At 3DS, we have long fostered the notion that the university is the ideal center for an ecosystem’s entrepreneurial activity. After all, where else is there such an intense concentration of talent, intellectual capital, diversity, resources, and time to invest in projects that are both innovative and commercially viable? Recently, we partnered with the Technion Institute of Technology, the Technion Faculty of Medicine, and the Ramban Hospital System to help students start companies in the healthcare space.
“What has 400 times more bacteria than a toilet seat but is still touched by every doctor and nurse in every hospital in the world,” asked Ido. After a suspenseful pause, he said “the keyboard; the computer keyboard that doctors use to jot down notes, that nurses use to record your vital signs.” No good problem should be “solution-less,” and so Ido offered the solution his team had created over the course of the 3DS program. It was a device attached to the keyboard that would make it germ-free without any work from any member of the hospital staff.
It took a moment for this to sink in, and yet another moment for me to appreciate the very fact that I was hearing this statistic and this solution in the middle of an entrepreneurship education program targeted at students. Anyone that has worked with students on technology startups knows that the cleanliness of hospital keyboards is not exactly the sexiest opportunity for innovation. But as I repeatedly observed, the students at the Faculty of Medicine, and their colleagues from the computer science, biomedical engineering, and half a dozen other disciplines at the Technion Institute of Technology weren’t interested in “sexy.” They wanted to make an impact and the 3DS team was there to help them.
The program we hosted at Technion in Haifa, Israel, was our first to happen in close partnership with one of the largest hospital systems in the world. What Technion offered was a proposition that we hope will be replicated across the world–bring the unique 3 Day Startup program to a medical school and we’ll make sure that students have access to a major hospital, like the Ramban hospital, where over 500,000 patients a year receive care.
This tightly knit partnership between a top notch medical school, a world renowned engineering and computer science school, 3 Day Startup, and a large hospital campus, allowed students to innovate at a rapid pace. Unlike a class project, or an ordinary hackathon, students at our first 3DS Healthcare program at Technion didn’t have to wait to schedule meetings with healthcare professionals to understand complex problems–they could walk across the street and talk to neurologists treating Parkinson’s, pediatricians treating childhood diabetes, hospital IT staff managing massive amounts of patient data, and so much more.
And every group made that very short walk several times during the three days. A team working on what I call the “glove” took special advantage of this truly special opportunity to understand the problems faced by Parkinson’s patients and the treatments currently used to help them manage this debilitating condition. With their interdisciplinary team of medical students, biomedical and electrical engineering students, they spent the entire three days designing and prototyping a reactive glove that a Parkinson’s patient could use to normalize his or her movements. Necessarily early stage, this wasn’t something they could put on a patient’s hand, but it was tangible enough to take to neurologists to help understand whether their concept could work. All were heartened by the critical feedback and the ability to rapidly iterate based on that feedback.
“Imagine if we could make managing diabetes as fun and engaging for a child as nurturing and feeding a virtual pet,” beamed Illuz, one of almost twenty-five medical students participating at 3DS Healthcare. Illuz and his team had talked to half a dozen pediatricians and dozens of parents to intuitively appreciate why and how children are made to comply with a regimen for monitoring and managing their diabetes. “I introduce to you Glucogotchi,” he said. The room was aflutter at the picture of this cute dinosaur popping out of its eggshell–happy, plump, and smiling because his “owner,” a seven year old child had properly monitored his blood pressure that day.
This type of magic was absolutely commonplace over the course of the three days. And it would take too many words to mention every learning uncovered or project worked on, but words of gratitude are owed to lead organizers Yuval Barak-Corren and Yishai Zusman. They took a very tough program to organize–with its need to bring together support from several departments, the largest hospital system in the country, and world-class mentors–and made it run like clockwork. They did it in true Israeli fashion, pulling it all off in one-third of the time it takes a normal 3DS organizer to run a much less complicated program. While they did the heavy lifting, it could never have happened without the strong support of School of Medicine faculty members like Professor Uri Rosenschein, who spent all morning and evening mentoring and performed a couple of angioplasties in between. A final word of thanks is due to our truly fantastic participants, many of whom have been moving forward with their companies since the program took place in November of 2013. Their hard work is what inspires each and every one of us at 3 Day Startup to keep working with universities to build entrepreneurial ecosystems so that the students can ultimately start the companies that will improve our world.
Insights come at strange and unpredictable moments. At 3DS, we do our very best to increase the speed and likelihood of such moments by connecting intellectually diverse, curious, and ambitious people with mentors, customers, and each other. It’s all the more meaningful if we can form these connections and help students work in impactful areas like healthcare. If you’re interested in working with us to help students start healthcare-related technology companies in your community or on your college campus, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We can be reached at founders (at) 3daystartup (dot) org.