Four Ways to be a Good Tech Entrepreneur
Forbes has identified the best practices of a tech entrepreneur, and it turns out that successful tech entrepreneurs are also the ones creating positive change. Here are the four things to keep in mind to create a product that is sustainable over the long-term, that people will continue to use:
1. Don’t Overlook Social Impact
Social impact means solutions that people can use:
While competitive advantage may have been enough to sail a tech venture a few years back, the saturated market and the impending rise of AI mean you need a lot more to sustain. Today, that "lot more" is social impact. Now social impact does not necessarily equal a social venture. In fact, the term alludes to solving "real" problems that people will continue to value over a length of time.
2. Think Beyond Trophies for Gamification
Gamification can be essential to user engagement, but innovative entrepreneurs will find creative new ways to encourage users that go past the traditional rewards:
A lot of tech ventures, especially mobile apps, still rely on badges and trophies for gamification. If you are taking a similar approach, you are essentially creating scarcity where there is none, which is a problem. While you may see high engagement rates with such an approach, sustainability is always a question. That's where the role of good tech entrepreneurship comes in. As a good tech entrepreneur, you must find out a better way to capitalize on gamification. For instance, if you have a music app, you could give away limited tickets to an upcoming concert in return for social shares. Similarly, if you have a food app, you could unlock a superstar chef's recipe for a certain order value.
3. Make Your Product Usable for Your Audience
Creating a viable solution for a user through technology isn’t enough to ensure a sustainable venture. The intended audience must also be able to use the product, and so it must be designed with potential different limitations in mind. A government public service app is a good example:
A public-service app has to be usable enough for the majority of the population, and user interfaces play a pivotal role in making that possible. During the design process, taking into account various subsets of people who might access the app can bring a large majority of people on the web to make governments more accessible and more responsible. VoiceMap HK by the Hong Kong government is a good example of a public-service app that takes accessibility into account. The free app gives and takes oral instructions, thus allowing the visually impaired to use Google Maps and similar apps.
4. Be Smart About Emerging Trends
Successful companies not only adapt to a changing world, but also look ahead to predict the challenges their users will face in the future:
For instance, while the growth of AI is almost inevitable now, you don't necessarily have to compete with Google and Amazon to create the next big venture. Instead, you could focus on another likely outcome of the growth of AI and machine learning: How do people make money in a world that's largely run by intelligent machines?
Tech entrepreneurship, like any other kind of entrepreneurship, is about innovation. Still, it's also about not letting someone beguile you into making the next big viral phenomenon only to fizzle out a few months later. In the age of social media, creating something viral is not that big a task. It is keeping that virality going for sustained growth that's the real challenge.
A Super Suit to Help Mortals with Back Pain
Vanderbilt University engineers have announced the creation of a two-piece super suit designed to prevent lower back pain:
The super suit, which can be worn under the usual layer of clothing, consists of two fabric sections connected by durable straps that help offload stress on the wearer's back. The straps can be activated by tapping twice on it or through a smartphone application connected to the undergarment via Bluetooth.
According to several tests on eight subjects, the smart undergarment effectively reduced stress on the lower back even when they were made to lean forward at angles of 30, 60, and 90 degrees while lifting 25- and 55- pound weights. Test results showed consistent lower back stress reduction averaging from 15 to 45 percent, compared with the strain on the test subjects' back without the suit.
The suit consists of a chest and legs portion, and works by transferring the force needed to move and lift objects to the elastic bands in the suit. The bands loosen when the suit is de-activated so the user can sit. The suit’s creators think it will help in a way that traditional back braces have not been able to:
"This smart clothing concept is different. I see a lot of health care workers or other professionals with jobs that require standing or leaning for long periods. Smart clothing may help offload some of those forces and reduce muscle fatigue," co-investigator Dr. Aaron Yang said.
The next step for the team is to create a “hands-free” version that can be used without the need to tap on a smartphone.
Fitness Trackers May Be Slowing Down, But Wearables Are Picking Up Speed
Recent slower growth of fitness trackers and smart watches has led some to question the long-term viability of the market. But according to a new report by Tractica, total shipments for wearables are predicted to increase, thanks in large part to the accelerated use of body sensors in healthcare applications such as wearable patches. According to BusinessWire:
Tractica forecasts that annual wearable device shipments will increase from 118 million units in 2016 to 430 million units by 2022, representing a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 24.1%. The market intelligence firm forecasts that, by the end of that period, smart watches will have become the largest wearable device category, followed closely by fitness trackers and body sensors. Other devices will also play a role in the growth of the market, including smart clothing, wearable cameras, smart glasses, smart headphones, and other wearables.
