Startup Q&A is an interview series showcasing early-stage health, fitness, and wellness companies.
In this Q&A, we connected with esteemed technical architect Bob Messerschmidt, founder of COR, a health optimization platform utilizing an at-home, blood analyzing spectrometer. Bob explains how his instrumental lead during his time at Apple led to the development of an entire health ecosystem and new center of wellness.
Can you tell us about what you’re working on at COR?
Bob Messerschmidt: This is not disease biomarkers or lab blood panels. COR is unsupervised machine learning for consumers: an open approach to blood chemistry correlation in which individual response to validated lifestyle interventions becomes a new class of data—beyond biomarkers—observed entirely in the home, the center of wellness.
Utilizing infrared spectroscopy, a simple, finger prick blood measurement cartridge, and a library of lifestyle programs, COR has created an entire in-home nutrition and fitness information ecosystem, combining hardware, software, and data analytics.
We launched to the market in June and have gotten good signs of early traction, quickly selling out of the pilot run of COR consoles. While we have a few more consoles returning to the website, we’ve also been taking sign-ups on our waitlist. Users are very much liking the information that a molecular fingerprint can provide, as demonstrated by a phenomenal 67% of users checking in and doing programs eight weeks in, way above the industry norm.
At launch, our lead investor Keith Rabois put it best when he said: “The key to improving your life is now available.”
How did you come up with the idea? What key insight led you to pursue this opportunity?
BM: I am a serial entrepreneur, and immediately prior to COR, I was a director of platform architecture with Apple. At Apple, in addition to building a team of over 100 engineers to develop a technology that Apple had acquired from me, I also played an instrumental role (excuse the pun) in the architecting of all of the health sensors seen to date in the Apple Watch, as well as several more still unseen.
I was fortunate to have been brought into Apple through an acquisition led by Steve Jobs, so I was able to get a seat at pretty much any table at Apple — and meetings in the design studio were the most fun…
But it was clear to me that the future growth and importance of consumer health depended on innovative technology beyond wearables, so I left Apple to chart a path for providing information to consumers that was beyond what wearables could provide.
COR has staked out the home as our operating space. The home has always been seen as the center of health and wellness, and the global pandemic has only reinforced that. Now, we are putting spectrometers in homes!
How did you turn your idea into a company?
BM: Raising our first institutional round in 2018 was the turning point for us. I’ve referred to this key moment for any startup as “the hardest thing to do in business.” Most startups never get there; that’s the reality. Even fewer get there with the backing of a top-of-the-top-tier investor like Khosla Ventures, who wrote us our first VC check.
Prior to closing our deal with Khosla, I pitched 400 venture capital firms. I suppose the key lesson for me was that we should have been focused earlier on the “vision” investors, who had initially felt out of reach to me. But the vast majority of VC firms just couldn’t see and/or share in the sheer audacity of the vision. Vinod Khosla, of course, saw it in a flash.
How big can this get? What’s the addressable market and how do you go about capturing it?
BM: “A chicken in every pot, a spectrometer in every home” is how we see it.
People today have access to better analytics about the health of their toaster than about their bodies. We aim to change that.
Who is the core customer? How are you acquiring customers? And how will you grow the customer base?
BM: Our super-user is a 25- to 40-something fit and healthy person who is already doing everything they can think of to live a long happy life. If they have an extra dollar to spend in a month, they are spending it at the gym, on food upgrades, on mindfulness, and so forth. They are looking for something they might have missed.
Our technology gives them access to a kind of data that is normative and that has not been available to anyone at any price. The utility of the measurement grows proportionally to the size of the user community.
Beyond the core direct-to-consumer channel, we imagine partnerships as well, but these tend to be slow. Right now, inbound interest from aware consumers is our growth engine.
Anything else you’d like to share with readers?
BM: COR is currently raising a new round of funding. We previously, and stealthily, raised two rounds from the best of the best venture capital firms in the world, Khosla Ventures and Founders Fund.
COR raised a $4M seed round in June of 2018 with Khosla leading and, in fact, took the whole round. Subsequently, we raised a Series A round in November of 2019 with Founders Fund leading and KV participating. We are thrilled to be backed by legends like Vinod Khosla and Keith Rabois.
With our latest round, we’re currently seeking $10–20M in Series B funding, which we will close by the end of the year.