Shazeeye's Blog Thoughts on User Experience, Technology and Business


UC Berkeley Business Plan Competition: Part 1 of 2

I went to the UC Berkeley annual business plan competition on Friday evening. It was insightful and impressive. Eight finalists were chosen from 35 semi finalists by a panel of eight judges. Eight finalists were given 15 minutes each to present their ideas and the remaining 27 semi finalists who didn't make it to the final round were given 1 minute to give an elevator pitch. Finalists belonged to one of four tracks - IT & Web, Energy & Clean Tech, Life sciences, Products & Services. There were 2 finalists in each track. Three prizes were distributed at the end of the evening: People's Choice Award ($5000), Best Elevator Pitch ($1000) and Grand Prize ($20,000).

To get details on the semi finalists please read through the UC Berkeley Business Plan Brochure 2011 (pages 17-24). Best Elevator Pitch went to Inserogen, a biotech company that uses non-transgenic tobacco plants as protein bio factories thus accelerating vaccine development.

The eight finalists had the following components in their presentation: identifying an unmet need and solving it well, a substantial and growing market size, a strong team, proof of concept, a robust revenue model/financial analysis, an integrative production and distribution strategy and strong positioning through competitive analysis. The eight finalists were:

1. Kopo Kopo: provides financial services to emerging markets via text messages through mobile phones at approximately $200/month ($100-$400 monthly subscription fee). Kopo Kopo has already partnered with 2 financial institutions (profit shown in image on right) in Kenya to provide the poor access to financial services. They offer a SaaS platform to financial institutions to connect mobile money networks to a Management of Information Systems (MIS). They plan to target this 1.1B market by targeting the 30M small and medium sized Sub Saharan businesses in Africa.

2. Imprint Energy: This was my favorite and I voted for it in the People Choice Award category. Imprint Energy makes rechargeable batteries that can be printed and attached to shoes, clothing, etc.  These customizable, paper thin, longer lasting batteries consist of 5 layers and Imprint Energy has partnered with many companies for its development and manufacturing as seen below. The competitive landscape has few players and Imprint Energy batteries last longer, are rechargeable, are easier to manufacture and are more rugged and safer compared to its competitors.

3. Axis: makes a protective vest that protects athletes from spinal and bodily injuries through advanced sports injury prevention technology. It specifically protects the neck and buttocks in addition to the back as those are the most susceptible parts during an injury. It uses a gel technology which hardens on impact and protects the athlete. Axis plans to start with the equestrian market and then expand to other high risk sports.

4. Cardio Paint: provides heart attack diagnosis and improves risk stratification with a peptide-based injectable. 5M patients visit emergency rooms annually for chest pains of which 60% are told to wait and see what happens. Cardio Paint addresses problem by improving risk stratification through an injectible that accumulates radioisotopes (as seen in the rat's tail below) at a blood clot and better diagnose heart attacks at half the cost and one-tenth of the time.

You can read about the remaining 4 finalists here.


Health 2.0 conference: Top 3 promising health 2.0 companies

I attended the Health 2.0 conference on Oct 7th in San Francisco. I would like to share with you my top 3 promising health 2.0 companies. Unfortunately, my views on this post could be biased as I only attended the first day of the two day event. The conference was an eye opener to me not just because of the sheer number of disruptive healthcare startups out there (Health 2.0 tracked 850 companies over its past 4 annual conferences)  but also because of the strides taken in empowering the patient.

So, what is Health 2.0? The shift from traditional in clinic, doctor-dependent healthcare to patient empowered healthcare via web-based and mobile technologies that harness collective intelligence and predictive analytics of user generated communities. Of course, with disruptive technologies that challenge the norm, its only a matter of time when an integrated solution for all these different platforms would provide a more comprehensive solution. I look forward to health 3.0 and the convergence of such platforms.

Coming back to the promising companies at the conference:Health 2.0, Wellness

1. Unity Medical's Health Risk Assessment (HRA): I chose this for 2 main reasons- first, it addresses the wellness market and second, its personalized health recommendations and innovative data collection method using video transforms patient engagement and education.

