How a father’s chronic pain led to fast-growing Melbourne health-tech startup MoreGoodDays

How a father’s chronic pain led to fast-growing Melbourne health-tech startup MoreGoodDays

MoreGoodDays founders  Helen Ngo (left) and Neala Fulia

Digital pain management platform MoreGoodDays has raised $3.5 million in a seed round that has capped off a personal journey over the past two years for co-founder Neala Fulia.

MoreGoodDays was founded by Fulia and Helen Ngo in 2021 with a mission to ‘democratise’ chronic pain management by providing sufferers with a better option than ‘Dr Google’ or expensive treatments.

For Fulia, the seed funding round - backed by Blackbird, Giant Leap, Side Stage Ventures, The Snow Foundation and LaunchVic’s Alice Anderson Fund - validates the business model that began as a research project to help her father.

“My dad has lived with chronic neck and back pain for as long as I can remember,” Fulia, who is the company's CEO, tells Business News Australia.

“But I really knew nothing about chronic pain and the science behind it - that it is actually the brain that creates pain and not the physical area it comes from. It was an eye-opening moment when learned about the best practice science for how to treat pain.

“Dad never got access to that and there was never that kind of explanation in the treatment pathways he went through which is what inspired me to start this.”

Government data shows that chronic pain affects one in five Australians over the age of 45 and is characterised by ‘persistent pain experienced on most days of the week’.

“Chronic pain is any pain that someone lives with for six months or more that doesn’t really have an obvious cause,” says Fulia.

“Traditionally, treatment for chronic pain is reliant on surgery, or medication, and to date this hasn’t proven to be effective. If anything, many countries around the world are fighting the opioid crisis that arose because of this genuine need for pain relief.”

Ngo says the optimal treatment of pain management is generally out of reach for most patients as it combines both brain and body approaches through psychology with physiotherapy and occupational therapists.

“It’s usually a 12-week program run in hospitals costing the average person more than twice their monthly salary,” she says. “This gold standard is unsurprisingly the last resort for the average Australian, as it is expensive and waitlists are up to two years long.”

Although neither Fulia nor Ngo have a research background, Fulia says her experience working in the US for humanitarian organisation International Rescue Committee gave her the grounding to undertake research into chronic pain management.

“Through my work, I learned the best available treatment for chronic pain is actually a multi-disciplinary approach that involves psychology, physiotherapy, diet and a change in lifestyle, all grounded in an actual understanding of pain and how it works.

“But today this best practice is not accessible to most people, so we’re trying to democratise it and make this multidisciplinary care available from home.”

MoreGoodDays, which used an initial grant from The Snow Foundation to undertake a five-month pilot to gauge the effectiveness of its platform, takes a three-pronged approach to chronic pain management with the platform initially focused on tackling fibromyalgia.

“We offer online education delivered through a mobile app, which provides weekly content that teaches people about pain, what is likely to make it worse or better, and different tools to help them better manage it,” says Fulia.

“This is based on the best and latest science around pain but also around specialist knowledge and specific subsets of pain. Typically, this knowledge and evidence-based information is not easily accessible through Google or other means.”

MoreGoodDays also provides lower-price access to clinicians such as doctors, physiotherapists and psychologists who can help sufferers get deeper support while learning to better manage their pain.

“The third component is community support, where we pair people with someone else who lives with their condition. This is an alumnus of our program and who has successfully learnt to manage their pain and have some control of their lives back. This helps motivate those with chronic pain and support them through their journey.”

Fulia describes MoreGoodDays as still at a ‘very early stage’ of developing its business model which currently draws its revenue from a subscription model.

“We’ve had more than 100 people go through our program with very early promising results,” she says.

The pilot study, run in conjunction with Invisible Illnesses Inc, a group supporting people living with fibromyalgia, found that more than 70 per cent of participants reported an overall improvement following the MoreGoodDays program.

“We have backing from universities and researchers as well as a clinical advisory board across Australia that is really passionate and wants us to succeed,” says Fulia.

MoreGoodDays, which launched its platform to the market two weeks ago, plans to apply the $3.5 million capital raising for further research and to prove its product for the broader market.

“We’ve also just hired our first tech team to build our customer solution and with that we want to scale as much as possible in Australia and then trial in the UK and US.”

Early backer The Snow Foundation has praised Fulia for achieving ‘tremendous progress in a very short time’.

“We first backed Neala with a philanthropic grant and wrap-around support as part of the Snow Entrepreneurs fellowships for social changeprogram,” says Foundation CEO Georgina Byron.

“It is wonderful to now be part of a group of investors who will enable the growth and sustainability of MoreGoodDays, making treatment more accessible and increasing quality of life for people living with chronic pain.”

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