Interview by Marija Butkovic @MarijaButkovic
Eesha Sheikh is the founder and CEO of Playpal. Originally from Pakistan, she has studied in the USA and she is now based in Denver, Colorado. She is a medicinal chemist by education, she has developed an expertise in molecular chemistry and published research on cancer. Channeling her scientific training and passion to revolutionize health through technology, she is in the process of launching the world’s first platform marketplace for health. A neophile by nature, she is passionate about innovation and future thinking, turning her vision of consolidating a health and fitness global technology platform to reality.
What is the idea behind Playpal and how did you come up with it?
The idea was born out of an amalgamation of my own life story; I was bullied as a child at school because of being overweight and I lost 65 pounds owing to my father’s incentivization model of unlimited toys if I lost weight, and the urge to create an impact in the world by improving people’s health through empowering them to take control of their lives.
Healthcare costs bear significant burdens on the global economy. The average American spends around $9000 per year on healthcare, and total healthcare expenditure was $3.5 trillion in 2017, which is 17.9% of the USA’s GDP spending on health. Although the rise in healthcare costs has been met with an explosion of services in the IoT domain, the current marketplace for health remains fragmented and saturated.
At Playpal, health is quantified as a mathematical function H(t), “The Health Capital Model”. More specifically, our Platform records and processes users’ actions to influence their health capital value, the impact of which is visible and verifiable through a decentralized blockchain linkage. Based on this value, users' healthy behaviour is rewarded financially with our cryptocurrency (PlayCoins).
When did all start and do you have other members in your team?
It all started 4 and a half years ago with a study that we conducted with Johns Hopkins University on obesity. Since then we have grown to fantastic team of 50 members.
How long did it take you to be where you are now?
What was the biggest obstacle?
Staying committed through the failures.
What are your biggest achievements to date?
- Anti cancer inhibitors
- Publishing my research
- Getting my double degree in medicinal chemistry in 4 years
- Developing the first of its kind gamified health game
- Bringing to life one of a kind AI powered digital health Platform - Playpal
What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur in the niche you are in? How about being a female founder / entrepreneur?
Women who excel in technological areas are a rarity; as it is a male dominated realm. It’s more about the barrier to entry than the ability to excel. As a woman, I have struggled to make my ideas being recognized and valued by the industry and even those close to me, just because I am a woman who wanted to break with convention and create something new and different from the norm.
What are your projects you are currently working on?
Keeko - a gamified health game
Playpal - Platform to change the perception of health.
Is #WomenInTech movement important to you and if yes, why?
Yes, it is an important movement because women are associated with conventional fields and the fact that women are being showcased in this movement in legitimate fields shows a change in mindset which women as a collective have worked hard to achieve.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to all female founders and female entrepreneurs out there?
Consistency. Persistence. Value your ideas and yourself, you are the trailblazer to create the change you seek in this world.
What will be the key trends in the health tech industry in the next 5 years and where do you see it heading?
Complete digitization of the human body. Need to be a movement around the consolidation of data, collective interpretation of medical and health data for disease prevention.
The pro active approach to health will be revolutionized as we will soon be able to preempt outcomes and even prevent diseases such as cancer with the availability of data, to predict symptoms, at our fingertips.
Who are your 3 inspirational women in business?
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This interview was conducted by Marija Butkovic, Digital Marketing and PR strategist, founder and CEO of Women of Wearables and co-founder of Kisha Smart Umbrella. She regularly writes and speaks on topics of wearable tech, fashion tech, IoT, entrepreneurship and diversity. Visit marijabutkovic.co.uk or follow Marija on Twitter @MarijaButkovic @Women_Wearables @GetKisha.