Theia wasn’t an “ah ha” moment in the shower, it built up as a deep desire over my whole lifetime.
Let me explain and go back to the somewhat beginning when I was 5-7 years old.
I remember the days well, having escaped war in former Yugoslavia and living in Germany as a refugee, the mental and emotional toll didn’t have the greatest impact on my health. I was in and out of hospitals a lot and then I ended up in one of those health centers where you live in the same room as what felt like 20 other kids.
I had to spend a lot of time dealing with various doctors in dark murky rooms, standing in line like they do in prisons when you watch the movies to get some – less-than-appealing food let’s call it.
Never really built trust with the doctors definitely got into some fights and felt homesick the whole time.
Looking back this was probably the starting point of my curiosity and questioning about health and doctors.
My official diagnosis was Asthma so I was put on an inhaler skyrocketing me to the cool kid list real fast. Once the inhaler was there, it definitely helped but I agonized over why I needed one in the first place.
My curiosity made me reflect on all the factors that could be affecting me, for starters in the 90s, whenever family members would come over they would chain smoke inside the house… here is a depiction of what that looked like
(photo credit: CNBC)
Except, everyone was eastern European and didn’t post memes on Twitter when they were bored from launching rocket ships into space.
My mother would put us kids in a separate room and put a towel under the crack of the doors so the smoke wouldn’t get in – to no real benefit in the end. When there was smoke I felt very off and then when I would push my lungs or be under lots of stress, the lungs would start to fail and I would need to use my inhaler to feel better.
All of this created lots of strife between me and my family, I would hate them when they smoked – which to their credit they tried to hide from me, only did it outside, and only allowed it in the house when other family members came over. My dad never really smoked, but it helped my mom take the edge off from uprooting her whole life and having to move out of the beautiful home/life she had before.
Moving to Canada cured my illness?
After 5 long years of living on 6-month visas and trying to get citizenship in Germany, we were told to get out. Luckily Canada allowed us to come into their country as immigrants so it was another big move in my life.
After many battles with my mother, essentially forcing her to stop smoking due to how it was affecting me… she did.
A new environment, no smoke, and lots of sports magically cured my asthma.
I was seeing a specialist who would make me do these intense breathing tests in tubes to measure my lung capacity. After about a few years I was passing them with flying colors, now showing above-average lung strength.
The odd part about this whole experience was that I was told Asthma was not curable and that I would have it forever.
I can say that I’m now 33 years of age as of writing this article, and since the age of 9, I have never ever had any problems with my lungs.
Once again, I noted and studied that what was being told to me and what I could influence was misaligned. I now started to analyze how my actions impacted my health and why no one else was teaching me how to do that properly.
My curiosity grew and my want for answers grew even faster.
Might as well get two Chronic Diseases?
You see in eastern European culture, it’s a standard that you eat home-cooked meals with your family. Lots of fresh meats, vegetables, grains, and some dessert.
When my parents started shopping for groceries in Canada, they immediately started commenting on how poor the food quality was.
You have to understand, before the war, my family essentially owned a whole street in Sarajevo where everyone had their own gardens full of fruits and vegetables. The meat was raised on the mountains and there were no things such as pesticides.
Especially because we were so poor, the stores we first shopped at in Canada were full of low-quality meat and extremely processed boxed food.
My parents ended up finding more boutique grocery stores that had a larger variety of fruits and vegetables while also befriending a butcher who gave them higher-quality fresh cuts of meat.
Now I on the other hand grew up in a western culture where it was popular to eat pizza, Mcdonald’s, high fructose corn syrup sweets, etc.
Don’t get me wrong what my mom cooked up at home, but when I was out it was common to indulge in the highly addictive fast foods that are so prominent today.
I started to notice that my stomach started to hurt around the age of 16-17 – things like cramping, pain, etc.
I scoffed it off as “normal” even though I also noticed that I had severe fatigue on some days. I’m talking I wouldn’t want to wake up, it was hard for me to recover and I would have a sudden loss of motivation.
This stomach issue got progressively worse, where I will spare you with specifics, let’s just say I got to a point around 21-22 years of age where I knew I needed medical attention.
The Second Diagnosis
The main turning point in my life was when I lost about 50lbs in 2-3 months. I looked like I was on my deathbed instead of starting my young life. Take a look and judge for yourself:
I remember the look people gave me when they saw me for the first time after not seeing me for months. They couldn’t hold in their reaction – it was visceral.
