Category Archives: Technology

Mobile Healthcare for the Consumer

The device includes a stethoscope cut in half and microphones. Researchers say it measures blood pressure with 95 to 98 percent accuracy.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the convergence of mobile devices and consumer healthcare. I believe there are three changes happening that are creating a perfect storm for a new wave of mobile medical devices.

1. Standardized Mobile Operating Systems (OS)
Before android or iOS came along, engineers that wanted to build a mobile medical device had to develop the software and the hardware. There were no standard, mobile operating systems in place that made software development scalable for medical devices. Sure there was MS Windows, Linux and other OS in existence, but none of these worked really well for small, mobile hardware. Engineers were required to use Programable Micro Controllers (PICs) and related devices. With the advent of android and iOS, it is now possible to write software without having to worry about the underlying supporting architecture and hardware.

2. Wireless Connectivity
The healthcare industry is inundated with expenses and impossible budgets. This is largely due to high volumes of patient visits and patient readmissions. Many of these visits are for simple physician checkups in order to conduct things like blood pressure measurement or EKG measurement. The information obtained from these frequent tasks are required to make the physician smarter about the patient so that they can implement the right treatment. The combinations of measurement devices and smartphones would allow these simple tasks to be done in the home and relayed back to the physician wirelessly.

3. Consumer Adoption
According to Gartner, total smart phone sales in 2011 reached 472 million units and accounted for 31 percent of all mobile devices sales, up 58 percent from 2010.” It’s no secret that people everywhere are using smart phone devices. If they aren’t, they will be very soon as it’s only a matter of time. Since consumers already have possession of these mobile devices, they are already in a position to buy a third-party accessory. Just like you might buy an iPhone case or a portable speaker, owners of smart phones could just as easily buy blood pressure measurement units or other medical plug-ins. Furthermore, the costs of a mobile medical device would be significantly lower because the consumer already effectively paid for half of the device – the phone.

So I think this market will emerge, but I’m not sure how long it will take. To understand that, there are two big question marks in my mind that need to addressed. The first is whether or not consumers care enough about their health in order to make them proactively engaged with one of these devices. I do think this could be overcome with things like game mechanics. The second is whether or not there will be a favorable environment with regards to governmental regulations, although I do think we are heading in the right direction. The HITECH Act, part of the 2009 stimulus bill, states that doctors are eligible for $44,000 in subsidies if they deploy “meaningful use” of electronic health records (EHRs) – keyword there being “electronic.” So it’s clear that we are moving in the right direction. It’s just a matter of how long it will take before we get there. I don’t know when our phones will be our personal doctors, but I do know it will happen.

3 Short Stories from 3 NYC Startups

New York City

New York City

This post originally appeared on Forbes.com.

Our society celebrates the buzzy and bubbly – acquisitions, funding events, mergers, new hires. As entrepreneurs, most of the buzzy stories we read are rather useless. They serve no practical application to help grow our respective businesses. This is why great entrepreneurs get out in the field and engage in as many conversations as they can with those they respect. They want to hear firsthand how people have succeeded and how people have failed. They search for tried and true lessons so that they can apply the takeaways to their own ventures. And in this process entrepreneurs uncover key insights that may lead to a critical pivot in a business model or perhaps may lead to a simple validation of an already held mindset. From my vantage point, all of these little stories serve as an important backdrop for anyone looking to build a great business.

So here are three short stories from three up and coming New York City startups. Maybe you’ll uncover a gem of insight that will help transform your business or project.

“No Silver Bullets” by Aaron, CEO & Co-Founder of Tutorspree

The hardest lesson I’ve learned since co-founding Tutorspree is that there are no silver bullets – even when charting something as amazing as the future of one-on-one learning. It may seem a bit strange that I need that as a lesson when everything else I’ve ever done has required huge amounts of hard work. Intellectually, I had no expectation that a startup would be any different. But emotionally, entrepreneurs are continually confronted with stories in the popular press full of the one huge a-ha innovation/decision/partnership that “made” a company. While I know that those may be possible in extreme edge cases, that they’re nowhere near the norm, and they create an irrational expectation that one is just around the corner.

