Meet the healthtech startup bringing medical imaging into the future

Ideas

Monthly Archives: September 2017

Meet the healthtech startup bringing medical imaging into the future

Harsh Nayyar always knew he wanted to create something that could change the world.

Little did the former Google engineer know that a sprained ankle would one day inspire him, and his brother-slash-co-founder Rishi Nayyar, to build a digital health platform that would revolutionize how medical imaging records are shared in Ontario.

The entrepreneur’s journey all started back in 2013 when he injured himself while working in Silicon Valley. After seeing his doctor, he was forced to hobble back and forth between the centre — where his x-ray scans were taken — and his physician’s office. The outdated process was the only way he could share the CD given to him that contained images his doctor needed It was a frustrating experience.

“I knew there had to be a better way,” he explained. “For someone like me, it’s not that big of an issue but if you think about chronically ill people who need to go back-and-forth to get their images, it’s a lot because some specialists won’t even see [patients] without their images.”

Enter: PocketHealth

 
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How it works

 
The duo’s platform, launched in 2016, acts like a high-tech DropBox. It can seamlessly connect to any medical imaging centre’s system and automatically upload patient’s records. The data is then stored online for easy-access anytime, anywhere. The platform links two medical systems — the institutions that perform scans and the doctors that use them — in a way that wasn’t possible before.

The technological breakthrough has changed things not only for patients but for the professionals who use them. Patients no longer have to travel between different offices for their records and can easily share them with other specialists. Meanwhile, medical professionals can access their patient’s images directly from their clinic’s electronic medical record systems.  It’s a  massive improvement over booting up a CD for every patient.

“Historically in healthcare, it’s been very difficult for disparate systems to speak to one another,” Rishi explains.

“That’s how solutions like CDs became the common language between, for example, a hospital imaging department and a patient’s orthopaedic surgeon. Knowing that we focused on building that same interoperability into PocketHealth. The end result is a flexible platform that can pull data from an imaging centre and send it to any authenticated patient, who can then share with any caregiver they wish,” he adds.
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Changing the industry

 
PocketHealth couldn’t come at a better time. Healthcare costs in Canada are on the rise. Technology that eliminates medical delays could free up public funds or even save lives by helping doctors diagnose patients faster.

Since starting, PocketHealth has signed thousands of patients, integrated with nearly 100 imaging centers and partnered with institutions, like St. Michael’s Hospital.

“We were in a position before where we wanted to build something and make an impact,” says Harsh. “We started [PocketHealth] by just looking at how the medical imaging space works in Canada and went from there.”

In a little under a year and a half, the startup has grown tremendously. From a pilot project in a single clinic to seeing thousands of medical images added to their platform every day. Both brothers credit their hard work and experience from previous jobs for the company’s rapid success.

Rishi, who worked for Citigroup’s corporate and investment banking division, learned how to turn their idea into a sustainable company. Harsh’s former position at video and imaging software firm Agawi, before it was acquired by Google, gave him the technical skills to create the platform.

Next steps

 
The Nayyar brothers are keen to see where the business goes next but most excited about how they’re helping patients. “We see PocketHealth today as the first step towards a reality where patients are empowered to access their entire health record and become truly informed advocates for their own care,” adds Rishi.

.@PocketHealth is putting health advocacy back into the hands of patients

How to boost your company’s cybersecurity on a tight budget

There’s no doubt that the Internet has changed the way people access and share information. It plays a pivotal role in how companies operate their business, even though the risks associated with living in an increasingly connected world continue to grow.

So far 2017 has seen an unusually high number of cybersecurity disasters. They include large-scale hacks that have targeted some of today’s biggest firms, such as Equifax, Verizon and PlayStation. According to a recent report, businesses dealt with an average of 4,000 ransomware attacks every day in 2016, marking a 300 per cent increase from the previous year.

