David Johnson is the CEO and Co-founder of Genexa, the first clean medicine company that makes medicine with the same active ingredients people need, but without the artificial ones they don't. Genexa offers cleaner, effective, over-the-counter medicines spanning all traditional categories of OTC medicine, including pain and fever, cold and flu, and digestion and allergy, with products for infants, kids, and adults alike. We spoke with David about Genexa's clean products, their effectiveness, and advice he would give trailblazing entrepreneurs.
What do you believe makes Atlanta a good place for companies to be headquartered?
When deciding to relocate Genexa’s headquarters in 2020, we went through a nationwide search and ultimately chose Atlanta because of its vibrant business community, leadership in the manufacturing space, and its diverse and dynamic talent pool. My co-founder and I felt that Genexa could really flourish in Atlanta, and the city offered our employees a high quality of life. More than two years after the move, we feel more confident than ever that Atlanta is the best home base for the company and our staff as we continue to expand the business and plan for future growth.
Was it a difficult process to create medicine that is clean and effective?
The biggest challenge during this process was finding a manufacturer to work with on the research and development of a clean delivery system - a delivery system without any artificial fillers - for medicine. We met with over 60 manufacturers across the country, and they all told us that this couldn’t be done because artificial fillers and stabilizers were needed to keep the medicine shelf stable and palatable. We finally found one manufacturer that was willing to give us a trial run. It took time and a couple of years to find the right inactive ingredients, but we have now successfully established an organic preservation system for medicine that is patented. Our IP allows us to make conventional medicines with the same effective active ingredients found in the category leaders but without any artificial fillers, dyes, sweeteners, or other artificial ingredients for the first time ever.
Why do you believe Big Pharma creates medicine with artificial ingredients that aren’t needed if clean medicine is possible?
The pharmaceutical industry is much more challenging to break into than most consumer categories because of the massive size of the “Goliaths” that currently dominate the space. To transform an industry so large and regulated often takes an outsider to innovate and motivate, and that’s what we hope to do with our patented technology.
We’re a privately owned, people-centric company, and the big pharma companies in this category don’t have that flexibility. They are understandably focused on their bottom lines and have used the same artificial inactive ingredients for years. Change takes time, but between the innovations we’re bringing to market and the shifting desires of consumers, we feel confident that we are moving in the right direction to create the clean products people want and deserve.
What do you believe are the major problems with modern medicine?
I think competition is important for every industry and allows for more innovation that ultimately benefits the consumer. I am very grateful to the many retailers that have embraced the innovations we are bringing to the industry by giving Genexa shelf space and allowing us to expand our retail presence so that customers finally have a clean choice in their medicine aisles. We’re currently in 45,000 storefronts across the United States and counting.
Was getting adequate funding an issue when starting Genexa? If so, how did you all overcome that issue?
Last year we closed a very successful and oversubscribed financing round, breaking the record for the largest Series A in consumer pharma history. When we sat down with investors and talked them through what we were doing as well as the larger shift to clean that every other consumer segment was experiencing, they recognized the opportunity quickly.
We are fortunate to have many notable celebrities invested in the company as well. Hollywood has traditionally been ahead of the curve when it comes to wellness movements. Celebrities from Gwyneth Paltrow to Donald Glover have signed on as investors. Having celebrity investors in the company has provided new platforms for bringing education and awareness around the clean medicine movement to new audiences. Can you describe a discouraging experience you’ve had when starting Genexa and how you overcame it?
After finding a manufacturer that gave us a chance at research and development, we proceeded to fail at our first few attempts to create a clean delivery system. It was very discouraging, but we never lost sight of our mission.
We persevered and believed that we could deliver a clean product to consumers without loosening our standards. Today, we’re very proud of the robust Ex List we have created and published on our website detailing all the unnecessary inactive ingredients we promise never to put in our medicines.
What are some personal qualities that you believe led both yourself and Max Spielberg to success?
Neither of us had any industry experience before we started Genexa, allowing us to bring a fresh perspective to our work. We’re also very determined people and have persevered through a lot of roadblocks which has been critical to our success thus far.
What are some of your long-term business goals?
Our goal is to develop a clean option for every OTC medicine that is currently on the market. Beyond product development, we’re hopeful that long-term our innovations will have significant ripple effects on the industry and be a motivator for the FDA to rethink what ingredients we deem to be “safe” in the US, as compared to the European Union and other governing bodies that have already banned some of the ingredients that are commonly used in our OTC medicines in the United States.
How did you handle and overcome rejection in the company's early stages?
You must take everything in stride. If making clean medicine was easy to do, someone else would have done it by now. Our children and our families have been key motivators to keep going. Becoming new dads was what inspired this idea to begin with – we knew that kids, and people everywhere, deserved real choices - clean options without all the common allergens, artificial dyes, sugars, and more.
What is some advice that you’d like to give trailblazing entrepreneurs?
Do something that makes you uncomfortable. To be a true disruptor and challenger brand, you must do something different and get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
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