HealthTech Needle in a Startup Haystack
On Friday, September 8th, more than 250 startups set up camp across four different locations in Berlin’s Mitte neighborhood for startupnight. The motivation to participate in this massive event varied: share and pitch ideas, network, showcase innovation, and increase exposure.
I had my own motive: I was seeking a common thread across healthtech startups in attendance. It was a bit like searching for a needle in the healthcare haystack. I followed the neon-colored arrows artfully taped to the ground in front of each building. In most locations, there was one singular health-topic startup featured, coded in yellow, thanks to event signage.
Notable trends among the healthtech startups had crossover that I want to explore.
I’ve assigned letters to list their main ‘ingredients’ in the mentions below:
D: Data storage
F: Female Health
A: Access to health
C: Communication between Healthcare Providers and Patients
Join me for a curated tour from the comfort of wherever you are, starting inside the Deutsche Bank’s Atrium at Unter den Linden.
I caught up with CardioSecur (W, A, C) from Frankfurt. For people with ongoing cardiac conditions, heart events can occur unpredictably. So it can be hard to present to your doctor the telltale symptoms at the right time. You might have symptoms when not in a clinic or office, and then how do you show these to your healthcare provider?
Through a user-friendly method of chest sensors applied in conjunction with their app, CardioSecure offers a full visual report to your doctor using ECGs. Apart from anyone over 40 (yep), they target people who have had heart events before and so are able to recognize when one is occurring.
The app requires an initial baseline setup (following color-coded instructions) during a non-symptom period. Afterward a user applies chest sensors (conveniently in any arrangement) to get a reading. The app report provides the level of severity needed in response. Green means no changes; yellow is a warning, and red means get yourself to immediate care.
As help arrives, an ECG wave report is immediately available to help convey your situation. Cardiosecur means you can easily monitor your heart health with a meaningful way to communicate valuable findings to your healthcare provider.
In the Microsoft Atrium, I found another type of wearable, trackle (W, A, F, C). I spoke with founder Katrin Reuter about her motives for creating this fully integrated device to identify a woman’s fertility window. Like many women, she was familiar with the frustration of checking for a rise in basal body temperature in order to determine the approach of fertile days in one’s cycle. Sound high-maintenance? Oh, it is. With one hand holding the thermometer, and one hand holding her cell phone, Reuter wondered: ‘why can’t these devices communicate!?’ Her answer is her business.
trackle uses a tampon-shaped sensor worn at night to wirelessly transmit temperature readings to an app. It looks for the lowest temperature to let the user know just prior to her rise in core body temperature, a well-known method of tracking ovulation. I saw various colors and shapes of prototypes on the table. It is not yet on the market but will be available in Fall.
Femtech, as I’ve written before, continues to be a promising and valuable area to watch and support.
The Volkswagon Group Forum had an impressively hip environment but no health tech. I stuck around to enjoy the art installations sprinkled among Fintech, Energy, VR/AR startups.
When I finally reached the Deutsche Telekom building, I found my mecca of health tech startups. I hopped among them to bring you the trends:
DoQme (A, C): This Isreali startup was borne of CEO and co-founder Roi Shternin’s own harrowing experience with a rare condition. After he passed out while serving as a paramedic, he spent 3 years bed-ridden with mysterious symptoms. From bed, he then dedicated his medical studies to pursue a diagnosis. This pursuit led to the creation of his app. Now he’s devoted to transforming communication between doctors and patients. His company aims to promote health via easy-to-use digitized questionnaires to gather frequently collected health info that doctors need during assessments. DoQMe wants these questionnaires to be so easy to understand and navigate, that any generation can use them. DoQme is currently doing pilots with some medical and pharma companies. Listen to his compelling TED talk.
Ariana (A, C): Is a B2B company launched in 2016 which provides a modular personality via an AI chatbot. They develop patient engagement solutions for the health communication industry. I spoke with CEO and co-founder Dr. Carol Wildhagen, to learn how. Ariana works as a tailored health coach. Pharma, hospital, health insurance, or med-tech customers then further develop Ariana for various indications or products, or to prepare patients for procedures or address health-conscious behavior.
