KroniKare is a MedTech company with the aim of using Big Data & Artificial Intelligence technologies to revolutionize the Medical Industry. Their solution consists of 15 years of data and allows medical practitioners to assess wounds 30 times faster than traditional methods.
In this month of Startup Conversations, we caught up with Co-Founder & CEO of KroniKare, Ali. Read on to find out as he shares with us the challenges they faced while building their flagship product Kronikare Wound Scanner and how they have come up with a second product iThermo during the COVID-19 crisis.
Tell us about KroniKare. What made you start KroniKare, is there a story behind it?
Ali: It was in 2016 when my co-founder had just completed a post-doctorate research project and was presenting to a room full of medical personnel on an AI solution to detect skin cancers. After the presentation, a wound nurse came up suggesting that he should explore using AI for chronic wounds as it was a far more serious problem.
The initial research led to a startling discovery that chronic wounds result in one amputation globally every 30 seconds! Now, that was a serious problem that led to deeper research and the founding of KroniKare.
As a MedTech start-up that requires a lot of Research and Development (R&D), what were some of your biggest challenges when starting and how did you overcome them?
Ali: The challenges for MedTech are twofold. The first challenge is getting medical data to build your AI solution to a minimum viable stage, and the next challenge is finding a hospital as a collaboration partner for a proof of concept (POC) clinical trial. These challenges are over and above raising seed capital which, to some extent, is even more challenging for MedTech startups.
As our R&D originated from a post-doc project, we were able to overcome the first challenge as we had access to some data to build the initial AI model. Thereafter, once we incorporated KroniKare as a start-up, we were fortunate to have a govt-linked VC as an early pre-seed investor who introduced us to a community hospital. We made a commercially attractive proposal to the hospital to collaborate with us as our POC partner. We managed to complete our POC and then undertook a proof of value studies with more hospitals, leading towards commercialization.
Now, with your product being used globally, has it tackled the problem which you set out to solve? How has it helped your users?
Ali: Our patented solution can indeed solve the problem. For starters, the hitherto manual method of assessing a chronic wound can take up to half an hour, requires an experienced wound nurse at the patient’s bedside, and can be invasive and painful for the patient. But with Kronikare’s AI-based wound scanner, the time taken is reduced from 30 mins to just 30 seconds and the main task of taking wound images can be done by a junior nurse. Our device is also non-invasive for the patient and automated reports are generated for the wound nurse to decide on the treatment. This gives a significant productivity gain and better outcomes for patients.
KroniKare’s Wound Scanner, only 2 scans required
Using multi-spectral sensors, wound measurement is automated and AI-driven engines provide accurate tissue classification & complication detection
Share with us a little more about you and your team, have your personal values impacted the current values of your organization?
Ali: My values as an entrepreneur are mainly hard work and perseverance 😊. These values have impacted the current values of the organization as we are a team determined to solve customer issues successfully no matter what it takes. We have shown the ability to persevere and execute during the circuit breaker period when supply chains were disrupted and movements were restricted.
As a leader of your team, was there a point in time where you felt you let yourself or your team down and what have you learned from that?
Ali: There was an occasion when we were given a tight timeline to release a product with a co-development partner. I felt my team was rushed and that we required more time to better plan the development process, however, due to the pressure and the timeline we just went with the flow.
The stress was something I would not want my team to go through again and we’ve learned to better assess and regroup regularly to ensure we are all on the same page and distribute the workload evenly.
KroniKare launched iThermo, an AI-powered temperature screener, during COVID-19, what was the rationale behind it? Where did you get the idea from?
Ali: When COVID-19 struck and MOH raised the Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (DORSCON) to orange, temperature screening became mandatory across the island which led to long lines of people queueing to enter buildings.
We teamed up with the Integrated Health Information Systems (IHiS), the technology agency for the public healthcare sector, to co-create iThermo to speed up the process of temperature taking. We developed iThermo by re-purposing our wound scanner which is equipped with a thermal camera, into a temperature screening device with a new, custom-designed AI software. We have since deployed over 100 units of the iThermo throughout Singapore and have an order book of another 1,000 units, plus we also picked up an “Innovation for Humanity” award given by the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS).
iThermo mass temperature taking
Were there any challenges KroniKare faced when developing & releasing iThermo, especially due to the short time-frame?
Ali: The development of the iThermo began when Singapore upped the safety measures to keep COVID-19 at bay. By then China was already in a lock-down which caused supply chain disruptions globally, and airlines were cutting flights which caused logistical disruptions.
While our tech team was busy conducting trials of the iThermo in medical institutions, our admin team was frantically securing supplies of components from all over the world. We even had to enlist the help of Enterprise Singapore to coordinate a shipment of an essential component from across the world which we could not uplift ourselves.
Around that time the circuit breaker started in Singapore and as an “essential service” provider we could continue our activities but with minimal staff in the office. Such were the challenges we faced in developing and releasing the iThermo, but true to our entrepreneurial spirit of perseverance, our team overcame the challenges and we successfully released the iThermo. We obtained all the necessary regulatory clearance and fulfilled timely deliveries, with over S$6m in sales. Quite a feat considering we accomplished these within a short time-frame of just 6 months.
KroniKare raised a round with AngelCentral, how have the funds benefited your organization since then?
Ali: The round raised with AngelCentral was very timely as we were then proposing our solution to the public healthcare institutions (PHIs) for island-wide adoption, and we needed the resources to ramp up our recruitment and build inventory to scale. The funds were of huge benefit as it gave us the ability and confidence to undertake the project.
To end it off, what would you say to your past self when you aspired to become a start-up founder?
Ali: The aspiration for entrepreneurship was planted in me since I was 9 when I used to spend time in my father’s office during school holidays. What I would say to my past self – here we are, realizing the dream of becoming a start-up founder and an exhilarating one at that. I would not have had it any other way 😊
Looking to hear more from the KroniKare founders? Catch Ali’s Co-Founder, Hossein, on the Panel of our upcoming AngelCentral Deep Dive Series Webinar: Understanding and Investing in BioMedical Startups on the 29th October, 4 pm to 6 pm! More information here
KroniKare is a Singapore-based company that harnesses the latest AI techniques to advance medical technologies. The flagship product, the KroniKare Wound Scanner (KWS), is a diagnostic medical device that revolutionizes chronic wound assessment and management. What took trained nurses 30 minutes, the KWS does in under 30 seconds using multispectral thermal and laser sensors connected to a normal smartphone. The KWS patented system allows uninterrupted continuity of care for patients from acute hospitals to rehabilitation to home care, reducing complications, leading to faster recovery, and cost savings.
KroniKare’s follow-on product, the iThermo, is an AI-powered temperature screening solution that saves time and manpower from manual temperature screening. Developed with extensive tests in hospitals and polyclinics, the iThermo is fast, accurate and allows mass temperature screening from a safe distance. Ideal for use during pandemics like COVID-19.
Both the KroniKare Wound Scanner and the iThermo have Class B registration with the Health Sciences Authority of Singapore and have won multiple awards.