The market data includes device shipments and revenue segmented by world region, application market, and connectivity technology. The application markets covered in this study include consumer, enterprise, industrial, public safety, healthcare, sports, and others.
Tractica foresees healthcare uses outpacing fitness applications for wearable devices:
“Healthcare and health-focused applications in general will be a major driver for the next phase of growth in wearables,” says research director Aditya Kaul. “Wearable device companies that pivot beyond fitness and activity tracking, toward preventing and managing chronic health conditions like diabetes and heart problems will succeed in the long run. Tractica believes that chronic health management, both in a professional healthcare setting, as well as a general consumer setting, will help wearables break into the mainstream.”
Apple Applies for Mysterious Health Data Device Patent
Last week Apple was granted a patent for a device that “computes health data based on sensors and electrical contacts with one or more body parts of the user,” reports the Regulatory Affairs Professional Society (RAPS).
Here’s what we know:
- The device is comprised of a camera, an ambient light sensor, a proximity sensor, and a processing unit communicably coupled to the camera
- The device will have the capability to track blood pressure index, blood hydration, body fat content, oxygen saturation, pulse rate, and perfusion index
- The device may function as an electrocardiogram and photoplethysmogram (volumetric measurement of an organ)
- According to the patent, Apple may use the device to communicate with a database maintained by a health provider
What we don’t know is exactly how or if this relates to reports that Apple is working on a noninvasive blood sugar monitoring device. Regardless, it’s clear that with the hiring of Stanford’s digital health director and this new patent, Apple intends to throw its hat in the digital health ring.
Google to Acquire Mobile Health Monitoring Startup Senosis
On Sunday, Geekwire broke the story that Google has reached an agreement to acquire Seattle-based mobile health startup Senosis, although the financial details of the deal have not been disclosed.
Computer scientist and electrical engineer Shwetak Patel…has struck again.
The University of Washington computer scientist has sold his newest Seattle startup company, Senosis Health, to Google, according to sources familiar with the deal.
It marks the latest acquisition for Patel, whose past startup ventures have landed in the hands of companies such as Belkin International and Sears.
Patel, who founded Senosis Health with four other clinicians, researchers and tech transfer experts from the University of Washington, won a MacArthur genius grant in 2011 and his past innovations have ranged from energy meters to air quality sensors.
Senosis, a young company that was bankrolled entirely through more than $1 million from the Small Business Innovation Research program, approached the challenge of collecting health metrics by repurposing already existing smartphone technology. When the company first applied for review by the FDA, Patel told Geekwire he saw tremendous potential in the approach.
The company’s apps – including SpiroSmart and SpiroCall, HemaApp and OsteoApp – [seek to turn] smartphones into monitoring devices that collect health metrics to diagnose pulmonary function, hemoglobin counts and other critical health information.
[W]hen GeekWire first wrote about the novel concept [earlier this year], Patel seemed especially bullish on the idea of using the enhanced cameras, accelerometers and microphones of modern-day smartphones as a new type of health care diagnostic tool.
“Those sensors that are already on the mobile phone can be repurposed in interesting new ways, where you can actually use those for diagnosing certain kinds of diseases,” Patel said [at the time].
Like most tech giants, this recent acquisition by Google simply reinforces that they are making a significant and growing move into the healthcare space.
In 2015, Google’s parent company, Alphabet, launched a new subsidiary known as Verily which was designed to bring together technology, data science and healthcare in a way that would allow people to “enjoy longer and healthier lives.”
Patel and his colleagues at Senosis are not joining the Verily team, and it’s unclear where they will fit in the greater Alphabet family, the parent company of Google. One source told GeekWire that the Senosis team will remain at Google, forming the backbone of a digital health effort based in Seattle.
