Digital Health and Health Tech in Central Europe

By Vitor Asseituno Morais

Two weeks ago we had the opportunity to visit Poland as an invitation of the Ministry of Economy of the country. The trip was as a great opportunity to get to know more about how digital health and tech are evolving in Poland and Germany, the two countries we visited. Two facts are worth to mention about these countries. Poland is known as the only European country that did not enter the global economic crisis and has had a strong growth in the development of new medical devices, exporting to the rest of the Europe (and to countries like Brazil) This is credit to its expertise in the field and to a skilled but still cheaper workforce. Germany, as the largest healthcare market in Europe, speaks for itself in terms of potential for new technologies in healthcare. The example of Rocket Inten.

In Poland, we attended to SALMED, one of the main health care fair in Poland and the largest for medical devices. There we saw how the Polish government is creating strong policies to foster the development of medical technologies coming from universities in the country, supporting the medical device area and forming competent professionals. The event occurred in Poznan, where 20-25% of the population is composed by students or people related to the local universities.

At the conference, we met Mikal Sokolowski, medical strategist of DoctorKinect, a physiotherapy program that use Microsoft Kinect. This program helps patients to exercise and also allows health care professionals to track progress. We had seen similar technologies before, even in Brazil (see FisioGames), but two things called our attention: 1) It is fun: we always talk about gamification, but we forget that one of its basic principles says it has to be fun to engage patients. We had the opportunity to see it working, and it’s very cool. 2) The company was started in a Startup Bootcamp, and now it’s presenting its technology in a big event, close to giant companies such as Siemens, GE and others. This is a showcase that all the hustle related to event for startups can indeed have real impact.

In our time at Poznan, we also met Tomasz Czaplinski, from LMS Invest, which have invested in 64 companies in the last couple years. According to Thomaz, the reason for investing in so many companies is associated to one of the characteristics of entrepreneurship in Poznan: they dont think big enough yet. Maybe the oppression of so many conflicts over the last decades, caused most Polish entrepreneurs to be happy if they conquer the local market. Having a global product and/or company is not an actual aim for startups. So the average investment tickets for the startups companies are very small for a venture capital fund (around 100-200k according to Tomasz).

Meeting Piotr Kulesza, investor at DocPlanner, and its CEO, Lucek Samulowski, was another highlight of the trip. Lucek is a seasoned entrepreneur who has made the company reach 100 people recently, taking over the on-line booking market in Central Europe, showing that there’s market and money for entrepreneurs who know what to do with them.

Last but not least, we had the opportunity to meet Ming-Sun Sean Kim, partner of XLHealth, a 50 million euros fund for digital health in Europe. The fund is based in Berlin, and has strong connections with large health informatics companies. One of their first investments in MySugr, a diabetes management app for iOS and Android. According to MySugr CrunchBase profile, they raised more than 1 million in their disclosed series A.

In Berlin, we met Jesus del Valle, head of R&D IT Innovations at the pharmaceutical Bayer. They’re one of the oldest pharmaceutical companies in Europe and we went to their headquarters where around 5,000 people work. There we had the opportunity to visit the new office space for Grants4Apps, a digital health accelerator being backed by Bayer and a few other partners. It is still a small move for a company of their size, but it shows the pharmaceutical industry will not be left behind in the new digital health era.

To summarise, the trip was great opportunity to get to know new faces who are shaping the digital health scene in one of the most promising markets in the world. Again, there’s plenty of money for good entrepreneurs interested in disrupting the market.

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