I was always an athlete and before I lost these 50 pounds I was in really great shape, building lots of muscle. So the contrast was even more alarming.
The official diagnosis after numerous health tests was severe Crohn’s disease.
I was in such bad shape that I endured the following:
- the connection between my small intestines and my large intestines was almost completely closed due to scarring from inflammation
- due to the inflammation and scarring in my intestines, I ended up in the hospital numerous times because when I would eat food would get stuck in my intestines and my body would revolt (throwing up for 12-14 hours straight is not fun)
- spent tens of thousands of thousands of dollars on every treatment on earth I could find
- felt ashamed to be in public – being that skinny and looking that sick messed with my brain
The list of pain goes on but you get the point.
So what came next?
Hiring 7+ Different Doctors
When I was in the worst state of health, my mentality was only one thing:
“I don’t care what anyone says, I’m going to cure myself of all disease and live the life I want”
This mindset was the difference between getting momentum vs. falling into deep depressive states and making helplessness a self-fulfilling prophecy.
This put me in a state where nothing was going to stop me and where any possible solution was worthy of testing. Again another deep dive into exploring how my actions/decision influenced my own health… against the doctor’s proclaimed “this is incurable, there are treatments that help symptoms” dogma.
Naturally, I hired a specialist/doctor from any field of medicine I could find:
- energy healer
- Chinese medicine practitioner
- function medicine doctor
- primary gastroenterologist
- secondary gastroenterologist (the best in Canada through referral)
- yoga classes
I also made sure I read every book on nutrition, diet, and lifestyle I could find to gain more perspective from as many points of view as I could find.
This led me to try different diets including high-fiber, keto, vegetable-based, etc.
You name it, I tried it.
I’ll be extremely honest, the exploration process was a huge burden on my physical and mental health because sometimes things would make me feel worse or end up in the hospital.
It was also a huge time commitment… for example, the Chinese medicine practitioner had me making “tea” which was actually what I call sludge from a witch’s cauldron. That sludge took 5-6 hours of brew time, smelled horrible, and tasted even worse.
Downing that sludge daily for months was a practice in patience and trust. Here is what it looked like when boiling it:
Would you drink that? Thought so.
The last few pieces of the puzzle in my attempt to heal were hitting the gym almost daily – a combo of trying to build strength and cardio while incorporating meditation practices to calm my mind.
The great frustration
During this whole process, I got extremely annoyed and irritated with my so-called support group of doctors, practitioners, and my parents.
Everyone contracted everyone else so my path to recovery was solely on my shoulders. Not only did I have to health my physical state, but I was having to hold the mental toughness for everyone else as well.
It was more a mental battle than it was physical because I had so many variables I had to deal with – most of them other people’s emotions and fear.
This was the second time in my life where it seemed no one really had answers for me specifically and I had to find them through trial and error.
It was at this point in life that I had a burning desire to find a way where I would be able to measure what I put into my body and how it objectively reacts. Pencil and paper were just not cutting it back then and it doesn’t cut it now either.
The Second Time = Can’t Call It A Fluke Anymore
Long story short, I managed to regain my health, gain my weight back, and even built a business during my recovery period.
it took about 2 full years to get there and when I got there, I could do anything I was not supposed to do including things like eating spicy food, traveling all around the world, building muscle, etc.
What was supposed to be a “lifelong” disease started to disappear?
Years later I wanted to get off the only medication I was taking – which was a low-dose immunosuppressant.
I told my gastroenterologist that I’m getting off no matter what and he made me a deal “Boris, let’s do another colonoscopy and if things look good I will agree to that”. This was the true test, even though I was feeling great, it was time to look under the hood and scientifically verify it.
I still remember the day…
I was laying in the hospital bed after the colonoscopy and my doctor came up to me, laid a piece of paper on my stomach, and said: “We found no signs of disease in your body, you are free to get off all meds”.
Look at how different I looked…
I proved to myself for the second time that anything was possible if I put my mind to it.
I also deeply rooted my psyche to look for solutions that would allow me to understand how food/supplements actually affect my body – because how I did it was more brute force than was accurate.
