Data is everywhere. It is digitizing snapshots of life and the world we live in. Whether it’s big or small, key is to make it smart and meaningful. With the ever increasing computing power and rise of sensors able to sense the world at a more and more granular level it’s clear that we are at the gates of an interesting era for technology and its positive impact on the world it senses. An era where we will be able to sustain our health by listening to the continuous signals our body sends. An era where we become aware how we can positively impact our health state, and be warned if we drift towards a state wherein our health or even our life is at danger.
Innovation in Healthcare
This process is already well underway. Established companies and organizations spend significant amounts of their budget on healthcare innovation. They are challenged by the many hundreds of healthcare oriented startups working on new innovative solutions to impact our health in a positive way. Each of them fueled by passionate founders believing in the products they are building and how these can improve the lives of many. And they are not the only ones believing in their mission. Venture-capital investment in these startups reached a record high in 2015 equaling $16.10 billion. These startups have the edge of being more agile as they are still small and don’t have an extensive existing customer base to satisfy. This way, the cost of failure is lower and failure itself is just a natural step on the path towards a successful market entrance for the products they are building. At the very beginning of their journey, they deal with lots of uncertainty which spurs them to boost their creativity to build a great product.
Starting a startup is often compared to jumping off a cliff and trying to assemble an airplane on the way down. While this definitely holds a certain truth, you can to some extent as well compare starting a startup to the quest of leading a healthy life. For both, there are lots of books and literature that tell you what to do and what not to do. They tell you how to raise money for your startup or how to lose weight. The problem is however that like every human being, the nature of every startup is different. In the end you absorb all the advice and use it to build your own journey, both for living healthy as for building that great startup business. When things turn bad you go and see your doctor or you get help from your local entrepreneur superhero. In both cases, you want to prevent that you even get in that unfavorable situation. You eat healthy and you fully focus on building that sustainable business by applying the typical (lean) startup practices.
To Measure is to Know
How do you know you’re on track? For a startup that’s easy. You need customers, customers and customers. Paying customers to be more precise. Until you get a substantial amount of customers, and that might take a while if your product is intensive in terms of R&D, you measure a number of parameters that indicate how well you’re doing and whether you’re on track or need to deviate to get back on track (pivot). For your health you can as well already today measure a huge amount of parameters. Measuring these parameters is only one side of the equation; making sense out of those measurements is the other and even more important side. For startups you haveparameters such as the Customer Acquisition Cost, Customer Lifetime Value, Burn Rate, Churn, Conversion Rates, Month on Month Growth, Gross Profit(obviously), and so on. For your health, through the many quantified-self wearables out there, you can monitor the typical vital signs (blood pressure, heart rate,temperature, …), sleep, calories burnt, and many more. Add to this other more advanced health data such as proteomic and genomic data, both significantly harder to measure, and you can get literally drown in this vast data lake of health information. You can of course visualize both startup and health basic metrics nicely on a dashboard giving you a good view of your current business or personal well-being. This is only the start however. The real value comes from combining the data to create insights. These insights can guide you to lead a healthier life and business and indicate how you can overcome any predictable hiccups or downfalls.
Enters ALMA.care, the HealthIT startup I’ve founded together with Kris Sienaert, an experienced medical doctor. Turning the aforementioned continuous health data into insights to improve health is exactly the goal of ALMA.care. We will combine the goal of building products to live a healthier life with building a sustainable and viable business supporting this goal.
Our first product, ALMA Live, predicts drowsiness 10 to 15 minutes up front based on physiological data. This in contrast to most of the existing technologies which are detecting drowsiness, not predicting it. By focusing on drowsiness, we tackle one of the biggest causes of death in traffic. An estimated 21% of road fatalities are due to drowsiness. The magnitude of this issue becomes even clearer when you know that the total amount of road fatalities worldwide equals a staggering number of 1.25 Million annually. We thereby provide a very concrete example of how health data can be used to have a tremendous impact. It goes far beyond just visualizing your health data and actually uses it to predict the onset of sleepiness.
We believe that this is the future of healthcare and the big challenge of the health data storm that lures behind the corner: finding real life pains and use cases where the loss of lives or decrease of health can be prevented by using that vast amount of health data and turning that into actionable insights.
That’s why, starting from May 2016 onwards, I am joining my Co-Founder Kris full-time to make this belief a reality. Driven by the clear ambition to turn ALMA.care into a healthy business that helps building the road towards a healthier society.