For entrepreneurs — especially startups on a tight budget — it may seem like keeping an online business safe is almost impossible. But there are tools available that can help. Here’s a list of some of the most affordable software on the market.

RansomFree Cybereason (Free)

 
Ransomware attacks are increasing at an alarming rate. The malicious software program works by holding a businesses’ data hostage until a ransom is paid and has crippled businesses around the world.

RansomeFree is a free software specifically designed to protect against ransomware attacks. If you’re on a budget and don’t have the funds to pay for cybersecurity this could help. The free tool prevents ransomware attacks before they have a chance to infect computers and can work in tandem with other anti-virus software.

Bitdefender (starting at $29.99)

 
Bitdefender offers cybersecurity protection for both personal and business devices. If you’re an entrepreneur looking for full protection at reasonable prices, then Bitdefender can help.

Its technology detects persistent malware threats and prevents ransomware encryption. The software is also compatible with Windows, Mac OS, iOS and Android devices. Go online here to find out what type of program best suits your needs.

Malwarebytes (starting at $51.99 per year)

 
Business owners, rejoice! The award-winning Malwarebytes is a great solution for companies that depend on a variety of devices. It’s software is compatible with PC, Android and Mac products.

Aside from its advanced anti-malware technology, the software also detects and prevents ransomware attacks using machine learning. It’s round-the-clock care also protects against unwanted surveillance. Business can test out its service via a free 30-day trial.

Avast Business Antivirus Pro (starting at $58.99 per year)

 
Avast is an all-in-one solution that protects your business, intellectual property and customer data. It monitors outgoing and incoming mail to ensure malware isn’t lurking in hidden attachments and includes a secure VPN to make it harder for hackers to steal sensitive information.

Its standout features, CyberCapture, recognizes and intercepts suspicious downloads. Any potentially dangerous files are shared with Avast labs experts to identify before they can cause damage.

What the Equifax hack can teach startups about cybersecurity

On Sept. 5 credit reporting service Equifax revealed that criminals had hacked and accessed personal data for approximately 143 million of its customers.

The attack may not be one of the biggest breaches in history but could be one of the most dangerous. The hack exposed highly sensitive personal information — social insurance numbers, credit card details, and addresses — for anyone that used its services from May to July 2017. The hack also affected 100,000 Canadians and included  “limited personal information” for customers in the U.K. and Argentina.

Aside from the much-publicized toll the attack took on the company’s reputation, the exposure also hit its bottom line. Equifax stock dropped eight per cent almost overnight. Meanwhile, its downward stock trajectory isn’t likely to stop anytime soon considering three company executives are being investigated for insider trading.

As of right now, things don’t look great for the 118-year-old company. However, it’s not all bad. The incident serves as a reminder of what not to do when it comes to cybersecurity.

“It’s all part of running an online business,” says Shane Murphy – cofounder of Law Scout, a Toronto-based law startup — about potential breaches. “You can’t always avoid hacks so you need a strong privacy policy within your company.”

There are no shortcuts when it comes to cybersecurity plans. However there are some tricks companies can implement to limit exposure, he explains. Here are a few things entrepreneurs can start doing today.  

Create an all-encompassing privacy policy

It’s in every business’ best interest to have their own cyber policy. It should include: What to do immediately after the information is accessed, 2) How to share that information with the public and 3) Evaluate its legal options.

Being upfront with customers about what could happen after a hack can help mitigate future lawsuits.

Privacy policies should always anticipate a hack. They’re the best defense and show that [a company] has taken serious and reasonable precautions to prevent a breach,” Murphy explains. “It should be on your website and disclose what type of information you’re collecting, how you’re using it and then a step beyond that how you’re storing that and how users will be notified in the event of a breach.”

Train your employees to recognize fraud

There’s no technological replacement or solution that trumps common sense. Phishing scams try to trick employees into sharing sensitive information. However, they can be stopped with the right type of employee training.

