The AMA hosted the Healthier Nation Innovation Challenge last year at MATTER. It was an exciting event that led to more than 100 business idea submissions by medical students, residents, and physicians as well as 16,000 engagements on the site in 5 weeks. This month, we’re catching up with the four finalists (listed below) to see how they’re doing, their path to get here and what they’ve been up to since participating in the challenge.
Twiage – Yi Ding Yu, MD and John Hui
Ceeable – Cynthia Matossian, MD and Chris Adams
SimX – Ryan Ribeira, MD, MPH
Light Line Medical – Mitchell Barneck, MD
Q: It’s great to have the opportunity to catch up with each of you. What have you and your company been up to since the Innovation Challenge last year?
Twiage: Since the Innovation Challenge last year, Twiage has quadrupled its business. We have signed up 11 healthcare systems covering 25 hospitals in 7 states and are being used by more than 110 EMS agencies. Twiage is powering approximately 6,000 EMS transports every month.
Ceeable: Since last year’s AMA competition, Ceeable has been very active. The company has completed a physician friendly software interface for performing the digital test for detecting retina and optic nerve diseases. The test is performed in the office and all patient data and office management functions for the test are securely stored in the cloud and accessible by the customer from any web enabled device. The service is HIPAA compliant and protected by high-grade encryption.
In addition, the company has won a contract to bring the Ceeable digital health solution to India and has partnered with Dr. Agarwal’s Eye Hospital, a leading center for eye care.
The company has many sites in the US and rest of the world using the technology and is now embarking on commercial marketing and sales.
SimX: We’ve gone through beta and have launched our commercial product! We are deploying to our first customers (Stanford and Indiana/Purdue University) and are gearing up for wider release.
Light Line Medical: Thanks for reaching out to us. Since the competition we have continued to further refine our regulatory strategy, completed further product testing, organized into a corporation, and submitted additional intellectual property to protect our product and related devices.
Q: How did you get started bringing your idea to market?
Twiage: Twiage’s product idea emerged from a healthcare hackathon when the founding team including YiDing and an EMT realized there was so much inefficient communication between EMS and hospitals that often caused life threatening delays. We started to validate its idea by pitching various hospitals and participating in startup accelerators like Blueprint Health, MassChallenge and Village Capital. It was a lot of hard work since the beginning. South Shore Hospital in Massachusetts was the first hospital that piloted Twiage’s solution and achieved great success. The Valley Hospital and St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center in New Jersey later followed to pilot Twiage.
Ceeable: I have been involved in ophthalmology on the device side for some time. Another technology I co-invented is being used daily across the globe to heal corneal scars. That technology was successfully acquired by another company and I was seeking additional opportunities in the field. Dr. Wolfgang Fink invented the initial Ceeable technology while at Caltech; we had known each other from past collaborations. After reviewing his technology, we agreed to collaborate to bring the Ceeable technology to market.
We asked Dr. Cynthia Matossian, MD to review the technology for clinical relevance and in the process, she agreed to serve as a clinical advisor to Ceeable.
SimX: This wasn’t the first idea I’d worked on. I’d been on the founding team or advisory board of several other startups prior to this. But SimX was the first company I personally took from conception to sales. Every company is unique but my prior experiences meant I knew the basic blueprint.
The first step for me was to validate a basic business case with experts in the field. Then I recruited a team from contacts through the AMA and prior endeavors. Then we simultaneously developed, tested, and iterated on both our business model and our technology platform until we had something that met our customers’ needs in a package that made sense. We have only recently crossed over into the world of sales but so far the actual bringing of the idea to market has been smooth.
I’ve always felt that the primary risk of a startup isn’t being unable to build what you envision; it’s building the wrong thing. Three years of business and technology development with close contact with our customers meant that when it’s time to launch, we can be fairly confident that what we’re selling is what our customers want to buy.
Light Line Medical: The road getting FDA clearance for medical devices is substantial, and as stated above we continue to further refine strategy and conduct testing to ensure optimal market penetration with the device. We got started initially as a bench-to-bedside competition at the University of Utah as Biomedical Engineering students. We took the funding from that competition to file the initial intellectual property and start the company. We are constantly moving forward with new opportunities arising continually.
