Founders Series: Mira Gleisberg, CEO & co-founder of RespiQ

The founders series takes a deep dive into the journey of Antler portfolio company founders and sheds light on the space they are building in. This week, we spoke to Mira Gleisberg, CEO & co-founder of RespiQ.

RespiQ empowers people to take control of their health with validated personal health guidance they can trust. RespiQ is developing a Breathalyser platform technology that can analyze disease indicators in the breath for a large variety of diseases, from food intolerance to infections and cancers, etc. RespiQ’s mission is to positively impact the health of millions and generate huge amounts of actionable data by providing accurate, non-invasive, and affordable technology for the early detection of health issues.

Tell us the story behind your name.

Respiro means breath in Italian. My husband is Italian, so I liked the wording. RespiQ = Breath IQ

What attracted you to want to build in the health-tech space? 

I want to help people live more healthily and prevent disease as much as possible. When I heard about the possibilities of breath diagnostics, I was very excited because it’s a  non-invasive method  of testing that reveals a lot of health information.

How is what you are doing in this industry different and why is it needed?

We are developing a new technology that brings breath diagnostics to people’s homes. It has the potential to be more cost-effective, smaller, and more accurate compared to the existing diagnostic technology available.

How did your background and experience benefit you in the ideation process and creating your company?

  • One of the challenges we have is that our technology can be applied in many healthcare areas. My strategy experience helped me to quickly identify the sweet spots in the space with our technology.
  • The Upside Club & Spotzer help me understand the basics of starting your own company, the excitement and challenges, and risk you will face, and how important it is to build the right network and advisors around you putting the user needs at the center of the product you are building. Even in the healthcare space, it is so crucial to building a simple user-friendly product. 
  • Philips also taught me to always build a product that makes all stakeholders happy (so the insurance companies, doctors, B2B partners, etc.) I also learned the importance of clinical validation, prototyping, and testing your product early on. 

What are the biggest trends you are seeing in this industry right now? 

I am seeing much more focus on holistic health, not only fitness/physical activity but also in the areas of nutrition, stress reduction, etc. For example, sports clubs are trying to attract more members by offering broader services, including things like nutrition advice. 

I am also seeing an increasing demand for personalized nutrition, as we realize that a healthy lifestyle is not a one-size-fits-all solution.  

Due to Covid, there is also an increased awareness of the utility of breath analytics within the healthcare system. There is also a strong focus on understanding the biological pathway of diseases and the release of certain VOCs in the breath for these diseases. The more specific biomarkers we find, the more important the role of non-invasive breath analyses can play in our healthcare system.

Can you share your co-founder story?

Combining my passion for gymnastics and my strategy consulting career, I realized that I wanted to help people live better and healthier lives and prevent disease in the most optimized way possible. When I joined Antler and met Vitalii Vorkov, my co-founder, who brought in the technology and the possibilities of breath diagnostics, I was very excited. Vitalii studied aerospace engineering in Russia and came to Belgium for a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering, where he also developed data science skills. He invented our technology during his spare time and it’s based on an old and forgotten Russian technology.

What advice do you have for founders thinking about taking the plunge into entrepreneurship? 

  • Follow your heart and passion and make sure you work with people you connect well with. Know that it will be an emotional rollercoaster that can bring you a lot of satisfaction and learning, but also disappointment.
  • Always make sure that you have a manageable and sustainable work-life balance and you are clear about your priorities in life. For women with children, I recommend to make sure your family is supporting you and you prioritize your work even better than others so there is enough time for your family and off course yourself to have a sustainable lifestyle. 
  • Before going for it, also make sure you are ok with the financial risks of  not getting paid high salaries. You need to be clear with yourself about how long you will have the opportunity to take these financial risks.
  • Make sure you have a clear goal for each entrepreneurial journey you start, from personal learnings to successes.

What have been some of the milestones your company has achieved since its inception?

  • We have proven our technical principle and ability to measure very small concentrations in gas + developed our first test device
  • We have won the innovation award of AIM congress & European tech innovation grant
  • We joined a large research consortium focusing on prevention, detection, and treatment of lung diseases. We are part of the lifestyle intervention study.

What is the vision for in 2021 and beyond? 

We want to finish developing our first prototype and do our first clinical validation. After that, we will be working on launching our first application in Food Intolerance.

Mira and Vitalii were part of our Antler Amsterdam’s first-ever cohort back in 2019. They have won a couple of awards since then, proving that their idea is innovative and impact-focused, including Innovation Award from Annual Investment Meeting (AIM), Eu Innovation grant (Digi-B-Cube).

Get in touch with RespiQ here.

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