Leaps of faith by digital health pioneers

The UK entrepreneurs behind mobility device GripAble and patient data app Clinishare share the business leaps of faith they’ve made in Dubai 

Since early 2016, Dubai has welcomed high-potential healthcare entrepreneurs from around the world as part of Dubai 100, an accelerator programme that aims to boost the development of talented young innovators.

As the programme’s second accelerator enters its final month, Vision speaks to two UK entrepreneurs supported by Dubai 100, about lessons learnt and challenges overcome as they strive to change the face of digital healthcare.

The Dubai 100 entrepreneur

Name: Dr Paul Rinne, Co-founder of GripAble and Digital Health Consultant, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust

Start-up: GripAble provides digital solutions to people with impaired mobility. Dr Rinne joined the second Dubai 100 Accelerator in January 2017

As a clinical neuroscientist, I work with stroke patients who struggle to use their hands for simple activities. Everyday living – getting dressed in the morning, even pouring yourself a glass of water – is a momentous task for them, and this is the reality for over 500 million people around the world who struggle with impaired mobility. They want, and need, rehabilitation.

At Imperial College London we developed GripAble: a handheld device that allows patients to track and train grip, finger extension and whole arm movements, using gamification to motivate patients and help therapists remotely track progress. We’ve already tested the device with more than 500 patients and have shown over 93 per cent are able to train using GripAble.

Dubai 100 came at a perfect time to help us take the product out of our academic and clinical world into a business. Given that our team does not come from a specific business background, figuring out what our product specifics should be and how it should be sold were things that we needed help with.

The accelerator has surpassed our expectations in terms of delivering a structure to help us approach these challenges, and mentors with experience ranging from product development strategy, to the business discovery phase. From the first week we had mentors right there next to us: not to tell us what to do, but to teach us the tools needed to deliver our product to market. What’s also been fun is to help other people’s companies in the programme and be helped by them. You’re often so focused on your own product, you are almost blind to it, but insight from people from different backgrounds has been immensely helpful.

We’ve re-thought our approach to market research: whereas before we would immediately present the product to hospitals and rehabilitation centres, and always got an enthusiastic response, we took a step back to really get to know our customer, to ask about the kind of patients being treated and what the need is, before we show them any solution. This has helped us strengthen and even re-build parts of our business model based on validated assumptions.

seb roberts
Dr Sebastian Roberts of Clinishare

The Dubai 100 graduate

Name: Dr Sebastian Roberts, Chief Medical Officer at Clinishare

Start-up: Dr Roberts joined Dubai 100 in early 2016 with his startup, Arch. During his time in Dubai he met, and eventually joined, Clinishare

As an Accident and Emergency (A&E) doctor, I have often been frustrated by systems which give no real understanding of which patients doctors are looking after and make handovers between clinicians difficult. Obviously you can imagine, when patients are very sick, that’s a very dangerous situation to be in.

To tackle these challenges head-on, I started learning how to code and developed some database products which I released at a departmental level in the hospital I was working at. This led to Arch, an end-to end communication system that allows clinicians to share data securely so that they can improve their healthcare delivery.

I came to Dubai on the inaugural Dubai 100 programme with a teammate to develop Arch into a commercial product, however, through our journey in Dubai, I started to realise that the technical level of skill and the resource needed to produce a full-scale system in an increasingly competitive market was beyond us.

During Dubai 100, I met Clinishare, which aims to simplify patient data using a range of different products, and as I got to know its founders I quickly realised that we shared a vision. For me the question was: do I struggle on alone, or do I join a larger opportunity that has a wider impact? There’s a lot of emotional struggle with these things, but sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith.

On a recent trip to Dubai to explore regional opportunities for Clinishare, I met the new cohort of Dubai 100 entrepreneurs at the very beginning of their journeys. My advice to everyone was to be open-minded about where they are with their products and to look at how the market around them is evolving all the time.

Part of being a good entrepreneur, I’m starting to understand, is knowing when to kill your idea and when to seize a new opportunity.