Syed Abrar Ahmed, CEO of AzaadHealth, is on a mission to prevent untimely deaths as a result of medical errors. His motivation is personal. Several years ago, Abrar lost his brother to liver cancer. Countless mistakes occurred during his brother’s treatment because healthcare providers couldn’t access his complete health records. Those errors led to adverse reactions, resulting in his death.
Driven to solve this common healthcare challenge, Abrar and his team developed a patient-centered health data exchange network and patient identification platform powered by blockchain. It allows healthcare stakeholders (payors, providers, and patients) to share verifiable health data and identify patients using biometric scans.
Abrar is an active GIST participant. He competed in the 2019 GIST Catalyst Pitch Competition at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in the Netherlands where he was awarded for being the Outstanding Entrepreneur from an Emerging Economy. Recently, Abrar completed the first-ever U.S.-based GIST Business Incubation program in November 2019. We spoke with Abrar about his innovation, mission, and the positive impact the GIST Business Incubation program has had on his business.
GIST: Tell us about the problem that you're trying to solve.
Abrar: Secure and instant access to relevant patient health information is crucial for providing effective care, particularly in emergencies. Unfortunately, timely access to medical records has been a bane for healthcare stakeholders around the world. AzaadHealth is on a mission to prevent avoidable deaths caused by medical errors due to lack of patient healthcare records.
GIST: What motivated you to develop this innovation and start your company?
Abrar: This initiative is a tribute to my brother who passed away from liver cancer. During his treatment, it was difficult to transfer patient records to and from hospitals. A lot of medical errors occurred because the doctors could not access his complete health records before treatments. These medical errors caused adverse reactions, which contributed to his early demise. After his death, I made it my personal mission to ensure patients and their families do not have to suffer like mine did.
GIST: Tell us about your experience with the GIST Business Incubation program.
Abrar: We were at a crossroads before we engaged with GIST. We had trouble identifying key stakeholders in our target market. Several organizations from Canada, Bahrain, Dubai, and the U.S. were interested in our idea, but we weren’t gaining much traction. We felt stuck. The GIST Business Incubation program helped us identify obstacles and strategize solutions to overcome them. During the program, we were able to come up with ways to gain a stronger foothold in our target market, how to set ourselves apart from the competition, and determine how much capital investment is needed to help us scale.
GIST: How has this experience positively impacted your business?
Abrar: We made incredible progress in a relatively short amount of time. We worked extensively with the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs (UCCS) and Exponential Impact Accelerator. At the end of the program, we signed a joint patent with UCCS, raised investment, and secured a pilot project in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region. The program helped us determine how to register our startup in the U.S., which is a major step forward and a prerequisite to scaling up.
GIST: What were the benefits of working with a U.S.-based incubator program?
Abrar: Being in the U.S. gave us the opportunity to interact with potential investors, partners, and build meaningful contacts that we wouldn’t otherwise have access to. We accomplished more in the past six weeks through the program than we did in the past 6 months. We now have a clear path and the resources to move forward.
GIST: What advice would you give to other startups beginning to work in an incubator or accelerator?
Abrar: Start your program with a clear set of goals. Decide what you need to accomplish by first analyzing what the incubator or accelerator can offer, and what you need to build and grow your company. It is your responsibility to make the most of the opportunity. If necessary, reach out to the organizers and ask for connections. Hustle and always be relentless in following up with people. Most importantly, be polite to everyone you meet.
GIST: What's next for you and your business?
Abrar: As soon as we get our company registered in the U.S., we will accept investment and start a pilot in Nairobi, Kenya. This will be our first live deployment. It will give us the opportunity to showcase our technology and how it can help liberate healthcare and health data silos. Upon commencement of this pilot, we will open a subsidiary in the Middle East and raise further investment and scale our company to the rest of MEA region.
Read this article for a behind-the-scenes look into the GIST Business Incubation program.