Anttoni Aniebonam: Taking glucose to the next level 

In this episode of Revive podcast we talk about Veri, which is a health technology start-up. As the company’s name suggests (veri = blood in Finnish), Veri is a device connected to a mobile app that measures its users’ blood glucose levels, and the collected information can be used for a variety of purposes. We are honored to have Anttoni Aniebonam, the CEO of Veri, as our guest in this episode. 

How are you today, Anttoni?

  • I’m well thanks, been quite busy and it’s fun that Helsinki is starting to look like the Helsinki that I like. The days are getting longer and there are beautiful sunsets… the summer is coming! 

To begin with, could you tell us a bit about yourself: who are you, what did you study and what do you do now? 

  • Yes of course! My name is Anttoni and here’s my story in a nutshell: I am, or at least consider myself, an athlete. I used to play soccer quite professionally for many years and that has had a big impact on my life and on what I do today. At the age of fifteen I had an accident which led me to a path where I wanted to understand my health better, since back then I felt like my health had been taken from me. It was a tough time for me, I had some mild mental health issues and weight management problems, which made me get interested in nutrition and in everything related to optimizing my health. That’s when I started working on my first project, planned on studying medicine but ended up in Aalto University School of Business and got into Aalto Entrepreneurship Society, which was actually where I’ve learned most of the knowledge that I apply in my business today. 

Did you know from the beginning that you wanted to create a company like Veri, or how did your entrepreneurship journey start?

  • Actually, at the time I joined Aaltoes I was still in high school and studying for the entrance exam of a medical school. Back then I started to build another kind of a company, as I was very interested in nutrition and the optimization of health due to my accident. The project I was building was a software through which one could buy high value fitness and nutrition plans at a low cost. At that time most of the nutrition plans available were low-value and high-cost ones sold by popular fitness influencers promising a perfect change of lifestyle. I was thinking that there had to be a better way to do that, and that I could build a platform where micro-influencers could sell their own high-value fitness plans for a more affordable price. That was the project for which I was looking for co-founders when I first got into Aaltoes, but I felt like the community couldn’t properly respond to my search for co-founders back then. And actually, that became my next problem: since Aaltoes couldn’t serve my needs I was empowered to create a program called Team-up that was specifically focused on finding co-founders with Joakim Isoaho and a couple of others in 2016. Founding Team-up was what made me see what start-up and technology entrepreneurship is like in reality.

So when did you get started with Veri?

  • Veri as a company came into the picture quite a bit later. Well actually, I met my current co-founder, Verneri, already back then. Verneri moved back to Finland in 2016 after living in Texas with his family since he was 1 year old. He also found his way to Aaltoes quite quickly, not as an organizer but as a participant in Team-up with his start-up idea, and that’s how we met each other the first time. It wasn’t until 2017 that we started working together more intensively, as I had the honor to serve as the Head of Aaltoes in that year and Verneri was selected to the Aaltoes board as well, and we started working on Kiuas together. 

After 2017, when Kiuas had been launched and the next board of Aaltoes took the leadership of the ongoing projects here in Finland, Verneri and I received an opportunity to go and expand Kiuas’s agenda to China. It was in Chengdu, China, where we took the initial steps to create Veri. On that trip we were reading a book called Ten Percent Human that talks about the microbiome and how the gut is our second brain, and we found ourselves rambling about these topics night after night in our 5-square meter room where we were staying together. We were talking about how wrong it was that we knew so little about your metabolism, and how most of the global human population is metabolically ill and dies from preventable chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, prediabetes, obesity and insulin resistance. 

Since we had both been through experiences that had forced us to understand the importance of holistic wellbeing and nutrition at a very young age, we came up with the idea that we wanted to do something in that field. We started investigating the field very deeply and came to the conclusion that we would either work on something related to the microbiome or to glucose and insulin pathway modeling. We soon noticed that the microbiome field was still in its infancy but already very saturated, so it didn’t end up seeming like a competent option at that time. Since the beginning of Veri Verneri and I have been extremely passionate about user experience, and when it came to the available technologies to measure the microbiome, it did not seem like a match.. If you want to know why just find out how the microbiome is measured. Besides, the science behind it is still rather poorly known. 

So finally, after studying glucose and insulin regulation, we were listening to a podcast about a San Francisco based company called HVMN. The guys from HVMN had started to measure their blood sugar levels for fun, and it occurred to us that there could be something more to that. We started thinking that if we could better understand our blood sugar and the effect that our lifestyle has on it and vice versa, it could prevent us from going to the direction of poor health that unfortunately the whole world seems to be going towards. 

The next step was acquiring the sensors, which were actually sensors commonly used by diabetics. The data that we were able to collect was mind-blowing: the sensor was able to give us high quality medical level data via a user interface that was very easy to use. However the user experience and software layers were very weak. The sensor was made for diabetics, so it didn’t serve the needs of a user that wants to track the effects that his lifestyle has on his blood sugar. At that point it wasn’t any clear that there would be a market for this, so that’s what we started to go after by first creating a product that would serve our closest community. The device itself was ready as it was, it was doing the function that it needed to do: it gave us time series data every five minutes. The thing that was missing was the software. 

What benefits does the product offer for a healthy user in their everyday life? In other words, what does one get out of it? 

