John Sjölund saves lives. Having co-created a device that makes life easier and safer for those with diabetes, he’s taking the medical world by storm from Stockholm and London. YLC’s Kirsten Smart gets the dose from the Timesulin creator.
Approximately 388 million people have diabetes. In fact, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), diabetes is predicted to become the seventh leading cause of death in the world by the year 2030, with total deaths from the condition projected to rise by over 50% in the next 10 years.
The two most prevalent types of diabetes are Type 1 and Type 2. A vast majority of those living with diabetes fall into the Type 2 category, which is when the body doesn’t produce enough insulin (needed to enable the body to store glucose) or builds up a resistance to it. Unlike Type 1, Type 2 can often be prevented through diet and exercise and those with it are frequently able to control it without the use of insulin injections. Type 1, on the other hand, is a result of the body’s flat out failure to produce insulin and those who live with it need to receive the hormone via injections or a pump in order to maintain blood sugar levels. Only about 5 -10% of those with diabetes have Type 1.
Swedish-born, US-raised ex-expat, Sjölund, falls into this minority.
Having lived with Type 1 diabetes for over 28 years, Sjölund takes over 1,500 insulin injections per year.
The worst feeling for him, though wasn’t the 42 000 odd needle pricks he has had to administer himself, but rather the feeling of panic associated with not being able to recall whether he had taken his insulin shot or not, as the practice had become so habitual. “It’s like forgetting whether or not you turned the coffee machine off or locked your front door.” Sjölund explains, “I often found myself second-guessing whether or not I had taken my medicine.”
Sjölund isn’t alone in feeling this dosage dread. In fact it’s a common complaint amongst those with diabetes and the problem is twofold as the consequences of under or over dosing can be life threatening. “An accidental double dose can be extremely dangerous as your blood glucose levels will drop and this could lead to a coma, or even death. So I wanted a simple solution that would show me the time lapsed since my last insulin shot to help avoid an accidental missed or double dose of insulin – along with the dread of not being sure.”
“With a forgotten insulin injection you eventually get the symptoms of high blood glucose levels, but by that time you’re already feeling ill,” says Sjölund. To tackle this problem, he and his brother set about inventing a way in which one could track the time between injections in order to prevent potentially life threatening dosage mistakes. Thus the Timesulin device was born.
Launched in 2011 by Sjölund and his brother, Andreas (a co-creator of Skype), Timesulin aims to make life with diabetes as simple and worry-free as possible for those who use insulin injections. The lightweight, battery-operated replacement cap fits on to the most common brands of insulin pens just like the cap of a pen. After administering a dosage of insulin, all the user needs to do it replace the cap on the pen and immediately the Timesulin device begins visibly to count the numbers of seconds, minutes and hours since you last took your shot. It’s simple, effective and easy to use and best of all it could just save lives. In a word, it’s genius.
Before inventing Timesulin, Sjölund worked for Acceleration E-Marketing in Cape Town, South Africa. The company enabled him fantastic opportunities to grow, learn and travel, as he worked for their offices in Cape Town, New York and London, where he eventually left to start up Patients Pending LTD, the company behind the product, Timesulin.
After founding the company in September 2010, the Timesulin team opened an additional office in Stockholm in January 2013, from where they cover the Nordic markets and manage all online sales.
“Stockholm has proven to be a great place, both to live and work from. We are surrounded by smart people who share the common value system of helping others.”
“The city is also a hub for innovation and design – both elements in which Timesulin shines. I feel very lucky to have been able to plant our roots in the UK and now blossom this tree over here in Stockholm.”
Little Fish, Big Splash
And blossomed it has.The Timesulin device is already a best-selling product in Europe’s largest diabetes charity organization, Diabetes UK, and the company has distribution partners in over 45 countries around the globe. Sjölund himself was listed as one of the TOYP (Ten Outstanding Young People) in Sweden in 2012 and was invited to meet British Prime Minister, David Cameron, at Downing Street to talk about being a Small/Medium Enterprise in the UK.
“To be honest we’ve been very surprised at the reaction we’ve received from the market for such a simple device,” says Sjölund.
“Most importantly for me, though, are the letters we receive from Timesulin users from all over the world saying that we’ve helped them live safer, more balanced lives with diabetes – that is my ultimate goal.”
But despite their success, it’s not always smooth sailing.
“We’re a small business in a land of huge, mega pharmaceutical companies and the barriers to entry in a new market with a medical device is high. But we’re thrilled with the support we receive from our customers and fans and we’re continuing to expand our relationships with bigger pharmaceutical companies and diabetes associations. We also have some exciting new launches planned for next year; including product ideas that we believe could make a huge impact.”
The prospect of making a bigger impact is certainly an exciting one. If a product like Timesulin could reach more middle and low-income countries where, according to the WHO, 80% of diabetes-related deaths occur, the effects would potentially be literally life altering. This kind of goal would take a lot of support and more years of hard work, but luckily for this young entrepreneur, time is on his side.
Check out Timesulin’s super funky, informative ad:
*Timesulin is currently looking for investment into the business to help improve the lives of those living with diabetes. If you’d like to be part of the next phase of Timesulin, contact them on +44 200 333 1879 or via e-mail at [email protected]. To find out more about Timesulin, visit their website, Facebook page or follow them on Twitter to show your support.
Kirsten blindly followed her husband from South Africa to the land of snow and snus in 2011 and proceeded to procreate. When she isn’t discovering the 101st use of the humble wet wipe, she can be found writing adjective-laden articles for YLC.