Aussie startup Compeat Nutrition is reimagining sports nutrition by combining a tech platform with a mindful and personalised approach.
It’s already working with Australia’s women’s soccer team and has just appointed gold-medal-winning Paralympian Kurt Fearnley to its board of directors. Now, it’s sporty co-founders are setting their sights on global growth.
Compeat is headed up by co-founders and co-chiefs, and husband and wife team, Alicia and Dan Edge. The startup first came about as a side-hustle for Alicia Edge, she tells SmartCompany.
“I was unemployed and was driving my now-husband insane,” she says.
She had just finished her sports nutrition qualification, and knew some people who could use some support in this area. So, she started giving them advice online.
“It was a side-hustle … to tick over time before I found a job.”
Soon, Edge secured work at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), where she was working with top-tier athletes, working on research, and absorbing a whole lot of expert knowledge.
Three years later, when the couple had their first child, she left the role and ultimately decided to go full steam ahead with Compeat.
“Dietitians are really under-employed,” Edge says.
Typically, they’ll work out of a GP or physio clinic, she explains, paying for the space and only making money when they can see clients. In regional New South Wales, she didn’t fancy her chances.
“I was in Forster. There weren’t many elite athletes there,” she says.
“We made the decision as a young family to take a risk and see what we could create.”
For Edge, launching a startup provided a way to continue her career. But, having worked closely with elite athletes, she knew how dietary advice was dished out, and how that could be improved.
“We have to reimagine what nutrition delivery is … and to actually allow my knowledge I had learnt at AIS to be delivered to more people.”
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Edge has been working on Compeat for some three years now, and as well as The Matildas, the startup is working with elite Aussie athletes as well as sporting organisations and gyms.
The startup is also growing steadily, recording revenue growth of 35% year-on-year.
The team closed a small funding round back in January, Edge says — just enough to push the proof-of-concept into its next phase.
“We’re now able to really push our marketing and really test our market,” she explains.
“We’ve got a product that works and we’ve tested that product, so we’re able to continue to bring revenue in,” she adds.
“We’ve done a lot of shit that doesn’t scale, to now know what we need to build to scale.”
Now, the founders are gearing up for a larger round that would allow them to build a more efficient and more scalable product that they can take to a global market.
“We are in a position where we could just be safe. We could just go slower, be profitable. Happy days,” Edge says.
“But, what we really recognise is that we’ve got a product that works.
“We’ve got a whole user base that loves our product, and so we really want to deliver something to more people … We’re feeling like this needs to be bigger,” she adds.
Over the next 12 months or so, the founders will be focused on testing Compeat in international markets, reaching as many people around the world as possible, whether they’re elite athletes or not.
“A big piece of what we want to achieve is to be a tool that you don’t want to live without.”
Attracting the likes of The Matildas as clients and Kurt Fearnley as a board member and ambassador are significant wins for a startup in this space.
As athletes themselves who have worked within sports, they’re in the unique position of having connections.
But, Edge stresses that none of this happened overnight. Particularly when it came to striking a deal with The Matildas and the Football Federation Australia (FFA), patience was the key, she says.
“It’s been a really long burn, and there’s a really big patience piece to this,” she explains.
“There was a lot of communication, a lot of listening, on our behalf, to what they needed, and what they wanted, and how we could fill that gap,” she adds.
“It really came about from just patience and always nurturing, always valuing communication, and really acknowledging that that was the biggest piece … I don’t think you can underestimate the value of patience.”
The relationship with Fearnley, however, clicked into place relatively quickly, following an introduction by a mutual friend.
Fearnley is, of course, an athlete and “an inspiration to many, many people”, Edge says.
But he’s also fairly active on boards of businesses and athletic organisations.
“[He] comes with a really unique position of connection within sport and understanding of sport,” Edge says.
“He really values what we’re doing.”
“We allow their goals to be our goals”
Ultimately, the problem Compeat is addressing is one of global scale, and one that needs urgent attention.
Proving the concept in Australia is “a drop in the ocean”, Edge says.
For example, she points to a US study of collegiate athletes, which found that up to 84% engaged in some kind of disordered eating behaviour.
“It’s a massive confusion issue, but also an anxiety issue, and there’s pressure around that,” Edge explains.
“That’s what we’re trying to alleviate.”
Compeat isn’t about getting an individual to the next race or the next game, she stresses. It’s about helping them function in the best possible way all of the time.
“One of the biggest value pieces of Compeat is acknowledging that food isn’t just about food. It’s about the mindset around that,” she explains.
“We’ve come at it from a very different way, of really acknowledging how nutrition can impact an individual’s decision-making, confidence and overall mental health,” she says.
To make real and lasting change here requires vulnerability, the founder adds. And going it alone after a one-hour consult can be hard.
“By being accessible, we’re that safety net. We allow someone to make some really key changes, slowly, and in a place where they always feel like they’re supported, even if they fail,” Edge explains.
Being a tech platform, it also makes it a little easier for the athletes to stay on top of their nutritional plans in their everyday lives, when they’re not in the training environment.
“We acknowledge that in the environment of the athlete when they’re training, we’re not all that useful,” Edge says.
“We’re really useful when no one else is around — that’s in the home, in the shop, in their recovery,” she explains.
Again, Edge notes that Compeat places a lot of importance on communication with clients — understanding their needs and what ‘peak performance’ means for them.
“For the Matildas, that performance is defined as hitting the Olympics or the World Cup in the very best form possible,” she says.
“For me, 10 years ago, it was getting to an iron man and being fit, healthy, recovered.
“Now, as a mum of three, it’s about being active and playful and energetic, so that I can really make the most of both the business side but also really be present with the kids.”
It’s about treating each person as an individual, taking time to understand their needs, and catering to them.
“We do a lot of listening when our clients are onboarded,” Edge says.
“We listen to what their goals are, and we allow their goals to be our goals.”