  • The benefits are numerous, and our clients gravitate towards us with a variety of needs. Perhaps the clearest benefit that Veri advocates and aims at being is a food intelligence system. What I mean by a food intelligence system in this context is that the products on the market that are related to understanding nutrition and personalized diet are quite non-existent - and Veri aims at being one. We objectively measure your personal glucose levels and match them with your diet, physical activity and sleep. With that data we help you to understand which foods get the most optimally metabolized in your body, so that it supports positive health outcomes both short-term and long-term, such as losing weight, attaining more mental clarity or preventing prediabetes, type 2 diabetes and other chronic illnesses. The causes of insulin resistance have been quite widely studied, and it has been demonstrated to be one of the leading causes of many autoimmune illnesses. By increasing your blood sugar stability and decreasing the burden on your pancreas you can lead your body further away from the state of insulin resistance and closer to insulin sensitivity - which is where the positive health outcomes will be manifested.

Let’s talk about how Veri functions in practice. Let’s say that I buy the device and it starts collecting my data - what’s next? 

  • Veri is a mobile app that communicates with the blood sugar sensor. The glucose sensor is a state of the art medical device that you put on the back of your arm and in a millisecond it makes a tiny hole on your skin and plants a filament there, which is where the blood sugar levels will be continuously measured for 14 days - so each sensor lasts for two weeks. With the Veri app you can scan yourself the same way as you pay with Apple pay, and it will tell you your blood sugar levels at any given moment. You can also upload photos of your meals to the app to follow your diet, and at the moment we are working on a direct photo recognition feature that recognizes the ingredients of your meal directly from the picture.

In long-term use of the application you will collect a food library that helps you to see which foods are optimal to your body. In the background we collect data from your Apple Health to match the data from your sleep and physical activity with the data collected by Veri in order to understand your health more holistically. Veri by itself serves the best in the field of guiding your diet, and in long-term use we can start giving you advice on what foods you should eat in certain conditions, such as “you’ve slept five hours last night, and you have been prone to blood sugar spikes during your sleep every time you have consumed these foods, so we recommend you eat these foods that have not caused blood sugar spikes in the past” or “your sports performances have always been better after consuming these things before training, so try and eat these things before the half marathon that you are going to run today”. 

How about your personal diet? Have you had any enlightening experiences, such as having thought that some food is good for you and noticing that actually it isn't?

  • I actually don’t follow any diet, since through Veri I have learned that the strict diet regimens that are talked about a lot and are recommended to the mainstream are actually very subjective. Those diets aren’t able to tell you objectively what really suits your body and what doesn’t. Though I don’t really have a diet, I do have a few principles when it comes to food: I don’t eat almost any white sugar, other simple carbs or processed food because those show in my blood sugar levels very quickly. 

Besides understanding what I eat, I’ve also learned about different layers: it’s not enough to think about what you eat but also in what conditions you eat. For example, I try to eat during daylight hours because many studies show that nighttime workers suffer a lot more health problems, especially obesity, compared to daytime workers. I’ve also noticed that it matters in which order you eat different foods: it’s good to mix fats and carbohydrates with each other - eating just pancakes with syrup easily becomes a doomed case (as it is mainly just carbohydrates). 

Some funny things that I’ve discovered is that for example bananas and porridge are catastrophes for my glucose levels, though they are foods that are generally thought of as quite basic and healthy. The interesting part is that when I have compared results with friends or even inside my family, the results vary a lot. Actually, there is a very interesting research executed in King’s College that studied identical twins and the differences in their glucose levels. The research included a part where their glucose response of the twins was measured after they ate a muffin and a banana. Turned out that their responses were completely different: the glucose levels of one twin spiked after eating the muffin, and the levels of the other spiked after eating the banana. This demonstrates that what your body metabolizes is very personal and up to the circumstances, which are things that we at Veri wish to shed more light to. 

Noor: That’s very interesting! There are so many fitness athletes sharing their diet plans to thousands and thousands of followers on the internet - no wonder that it does not work for everybody. 

Miisa: Yeah, exactly, though the nutrition plans of those fitness influencers might be adjusted to your body weight when it comes to the portion sizes, it is possible that the ingredients of the meals do not fit you at all. 

What kind of recommendations or guidelines do you have when it comes to the amount of time that the Veri sensor should be used? 

  • At the moment we offer Veri as a subscription service. The idea is that we provide you with a new sensor at regular intervals that you as a client get to decide for yourself. We are ready to provide the service to you for the rest of your life, but we find that it is particularly important to be rigorous and consistent with your blood sugar tracking during the first couple of months. After that intensive period you might want to check up on your glucose levels every quarter of a year or something like that. 

At what stage is Veri now? Can I go and buy a device already? 

  • At the moment we have a waitlist. We have people waiting to get the product, and if you are interested in pre-access you can message me. 

It has been very interesting to learn about Veri, what you’re doing is definitely something that is still quite rare on the market if you don’t have diabetes or some other illness. It’s very different from any other health technology available right now. 

  • That’s exactly what surprised us in the beginning as well. Sleep and steps are measured a lot, but there has not been an easy and objective way to measure diets yet. That’s the path that we’re on now. Blood sugar is just one of the metrics out there and there is a lot more data that can be collected besides glucose levels. However, our priority is the user experience. No matter how interesting the data is, it does not serve any purpose if you don’t get people to use your service. No matter what new features we bring to Veri, the user experience has to stay seamless. This is what our team believes in. 

Thank you so much Anttoni for joining this episode, this has been super informative and interesting, and we’re definitely going on the waitlist for Veri right away. 

Listen to this episode (in Finnish) on Spotify: 

To learn more about Veri and to join the waitlist, visit the company’s website at

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Have a great day and stay tuned for the next episode! :)