Startup Weekend alum SmartWard has just been announced as 1 of 20 top startup teams accepted into Seedcamp Week Berlin. This is the second Seedcamp Week of the year, and is a step toward capturing a coveted spot in the Seedcamp accelerator program. Founded in May 2007, Seedcamp has garnered a renowned reputation across Europe for providing the tools and resources (including access to an elite group of mentors and investors) to launch young startups to success; the company receives thousands of applications each year. Declared the top European accelerator in 2011, and often referred to as ‘the gold standard,’ Seedcamp continues to provide incomparable advantages for their startups. In the pan-European tech accelerator landscape, Seedcamp is ‘Europe’s Harvard.’
The SmartWard team is accordingly thrilled to begin their Seedcamp journey this week – you can follow their experience (and most importantly, check out their excellent currywurst glamor shots)here. SmartWard’s Seedcamp Week acceptance marks yet another exciting milestone since their inception at the November 2012 Startup Weekend London, an event in association with Silicon Valley Comes to the UK and The Telegraph. After winning the event, SmartWard then captured an impressive third place finish at the Global Startup Battle 2012, a competition including the best winning startups from local Startup Weekend competitions around the world.
SmartWard CEO and founder Dr. Michelle Teo is a practicing NHS doctor based at Nottingham City Hospital, and I had the chance to chat with her about SmartWard’s inception at SW London, managing her career as a practicing doctor with donning her super-entrepreneur cape (it’s quite the balancing act), and the last few months post-Startup Weekend win.
Dr. Teo first came up with the idea for SmartWard while working in a cancer ward; she noticed that many aspects of patient care were left vulnerable to human error, and that the standard practice of writing everything on handover sheets functioned inefficiently with glaring impracticalities. There was a conspicuous need for a safe and effective way to hand over important tasks in hospitals that hadn’t yet been addressed.
Convinced that she could improve the process, but unsure of exactly how to pursue the idea, Dr. Teo, armed with a preliminary wireframe and a medical degree, wandered over to Startup Weekend London.
Her initial pitch went well. “I first introduced myself as a doctor,” she laughs, “and everyone was like ‘what are you doing here?’” Her initial welcome into the community of developers, designers, and business people was extremely positive; Dr. Teo managed to build a strong, 9-person team, including her current business partner, award-winning UX designer Jacopo Marcantonio. Marcantonio was most recently the lead designer for Masabi‘s mobile ticketing application, which allows customers to buy and display transit tickets on their smartphones. Masabi sold $1 million USD of rail tickets in Boston in just seven weeks, and has wonnumerous awards for innovations in mobile technology.
In building the SmartWard application, the team used Dr. Teo’s firsthand perspective to differentiate SmartWard from the competition. “Software built for doctors often doesn’t take into account what doctors really do,” Dr. Teo observes. She outlined two main problems that she has experienced firsthand while working in an NHS hospital: first, ward management is reliant on pieces of paper – things get skipped over, lost, or don’t get handed over – and second, none of the doctors know who is supposed to be around at any one time. Shockingly, 1000 patients die each month from hospital errors in the UK alone.
The team designed the app to overcome these problems. Dr. Teo confidently summarizes SmartWard’s pragmatic solution: “SmartWard reduces human error in hospitals by making sense of the rapidly changing information and critical tasks that are vital to patient care – streamlining ward communication into one place.” It makes so much sense, in fact, that you’re left wondering why it didn’t already exist.
“Winning,” Dr. Teo says, smiling broadly, “was kind of unreal.” Dr. Teo attributes SmartWard’s continued success to the ability of her designers to capture her vision for the product, the ambitious work ethic of the team, and the continuing support of SmartWard’s Startup Weekend mentor, David White, founder and CEO of import.io.
But SmartWard’s commendable finishes at both Startup Weekend London and the subsequent Global Startup Battle were just the beginning; in February, Dr. Teo was invited to share SmartWard’s story and give the closing remarks at the Royal Society of Medicine’s Medical Innovation Winter Summit 2013. SmartWard continues to elicit an overwhelmingly enthusiastic response from the medical community, and their upcoming week at Seedcamp Berlin bodes well for massive improvements in patient care.
As Dr. Teo explains her double-career as a practicing doctor and an entrepreneur, I start to wonder if she might covertly possess a Time Turner (or just a lengthy to-do list). “It’s tricky,” she begins, before launching into a story of completing her (self-described ‘convenient’) 7pm – 8am shift at the hospital and immediately jumping on a train to make a SmartWard meeting the next day. In discussing her advice for aspiring entrepreneurs (“I don’t think I have many pearls of wisdom; I don’t know if I can call myself an entrepreneur yet,” she clarifies – I would beg to differ), she stresses the importance of pacing oneself, and of being grateful and appreciative of any advice you might receive from people who have more experience than you do.
“At Startup Weekend, people are so generous with their time and their advice,” she reflects, “you should really try to surround yourself with people who are wiser than you.” And when the going gets tough – and it will, she emphasizes – “Remember why you are doing this. Remember what you’re trying to achieve.”
The end game
Going in to this week’s Seedcamp, SmartWard’s future looks bright. When asked about the company’s big dream, Dr. Teo mentions creating a single point of access, significantly reducing human error in hospitals, improving patient safety, and streamlining communication.
“I want to build a product that is so good, it would be ethically wrong not to use it.”