The other founders of Senosis included Dr. Jim Stout, a professor of pediatrics and an adjunct professor of health services at the University of Washington; Dr. Margaret Rosenfeld, an attending physician at Seattle Childrens Hospital and Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine; Dr. Jim Taylor of the University of Washington, and Mike Clarke, the former associate director in UW’s technology transfer office
Electronic Skin? A New Generation of Wearable Sensors Arrives
When researchers from South Korea's Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology and Northwestern University's Center for Bio-Integrated Electronics set out to design a new generation of wearable sensor, they wanted to overcome some of the many issues plaguing the accuracy and consistency of their predecessors. Chief among their goals were flexibility, smaller size and versatility on where the sensors can attach to the body.
[The] new, electronic skin microsystem tracks heart rate, respiration, muscle movement and other health data, and wirelessly transmits it to a smartphone. The electronic skin [is made of] very soft silicone about four centimeters (1.5 inches) in diameter—[and can be attached] just about anywhere on the body.
What is revolutionary, according to designers robotics professor Kyung-In Jang and John A. Rogers, director of Northwestern University's Center for Bio-Integrated Electronics, is a “microsystem” of hundreds of tiny wire coils laid into silicone.
The electronic skin contains about 50 components connected by a network of 250 tiny wire coils embedded in protective silicone. The soft material enables it to conform to the body, unlike other hard monitors. It wirelessly transmits data on movement and respiration, as well as electrical activity in the heart, muscles, eyes and brain to a smartphone application.
Unlike flat sensors, the tiny wires coils in this device are three-dimensional, which maximizes flexibility. The coils can stretch and contract like a spring without breaking. The coils and sensor components are also configured in an unusual spider web pattern that ensures "uniform and extreme levels of stretchability and bendability in any direction." It also enables tighter packing of components, minimizing size. The researchers liken the design to a winding, curling vine, connecting sensors, circuits and radios like individual leaves on the vine.
The key to creating this novel microsystem is stretching the elastic silicone base while the tiny wire arcs, made of gold, chromium and phosphate, are laid flat onto it. The arcs are firmly connected to the base only at one end of each arc. When the base is allowed to contract, the arcs pop up, forming three-dimensional coils.
Potential applications are extensive, according to the designers, “including continuous health monitoring and disease treatment”.
Professor Jang states "Combining big data and artificial intelligence technologies, the wireless biosensors can be developed into an entire medical system which allows portable access to collection, storage, and analysis of health signals and information." He added "We will continue further studies to develop electronic skins which can support interactive telemedicine and treatment systems for patients in blind areas for medical services such as rural houses in mountain village." The microsystem could also be used in other areas of emerging interest, such as soft robotics or autonomous navigation, which the team is now investigating.
Smartphones Can Now Be “Portable Lab” for Bodily Fluids
A new technology developed by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign essentially turns a smartphone into a high-performance spectrometer capable of analyzing multiple bodily fluids for a fraction of the cost of traditional lab equipment. Among the many potential applications, the technology could enable older adults aging in place to get the same quality of lab work done from the comfort of their homes.
Costing only $550, the spectral transmission-reflectance-intensity (TRI)-Analyzer from Bioengineering and Electrical & Computer Engineering Professor Brian Cunningham’s lab attaches to a smartphone and analyzes patient blood, urine, or saliva samples as reliably as clinic-based instruments that cost thousands of dollars.
“Our TRI Analyzer is like the Swiss Army knife of biosensing,” said Cunningham, the Donald Biggar Willett Professor of Engineering and director of the Micro + Nanotechnology Lab at Illinois. “It’s capable of performing the three most common types of tests in medical diagnostics, so in practice, thousands of already-developed tests could be adapted to it.”
The promising results of the study suggest the device could essentially provide a “portable laboratory” for all kinds of tests, said according to Kenny Long, an MD/PhD student and lead author of the research study.
Among the many diagnostic tests that can be adapted to their point-of-care smartphone format, Long said, is an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), which detects and measures a wide variety of proteins and antibodies in blood and is commonly used for a wide range of health diagnostics tests. The system is capable of detecting the output of any test that uses a liquid that changes color, or a liquid that generates light output (such as from fluorescent dyes).
Specifically, the analyzer illuminates a sample fluid with the phone’s internal white LED flash or with an inexpensive external green laser diode. The light from the sample is collected in an optical fiber and guided through a diffraction grating into the phone’s rear-facing internal camera. These optical components are all arranged within a 3D-printed plastic cradle.
According to a recent paper detailing the patented technology, it has applications beyond healthcare including food safety and manufacturing quality control. It is also available for license.