Phishing attacks work by installing malicious software or disguising an attacker’s identity so it mimics a trusted source. Both large institutions and small businesses have fallen victim to these sophisticated (and sometimes not-so sophisticated) schemes over the years.

One easy way to avoid them is to provide employees with the skills they need to spot fraudulent communication in their tracks. Some tips include not opening emails from unknown sources and using only secure websites that feature ‘https’ or display a ‘padlock’ icon. Last, but not least, avoid digital communication that features time-sensitive or urgent requests for wire transfers.

Better understand the services you’re using

Providing the best cyber security means continuously updating what partner companies and services you rely on. Vetting the providers your company uses is paramount since nowadays breaches come from all sources.

For instance, many companies rely on cloud computing services to store complex data. These services are usually provided through third-parties that follow their own security protocols.

Startups should always analyze their partners’ privacy policies. If necessary press for better security protocols, especially if your businesses deals with sensitive information. “If your business is going to be collecting that type of sensitive  information you’re going to be held to a higher standard,” says Murphy.

The 4 best entrepreneurial comeback stories of all time

There’s nothing people love more than a redemption story and the tech world is full of ‘em.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that some of the best business stories involve entrepreneurs who persevered against all odds. While not an easy thing to do, it can be done with the right product, timing or, most importantly, people by your side.  

If you’re looking for a little motivation after a hard day at work or inspiration to fuel your next big idea look no further. From an entrepreneur who spent a decade following his dreams to a founder who was unceremoniously ousted from the startup he co-founded, there’s something that everyone can relate to in our list.

Jame Dyson

 
The straight-talking British billionaire may have revolutionized how people clean their homes, but his success didn’t come easy. It took the entrepreneur 15 years to perfect his bagless vacuum cleaner and turn his idea into a reality.

During the time he spent working on his invention, he mostly relied on his wife’s income to make ends meet. He also made a whopping 5,126 prototypes before he was able to create his company’s trademark device, the DC40. While some of his peers mocked his early attempts, Dyson’s commitment never wavered and ultimately paid off.

After his vacuum became a hit in Japan he turned that momentum (and cash influx) into a worldwide success. Since then, his company, Dyson Ltd, has brought in annual revenues of $4.5 billion and now sells a wide range of home appliances around the world.

Lesson: There are no shortcuts when it comes to winning. Find dependable, trustworthy people who believe in you and can help support your vision.

Bill Gates

 
Journalists might now refer to Bill Gates as the ‘Father of the Internet’ but before he found fame, money and success he was just a regular, ol’ entrepreneur struggling to pay his bills.

Gates and his partner, Paul Allen, launched their first software company called Traf-O-Data in the 1970s. It analyzed traffic data and provided analytical reports to local governments for a fee.

The duo’s startup would become obsolete in 1989 when the state of Washington would provide the same service for free. It wasn’t a total loss, though. The entrepreneurs took all the business know-how they learned and software created and apply it to their next company, which they initially called ‘Micro-Soft’.

Lesson:  Take all the lessons learned from past failures to use to make future businesses better.

Arianna Huffington

 
The Huffington Post is one of the most-read online publications around the world and operates international editions in India, Greece, the U.K. and South Africa.

Before its creator, Arianna Huffington, turned the online magazine into the success it is now she faced off against critics who derided its unpaid blogging model and dismissed its editorial content.

After launching in 2005, it took years before it turned a profit and generated enough buzz to sustain itself. But Huffington didn’t let that deter her (or her team). All their hard work eventually paid off, because in 2011 AOL purchased the website (and its related verticals) for $315 million.

Lesson: Focus on your goals and ignore the competition. Success is dependent on finding an untapped resource or avenue and exploiting it.

Steve Jobs

 
There’s no greater comeback hero than Steve Jobs. The entrepreneurial genius is just as well known for his failures as he is for his successes.

Early in his career, he was ousted from Apple, the company he helped launch. Later he would return and transform it into one of America’s most influential tech companies. Instead of giving up after being dumped by his company in 1985, he launched a competing startup called NeXt, with a few fellow employees.

