How to Turn Scientific Research Into a Thriving Startup

I am fascinated by how some of the most innovative companies first came up with their winning idea. Often, it’s by accident, such as the moment scientist John Walker scratched a stick washed in chemicals on the floor, causing it to catch fire. That was the beginning of the matchstick. Other times, it comes down to a relentless pursuit along the path of trial and error. Just ask Dean Kamen Dean Kamen, who invented the Segway but holds more 150 other patents. But sometimes, it comes down to attentive entrepreneurs who see thriving business opportunities where others don’t. Adam Legas is one of these innovators.

It all started at a hemp-and-CBD conference, where Legas met a scientist who was using nanotechnology within agriculture to increase absorption rate. More specifically, he was feeding nano-sized water molecules to 15 million chickens and thousands of acres of plants, verifying that they become many times more absorbable. Legas, who worked in real estate at the time, wanted to see if this applied to human absorption of nutrients. Soon after, Nanohydr8, an energy drink designed to bypass digestion by storing nutrients as nano-molecules, was born.

I recently reached out to the Utah-based business owner to discuss how he identified and then acted upon this unique opportunity.

How did your research validate that there was a business opportunity?

Adam Legas:I’ve always been interested in ways to improve training methods and nutrition to enhance health and physical performance. When I picked up on the idea that nano-molecules could be absorbed faster in chickens and plants, I knew that this could be transformational in sports sciences if it worked in humans, too. I looked at all the research on plants and animal-feed absorption that I could find to check off all my initial skepticisms. Once I saw that the technology was proven to be effective in humans and the nutrient-absorption rates were identical to those occurring in plants and animals, I knew I was onto something and had to get more qualified opinions. After speaking to dozens of nutritionists, biologists and doctors, I then asked one of the top sports nutritionists and coaches that I was acquainted with from the collegiate level, and we put together the nutrients that would be most beneficial for human performance. We eventually came up with the perfect mix of nutrients that fit into a 4-oz. serving-size supplement.

Once validated, what were the steps you took to turn it into a business?

Adam Legas: The very first thing I did was sell out of everything else I was doing in real estate. Once I was convinced that the technology worked on humans, I was wholly committed to just Nanohydr8. I like to use the analogy that I burned all my ships and bridges. I had no Plan B. I knew for sure that I wanted an all-encompassing beverage, so I did a lot of sampling with athletes, family and friends with packaging, delivery methods and flavors. I had a demographic in mind and set out to make my product satisfy them. Then I focused hard on making sure that our branding looked edgy and different than the other stuff on the shelves. I wanted to take the best of what other sports and energy drinks had, but with the added component of the nutrition and performance that the others lacked because they don’t have nanotechnology.

What challenges did you face when validating its business potential?

Adam Legas: The biggest challenge has been educating consumers, in as simple a way as possible, on the importance of why the technology would be beneficial in a sports-nutrition supplement. One of the ways we overcame that was with a world-class guarantee. We found that once people used the supplement, they would typically return and buy again and again, so we offered a full 30-day, money-back guarantee, for any reason. That one thing helped consumers trust that the product worked if they would try it.

If you could go back in time to the moment you discovered the research, what advice would you share?

Adam Legas: I would say choose your manufacturing and branding partners very carefully. We got into relationships with two original partners — who have since been bought out — who embezzled money and falsified pricing information about how much we would need to spend on actually producing enough product. [That] ended up making it so we had a very well=branded, good-tasting batch, [but] not enough product after spending through all of our initial investment money. My advice is to make sure that you have twice as much money as you initially estimate it will take to get the product off the ground.

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