A paper describing the results in detail, entitled “Multimode smartphone biosensing: the transmission, reflection, and intensity spectral TRI Analyzer,” will be published in an upcoming issue of Lab on a Chip, but is currently available online. The work was supported by the National Science Foundation.
Home Healthcare Provider Sees Great Promise in Alexa Pilot
A California-based home healthcare provider Libertana reports it is seeing positive results just eight weeks into its pilot with Amazon’s Alexa. Libertana partnered with Boston-based startup Orbita to custom-design a new Alexa “skill” to assist its home healthcare workers. While the pilot currently uses only the Echo, Orbita’s tools are “platform agnostic,” which means they can also be adapted for other voice-activated home assistants like Google Home.
Using Libertana’s custom Alexa skill, seniors can verbally report medical data such as weight, blood pressure or blood sugar levels, listen to medication and exercise reminders, call for help from a caregiver, coordinate transportation and learn about their scheduled social and recreational activities.
…Jonathan Istrin, executive director at Libertana, [told] Home Health Care News, “We like it. We’re very excited about it. It allows my staff to see more clients… and the clients are happier.”
Libertana reports that utilizing Alexa provides both clinical and operational benefit.
One big [clinical] perk that the custom Alexa skill offers is that it’s able to cut down on loneliness, which is a problem for some seniors who age at home. Though it’s just a box, seniors come to see their Amazon Echo as a companion, Harvey Bogarat, vice president of business development for Libertana, tells HHCN.
For example, Alexa might offer kind words on a senior’s birthday, or tell them that they’re loved by their family.
“Loneliness is a huge factor in people’s longevity and mental health and physical wellbeing,” Bogarat says.
The effects of loneliness on seniors are well-documented. One recent study highlighted by the Washington Post suggests that seniors who say they’re lonely also reported 38.5% worse symptoms than their less lonely peers.
[Operationally, the big] advantage lies in eliminating redundancy for caregivers and improving productivity. Before the Alexa skill, Libertana’s caregivers would have to manually record all of the information that Alexa does, then input that information into an electronic medical record (EMR).
With voice assistance software, half of that job is done automatically, meaning caregivers can spend more time getting to know their clients on a personal level.
“Instead of calling and doing a download with their respective clients, they can have more of a social relationship with them,” Bogarat says.
Though the pilot is just a few weeks old, Libertana already has more features in the works and a growing wish list.
Soon, Libertana will unveil a feature that lets clients’ families see their daily medical reports remotely.
….One goal for future development of the skill is to program Alexa to input notes into the EMR directly. Another feature on Libertana’s wish list is better two-way communication functionality, like what you’d find with a traditional personal emergency response system (PERS) device such as Life Alert.
Orbiter co-founder and president Nathan Treloar sees a lot of potential in the home healthcare and both residential and assisted living applications.
[He told Home Health Care News that] “Libertana is kind of an early adopter in this space,” [but]…. more partnerships with senior-focused providers and agencies could be on the way—including home health care agencies.
“We’ve been a little shy going after the home care market because it’s so fragmented,” Treloar says. “But that’s about to change.”
Startups Demonstrate the Use of Health Tech at Retail Expo
The “Vision” pavilion at the upcoming Total Store Expo in San Diego will offer a glimpse of the ways the technology will be used to improve the retail experience for customers and employees. According to Pharmacy Times:
Vision 2028 will provide a snapshot of emerging technologies positioned to disrupt current approaches to doing business. Such technologies include augmented reality, virtual reality, 3D printing, machine learning, robotics, and computer vision/facial recognition. Attendees will engage with technology that can be implemented across key business areas such as manufacturing, supply chain and user experience.
Three of the startups participating in the Vision 2028 have a digital health focus:
AdhereTech – Smart, wireless pill bottles that collect and send all adherence data in real-time. The system automatically analyzes the information and populates the data in a secure dashboard. If doses are missed, patients receive customizable alerts and interventions via automated phone calls, text messages and more.
Neura – Artificial Intelligence and machine learning technology that enables apps and devices to deliver experiences that adapt to who their users are, and react to what they do throughout the day. The digital health focus is on disease management, medication adherence and wellness – with the ultimate goal of improving the consumer’s health at each critical moment.
WiserTogether – Consumer-focused healthcare IT solutions that advance clinical and financial outcomes, and patient satisfaction results. The Return to Health platform empowers consumers to be a true partner in the healthcare process; it circumvents immense amounts of medical data on the Internet and in the market for guidance on the most effective treatment options.
