If male health has traditionally been a somewhat neglected field, perhaps it’s partly due to men’s reticence in seeking help when it’s required. One firm that is encouraging men to take their health seriously is Numan, whose CEO, Sokratis Papafloratos, gives us some background.
It’s an honour to meet you, Mr Papafloratos! Thank you for spending this time with us. Can you tell us about the inspiration behind Numan and why you are passionate about men’s health?
I’ve been thinking about the idea behind Numan for over a decade. It was around 2012 when I sold my first company, Trusted Places, and I was starting to take a very different view of what it meant to be fit and healthy. I realised that I had neglected my health as I built the company. I smoked, drank, and I was always stressed and tired, so I set out to develop better habits and improve my well-being. As I did so, I got more interested in men’s health, specifically holistic health.
Holistic health is important to me because health issues don’t exist in a vacuum. Sometimes when people are ill, they are given treatments to help their symptoms, but I think healthcare should be about getting to the root of the problem and this is what I’ve tried to do with Numan.
Before starting Numan, I realised that there were very few healthcare organisations that were targeted at men. I also saw how digital technology could be used to improve healthcare for medical professionals and their patients.
Fast-forward five years later and we’ve built a website, an app, and we’ve helped over 350,000 men with a range of issues including sleep, premature ejaculation, erectile dysfunction, and more.
We understand that you have led two other companies and have been an angel investor for 10 years. How have these experiences shaped your approach to building and growing Numan?
During my time as an entrepreneur, I have gone through all the different stages of a business and learned so much along the way. My experiences have taught me about good leadership, perseverance, and communication, which have been invaluable to me as I’ve built Numan.
As any founder will tell you, money is essential for a business to function. Numan wouldn’t be possible without adequate funding. My experience as an angel investor gave me some insight into what other investors look for when trying to determine if a business is worth supporting. This was helpful during the pitch process and, eventually, we were able to raise £2 million in seed funding before launching Numan.
But what I’ve learned is that, aside from funding, the thing you need is passion. In hindsight, I realise that I pursued some of my previous companies because they were great business ideas. But I didn’t have true passion for them. With Numan, I definitely have that. I genuinely believe it is the most important thing I could be spending my life on and I think that’s something that sets me apart.
After that, you obviously need a talented team and I am very lucky to work with great people at Numan, from our medical professionals to marketing, research, procurement, and more. Everyone does their part to deliver exceptional healthcare and products to men across the UK.
Being a young father and the CEO of a VC-funded scale-up business can be challenging. How do you balance your personal health and well-being with the demands of your professional life?
Ultimately, health comes first. It would be impossible to lead the team at Numan and spend time with my family if I wasn’t mentally, physically, and emotionally healthy.
Since my first business, I have tried to be more intentional about my work-life balance. I exercise regularly, I try to get a good amount of sleep and I don’t drink too much alcohol. I also make sure I set aside enough time to have outlets for the things that I enjoy doing, like basketball, hiking in the mountains, hanging out with friends, and being with my family. I feel the effects very quickly if I neglect any of these.
How do you effectively lead and align a diverse range of teams, from doctors and nutritionists to brand and marketing experts, towards the common goal of improving men’s health?
The most important thing is to be aligned on the overall aim and goal. Everyone at Numan, regardless of their job role, knows that our mission is to improve men’s health. And we always set clear goals and priorities for the company, so everyone knows what to focus on.
Where it gets more difficult is how that translates on a day-to-day level, but that’s the same with any company. We are probably in a tighter regulatory framework than most companies, because we are offering prescription medication, and sizing up a new product is more complex because, as well as strategic fit, we have to consider clinical design and evaluation.
But one of my main jobs as CEO is to provide that high-level clarity and make sure people are aligned. From there, I know I can rely on the people we have to execute cross-functionally.
What steps do you take to motivate and encourage your employees to prioritise their health and wellness?
We have some core internal values as a company and one of those is to “refill the cup”. I know from personal experience the importance of work-life balance and we want people to feel pushed at work. That said, they also need to be able to take the time to rest and recharge.
We also offer other initiatives like days off for volunteering, remote working, discounted gym membership, and private health insurance.
How has your personal health journey shaped your understanding of the challenges that individuals face when it comes to weight management and overall well-being?
Although I’ve never struggled massively with my weight, as I mentioned above I have previously struggled with keeping healthy habits like getting regular exercise, eating well, getting enough sleep, and quitting smoking. These can have a big impact on weight and well-being, as well as a host of other health issues.
But, whilst I’ve never been obese, I’m well aware that obesity is a disease, so it may not always be the result of poor diet or a lack of exercise. Regardless of why people struggle with their weight, the impact on the body can be huge. It can contribute to cardiovascular issues, diabetes, mobility issues, and more, so managing weight is vital.
The good news is that the way we treat obesity is going through a revolution. New weight loss drugs like Wegovy can result in a 15 per cent reduction in body weight and work by driving metabolic reset, so you maintain a healthy weight and keep it off for good.
For obese patients that meet the criteria and who have struggled to maintain a healthy weight, these drugs could be a game-changer – not just for individual health, but also by reducing the burden on the NHS.
However, it’s important to note that, while medications like Wegovy hold great promise, they are only part of the solution. They need to be used as part of a wider holistic healthcare programme that focuses on diet, exercise, sleep, and more. That’s why we offer ongoing coaching in all these areas as part of our programme. It’s also important that the medication is carefully prescribed only to patients who meet the guidelines, and not to individuals who are looking to lose weight for aesthetic reasons.
How do you believe that men can be empowered to take action and prioritise their own health?
First, we need to shake men out of their inertia and motivate them to take action to improve their health. Men are often inactive about their health, they put off finding solutions like visiting a doctor, even when they know it will be helpful. We need to challenge men to understand that their health is in their hands.
Once they’re motivated, men can be empowered to take action on their health by making it accessible to them. One of the reasons we made Numan digital is so that men can have access to health products and professionals at the tips of their fingers.
Lastly, what are your long-term goals and visions to empower the field of men’s health?
We are trying to build a company, a product, and an experience that doesn’t exist yet. The next step is to be preventative. My vision is a world where men are drastically healthier, especially in the middle phase of life (40s-60s) when men are in their prime.
The healthcare term we like to use is patient-centred care. At Numan, we want to put the people at the centre and give them a holistic view of what they need to do to be optimally healthy with as little friction as possible.
Sokratis Papafloratos is an entrepreneur with over 17 years of experience. He is the founder and CEO of Numan, the leading digital healthcare company in the UK. Numan has raised millions in funding and the company has helped more than 350,000 men in the UK.