Startup Helps Consumers Make Better Food Choices

60% of American adults have at least one food-related chronic diseases, and 40% have two or more. And let’s not even talk about the effectiveness of diets – just 5%, according to a study by the University of California at Los Angeles.

“You might as well not even do it,” said Clay Young, CEO and cofounder of Boise-based SeekingSimple Inc.

Eat this, not that

No, you didn’t stumble into a health blog by mistake. Young’s startup is intended to help these problems by giving users more healthful recommendations for the processed food they normally eat, from the actual grocery stores in their communities. 

“Food decision makers consistently said it’s too hard to understand the health impact of food ingredients,” Young said. 

Young was a cofounder of ProClarity, an analytics company that Microsoft acquired in 2006. That company had a significant amount of work in healthcare and analyzing aspects of healthcare, as well as on retail consumer purchase attribution – “why people buy what they buy and eat what they eat,” he said. 

“People are trading off the desire for the time and convenience of processed food with their health,” Young said. “Very few people cook fresh, healthy meals because they don’t have time, it’s inconvenient, or they don’t know how to do it. People eat processed food, which leads to poor health outcomes.”

But a study from the University of California at San Francisco showed that putting a dietician in study group households to recommend better processed food choices, such as reducing sugar and carbohydrates, “had an unbelievably positive effect,” Young said. Factors such as blood pressure and lipids went down, cholesterol improved, and people lost weight. “They didn’t put anybody on a diet,” he emphasized. “Nobody counted calories or was put on an exercise program. We looked at that and thought, ‘we can’t drop a dietician into people’s homes, but we can do that digitally.’”

Young and his staff spent the next five years developing SeekingSimple. They started by interviewing people. “We listened to consumers about how difficult it was to sort a 40,000-item grocery store into ‘what’s ok’ and ‘what’s not ok,’” he said. “Patients struggling with health issues were given diets by medical practitioners, and we listened to people break down in tears trying to comply with the doctor-prescribed diet. We knew there’d be a market if we could solve the problem of the efficacy of diets and making better choices in the grocery store.”

The company also collected data. “The system we have knows every ingredient and fact about virtually every food product sold in the United States,” Young said. Moreover, it knows what foods are sold in each grocery store, and the relationship between food ingredients and food-related diseases.

Now, the app has been through the beta test cycle and is ready to roll out to the market, Young said.

What is the Market?

However, the product isn’t going out to consumers directly. Instead, it will be going out through companies with a vested interest in user health and grocery purchases. 

“When you think about it from the perspective of people who pay healthcare bills, they have a motivation to solve that, because it’s driving the cost of healthcare sky-high,” Young said. Consequently, SeekingSimple is starting with companies that self-insure their employees, and has three currently engaged he said. In addition, it is doing a clinical trial with a non-Idaho healthcare provider he wouldn’t name.

Future partners include healthcare providers, as well as grocery stores themselves. “We make recommendations about better processed food based on what’s available in the local grocery store, not ‘if you find this product on the Internet somewhere,’” Young said. “It’s a very unique value proposition.”

So grocers are part of the company’s future business model as well. “We partner with one grocer in a market area, and we absolutely disallow any kind of advertising or commercial influence on our recommendations,” Young said. Moreover, the company will focus on large national or regional grocers because they have the consumer reach and breadth of product selection we need” he explained.


Until last year the company was mainly self-funded, but in 2022 we partnered with Capital Eleven,” Young said. He is now in the process of a $1 million raise to commercialize the product. A large percentage of that is coming from Capital Eleven, and he has a long list of potential funders – primarily from Idaho – for the rest, he said. “My general thesis around fundraising at this stage is that investment capital should come from the local economy,” he said. “That way, when the exits happen, the money goes back into startups in the ecosystem.”

Then, in a year or so, Young plans to raise a $10 to $15 million Series A round, he said. “This raise is really straightforward: Revenue generation,” he said. “In a year, we’ll be scaling out to big companies.”

Both rounds of funding are intended to add employees – sales, support, and so on – to the company’s current 13. About half the current team is in Idaho, but the company is virtual, including Young himself, who splits his time between McCall and Eagle – as well as other places. “This virtual business model is incredibly productive wherever you are,” he said, noting that he’s been working virtually for almost 20 years. “It opens up the world in such a way. I can have a dish on top of my RV and work on the Lochsa River in northern Idaho, and it doesn’t matter. That’s a model my whole team is accustomed to.”

And after that? “My belief is I should build a company worth $1 billion to my shareholders,” Young said. “Our focus is on growing the business strongly and achieving our primary objective. Achieving better than 5% efficacy (on diets) will be invaluable because of the background of health issues we face. If we stay focused on growing it as quickly as we can with the best outcomes, the rest will take care of itself.”

Written by Sharon Fisher, a digital nomad who writes about entrepreneurship.

This article was created as a collaboration between Boise Entrepreneur Week, Built in Idaho and Trailhead