Rick Rowan is the CEO and founder of NuroKor Bioelectronics, a startup harnessing bioelectronic technology for pain management, physical recovery and enhanced athletic performance.
Rowan founded NuroKor in 2018 when looking for an alternative to painkiller medication to treat his 30-year chronic back pain and saw the potential in bioelectronic treatments.
The London-based company has created small stick-on wearable devices designed to stimulate the nerves to relieve acute and chronic pain. NuroKor technology is now used by doctors, physiotherapists, chiropractors, and patients around the globe, along with Olympic athletes to manage their physical recovery.
In this week’s Founder in Five Q&A, Rowan explains why it’s crucial to build “real” relationships with investors, the challenges of managing to a high standard and why there’s a misunderstanding about bioelectronics.
1. What funding advice would you give to a first-time founder?
Rick Rowan: As a first-time founder, building real relationships with investors is crucial. Don’t just see them as cash sources – investors are real people with unique experiences, strong networks and little patience for founders who interact with them in a one-way, transactional manner.
You should start building investor relationships long before you intend to start raising. Also, although raising money can be all-consuming for a founder, ensure that other important parts of your business are not being neglected during this period. You can never afford to ignore things like team culture or maintaining consistently high standards.
2. What are the best and worst parts of your job?
RR: Managing people to a high standard is incredibly challenging; you have to really put the effort in to get the best from people and build a culture that is representative of your personal and company values.
When you get this right and are able to work within a well-aligned and high-performing team, this is so rewarding. But on the flip side, accepting that people come and go, and that not everyone is going to stay at the company forever, can be upsetting and hard to come to terms with as a founder.
3. In another life you’d be?
RR: Probably a pro motorcycle racer or race team owner. I’m originally from Australia, and when I lived there I was a motorcycle racer at club level. I won a championship in 2013, and definitely had thoughts about pursuing it as a full-time career if I’d been 20 years younger. But sadly now that I live in London and am focused on global health I rarely get a chance to get on a race track!
4. How do you prevent burnout?
RR: As a founder, it can be difficult to take time off or take your foot off the gas. So you need to work really hard on your mindset and your resilience to prevent burnout. Identifying what really matters and deserves your attention – and what doesn’t – is key. Don’t try and do everything yourself – trust your team and learn how to delegate effectively.
5. What’s the most misunderstood technology?
RR: There’s a real lack of understanding surrounding bioelectronic or bioelectrical technologies. People don’t tend to realise that bioelectronic devices are already in widespread use: from cochlear hearing devices, to pacemaker and spinal cord stimulators.
These devices are not something to be wary of; they have so much untapped potential to form part of integrated solutions that could transform the way we treat diabetes, inflammatory diseases like arthritis, and even gut health.
Founder in Five – a UKTN Q&A series with the entrepreneurs behind the UK’s innovative tech startups, scaleups and unicorns – is published every Friday.
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