Health tech is going to be huge (Niklas Zennström said so – check minute 20:00 of this LeWeb London 2012 panel discussion). But what does a health 2.0 startup actually look like? We caught up with the 22-year-old CEO of Swiss/Austrian startup NoTube.
Marguerite Dunitz-Scheer (right), a doctor at the University Hospital of Graz, Austria, is a world-leading expert in a niche field – teaching babies and young children who have come to rely on feeding tubes to eat normally.
She’s also, as her son Samuel, 22, tells me, a bit of a workaholic. It’s hard not to work 16 to 20 hour days, including giving consultations for free via email, when you receive emails with “we need help, we know you’re the guy” in the headline.
Samuel, Marguerite and her husband Peter (also one of the world’s few tube dependency specialists) came up with a business idea to change that. “My motivation wasn’t to get her to work less,” Samuel says. “That was pointless, I couldn’t do that, but to get her to start charging money for the services she provided.”
The family knew that remote consultation for early eating disorders could work. So, two years ago, they started a company and built “netcoaching” platform NoTube.
NoTube, despite a less-than-appealing name and zero spend on marketing until very recently, has now used its netcoaching program to wean over 150 children from 24 countries (out of a total 155 patients accepted to the programme). The company employs 13 and brings in what Samuel – now CEO – says are six-figure revenues.
How it works – and where the team’s heading
Parents make initial contact with the team through NoTube’s website and pay a €240 assessment fee. If the team is confident they’ve got an over 90 per cent chance of success, you can pay another €3,300 for access to the secure online platform, which includes daily feeding protocols, video analysis of the child’s eating behavior nearly every day, and unlimited text message consultation with NoTube’s medical experts (Marguerite, Peter and others from the hospital).
Netcoaching is much cheaper for parents than taking time off work, flying to Austria and staying in Graz for three to four weeks. The big advantage for the doctors is that cutting out all the personal contact and chit chat means they can treat an average 27 patients at one time rather than ten.
“We do take care of the psychological aspects but it’s just more efficient this way,” Samuel (right) says. If parents are showing signs they’re not confident with netcoaching, the team recommends they come to Graz to be treated in person.
As well as starting to invest in marketing and PR (carefully, due to heavy restrictions on medical marketing – some countries don’t allow it at all), the NoTube team are investigating other needs that could be treated using the same platform with different names, branding and e-commerce websites.
So far, the company is self-funded and Samuel is keen to keep it that way for as long as possible. Meanwhile, he’s also getting ready to start his masters degree at the University of St Gallen and looks after investment relations at incubator Ventureworks, which he co-founded with three other students. “University is on the side,” he says. “Basically, it’s a two-month per year job for me to do university and ten months for startups.”
Health 2.0 – “our goal is to participate in that wave”
The simplicity of NoTube’s basic concept – taking medical consultation online – proves how much room is left for IT-enabled disruption in healthcare. “It’s like enterprise software,” Samuel says. “Over the last decade, no-one was talking about it, now we’ve got Salesforce, Wunderlist… B2B software’s really picked up.”
Health software, particular B2C software, ditto. “Our goal is to participate in that wave.”