These digital health startups are not just about the revenue. They hope to revolutionize the way the world sees and engages in healthcare now that they’ve broken into Germany’s overly cautious, risk-averse market.
“I will not do any business I am not convinced about,” co-founder Janko Schildt said. “We are not just trying to create revenue. There should be an ethical component, an ethical sense.”
Emperra’s four founders are changing the way diabetics record their blood sugar levels and insulin dosages. As a physician, Schildt was constantly treating patients with incomplete diaries, notebooks were patients record their blood sugar levels and the amount of insulin injected. The reason they were incomplete? Patients do not want to deal with data or writing it down. “They are not happy about this chronic disease and they don’t want to be in contact with it everyday. They want to forget about it,” Schildt said. Thanks to Emperra, a single device lets patients effortlessly send their data to their physicians, allowing both to keep track between hospital visits. The company, founded in 2008, is in the process of breaking into the US market, pending FDA clearance, and will likely be sold in the next two years, Schildt said. But the buyer is still hush-hush.
Schildt’s advice for up-and-coming entrepreneurs? “Know why you are doing it and for whom… if you know that… it becomes one of the key drivers.”
“It’s like putting on glasses for their ears,” Henrik Matthies, Mimi’s managing director, said.
Mimi hit the ground running in 2014 with technology aimed at improving sounds – making them richer, crisper and fuller – for people with hearing loss. The company then broadened its target group by marketing their two apps, one that provides users with their own “earprint” and another app that uses this audiogram to personalize a user’s listening experience with existing services like iTunes and Spotify, to everyone. The ultimate goal for Mimi is to “integrate this technology into existing ecosystems,” Henrik Matthies, Mimi’s managing director, said. The hope is that in the future, “you do the test only once and use it to improve all digital products by tailoring the sound to your hearing.”
Matthies’ advice for up-and-coming entrepreneurs? “The major challenge is to look at your core competence and restrict yourself from not trying three or four things at the same time, but try to do one thing really good. It is so tempting to do a lot of things at the same time. That was a steep learning curve for us.”
“We’ve made a difference for so many people and that will always be our biggest success,” said Marianna Jolowicz, MEDIGO’s Head of Brand.
MEDIGO dove head first into medical tourism in 2013 after co-founder Ugur Samut, Pawel Cebula and Ieva Soblickaite realized there was no global platform providing access to quality doctors. MEDIGO, which sometimes works with patients for a year or longer, also facilitates extra services needed when visiting a physician in another country: Booking flights, providing medical interpreters and securing ground transportation. Building trust with patients, who are making life-altering medical decisions, is critical to MEDIGO’s success. The company is committed to transparency to ensure MEDIGO’s patients, who come from 178 different countries and visit one of over 800 participating hospitals and clinics in 35 countries worldwide, are fully informed when it comes to their options. The next milestone for MEDIGO is expanding into the US and Chinese market.
Marianna Jolowicz’s advice for up-and-coming entrepreneurs? “Stick with it and don’t give up, but also optimize and prioritize. A startup can be extremely overwhelming because you are by definition working on a very new idea. Your mind sees the structure of how it should be built, but you don’t have the resources.”
“We need to be a place to connect patients with the right clinical trials,” Alexander Puschilov, Viomedo co-founder, said.
Viomedo, a platform that connects patients with clinical trials, launched in 2015. A year later the fledgling company has secured contracts with several major pharmaceutical companies, including Pfizer, Bayer and Novartis. Breaking into other German-speaking countries is next on the horizon for the company before reaching their ultimate goal: Expansion across europe. Developers take note, Viomedo (German) is currently hiring technical talent.
Co-founder Alexander Puschilov’s advice for up-and-coming entrepreneurs? “Start with people you trust, can rely on and who can deliver. You’re spending so much time with each other, through so many great moments and so many awful ones…Whoever you start with needs to be ready to ride with you all the way.”
“In the digital health market there is so much movement and improvement, but there is still a lot to do. In the sense of modernising the old fashioned way of healthcare,” Nicolas Schauer, CEO of Kenkodo, said.
Kenkodo, which means a way to health in Japanese, was established in 2014 and measures metabolites in the blood to provide a “full and global snapshot of what is happening in the body,” said Kenkodo CEO Nicolas Schauer. Visualizations of this data, provided on the Kenkodo app, include levels of vitamins, amino acids, cholesterol and glucose, and helps individuals analyze the impact their diet and exercise has on their metabolism. The company hopes to one day move into specific markers for diseases like diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Schauer’s advice for up-and-coming entrepreneurs? “If you believe in your idea, you have to work on the vision no matter what other people tell you. It is very important to believe and keep believing no matter what other people think.”
“You have to wait a long time to validate the business assumption,” Jörg Land, Tinnitracks’ co-founder, said.
Tinnitracks, an app created by Sonormed in 2013, helps treat individuals experiencing Tinnitus, the sensation of sound when there is an absence of any external sound. The app works by filtering their favorite music to help the overly active nerve cells in the brain, which create the false sensations, get back to their normal equilibrium. In just three years, the company has captured the interest of several German health insurance companies, including one of the biggest, the Techniker Krankenkasse, which now pays for a Tinnitus patient’s year-long subscription to the app. Reaching reimbursement was the biggest challenge and biggest success of the Tinnitracks project to date, Land said. The process was labor intensive, time consuming and over-regulated, but well worth it: “Once you reach this watershed people take you seriously. Before that you were just a project, but then you are perceived as having arrived on a completely different level,” Land said.
Land’s advice for up-and-coming entrepreneurs? “Have a very clear understanding of what is happening. Is this a reimbursement project? Is this a medical device? Who is buying, who is using? The answers define the product line, while trial and error takes a lot more time.”
Photos via Emperra, Mimi, Medigo, Viomedo, Kenkodo and Tinnitracks