The rise of Scottish health tech

Cameron Graham from StoriiCare

Cameron Graham from StoriiCare

The inaugural Scottish Startup Survey by Informatics Ventures, University of Edinburgh Business School and my own consultancy, found that over 10 per cent of Scotland's startup scene now classify themselves in the health technology space, often abbreviated to "health tech" or "health 2.0."

What is most encouraging, more than the quantity coming through, is the quality of some of our early stage health tech startups. Glasgow-based MindMate and Edinburgh-headquartered snap40 and Care Sourcer are three of our most promising prospects in the space, each of them with a real chance to scale into a global digital health market that is forecast to grow towards £200 billion by 2020. 

The mobile health market is the key driver here, with startup growth fuelled by escalating costs of healthcare, the whole area of wellness, doctor shortages and prevention and management of chronic conditions.   

MindMate is an app created for the Baby Boomer generation, underpinned by intelligent software that can distinguish between cognitively healthy individuals and those that live with cognitive decline.  CEO and co-founder Susanne Mitschke talks about how the App Store is filled with fitness and nutrition apps, illustrating a market trend where individuals are taking greater responsibility for their personal health and wellbeing rather than entrusting this so much to GPs and other health professionals.  

In terms of the ecosystem building in Scotland, Mitschke has a lot of time for organisations like Converge Challenge who are encouraging highly skilled university staff to discover their entrepreneurial side.  On the downside, one of our most impressive young founders views the NHS as being slow to adopt new technologies - a big problem when most UK health tech startups rely on winning NHS business - and says better collaboration between the public and private sectors would be a game-changer. 

Christopher McCann founded snap40, who last year raised Scotland's largest ever angel investment round, a startup that deploys artificial intelligence (AI) to prioritise patients who need care most. McCann, who left his medical degree at the University of Dundee to concentrate efforts on launching snap40, thinks that for too long founders have avoided starting tech companies in the healthcare space - somewhat incongruous when it's arguably the industry most in need of technological disruption.  

I got to spend a bit of time with a couple of inspiring Scottish health tech founders on the FutureX-Entrepreneurial Scotland Berlin Summit in early July. James McIlroy, who studies medicine at the University of Aberdeen, is the kind of individual who could make Hercules feel inadequate on a bad day. As well as being an award-winning medical student who hits the gym at 5.30am every morning, James doubles up as the CEO of EuroBiotix, a biotech startup who raised around half a million of seed investment earlier this summer.  

City banker turned founder, Nadeem Sarwar, runs Organised Health Technologies and, like snap40, has a compelling AI play, in Organised Health's case around partnering with pharmacies to dispense medicines by utilising machine learning, robotics and, in the future, very possibly autonomous vehicles.  Both on show at EIE17 at the EICC back in May, these two startups most definitely come under the "ones to watch" category.  

Over at CodeBase in Edinburgh, Scottish health tech startup Relaymed recently signed a deal with the healthcare unit of Siemens that will see its latest software - which in layman's terms eases the administrative tasks of physicians so they have more time for patient care - rolled out across North America. 

Cameron Graham-founded StoriiCare, which has been likened to "Facebook for the Care industry" by industry commentators is opening a Silicon Valley office after impressing US venture capitalists including tech doyen Sir Michael Moritz of Sequoia Capital, the VC that invested almost $200 million in Skyscanner in 2013.

However, it is another startup at the UK's largest incubator that is quickly becoming the most touted of all on Scotland's health tech scene. Care Sourcer is the UK's first care comparison and matching website for both care homes and care at home services.  Founded by Andrew McGinley and Andrew Parfery at the end of 2015, Care Sourcer addresses the challenges around an ageing population that will only continue to pile more pressure on the NHS and UK social care system.  

Care Sourcer secured investment from two of the UK's most highly rated venture capitalists in Q2, VCs who both made Care Sourcer their first ever Scottish startup investment.  In another sign of this startup's potential, the word on the street says a senior executive from FanDuel is about to join the fold.