Entrepreneur of the Week: James White, Common Sensing
Longevity Network: What does Common Sensing, the company, do?
James White: Common Sensing supports people using injectable medicine so they can lead healthier, happier lives. We do this through smart hardware and software solutions that automate and support various tasks that people have to perform when using medications like insulin, fertility hormone, or human growth hormone.
LN: Can you tell us about your product and how it works?
Our core product is Gocap, a hardware device and mobile application that supports people using injectable insulin. Using custom-developed optical sensing IP, the engineers at Common Sensing have created a smart cap for existing insulin injectors that replaces the existing plastic pen cap. Gocap monitors insulin dose amount, dose time, insulin remaining in the injector, temperature of the injector, and expiration of the insulin pen. This information is all synchronized to the Gocap Android and iOS apps which serve as digital logbooks and behavior change platforms. With the patient’s permission, this data is shared to caretakers and clinicians to make their care more effective and efficient.
LN: What opportunity did you want to address with the development of your technology?
JW: Out of the millions of insulin users in the US, two thirds of these users will drop off within their first six months of using insulin. These users develop life-changing complications and cost the healthcare system billions of dollars per year. There is a huge gap between the insulin treatment that exists for diabetes and how people are receiving this treatment in reality. We believe the insulin pen is at the center of this interaction and should be the focus of improvement. Other injectable medicines, like fertility hormone, are equally high-impact and high-cost. Through smart hardware and software, we can optimize these treatments to help everyone reach their goal.
LN: Who are your primary users? In what ways can your products benefit the 50+ population?
JW: The majority of insulin users are above the age of 50, and as such, the majority of our users have been above this age. The burden of starting a completely new habit like insulin dosing and titration is difficult for anyone at any age. We can benefit this population, disproportionately affected by the diabetes epidemic, by making insulin simpler to use and easier to integrate into a complicated life.
LN: How did you assemble your team?
JW: We are fortunate enough to be located in the Cambridge, MA ecosystem, in which there exists a hotbed of engineering, clinical, and business minds from amazing medical and academic institutions. Richard Whalley and I met during our time living in the dorms at MIT. We have recruited from the area through word of mouth and sites like AngelList and Indeed to assemble a team that is passionate about making injectable medicine a better experience for everyone that needs it. Additionally, our friends at interviewing.io are making it easier to interview for exceptional software developers.
LN: How has the company differed from what you envisioned it would be (if at all)?
JW: I envisioned that we would be useful to a specific subset of insulin users that have the largest issues with diabetes treatment. Instead, what we have found in our clinical studies at the Joslin Diabetes Center and UMass Memorial Medical Center is the opposite; almost everyone has some aspect of their insulin treatment they could improve on, rather 16 years old or 90 years old. Additionally, we have been surprised by the interest from non-diabetes indications for the technology, which we are actively developing.
LN: What do you wish you had known before developing your concept?
JW: I wish I had known more about the business models surrounding medical device reimbursement, be it insurers, government, self-insured employers, at-risk providers, or direct-to-consumer models. Before signing our first deals this year, we had a lot of work to do choosing the path to market that would be most strategically beneficial to Common Sensing. Ultimately we would have saved time building a strong business concept in parallel with a strong product, instead of in series.
LN: What most excites you about the aging and / or health technology market?
JW: The waste and inefficiency of the current systems built around aging and healthcare provision is extremely high, from an individual provider level all the way up to the way insurers and medicare reimburse. I believe, through technology and potentially policy, that this current system will either change or be replaced by something much better. Our solution is one component of this shift, and we’re excited to partner with other companies to be this change.
LN: What is your best piece of advice for startups who want to include or target the 50+ market?
JW: Assuming I’m providing advice to someone my age, be in frequent contact with your users. By frequent I mean weekly or daily. Befriend them, bring them in to your office, hire them, recruit them into your clinical studies, compensate them for being part of your most valuable business intelligence – user research. I’m a firm believer that the biggest reason healthcare technology products fail is a lack of one out of two things: successful user testing or business model.
LN: Do you have any other products in development?
JW: We have two categories of products under development. First, we are designing and developing software tools for clinicians to analyze injectable medicine data to make their decisions faster and more effective. Second, we are making the Gocap dose monitor compatible with many different types of injectable medicine across multiple indications.
LN: Where do you see Common Sensing five years from now?
JW: I see Common Sensing managing the burden and risk of injectable medicine use for over ten million people worldwide, making both patient and clinician lives easier, while also saving money in government and private healthcare systems.