February 12, 2020

“People know everything about the environment that they’re in, but nothing about the environment within.” Q&A with Martin Ashby.

Martin Ashby is Operations Director at Prevayl®.Having worked within wearable tech for over seven years, as well as a decade in leadership roles at Sports Direct and five years as General Manager, Sourcing Operations for Umbro, he joined Prevayl in September 2019.

We caught up with Martin to understand what first inspired him about the company and the impact he believes Prevayl can have for personal health, sporting performance and community wellness.

What first inspired you about Prevayl?

Before I joined the business I saw Adam present the concept. You just had to look in the eyes of the people in the room. The absolute belief in the possibilities of Prevayl. They were immediately sold on what Prevayl means for personal health and wellbeing as well as the wider industry benefits.

Adam had that vision from the outset. Let’s be clear, it was a vision to do something that had never been done before, which some people might question if it could be done at all. For me it always had to be worth a shot, as it takes guts to go for that vision, so I knew I had to be involved.

This is an industry I know and love. I’m extremely passionate about health and wellbeing and I’m convinced that technology can deliver huge steps forward in this area. Prevayl is the right place to be to do that.

Your previous employment has given you detailed experience of the wearable tech industry. How is Prevayl approaching things differently?

One of the biggest issues elsewhere has been a lack of flexibility and agility. While the Prevayl mission always remains the same, the scale of the team and the talent within means we can always respond to new ideas and thinking.

Previously there would be four tech heads and two commercial guys trying to get something off the ground. Adam’s approach to building something worthwhile and purpose-driven is therefore extremely refreshing.

His desire to have the best people and industry-leading minds in all areas of the business is fantastic. It’s a very different approach to many start-ups, but it enables us to move quickly in the right direction as a business.

Often new talent only drops in when a business is about to explode from lack of resource. The approach that Adam and the senior leadership team have taken is very much more a long-term strategic outlook.

By bringing some of the best talent in the industry in from the outset, there is a high degree of trust for the individual teams to deliver.

With so much going on, so quickly, it’s an exciting place to be.

You mention your passion for health and wellbeing. How important is it to change the way people view this and enable them to take control of their own health? What role do health and cognitive insights play in this?

Around 60% of the UK population is now overweight. We tend to use other people as a benchmark but taking control of your own wellbeing is all about understanding your own body and applying this to your individual situation.

I believe that if people actually see clearly in irrefutable data what they are doing to their bodies, they will do something about it. Personal health insights can completely change how people approach their health and wellbeing.

Our technology can spot changes in health, even micro changes very quickly such as an increase in heart rate or a decrease in heart rate recovery. We can tell very quickly when someone is dropping into a state that illustrates a lack of fitness, both mental and physical. That means that people don’t have to get 12 months into doing the wrong thing to realise they need to change their habits.

Ownership of health is all about taking these personal insights and making the right changes to your behaviour every day.

You’ve mentioned previously that you see a big shift in the medical world from treatment to prevention. How do you see this playing out in the next few years? What role does wearable tech have in this?

I think it’s already starting to play out. There have been reports already this year that GPs have begun to prescribe health club memberships as a preventative measure for things such as depression, obesity and heart problems.

While that is a start, it still relies on a personal perception of health rather than irrefutable data.

Currently we know everything about the environment that we’re in, but we know nothing about the environment within. The right use of wearable tech and associated health insights will help keep people fit physically and mentally as well as ensuring they stay in touch with exactly what’s going on with their own body.

The possibilities of Prevayl isn’t just about individual health and fitness. Performance, and specifically team performance can be enhanced. So, how can health and cognitive insights improve the collective team performance?

It has a ripple effect. Understanding where all the key players in those teams are and how they’re performing is crucial because any break in the linkage is going to create more issues.

Take Formula 1. The tyres need to be changed in under 2.5 seconds for example. By being on point with all their tasks, the team around the driver can keep them going throughout the race, but if they’re struggling and underperforming themselves it has a wider effect.

The guys in the pit all work in harmony together and if one of them is slightly off, it has a big impact. If one can’t twist his back the right way for example the whole team is let down by that millisecond of difference. These fine margins are crucial.

Now if this is a problem with his back, an old underlying injury, or an obvious illness it can be easily monitored and managed. Other external factors can also be spotted and managed simply.

Maybe certain team members need a rest, potentially a good massage will sort out a lack of flexibility, or perhaps a bit more practice will iron out any inconsistencies.

The internal side is much more complicated though. What about stress, problems at home, an illness that’s building but that person doesn’t yet have any symptoms?  

We’re giving teams the opportunity to monitor this.

Coaches can see when a heart rate is raised, and someone is breathing more heavily. If they are stressed it can be illustrated through the data. The individual might not have spotted it yet, but the coach can see it and do something about it.

They can make the people within the team better by changing things they haven’t even noticed yet. These marginal gains feed into the ripple effect of performance to help the team work as one.

Health and fitness is obviously hugely important for you. How do you keep on top of it during start-up life? How will Prevayl’s solutions be used to enhance community wellness?

My commute for me is thinking time. I think when I run, I can think when I can cycle, and I can probably think more clearly because it takes you to a type of meditative state.

I also make sure I’m disciplined. On a typical day I’ll get up early and do 40 minutes to an hour of yoga or gym. Then I cycle in – it’s around 13 miles.

That’s my personal approach. When it comes to community wellness, it’s focused on the wider approach. Real-time information across the workforce on individual wellbeing and personal performance enables a continued monitoring of community wellness. Employers can then make strategic decisions on how to improve things for their employees, with an ability to measure the impact too with actionable, validated and quantifiable insights.

It will be revolutionary.