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Singapore government has invested in $1 million seed fund round for HealthTech startup Migraine Buddy

- April 1, 2015 4 MIN READ

Mobile HealthTech startup Healint announced last week that it had raised $1 million in seed funding for its new app Migraine Buddy. The round was led by Wavemaker Pacific with Gree Ventures and Shin Ryoku also coming in on the deal. Most interesting was that Wavemaker co-invested in the startup alongside Singapore government agency, The National Research Foundation.

Healint was started two years ago and is founded by Francis Cadiou, Veronica Chew, and Ali Elgamel. The company focuses on using mobile technology to support patients, doctors and researchers in the fields of migraine-pain, sleep, stroke, epilepsy, and respiratory through data and insights. Mobile Health is a growing area across the Asian region and an important one too, as evidenced by the investment from the Singapore government, who place a high value on innovation and technology that is in the national interest – healthcare is one of those.

Prior to Migraine Buddy, Healint created and launched another product – an app called Just Shake It, that was targeted towards stroke patients. The app basically allowed patients to shake their phone and messages were automatically sent to a designated contact / caregiver along with their location. The product was launched just prior to Healint being accepted into the JFDI Asia accelerator program. However Healint ended up discontinuing this product after it found that there was not enough engagement on the app – which is a good thing, because that means there were not as many people suffering strokes as initially hypothesised, but what it also meant was that it didn’t allow Healint to improve their algorithm.

What the experience with Just Shake It did is provide Healint with strong working relationships with neurologists. In having many conversations across its network of neurologists, the founders discovered that one thing they all mentioned they had in common was that they tended to see a lot of patients with migraine issues. One of the stand-out pieces of information related to that was that it is extraordinarily hard for doctors to determine the exact causes of each individual’s migraines; in fact, the most common way of deciding on a treatment was doctors getting patients to keep a paper diary, writing down everything that was happening in their day-to-day life to see if in three months’ time when they returned to the doctor whether the triggers and symptoms causing the migraines could be determined.

It is important to note here for non-migraine sufferers that a migraine is actually not a headache. It is a neurological condition that involves an unusual wave of activity in the brain nerve cells that in turn causes severe pain in the head, as well as other symptoms like nausea and vomiting. A migraine has four distinct phases to it: the Prodomal phase (warning signs before the migraine), the Aura phase (strange sensations that often occur like change in vision, light exposure etc), the Attack phase (this is where the migraine is happening and most painful stage), and finally the Postdromal stage (almost like a migraine hangover and can last up to a day, often in the form of tiredness etc).

Seeing that it could do something to support both doctors and patients from a data perspective, Healint created its current product Migraine Buddy. In simple terms, users can use the app to keep a comprehensive record of their symptoms via simple touch and multiple choice answers to questions (instead of a diary), and doctors can use their dashboard and the data as a reference during checkups.

While it is true that there are other applications that allow you to do similar things, the big point of difference with Migraine Buddy is that it uses sensor readings from mobile phones, external data sources and additional user imput to help patients better understand their condition.

“Through the recording [of data] we generate a report for the patient which they can look at anytime,” says co-founder Veronica Chew. “It helps patients answer questions like – What is my frequency of having migraines? When does it usually happen? What are my top triggers? The symptoms and the medication, what works and what does not work.”

The unique algorithm that Healint have created is key to the next phase of Migraine Buddy, where the company intends to be able to (based on the data and analysis from each individual) alert users via a pre-warning notification that one or more external triggers are taking place that strongly predict that person will most likely have a migraine occur in the next twelve hours’ time. In addition to phone data, Healint are also looking at how they can tap into the wearables market to further enhance the data and reporting for patients and doctors.

Chew told Startup Daily that right now there are just under 100,000 users of the Migraine Buddy product. It is worthy to note that the app is currently in four languages – English, Spanish, French and Japanese – and that currently 40 percent of the users are located in the United States. Of that 100,000 user base, Chew says that 30 percent of them are active monthly on the app – and by active she doesn’t mean that a user just opens up the app. She says that Healint measure ‘active’ as being someone that has recorded one or more migraines on the application each month. Majority of those month-on-month active users are females between 30 and 40 years old.

Other interesting facts that have come out of some of the data are the difference in triggers from country to country. For example in Japan the biggest triggers for migraines, according to data collected by Healint, are pollen, as well as lifestyle triggers, specifically high-stress and lack of sleep – in fact these two factors were way above other countries.

When it comes to monetisation, Healint already have strong working relationships with institutions and companies, where they work with them using big data and from the perspective of understanding patient behaviour. The reason that Migraine Buddy is an important product for Healint is because it demonstrates the possibilities of what the company is capable of doing from a HealthTech and data perspective. Having said that, there will be additional features being added to the Migraine Buddy platform in the coming months based on user feedback. The team are just deciding what could or should be monetised when it comes to them – if any at all.