The 2017 National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) Total Store Expo, will be held at the San Diego Convention Center from August 19 – 22.
Digital Stethoscope Startup Has Finger on Pulse of Health Tech
What started as a spring break project for a UC Berkeley student has turned into a successful startup for the three young founders. Carol Pogash at the New York Times reported on digital stethoscope company Eko Devices:
[The company] raised nearly $5 million and sold 6,000 digital stethoscopes, used in 700 hospitals. The wireless stethoscopes can transfer a patient’s heart rate and other vital signs directly to Eko’s secure portal, where it can, among other things, be shared with other doctors for a second opinion.
Now they have built something with a potentially larger market: It is the Duo, a digital stethoscope for home use, which could change how heart patients are monitored, the entrepreneurs say. It is scheduled to become available by prescription in the fall.
The product, which fits in your hand, combines electrocardiogram, or E.K.G., readings and heart sounds into a device that allows patients to monitor their health at home and send data to their physicians.
None of the founders have a medical background, but they consult with doctors in the development of their products:
The Eko team relies on cardiologists at the Mayo Clinic, Stanford University’s School of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital and the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine.
The Duo gives at-home heart patients “a cardiology-level exam” said Dr. Ami B. Bhatt, director of outpatient cardiology at MGH and an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard University.
Dr. Bhatt, who is a scientific adviser to Eko and will be compensated with a small stock option for her work, said that tracking patients, wherever they live, will allow cardiologists to intervene “before a crisis.”
Not all doctors are enthusiastic about emerging health technology:
Other doctors say that it is too soon to tell how helpful telemedicine devices — which include home monitoring devices for diabetes, asthma and sleep disorders — will be, given the many obstacles. For one, patients can’t always be relied on to use them consistently or correctly.
“Medicine is experiencing a potentially tectonic shift,” said Dr. Jeffrey Olgin, professor and chief of cardiology at the U.C. San Francisco School of Medicine, who conducts research into mobile and digital health. “There is a huge amount of venture investment in these kinds of things. People are betting this is going to happen — but it hasn’t happened yet.”
The Duo and other telemedicine devices address a common medical problem. “There is a black space,” said Dr. Robert Pearl, a lecturer on health care policy at Stanford University’s medical and business schools and, until recently, the chief executive of Kaiser Permanente Medical Group, which represents 10,000 physicians.
Many small companies are developing devices for home monitoring, he said, “but doctors do not want continuous information.” They only want to know when there’s a problem, Dr. Pearl said.
Physicians tend to want more time talking to patients and less time scanning screens — and some of them are tech averse. “Some doctors are still faxing prescriptions,” [founder Jason] Bellet said. Telemedicine data must seamlessly reach patients’ records, which is something he and his partners are working on, he said. And insurance companies must agree to reimbursement, another work-in-progress.
Dr. Olgin, the U.C. San Francisco cardiologist, said he believed “very strongly that it’s not enough to do consumer-grade evaluations of telemedicine devices.”
“They should be held up to the same level as drugs, because there are always unintended consequences,” he said.
Some doctors may not be ready, but the market seems to be:
Telemedicine is a $9.2 billion business, said Bruce Carlson, publisher of Kalorama Information, a health care market-research firm in New York. The field is growing at 8 percent annually, nearly three times as fast as other medical devices.
The Duo enters a competitive field. The more established Kardia Mobile, which is the size of a stick of gum and attaches to the back of a smartphone, takes an E.K.G. reading in 30 seconds. It sells on Amazon for $99. This spring, AliveCor, the maker of the device, received over $30 million in funding, including an undisclosed amount from the Mayo Clinic, which is collaborating with the company on development of its devices.
The market potential for products that address heart failure is great. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 610,000 people die of heart failure in the United States every year, making it the leading cause of death. Half of heart-failure patients who leave a hospital return within six months. They keep tabs on themselves by weighing themselves daily, looking for sudden weight gain that can mean water retention — a sign the heart is not functioning properly.
According to the founders, developing products for the digital health market is all about perspective:
“If you compare Eko to Uber, it looks like we’re moving at a snail’s pace,” Mr. Bellet said. “But if you look at health care as a whole, we’re actually making quite a splash.”