Meet the Founders – Us2.ai
Us2.ai (former eko.ai) from Singapore wants to automate the fight against cardiovascular diseases with their solution that uses machine learning to automate the analysis of echocardiograms. Founder James Hare has told us what made him give up full-time kitesurfing to develop a software solution, why now is the perfect time for automating echocardiograms, and into which traps startups should never fall (especially in times of COVID-19).
James, how did you come to found Eko.ai at a time when you had officially “retired” after building several startups?
I love founding startups, and I especially enjoy the first phase, this process of turning chaos into structure, but it takes a lot of time and energy as well. After a very successful exit from my last startup, the online travel platform eDreams (Opodo), I decided it was time for me to retire and travel the world to live out my passion for kitesurfing. Then I received a troubling EKG and decided I needed to check my heart. I saw two physicians, both performed a manual echocardiogram and I got two very different results: One physician told me I was perfectly healthy (the correct diagnosis fortunately), and the other one diagnosed a severe heart condition. This triggered the idea to come up with a solution to automate the time-consuming, and often error-prone process of echocardiograms. Together with my co-founder who is a heart specialist, we have developed a software solution that turns echocardiograms into a 2-minute automated procedure. Our research tool is already commercial, and our clinical decision support tool is currently undergoing FDA approval.
What is the beauty of an automated echocardiogram solution to you?
Today, we have cheaper, mobile hardware available, and when we combine it with intelligent software like ours, we can create digital health solutions, which have the potential to revolutionize many fields of healthcare. Cardiovascular diseases are the number one cause of death worldwide, and we need to do something about detecting and preventing them better. My dream of the echocardiogram of the future is an automated, simple-to-use solution that allows us to take more exams, take them faster and more comfortably – and thereby detect heart conditions much earlier in the patient journey.
Are there any learnings from your startup experience you can share with young entrepreneurs?
I have learned over time that there is one thing that is crucial for success: focus, focus, focus! Even though it may be tempting to explore different paths, better do one thing right instead of too much at a time. Also make sure to pay attention to what is happening around you, don’t get too submerged in your own company. One thing I feel is even more true in the current situation with the COVID-19 pandemic spreading globally: You need to take decisions, and you need to take them fast.