Kyle Turner from Pearlii: Teeth, Tech and Taking Risks | #246

Play episode

Pearlii founder Kyle on teeth, risk-taking and purpose-driven business models.

Ep 246 Kyle Turner
Hosted by

Nathan Bush is a director at eCommerce talent agency, eSuite. He has led eCommerce for businesses with revenue $100m+ and has been recognised as one of Australia’s Top 50 People in eCommerce four years in a row. You can contact Nathan on LinkedIn, Twitter or via email.


Dr Kyle Turner, Wiradjuri (he/him), previously held public health research / teaching posts at the University of Oxford and the University of Melbourne. Kyle has published widely on the burden of chronic diseases - with a heavy focus on prevention - with a demonstrated passion for improving health outcomes for First Nation Peoples and other disadvantaged groups.

You can contact Kyle at LinkedIn

In this episode of Add To Cart, we have our first doctor and possibly our most humble founder to date.  Kyle Turner is doing some very impressive work to improve the health of Aussie mouths with his start up, Pearlii, but getting him to toot his own horn is a bit like…well, pulling teeth…(sorry, couldn’t resist).  What I’m trying to say is, like many social impact founders, Kyle’s doing great things, but sees his work as a simple matter of fixing something that’s broken – in this case, the dental care system in Australia.  Pearlii has two sides:  a free app that gives users a virtual dental check up plus an online range of oral care products.  It launched in 2020, raising almost $3m in seed capital and is on a mission to improve oral health around the globe.  In this chat, Kyle shares how his own upbringing has informed his mission, the huge tech mistake he made with his first start up and why the best founders are those who aren’t afraid to lose everything. 

“I’ve got a big appetite for taking risks, I always have

Kyle Turner

Beer for teeth pics

“Getting the algorithm was the easiest part, but there’s things you need – a shit load of data and health data is really hard to get.  You have to collect it yourself. 

So picture me in the corner at parties offering a free beer for photos of your teeth. I did that in 2018. And then I ended up paying people online, thousands of people around the world for photos of their teeth and gums. It’s a weird thing. I still get friends come up to me at the pub and hook my cheek and go hey, show me your teeth!  So it’s just this weird thing of this reputation now amongst my friends.”

If tech is your asset…

“My PhD was at Oxford University. It was around childhood obesity prevention and Deliveroo had just started in 2016 in London. I was pissed because they partnered with McDonald’s Dominoes and it just made it even easier to get junk food. And I thought we need a healthier alternative delivery.

So I raised a 100K and put 30K of my own savings into it and we built an app and I had six delivery riders and eight restaurants. It was going pretty well. But I just made all the mistakes. Ran out of capital, tech kept breaking because I outsourced it to an agency, which was a terrible idea. The agencies, they don’t give a shit about your tech. They won’t check it until Monday if it breaks down on the Friday night, which is what happened to our delivery app. So we lost the whole weekend of revenue because I didn’t know how to fix it and I didn’t have a technical co-founder.

So that was the biggest mistake I made, burns through your capital outsourcing to an agency.  It’s dumb. Can’t believe I did that. Good lesson.”

Risky business

“I’ve got a big appetite for taking risks, I always have.  Because the only way I was gonna get ahead – I didn’t have any mentors that were successful – I had to take huge risks and you just jump straight in and with business, that’s what I did with my first startup and I made a shit show of it, but I learned so much, really fast. And now the second one’s benefiting from that. 

But a lot of people don’t have the nerve to really take huge risks. I was flat broke, I lost all my savings, completely burnt out. A lot of people don’t feel comfortable doing that, which is fine. But yeah, I’ve always had an appetite for it.”

Questions answered in this episode include
  • How did you come up with the tech for an app that provides dental check ups?
  • Do you think there’s enough support or community for Indigenous entrepreneurs to get involved in eCommerce? 
  • Was creating a business for social impact always part of your journey?

Links from the episode:

This episode was brought to you by…

Subscribe to Add To Cart

We’ll let you know about new episodes PLUS exclusive
competitions and discounts from our guests!


More from this show

Weekly Ecommerce Newsletter


Let’s get social

We are a team of dedicated professionals delivering high quality WordPress themes and plugins.