By: Lloyed Lobo
In Canada, 67% of stroke patients do not get discharged from the hospital with access to a rehabilitation facility. If they do have access, care allotments are low and individuals are given little to no resources for self-management.
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Enter StrokeLink, a tablet application designed to empower stroke patients and their caregivers with knowledge and self-care tools to help overcome health literacy barriers as well as monitor adherence over time.
Endorsed by organizations such as Calgary Stroke Program, ARBI (Association for the Rehabilitation of the Brain Injured) and Hamilton Health Sciences, StrokeLink is on its way to increase access to specialized resources and drive patient outcomes.
We recently caught up with the co-founders Morgan Moe and Anne Marie Paquette to learn more.
How did you come up with the idea for your startup? Was there an “ah-ha” moment?
During Morgan’s time volunteering at ARBI, she saw a need for something that could combine patient care with technology. Stroke affected her personal life as well, with her great aunt having had multiple strokes. When Morgan went to visit she found that her aunt was given exercises scribbled down on scrap pieces of paper, though it was mostly stick figures and barely understandable written instructions. Coincidentally, Morgan got her first iPad around the same time. As she says, “it seemed so obvious for me to put the two together.”
What has been the biggest challenge so far?
Shifting the mindset about the iPad being perceived as a leisure item as opposed to a tool. This is what people used to say about cell phones over a decade ago and look at society today! As a result, we have become evangelists of mobile technology in healthcare delivery.
Are there any key individuals outside of your organization that have been of great help to your startup?
The Next 36 is what really got us off the ground by providing capital and connections. Also, the Canadian Stroke Network has been incredibly supportive of our project and vision. We are also fortunate to have a great advisory board including Colleen Johnston (CFO of TD Bank) and Michael Hyatt (CEO of BlueCat Networks) as well as an extremely supportive clinical advisory board.
What’s new with your startup that we can share?
We are just about to release an update that will enable customization of the included exercise programs as well as the ability to create exercise programs from scratch. Users will be able to replace the pre-loaded pictures, video, text, and audio on their own, using the iPad’s camera and microphone. The progress tracker will expand from a weekly view to a monthly view, and healthcare professionals will be able to monitor their patients’ progress remotely through the Strokelink web dashboard.
Personally, do you think it is more difficult to raise capital or find the right talent?
Finding the right talent. With a dedicated team that works well together, the capital more or less finds itself. It all comes down to team. There’s no formula or equation to selecting the perfect employee. Choose people based on their talent, competence, and integrity, and put them in positions that capitalize on all three of them. The most important part is to find great people that are dedicated and who support each other when things get rough. The wrong people will try to drag you, your team, and your entire organization down, so get rid of those players fast.
What has contributed to your success to this point?
Without a doubt, our team has been our greatest success. Everyone works well together and is dedicated to their jobs. In the end it’s the team that keeps the company going. Most importantly, believe in what you’re doing. Sometimes you have to deal with the 12-hour laptop stare-down as you try and hammer out content, schedule meetings, Skype with clients, but in the end it’s the belief in your own product and its potential that pulls you through it.
In addition to internal strength and determination, it’s important to get early market validation. It is much too easy to plug away at something in your basement for months on end, but getting your idea or prototype or product out there quickly will yield much needed learning about what your stakeholders really want, need or care about. We had a prototype in the hands of users in a matter of weeks and launched our demo on a national stage at the Canadian Stroke Congress in Calgary last September when our target audience was paying attention. We couldn’t have done this without the collaboration of community and national organizations.
In short, our key factors for success are a solid team to bring a product and service to market and strategic partnerships to make sure it thrives in the market.
What made you choose to go down the path of entrepreneurship?
Morgan: there was a missing need in what I saw as a healthcare practitioner, I choose to fill the need. It just seemed natural, I didn’t learn till later that this was ‘entrepreneurship’ and all of the things that came with it. Needless to say I crave challenges and our journey has been an incredible opportunity to learn and work with amazing people.
Anne-Marie: entrepreneurship is a way of life. No matter if you’re working within an organization or leading your own venture, pursuing opportunities is the bottom line to being an entrepreneur. I have always been a challenge-seeking opportunist with a thirst for learning new things. StrokeLink is my current self-made challenge.
What are your thoughts on Calgary’s startup community?
Calgary has a close-knit and supportive startup community, which for the most part is a huge asset. Innovate Calgary, Startup Calgary, Plug and Play, Uncommon Innovation, the A100, Accelerator YYC (and probably others!) have all welcomed us and supported us throughout our journey. I think its strengths might also be its weakness, as new startups might feel intimidated entering the community.
What’s your ask right now?
We’re looking for new partners, investment, and marketing support so we can continue to expand StrokeLink’s usability and reach.
If you know someone who has been affected by stroke, join the StrokeLink community today at StrokeLink.ca!
Lloyed Lobo covers Calgary’s tech startup community. He is a Partner at Boast Capital and the VP of Community Evangelism at Startup Calgary.
This interview was originally published by Startup Calgary, a non-profit organization focused on cultivating the tech startup community in Calgary. For more information, visit startupcalgary.ca.
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