The truth is that start ups are hard, they’re a slog, they’re a huge amount of all consuming work – but that’s also why they’re amazing. You don’t find a single silver bullet – that’s the just the story people tell afterwards, you find a whole bunch of little steps and you figure out how to string them together until you have your success. And looking back, that’s a bigger achievement than a single fell swoop, which might be as much luck as anything else. That’s a lesson I take into work with me every day, and it is a critical piece of what makes this the life I want.

“Motivation by Inspiration” by Mike Dirolf, CEO of Fiesta

For me, motivation has been the principle benefit of working from a co-working space in New York City; collaboration is a distant second. It’s great to have smart people around to ask for help and feedback, but it’s far more important to see how hard those people are working and to be inspired to keep up. At almost all hours of the day the space is filled with people working as hard as they can to turn their fledgling companies into successful businesses. It’s impossible to walk into the place and not feel energized.

A little over a year ago I set out on my own and was ostensibly working from my apartment. The reality was that I had a lot of trouble staying focused. About a month later I moved into a co-working space; since then staying motivated hasn’t been a problem. Now that Fiesta is growing and I’ve brought on a co-founder that external motivation might be less essential, but I’m convinced we never would’ve gotten this far without it.

“Colloboration” by David Reich, CEO & Founder of Assured Labor (Disclosure: David Reich has no relation to Dan Reich

Our company, Assured Labor, is an unusual start-up. Started at the MIT MediaLab, Assured Labor connects employers in emerging markets with local sales, operations and administration candidates using cell phones and web technology.

We have a staff of 15 (including our outsourced engineering team) distributed between Mexico, Brazil, Pakistan, Nicaragua and of course, our headquarters in New York City at Dogpatch Labs. We’ve often been asked why we keep our headquarters in  New York while all of our operations are based in the emerging markets. The answer is collaboration. Our New York base allows us to collaborate with the world’s best engineers and business innovators, ensuring we can outcompete our local competitors. I’ll give an example of each.

Engineering. While we have been happily working with an outsourced technology team based in Lahore, Pakistan, we keep our senior technologist and product manager in the US. This is for two reasons: first, this is where the worlds top talent is, and second, to provide our talent with the opportunity to collaborate with likeminded entrepreneurs. In our incubator there is no shame in asking questions or fear that collaborators (from other companies) will steal our idea. This ecosystem allows our engineers to learn from peers other and build better services faster.

Business Innovators. Over the past year dozens of startups have come through Dogpatch Labs, each with it unique ideas on how they’ll monetize their business. I’ve seen Groupon models, Ad based models, Subscription models, Freemium models, Co-marketing models, and a dozen more. Each month notable experts come through Dogpatch to meet us, ranging from the Scott Heiferman of Meetup.com to Eric Reis the author of “The Lean Startup”. But best of all I’ve had the opportunity to learn from my fellow founders while sharing my opinions on what I’ve seen working both internationally and in the US. As technology is only part of building a successful startup these opportunities to collaborate with business innovators is a tremendous advantage.

Beyond the opportunity to collaborate in engineering and business innovation the collaborative environment of our co-working space has provided us with introductions to investors, employees, interns and partners. We also lean on each other for energy and motivation, sharing in each other success. While few things can match the business learning that comes from sitting with your customers, few things can match the business building to be gained from collaboration with other entrepreneurs, in the trenches, working to change the world.

Do you have a great startup story to tell?

Connect with Dan Reich on Twitter – @danreich.

From the Industrial Revolution to the Knowledge Era – Next Up: The Data Renaissance

1913 photograph Ford company, USA

Image via Wikipedia

The world will never be the same. Our society used to build machines and parts, in factories and in assembly lines. Today, our society builds computer programs and data bases, on laptops and in many cases, from anywhere around the world. People and businesses are becoming more efficient. They are working smarter, not harder, because they are beginning to leverage the most valuable employee of all: Data.