Through a chat-based approach, Ariana uses native communication channels like Facebook messenger to reach out to the customer’s patients. Ariana provides help throughout the patient’s journey, reporting and scheduling, and FAQs. But it also provides powerful analytics back to the customer, helping them shape the chatbot further. Ariana supports clients in reaching patients where they are comfortable and ultimately helps those patients make better choices. Say hi here.
AmbiGate Motion Sensing (kind of W, definitely C): This German startup began with good 3D motion software capabilities to solve pain points for physiotherapists’ challenges. It starts like this: someone breaks a bone and ends up in physiotherapy. Patients then need to do prescribed exercise to strengthen the surrounding muscles. But with a tendency to forget what to do to keep fit, or simply lacking motivation to do their exercises, patients don’t make much recovery progress. AmbiGate establishes a training program set up in conjunction with a physiotherapist to tailor movements to an injury type or a particular job, like a desk job or on a production line, which uses different muscles. The program sends back a report to a physiotherapist who can then tailor the exercises in focus or level.
So far, it is used in homes, corporate environments, and senior centers. Gamification and splashy environments (think tropical islands or diamond-mining) make this fitness program feel fun and challenging. Kids who have used it report not even recognizing it as a training program. Seniors benefit from movement and entertainment.
There are no sensors; just a PC, TV and Microsoft camera, which can be rented out to customers. I tried it out. My only critique is that I needed some audio or written instructions as to when to lift my arms in precise timing with challenges. The applications of this idea are far-reaching: helping people learn to dance or improve sport maneuvers. So far, they’ve skirted the true fitness market due to fierce competition, and a medical version is hard to finance because of expensive clinical trials. So they’ll stick to the business version and hope to finance future trials with that.
For other medical startups, they advised having patience because it can take 2–5 years to make progress, and even then might not work. Unfortunately, this fact makes investors less interested. What it signals to me is that these kinds of health-related solutions may take longer to build, but are worthwhile if they can positively impact people’s lives through motivation and movement.
My Medibox (C, A): This startup aims to solve a very basic need in the German health care system, namely accessing one’s own medical records. They suggest a cloud-based dropbox, which you can access on the go, and share with doctors when you chose to. The prototype interface is quite simple to navigate and easy to upload documents to. They hope to steer the conversation towards this much-needed topic of a patient’s right to own and access his or her medical data. https://www.startupnight.net/startups/2017/my-medibox
Call a Midwife (C, A): Founded by a midwife, this startup is a growing community of midwives who serve pregnant women in many countries and in 11 languages. Nearly all women need some amount of advice during or after pregnancy. The female ex-pat community is particularly in need of support as it can be daunting to go through prenatal and antenatal care in a foreign language or country. Call a midwife is becoming a global solution. It offers a pre-paid service where a woman who has signed up can search for, and book a Skype call, video, or text chat with a midwife in the language of her choice. Brilliant. Here is what they say about the problem and their solution.
The Doctor Is In
Finally, I wrapped up my night appropriately by listening to the Pitch Doctor. This guy is great. He delivers on-point presentations about effective presentations. It’s all very meta. I had heard his infamous Berlin Pitch, so was ready for more. His extensive experience coaching startups both independently and within accelerators lends authenticity to his tips about crafting your startup presentation.
He encourages the following: practice your presentation, show enthusiasm, make your investor think (share your curiosity on the specific problem) and feel (transmit a sense of passion and purpose with your solution), build your slide deck cleverly (not too word-heavy, and for God’s sake pay, for watermark-free pictures!), among other pro tips. Follow him at @BombeSollich
I hope my legwork gave you some insights. Are you seeing these same trends or ingredients in digital health innovation? Wearables, Patient data, Access to health, Female health, Communications within healthcare…Looking at these startup trends, including the reasons behind why the CEOs founded them, should help us know what matters, or at least have an idea where the puck is headed.
As always, let me know your thoughts, or as my grandmother used to say, keep me alarmed.