home. As personalized recommendations from at-home testing become a larger part of a person’s wellness journey, we can work to bring about a product that meets their needs and changes as the person’s wellness goals change. And all the while, we would be creating packaging that limits the shipment of water and relies on materials for packaging that move away from detrimental plastics that dominate the environment.
Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?
With personalization, I could see one “Black Mirror” moment, with the minimization of the collective and an increased push of narcissistic behaviors becoming normalized. We could drive ourselves farther apart by focusing on our slight differences, and over time forget that the subtle biochemical differences we focus on to optimize are still collectively working, in the general sense, the same as everyone else’s. So, over time, one could see potential social classes coming out — much like the social media episode at the begging of Season 3. On the flip-side, all the discord from the constant focus on personal differences could shift to a more “Harrison Bergeron”-like feel, where personal optimizations are controlled and placed to the same levels.
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?
It started to coalesce when a bunch of us sat around toying with the idea. First came the potential to deliver nutrients in a dissolvable disc format, then we really started to expand into the sustainable packaging. We really got excited at the potential this idea could bring. As we talked about it more and more, the idea just snapped into place, and we jumped onto the bench and got started. Getting back the first analytical readouts that we could do it and do it precisely — that was the icing on the cake.
What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?
Because we have a great partner with Thorne, we just need time and outreach. The products have been well received and are efficacious, so continuing to deliver these unique products will increase the adoption rate over time.
What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?
When telling the story of Effusio, we focus the narrative in four core areas. First, reconnecting consumers with meaningful health outcomes. Second, having the challenger brand mentality and drive to disrupt the functional beverage industry. Third, we are focusing on advancing our sustainable and tech-driven business. When marketing a new digitally-native brand, we see video as a primary tool for education and accelerating awareness. Beyond brand content, we want to show Effusio enhancing consumers’ daily lives. Finally, we want to leverage Thorne’s relationships and building on partnerships with voices that continue to foster our credibility.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
For me, it’s my wife Lindsay, hands down both my number one fan and my biggest motivator/driver. She is an amazingly intelligent individual who put her life on hold to help support our family. From the time we dated, she has always been someone to push me to be the best version of myself. Without her sacrifices and her support, I would not be here to share these things with the world. I truly am grateful for that and for her. I know I would not be here without her support, and I hope I can show her my gratitude by providing the same.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I have mainly been trying to support the community around me, with COVID-19 restricting so much of how we interact and do business, especially in the service industry. So, donations to groups like Pay It Forward Charleston, which helps the food and beverage community, local farmers, and other suppliers who have been hit with the decline in business. Also trying to give as much as we can to support local food banks and shelters. My family and I feel lucky to call the Charleston area our home, so we believe it is important to make sure we do our part and support our neighbors.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- You will fail, learn from it. You would think as a researcher this would have been a given, but it took a while to get comfortable with failure. For anything from product development to complex problem-solving, failure helps drive progress forward and gives you knowledge along the way if you take the time to learn from it.
- Listen to the people around you. Everyone is creative in some way and solves problems differently. Learning from this can help solve broader problems.
- Tap into your life experiences. They are unique and shape how you see things. Being able to bring those unique things to solving a problem will help set you apart.
- You will need help, and that is okay. Finding help takes more than just increasing a headcount. You should focus on the things you know are weaknesses for you. From there you get to round out your team and learn from them as well over time.
- Take a moment to switch off. Even if your passion is work, being able to step away from a problem to solve and switch your mind to somewhere else helps you process and potentially solve it faster than just focusing on it. For me it is cooking, focusing on the small repetitive tasks with muscle memory away from my job allows for space to process and work through roadblocks.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
The small steps movement. As we move through life, it would be amazing if we could just be mindful to take the small steps everyday to leave this place better for the next generation. This would be for everything, from how we take a moment to help someone, help yourself, make someone feel special, or take a step to help the environment. It is no surprise that we will leave this place; we just don’t know how many days we have on it. So, if we all had this philosophy, then I think the forward movement we would see in a lot of different areas would be surprising.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Who so would be a man must be a nonconformist.”
To me, this has been relevant because it helped me shape that we all have our paths. With our unique paths we find greatness, we find happiness. But going alone, we also endure some of the hardest failures. In the end, we have something to give that is an expression of ourselves. Knowing this also helps frame how we see other people and their own journey through the madness of life. It gives the space for personal happiness through what you do, but also empathy for those around you. We all are striving to figure it out. While each path may be different, there is something to learn from those around us that could be useful for our own.
Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
We are here to be disruptors, to use high-quality ingredients with efficacious dosing in a way that helps the end-user create a beverage-like experience they don’t just enjoy, but they also feel the difference.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
At the moment, it has been crazy busy getting everything set up for Effusio and Thorne. If you are interested in seeing more and following along with the new products and how we are looking to reshape health and wellness, then you can follow here:
Effusio — Instagram @Effusio, LinkedIn, YouTube, Facebook, Pinterest
Thorne — Instagram @Thorneresearch, LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.