Take for example the airline industry. Consider all those times you got bumped off of a flight, rescheduled, canceled, or offered money to take a different flight. We’ve all been there and it always happens for a reason. This reason is that airlines try to prevent the loss of business and in doing so, they look at dozens of consumer driven behaviors such as how long you travel for, how many weekend flights you take, how many return flights you take, how many flights you take during the week, if you are a frequent flier, and the list goes on. All of these individual data points are used to inform a business decision. The decision is objective. The decision is data driven.

But what happens when we can make decisions using even more data points? Much more data points? Literally, hundreds of thousands if not millions of data points, and did I mention, in real time?

Welcome to the Data Renaissance. Thanks to increasingly efficient and scalable technologies like solid state drives, mobile devices, and cloud computing, the possibilities of data analysis are endless. I mean, just think about how much time we either spend online or connected to a mobile device. This has tremendous implications from travel, health and fitness, to finance, education, and media and the best part is, we haven’t even scratched the surface.

Like I said before, the implications here are huge. Many companies recognize the need to have these comprehensive data sets while having ways of analyzing that data. The digital media and online advertising industry in particular are both in a unique place since their very foundations are dependent upon these high growth technologies; digital devices and the Internet. In this space, companies are racing to a holy grail of advertising where they can leverage millions of individual consumer behaviors to inform brand engagement opportunities and purchasing decisions. Unlike the airline industry, online advertisers can leverage millions of data points instead of those “dozen,” and if done correctly, the consumer experience will be better than it’s ever been before. Everything will matter. Everything will be relevant. We will all become more enlightened and informed to things that interest the most because these new technologies are launching us into the very early, but still uncharted, data renaissance.

(Disclosure: The post can also be found at Lotame Learnings. Lotame is my current employer)

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

It feels good to be in Tech

With the economy declining, one thing is certain: Innovation will lead to good products and services, and good products and services will lead to revenue. This could not be more true in the technology world.

It doesn’t matter what you are doing, as long as you continue to innovate and prove value in a market (good or bad), you can and will succeed. 

This is a great presentation that outlines the harsh reality of our current economy as it relates to technology. Financials meet Tech. Great stuff.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Generativity of Social Networking Sites and Their Accountability

Jonathan Zittrain defines Generativity in the following manner:

“Generativity is a system’s capacity to produce unanticipated change through unfiltered contributions from broad and varied audiences”

Jonathan Zittrain, The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It

In reality, this description somewhat defines the nature of a social networking sites. If you look at social networking sites today, users are able to participate in 3 ways, all of which contribute to the generative nature of a social network: Users are able to:

  1. Generate self identifying content (their profile, blog, homepage)
  2. Generate and consume bi-directional content (messaging, statuses)
  3. Generate and consume multi-directional content (groups, discussion boards, forums)

These three methods of participation allow the internet and social networking sites to grow at the staggering rate they are today. However, as these sites grow, keeping the content organized so that it remains relevant and meaningful to the user, becomes increasingly difficult. This issue is more prominent in the third method, as users are able to impact the entire network in a single instance.

Take for example the Groups feature. A single user can create a group made available to the entire network. That’s fine. But what happens when multiple users create the same group? An overlap occurs, and what should have been a single meaningful group, now becomes one group of many just like it.

Today, I joined my University of Wisconsin – Madison group as I am a recent alumni. There were about 3-4 identical groups? Do I join them all? The same scenario applied to many of the groups I wanted to join.

The generative nature of social networks allow for more noise, and enables users to disrupt the very social graph they create, making the networks more complex and less meaningful. Other people recognize the growing occurrence of this noise, and ironically enough, have used the same generative nature of social networks to maintain strong connections, content, and a healthy social graph (see Triiibes).

About six weeks ago, I joined Seth Godin’s social network called Triiibes (which he created using a white-box social network: Ning). The network was only made available to those that made an early purchase for his new book. As a result, the content and communication in the network is much stronger and meaningful then I’ve seen on any other network.

As social networks grow, they must look to sites like Wikipedia for guidance. They must learn how to keep the network connected using only meaningful and unique data points.

(Jonathan Zittrain’s book is a good read for anyone interested in technology and communications, and their inevitable effects on society)