Interview by Marija Butkovic (@MarijaButkovic)
Dr Elin Haf Davies founded aparito after 20+ years of clinical, academic and regulatory experience in drug development, primarily in paediatrics and rare diseases. Elin has created aparito to be a tech enabled company that addresses the needs of remote patient monitoring during clinical trials in particular but also in order to understand patient’s day-to-day experience of living with a disease rather than rely on episodic, snapshot data captured during hospital visits. Within two years of starting aparito was operating in three different countries, monitoring four different diseases.
What is the idea behind aparito and how did you come up with it?
I’ve got 20 + years clinical, academic and regulatory and during that time I got more and more frustrated with how bad clinical trials are being done. Especially when evaluating the safety and efficacy of a new medicine in children. I looked towards wearable tech as a way to change this.
When did all start and do you have other members in your team?
We officially started Jan 2015 after about 6 months of collating ideas. We’re a team of 5 by now.
How long did it take you to be where you are now?
In some ways I think it’s taken me all of my 20+ career to be here now, and to have an idea of what tech enabled health care will look like.
What was the biggest obstacle?
Time. Everything takes so much longer than you anticipate. And there’s never enough time to do everything you want to do. I have to remind myself that it’s an ultra marathon and not a sprint.
What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur in the niche you are in?
Operating in healthcare (not in consumer wellbeing / fitness / health), brings it’s own unique challenges. The regulation and governance is a very difficult one to navigate but and understandable necessity in this industry. I certainly don’t want Aparito to be known as another Theranos.
How about being a female founder / entrepreneur?
Healthcare is a predominantly female industry - until you get to management and C level that is. Then women become near invisible. I can’t say it’s that much different in the startup scene either. Personally I’ve really struggled to move from a healthcare / academia / regulatory culture into the tech startup industry. There’s many parts that I don’t particularly warm to. But in particular - the obsession that getting investment is seen as a better stamp of approval than getting customers is beyond me. I’ve also witnessed a bit of a culture where people say very different things to what they do. Maybe it’s my age but I have no patience for it.
What are your biggest achievements to date?
We’re very proud to have won a few awards, Nominet 100 in 2015, UnLtd and 50 New Radicals in 2016. But the biggest thing is to have five studies in four different diseases running in three different countries, India, America and the UK.
What are projects you are currently working on within your company?
We’re building in more data analytic capabilities into our system at the moment, and preparing to roll out studies into additional diseases.
What will be the key trends in the wearable tech industry in the next 5 years and where do you see it heading?
From the health point of view I see more and more wearable devices combining to monitor health status but looking like fashionable trendy devices, not clunky medical devices. This will really help with patient adherence, too. Smaller batteries with a longer life will also be a game changer for us.
Is #WomenInTech movement important to you and if yes, why?
Absolutely. Like I said earlier, women are still very much a minority.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to all female founders and female entrepreneurs out there?
Don’t be distracted by the hot air - just crack on and do your own thing. Asking for advice is great, but at the end of it, you’ve got to have your own opinion on things, and follow what you think is right.
Who are your 3 inspirational women in tech?
Most inspirational woman in tech is definitely Dame Steve Shirley.