Not long afterward, a floundering Apple would go on to acquire his startup and reinstall the notoriously ill-tempered entrepreneur as CEO. Later Jobs would shake up the industry by introducing game-changing technologies like the Macintosh computer, iPod and iPhone.

The rest is, as they say, history.

Lesson: Don’t let professional or personal setbacks deter you from pursuing your entrepreneurial dream. Learn from your mistakes and use them to grow.

How to lure and hire top talent before your competitors do

Canada’s tech scene is on the rise.

Toronto, its largest city, is home to a booming artificial intelligence ecosystem. It also boasts an enviable research center that includes the country’s first technology supercluster and an entrepreneurial drive that’s second only to the U.S.

It also doesn’t hurt that Canada’s Global Strategy program helps fast track immigration for talented workers. The new law makes it one of the most liberal programs in the world. In as little as two weeks workers can get visas and working permits — making the talent search that much easier.

But, despite all this good news Canadian startups still have a difficult time finding tech leaders to help them grow. While the country has the right people on hand onboarding them isn’t always easy. That’s why recruitment strategies are playing a much bigger role than they ever have before.

Engaging with talent before they apply

For Dave Savory — co-founder of a startup called Riipen that connects young jobseekers with companies — finding the best talent quicker and more efficiently means shaking up how HR engages with talent. The old-school recruitment method that requires applicants to fill out page-by-page forms online just won’t do anymore. Engaging with emerging talent sooner through games, brain teasers or social media yields better results.

“Having a new entry point based on merit and skills instead of how many buzzwords you can fit in your cover letter is what you should look for. People are now trained on how to get passed automatic resume filters that companies set up,” he explains. “It ends up making more work for people at a company because they spend time interviewing people who may not be a great fit or miss out on really great people.”

Savory knows better than most about what companies look for in employees. Riipen, founded in 2013, works with 140 post-secondary schools and 7000 companies in North America to help students find work. His clients vary and include tech giants, like Microsoft, and food businesses, such as restaurant chain Joey Restaurants.

“It’s all about how good companies authentically engage with emerging talent,” he adds. “Companies know [young people] are an important demographic as older workers retire, so they need to find new ways to get their attention before their competitors do.”

Check out the weirdest interview questions Fortune 500 companies asked prospective employees last year, courtesy of GlassDoor.

Businesses suffer without HR innovation

Robert Sher — who works in San Francisco, a city with an unemployment rate of 3.5 per cent — put it best. “Flawed hiring processes” play a role in hiring and retaining the best people, which impacts a business’s bottom line.

“Companies that can’t find creative ways to find the employees they need can’t grow,” he explained. “Business leaders who can win the talent war (and it is a war) will be able to say yes to new business opportunities while their talent-strapped competition will have to walk away.”

Bryan Rusche, Soapbox’s marketing director, believes the hiring landscape has changed in recent years. While his company doesn’t directly work on recruitment processes, their platform allows employees to share ideas and feedback that can impact how companies attract new talent.

“The best strategy for attracting talent is having a reputation for being an amazing place to work,” he says. “The slickest recruitment strategy in the world isn’t going to work for you if your employees don’t back up your claims that you have something special,” he explains.

As times change, businesses will be forced to change their hiring policies as well.  They’ll increasingly need to rely on better ways (and platforms) to connect with talent if they want to succeed. “This will be the new normal in the next three to five years” says Savory. “Engaging talent through skill-based assessment or challenges will be the new starting point of the recruiting process.”

How Canada became a hotspot for artificial intelligence research

Canada’s dominance in the artificial intelligence space is drawing attention from techpreneurs around the world. The country, probably better known in recent years for its pop music exports and human rights record, has become a hotbed for the computer algorithm-powered technology over the last five years.