The wellness market is aimed at keeping people healthy and disease free. It's a huge market and is what healthcare should be about -keeping people healthy and not healing people after they fall sick. Basically, the tool utilizes a female guide that alks to you through video to collect some basic  health information thus increasing participation and ease of use by transforming a boring process of collecting information (usually with a form in traditional methods) into a more engaging process. The information is then processed and a set of personalized recommendations are given to you. This should increase patient engagement and reduce the burden on traditional methods of patient education. It's also iPad compatible and customizable for doctors that want to collect specific information.

2. Sharecare: Jeff Arnold, the creator of WebMD, has started Sharecare, a new venture, with Dr Mehmet Oz. SharMatt Holt, WebMDecare, according to Jeff, is the "next generation of WebMD". The value of Sharecare comes from a 3 tiered pyramid. At the top lies the user communities answering questions related to 47 nodes ranging from allergies to women's health. In the middle lies the greatest value of Sharecare which is the power of the Sharecare network. Jeff has signed celebrities such as Dr. Oz, authors, powerful health groups such as the American Diabetes Association, local hospitals such as the Brigham and Women's Hospital and Industries such as Walgreens and Colgate. They help in providing quality content to the questions while establishing their brand through a Facebook-like page dedicated for each of them to add videos, user testimonials, etc. At the bottom of the pyramid is the accessibility of this service which is spread through mobile applications and extensive sharing and search supported features.

3. HealthLine: I chose this company for its innovative method to educate consumers. Healthline has collabor3D health visuals to empower consumers to make better health decisionsated with GE to provide visually enriched stunning 3D visuals of how diseases affect the body. These videos make medical jargon easy to understand empowering consumers to make better health decisions. Healthline's health map is a visual search tool to better navigate the vast resources on the site. You can even customize and add notes to the medical information on the site.

Some other companies that piqued my interest:

- MedHelp: builds health related mobile applications such as I'm Expecting (to help you through pregnancy) and Sleep On It (to track your sleep patterns and optimal sleep time) and boasts of the largest online health community

- PatientsLikeMe:helps find patients with similar diseases to learn from their stories and to build a supportive network to help through the emotional turmoil of the disease

- Qpid.Me: helps people make better decisions before having sex, by verifying their HIV/STD results and communicating these results through text messaging


Key to Success for any Company: Listen to Your Customers

I went for a talk by Steve Blank a few weeks ago. He spoke on listening to your customers to validate the idea for your startup (or a new product for existing companies) until you get to a scalable and repeatable business model (he calls the pivot) and thus be successful. He urges entrepreneurs (or intrapreneuers) to "get out of the building" (see a signed copy of his book to me) and listen to your customers to validate your idea or tweak it based on customer feedback. I highly recommend his book because I have been practicing his Customer Development model (right image) and find it very successful. As a usability specialist for 4 years I made websites easy to use by asking customers for their feedback.

Recently, I wrapped up an internship at HealthCrowd, a telehealth platform that connects holistic practitioners such as therapists and nutritionists to you. I decided to find out for myself what our customers (in this case people who visit a nutritionist, therapist, etc) thought of our service.  I asked ten customers and found six in favor of the service and four not in favor or who would not use it the way it was intended to be used. Many would argue that ten customers are not enough to make conclusions but with limited time and resources it always helps to listen to even a few at least for the qualitative feedback if not for the quantitative extrapolation of results to apply to the larger population.

Below, you will see two video excerpts of my interviews (positive feedback video on top and negative at the bottom). Putting together the positive feedback from all six customers it is clear that they would use HealthCrowd for its benefits: convenient consultations that can be taken from work (or anywhere) during lunch break (or anytime), better control of their health through online health monitoring and a more effective way of choosing a practitioner (through common health stories shared in the form of user testimonials). Customers who did not favor HealthCrowd said they would use the service as a directory to search for a practitioner and once they identified a practitioner they would book an in-clinic consultation. Others resonated the fact that the relationship built through in-clinic consultations is integral to the healing process. One customer just didn't trust HealthCrowd (see second video below) based on impressions formed in the under-5-minute interview which goes to show how quickly we form our impressions. By addressing these needs and truly listening to our customers we should be on a less rocky road to success. Specifically, how do we capture the customer segment who will use this service as a directory? How do we substitute the power of relationships formed during in-clinic consultations? In what ways can we build credibility and get patients to trust HealthCrowd?

In conclusion, customer feedback is a critical component for the success of any company and should be done frequently to refine our hypothesis through all stages of product development.

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