The Career Which Led To Friction
Off of my newly regained health, I spent the next 10 or so years building businesses, here is a quick overview of what that looked like:
- SEO agency
- launched a supplement company
- joined a media buy startup as a founder
- got headhunted and was an early employee at a big agency
- tried to launch a sunscreen company
- joined a tech startup
- joined health beauty startup
- launched an e-commerce brand
- launched a consulting business for people with IBD
There are other smaller projects I did, but that gives you the gist of my colorful initiatives over my career.
Why do any of this?
At one point I was a partner or owner of 3 different businesses.
All of them were respectfully successful in doing 7-8 figures in revenue, with good products.
Then I asked myself a question that changed everything…
“If I never worked on any of these businesses ever again, would I care?”
and the quick immediate answer was “no”
Thus, I made sure I would exit all those positions and free up my time as much as possible to explore what I actually wanted to do in my 30s.
The exiting was not easy, it took over 1.5 years to fully be out and I still have ties to one since I was the sole owner.
It was an important lesson learned – never commit to anything you don’t really want to do, because if you are a key player in the organization, it’s not that easy to just leave.
I spent about 1-year diving deep into what I really wanted to… not just to test but to really commit to for 10+ years.
I always came back to that desire starting at age 7-9 and being a constant in my life…
“How do we verify and understand what happens when we eat a certain food or take a supplement?”
As you now know, this had eaten away at me my whole life for very personal reasons but also because no one else had any idea.
I knew that this was my mission – make healthcare personalized using your own body’s data. My pure vision was to build analytics for an individual’s body so they can take actions that are correct for them.
My ah-ha moment came when I found out about CGMs. There was finally a way to measure a human biomarker that was meaningful, coming from my own body and in a real-time data stream?
At this point, I knew I had the first glimpse of the future I wanted to build.
I Knew I Couldn’t Do It Alone
Given that I wanted to build a Google Analytics for the body – I knew that I needed a partner who was extremely good at making software and technology.
This was not a mission I could commit 10+ years of my life to without some serious firepower alongside me for help.
So it was clear to me that I needed an absolute rockstar who is technologically based. I have lots of skills but coding is not one of them.
My gameplan to attract a top-tier cofounder was as follows:
- need to have a massive vision that’s exciting (changing healthcare forever was definitely a checkmark there)
- culture first approach – there is an inherent understanding that product and strategy change over time – what I never wanted to change was the base we built a company on. This would attract principle-based candidates.
- I was prepared 100X more than anyone I talked to on the topic. Anything they needed to look into I already had for them. It showed competence and action even without them as part of the team.
- I created a very long exploration process to ensure they were excited about the vision beyond the first few interactions and to really get to know them before jumping foot-first into becoming business partners.
With all that in place, I spent 6 months prospecting for the first 3-4 hours of my day. Networking hard and getting to know as many people as possible.
In the end, it came down to 3 candidates whom I had spent a lot of time with. Out of those three, my current co-founder Ravi ended up passing all my tests.
When I met Ravi, we immediately hit it off and started talking daily. Over 2-2.5 months of exploring our working styles and me putting him through the wringer with personality tests, skill tests, and deep exploratory conversations, he came out as the perfect fit.
I still remember when I asked Ravi if he wanted to join forces and in his developer’s brain he responded with “ok”. If you get to know Ravi, you know that’s a big head nod in the positive direction towards you and it also means he is eager to move onto the next step of progress.
Oh btw… we did this all remotely first and still to this day have not met in person yet. Here is an insight into what a lot of those first few months looked like during the exploration phase:
The Team In Place, Now What?
We came up with our vision which is:
“To create a world free of metabolic disease, optimizing how we consume, store, and use energy for sustainable health.”
This is a big vision to fill and the reality is this journey will take over 10+ years to achieve.
Over those 10+ years, we understand that it will take a lot of people who are aligned with what we want to do to help us.
It will take tremendous amounts of work and it will disrupt healthcare as we know it. Some people will hate us for it and some will love us.
In the end, if I can help others avoid the endless frustrations of what I had to go through and also push myself and anyone associated with Theia into deep levels of innovation that change healthcare from preventative to preventative, then I will be extremely fulfilled with how I decided to spend days on earth.
Lastly, if you align with our thought process and mission, I am always open to connecting.
Hope you enjoyed reading my founding story and my wish is that it helps you find extra inspiration for whatever you are working on.