Toronto’s startups making waves

 
Last summer, Montreal’s Element AI raised an eye-watering $102 million from investors and earlier this year Toronto-based Integrate.ai secured a $5 million seed round. That’s on top of other notable moves being made by some of today’s more entrenched companies, like Royal Bank that will employ AI for its customer operations and DeepMind, a Google-acquired intelligence company, opened an office in Alberta last summer.

Not to be outdone, General Motors said it was going to launch one of its self-driving research hubs in Markham, Ontario. Thomson Reuters last year announced it would open a Toronto center for “cognitive computing” that would create 400 “high-quality” jobs.

How did this happen?

 
So, how did we get here and why now?  It doesn’t hurt that Canada has become famous for its liberal immigration policy. Just recently it opened its doors to tech talent willing to relocate to Canada.

The fast-track visa program offers up permanent residency and is designed to woo talented innovators from around the world. The Canadian government has also committed about $125 million to A.I.

Officials at all three levels are also lending a helping hand. In late 2016, the federal, provincial and municipal governments joined forces to launch the new Toronto-based Vector Institute.

The non-profit is focused on A.I. research and helping startups get funding for ongoing work. It also has backing from tech giants like Google and Air Canada — making it a force to be reckoned with. Meanwhile Montreal is home to its own deep learning expertise thanks to Yoshua Bengio (one of the co-fathers of deep learning) and the Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms.

Future outlook

 
But Canada faces a tough (and unpredictable) road as it battles for AI superiority. Compared to the U.S., Canadian startups receive a fraction of the investment dollars that their counterparts in the U.S. do.

For example, last year $69.1 billion was invested in America found the National Venture Capital Association, while Canadian companies received $3.2 billion. But, things are now on the rise. Last year represented the seventh straight year of growth for VC investment in Canada and the largest since 2001.

While only time will tell how far Canada’s A.I. scene will fare in the future. Although, its current booming outlook signifies that things for the country (and Toronto especially) look bright.

“Toronto’s tech industry is booming right now, so it’s no surprise that it’s also emerged as a hub for AI job opportunities.”

Daniel Culbertson, an economist at job-seeking website Indeed, shared with BetaKit.

From Zero to Hero: Crowdfunding your first investment

Crowdfunding sites are increasingly becoming the go-to place for novice entrepreneurs looking to get their business off the ground. A boom in the number of money-raising websites and new crowdfunding rules that allow the average Joe to take direct equity in Canadian startups has also helped popularize the concept.

While raising money online isn’t new, platforms like Kickstarter, Indiegogo and GoFundMe have made it much easier. According to a 2015 report by Massolutions, a research firm based in New York City, crowdfunding platforms raised $16.2 billion in 2014; up from 167 per cent from the previous year’s $6.1 billion.

If you’ve ever considered crowdfunding we’ve done all the heavy lifting for you and asked some few Canadian tech entrepreneurs how to make your next campaign a success.

Q1: Is crowdfunding an effective strategy for startups?

 
“It depends on what your product and service are, so for example. If you’re doing something that is very B2C (business to consumer) focused [and] you think your creative endeavor is going to resonate with the consumers, one of those [crowdfunding] platforms is applicable. You can then pre-sell and look for funding … it’s not a big risk.”

“From my experience… if you’re going in to sell a software product or something that needs to be built, you should show the potential customer that you have great expertise.”

Q2: What are the two most common forms of crowdfunding?

 
“Typically, with rewards-based crowdfunding, you are providing the buyer with a good or product, while equity crowdfunding involves raising money in exchange for ownership in your company.”

“Equity crowdfunding is raising money for a product or service. You typically need to do it through a registered portal, which has to follow a number of different rules. It can be effective for some companies, but the uptake in Canada hasn’t been as explosive as it has been in the U.K. and the U.S., partly because of the rules and restrictions. It can work, typically if you can create some buzz around your company and the prospects.”

