The lights went down, and the crowd hushed as the first presentation began. Healthcare startups from across the world had gathered in the Los Angeles Convention Center for the Employer Healthcare & Benefits Congress and World Medical Tourism & Global Healthcare Congress that were hosting the inaugural Market Disrupt: A Venture Pitch Event. This competition brought together eleven startups from across the world to compete to possess the most disruptive business product as determined by an expert panel of eight judges.
The event was created to highlight, and ultimately fund the start-ups working on the products that will revolutionize healthcare. All participants received a customized assessment and coaching report produced by the judges, but the winner received a comprehensive package that included media exposure, free passes to upcoming Global Healthcare Resources events, a business capital needs analysis, advisory analysis from a national investment banking company, and introductions to a statewide angel investor network.
"Over 40 disruptive companies applied to participate in Market Disrupt," said Rene-Marie Stephano, Founder & Chief Executive Officer of Global Healthcare Resources and Co-Founder of Global Healthcare Ventures. "It was a difficult decision to narrow down that list to the very best eleven."The eleven start-ups that participated were:
- Blue Mesa Health
- BuildMyBod Health
- DZee Solutions
- Light Health Research
Judges for the event represented a variety of industries from healthcare, to academia, to investors. Judges included:
- Rene-Marie Stephano, President of the Medical Tourism Association
- Jonathan Edelheit, Principal and Co-Founder of Global Healthcare Resources
- Max W. Hooper Ph.D., Managing Director of Merging Traffic
- Vicki Rabenou, Chief Executive Officer of Startup Nation Ventures
- Michael J. O'Donnell, Executive Director of Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Central Florida
- Bernie Knobbe, Vice President of Global Benefits at AECOM
- Alex Rubalcava, Co-Founder, and Partner at Stage Venture Partners.
And the Winner is!
After hearing the presentations and seeing what these startups had to offer, the judges conferred to decide which product was the most disruptive. The winner was Somatix, for their real-time gesture detection platform. This unique platform provides end-to-end gesture detection, tracking, analysis, and management in real time. Using the body's gestures, especially hand gestures, Somatix can determine what an individual is doing and place it in the context of their health.
Utilizing sensors built into a range of wearable devices and other connected IoT devices, Somatix's platform tracks, filters and examines massive volumes of data and employs cloud-based machine learning algorithms to produce insights on physiological and even emotional states. In essence, the platform sorts through an extreme amount of data to determine what an individual is currently doing and provide an incentive to improve the individual's overall health.
"The number of uses this could apply to are practically endless," said Eran Ofir, CEO, and Co-Founder of Somatix. "[The platform] can monitor if a user takes their medication and could even help solve some of the big public health concerns like smoking cessation and drug use. We are the only product that can apply immediate intervention on a person remotely, based on the context of what the individual is currently doing. That is the Holy Grail of health intervention and is the key endpoint of our system."
Somatix's unique ability to monitor health is only part of the reason for their success, however. The system also incorporates tenets of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) into the messages and incentives users receive, boosting their effectiveness and overall ability to create lasting behavioral change. "Essentially, our internet servers employ CBT on the users to improve their health. The value is that we can apply immediate and effective intervention on an individual wherever they are. And we can apply these interventions based on the context of what they are doing - including their health and well-being."
This ability extends beyond health and wellness interventions. Physicians can use this to monitor their patients remotely, improving readmission rates. Utilizing the Somatix's customized dashboard, a physician can see if their patient has been walking or just sitting all day, if the patient has taken their medications, or if they can eat or drink. They can even oversee their current health status, and contact the patient if they see anything wrong.
On top of this, remote counseling reimbursement costs allow doctors to monitor their patients and get paid for it - a win-win for patients and physicians. Also essential to Somatix's success is their clinical validation. They spent two and a half years acquiring such validation, like the study conducted by Professor Reuven Dar at Tel Aviv University School of Psychological Sciences whose findings were published in the Oxford University Press' peer-reviewed journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research.
The article, "Effect of Real-Time Monitoring and Notification of Smoking Episodes on Smoking Reduction: A Pilot Study of a Novel Smoking Cessation App" examined whether monitoring and notifying smokers about smoking episodes immediately via the SmokeBeat app, powered by Somatix's BMD platform, would lead to a reduction in smoking. "We were impressed with the results," said Professor Dar.
"The SmokeBeat algorithm detected more than 80 percent of the smoking episodes correctly and produced very few false alarms. According to both self-report and detection of smoking episodes by the SmokeBeat system, smokers in the experimental condition showed a significant decline in their smoking rate while there was no change in the smoking rate of the control group. These results suggest that the SmokeBeat real-time automatic monitoring and notification feature may facilitate a smoking reduction in smokers motivated to make life-improving changes."
A Short History of Somatix
Eran's journey to creating Somatix is an examination into how we can improve our healthcare system and a look into how startups in the industry develop and gain funding. "I came from Corporate America," Eran said. "I established and managed businesses for years, including 20 years at Fortune 500 companies. I was making a lot of money for shareholders, but I wanted to do something to help people. I decided to make a startup in healthcare or aggrotech, which I feel have the most potential to make an impact in people's lives.
I didn't want another product to help another big company make even more money. "It was shortly after having this thought that Eran met Uri Schatzberg, the co-founder, and CTO of Somatix." He showed me a demonstration of the technology, and we realized how powerful it was and its potential to change people's lives. "They started to work on the technology and building their company. Shortly afterward, they applied and managed to be elected to enter the DreamIt Health Accelerator in Philadelphia, which is one of the top ten accelerators in the world, and notoriously selective-only 15 of the 1,100 that applied were accepted.
Then, in the second half of 2015, they were able to enter also the New York Digital Health Accelerator, organized by the New York State Department of Health, and only takes every year the six most disruptive companies in healthcare. These early successes paved the way for their win at the Market Disrupt in 2017. "The Market Disrupt was great," said Eran.
"It had great content and an amazing audience, with many opportunities to present. The Market Pitch itself was excellent. Having the experts sitting on a panel, asking questions about the technology, the product, the vision, and the business model are good metrics to examine, and important to success. The best part is the audience sitting behind them, who are the people most likely to be interested in the product."
What's in the Future for Somatix?
After success in a variety of accelerators and competitions, there is still more for Somatix to accomplish. In the second quarter of 2018, they will launch an elderly care product that utilizes the body motion data algorithm to assist in the monitoring of Activities of Daily Living, fall detection, post-surgery monitoring, medication management, and mobility assessment. Also essential to Eran is to further their clinical validity. "For two and half years, the product needed clinical validation," said Eran.
"The problem with the healthcare industry is that it's not like retail. For retail, you are more or less just selling the product. However, in healthcare, it's not that simple; it needs to be proven. The first question most executives ask me is 'What evidence do you have?'. You can't run out and get clinic validation in a week. There are no shortcuts.
You have to go through the entire process of going through the academy, hiring researchers, and conducting clinical trials. You need this to generate the data to prove your product works. "As time moves on, the power of wearable devices to generate more data will only increase, meaning Somatix's ability to identify our actions and remind us when we are unhealthy will only improve. The ability to provide immediate feedback will only serve to strengthen our ability to erase bad habits and embrace new ones, improving the health of everyone." Having the chance actually to help people like you and me feels wonderful! When you have a strong idea and strong belief, other people get it." Eran said.