Q: How did the Innovation Challenge support/impact your journey?
Twiage: Winning the AMA Innovation Challenge gave Twiage great credibility in to prospective physician and hospital clients and differentiated Twiage from other startup companies. AMA’s reputation partially helped Twiage scale up the growth. The prize money certainly helped us as well in developing our product.
Ceeable: The innovation challenge was very helpful in bringing additional focus to our clinical story. It added further credibility to our product. The proceeds from the competition were used to create a physician friendly software interface and to better understand some of the complexities of patient management.
SimX: The innovation challenge gave us a key opportunity to consolidate our product concept into a cohesive pitch. This very process helped us refine the product and the way we talk about it. It also got us plenty of exposure among physicians interested in technology and those connections have proved tremendously valuable in the last year. In fact our new CMO was recruited, in part, because of our participation in the Innovation Challenge and we’ve had a lot of investment interest that came and continues to come our way because of our participation there.
Light Line Medical: Certainly the collaboration, exposure, and contacts provided during the course of the Innovation Challenge aided by creating new opportunities and strengthening established resources. The AMA has substantial influence, and placing well in the competition was advantageous.
Q: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in your entrepreneurial journey?
Twiage: We have learned that being a successful entrepreneur requires tremendous perseverance, adaptability and patience. Entrepreneurship is a very lonely journey. It is very important to have a great team.
Ceeable: Be passionate about your idea, persevere in the face of difficulties, pursue all credible leads and above all, listen to your customers.
SimX: You can’t go into it for the money. Unicorns are rare, and even of those companies that are phenomenally successful, the founders don’t always strike it rich. You have to love the ups and downs, the risk, the product, and the team you’re working with. If you don’t enjoy the process, it is 100% not worth it. There are a lot of far easier ways to make money.
Light Line Medical: There are several lessons that have been solidified. The most important is that we are surrounded by opportunities to impact and make improvements to medical care every day. We only have to develop the skill to see it and the determination to make a change. It’s not always ground breaking, but every contribution makes a difference. Another lesson is that while you need to surround yourself with wise counsel and experienced team members, at the end of the day, you believing in the idea and being willing to work for it is what will make the biggest impact on its success. And finally, learn to hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.
Q: What advice would you give to other physician entrepreneurs?
Twiage: If you really believe in your idea, you need to take the risks and just do it. If you hesitate about taking risks, think about what you have to lose if you fail and go back to be a practicing physician. If you can always go back to be a practicing physician, then you should take the risk. From having zero customer to one and one to two were often very difficult. Entrepreneurs must be resilient to overcome that phase.
Ceeable: Most ideas sound good on paper. I would encourage potential entrepreneurs to present the idea to colleagues and other parties who don’t have a vested interest in its outcome to get objective and constructive feedback.
SimX: There are lots of ways to participate in innovation without founding your own company. There are plenty of fantastic innovators out there who are in desperate need of physician input. We can’t let the next generation of healthcare technology be developed without the guidance of actual care providers. Whether it’s as a founder, a team member, an advisor, an investor, or just a supporter, there are many ways to get involved.
Light Line Medical: This path takes time. You will not be successful overnight, and it certainly may not be on the first try. Make sure that you understand the problem, the users, the major players, and that your solution adequately satisfies all of their requirements. Bring on team members that help think outside the box for other options and are willing to productively challenge the established protocol.
Q: What’s next for your company?
Twiage: Twiage is looking to triple its customers and raise a Series A Round of funding in 2018.
Ceeable: Ceeable is now in active sales and marketing mode to bring this innovative technology to patients and doctors worldwide.
SimX: We are rolling out to our first customers, and then will be in wide release Q1 of 2018! Look for us at IMSH, or at SimXAR.com
Light Line Medical: We are in the middle of continued testing and regulatory submissions for our medical device. We will continue these efforts and hope to get our initial product to market. We will then work to translate the technology into different applications.
It’s great to hear about the opportunities you’ve had and the great work being done over the last year! Thanks so much for taking the time to update us! We look forward to your participation in the panel discussion and seeing your continued success!