Rubsun Ho, CEO at Crowdmatrix

Q3: What crowdfunding platforms would you recommend?

 
“It depends on what you’re looking for. In terms of rewards, I recommend Indiegogo, RocketHub, Kickstarter or GoFundMe. For equity crowdfunding, Micro Ventures and Angel List are great platforms.”

Mike Cotton, Director at Ryerson Futures Inc. & COO at Toronto Esports Club Ltd.

Q4: What advice would you offer entrepreneurs?

“Crowdfunding is a more efficient way to facilitate the fundraising effort that you have to do anyway. You still need a good story and good investment pieces, you still need to go sell your story and generate interest. It allows for word of mouth after to help build your campaign.”

Rubsun Ho, CEO of Crowdmatrix

Q5: What are the pros and cons for raising money online?

 
“You have to have a lot smaller [incentives] to get to the number of dollars you need, because [your audience] will be writing you smaller cheques. However, I think the pros are perhaps that you’re scrutinized less because you’re not dealing with super savvy investors who are managing a fund that has to have a certain return on investments. You’re opening yourself up to a bigger world with a broader appetite.”

Rokham Fard, Founder of PsychologyCompass

What Labour Day means in a tech-friendly world

It’ll soon be Labour Day, which means the world will soon turn its attention to workers and labourers around the globe.

While the tech industry isn’t typically known for its political or labour advocacy work this year has seen it step up. Over the years, it’s intentionally stayed out of politics — and for good reason too. For many tech firms whose products are used by large swaths of people around the world taking “sides” could alienate potential users.

However, in recent years that’s all started to change. The last U.S. election and rising inequalities is pushing tech hubs around the world to grow up.

Making change

 

So why now? Tech startups and the workers they employ are increasingly asking – and in some cases even demanding – more action.

In most cases, corporate action can be traced back to one source: consumers.

It’s the one group that not even the highest executives, founders or shareholders can afford to ignore.

“In an industry that has developed a hardened reputation for avoiding politics it’s not only a sign of growth but an understanding of the greater role tech plays in day-to-day society,” explains Sean Mullin, the executive director at the Brookfield Institute, about the influence consumers are having on tech advocacy.

Nowhere is this better exemplified than in 2017’s Uber debacle. The powerful #DeleteUber hashtag first made its way onto Twitter months before it picked up steam on Jan. 27, but once concerned users noticed it they sent it trending.

The outrage stemmed from the ride-hailing company’s decision to suspended its surge pricing after local NYC taxis protested President Trump’s executive order banning people from Muslim-majority countries. Uber’s response was seen by many as a way for it to profit off of the strike; something consumers weren’t happy about and has cost the company dearly.

Since the strike, Uber has lost approximately 200,00 users while its main competitor, Lyft, saw its app downloads peak almost overnight. Of course, it didn’t hurt that Lyft also pledged $1 million to fight discrimination — proof that advocacy can boost a company’s bottom line.

And, that’s not all. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan have seen their profile grow since they launched their own foundation in 2015. Meanwhile PayPal, IBM and Microsoft recently pledged to increase pay for their workers and donate money to immigration-related causes after quitting the president’s business advisory council earlier this month.

What’s next?

 

For many experts, a change in the way tech companies advocate for the disenfranchised isn’t surprising and a little overdue.

“The lid is lifting,” Shahid Buttar, the director of grassroots advocacy at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told the LA Times. “Comfortable people in tech are waking up. It’s easy to be aware when you’re uncomfortable; a lot of people have lost their comfort and their complacency.”

One of the most prominent examples of how startups are even joining forces and working together to enact change can be seen in the 2017 industry-wide protest against new net neutrality laws.

Dozens of companies — both big and small — and advocacy groups like Fight for the Future and Demand Progress campaigned to prevent the FCC from overturning rules that decide what sites the average person can access online.

Closer to home Canadian startups have championed the recently launched Start-up Visa program which gives newcomers an easier path to permanent residency.