We want to share the news about the founding of an independent startup of colleagues from Archer Software: Bicovery. They have developed an application designed to collect and analyze data that will track the physical and emotional state of people suffering from bipolar disorder.
Bicovery will inform patients in advance of upcoming episodes so that they can take steps to prevent them. Patients will be able to share information about their condition with the attending physician and relatives, as well as receive assistance from other users of the program in crisis situations.
We interviewed Vladimir Tutov - Head of R&D at Archer Software and CPO & Co-Founder of the project.
What prompted and motivated you to create a startup? How much time has passed from idea to implementation?
Vladimir: Many service companies think about creating their products, but most leave them at the level of ideas or technical prototypes. In our case, the desire of the Archer Software directors to create a product business coincided with my need to use my Project / Product Manager’s experience to create in-house solutions. And what employees of service companies haven’t thought about launching their own startup?
When we decided to develop our product, we created an independent R&D division in the company and began to think about different ideas for a startup. Gradually, with the help of consultants and training, we realized how to evaluate ideas and analyze the market. Then we worked out the economic indicators of payback, and decided to choose the application for helping patients with BAD. It took us several months to do a market analysis, prepare a pitch deck and carry out presentations of projects.
I would divide the time from idea to implementation into four stages:
Training. We are in a constant search for knowledge - we are looking for information in books and at training sessions; we exchange experience with professionals. Primary education took about six months.
Methodical market analysis, validation process and idea selection (4 months).
In July 2019, the startup was successfully presented to the president of Archer Software; this was our first victory. He believed in the project and allocated investments, giving the project a green light. At the end of August, application development and consultations with doctors who specialize in BAD began.
In parallel, we built a plan of work with potential investors, chose startup battles for participation, and even managed to win the first awards.
Bicovery is a commercial product that will be available by subscription. For each market we will build a separate price model. It was created by people from Archer Software, but is a separate independent company.
What is Bicovery's Market Value?
As it turned out, bipolar disorder is a fairly common mental illness. For example, in the USA the number of patients is 4.5% of the population, in Europe - 1.5%, and in Israel as much as 7%. When we started talking about the first developments, it turned out that there were a lot of people with this problem in our environment.
Bipolar disorder is a disease that causes polar personality disorders - depression, mania and hypomania. This affects all spheres of human life and can lead to serious consequences if you do not monitor the condition and do not try to prevent an exacerbation.
Please tell us more about your startup and the technologies used to develop the application
The application will collect data on the life of a person without distracting him or her from everyday life. Any device is suitable for the patient - a fitness tracker, a smart ring or a smart watch. They all have their own protocols, but ultimately upload the data to the Google Health API / Apple HealthKit, from where we pick them up in a single format. Heartbeat, walking, sleep duration, 24x7 activity - this is more information than the doctor usually has for diagnosing a patient. In addition to basic information, we will analyze changes in the use of the smartphone - typing speed, an increase in the number of errors, social activity - and take them into account as one of the indicators of deviation from the usual mode.
The application will collect and send portions of data to the server for analysis. The AWS-based infrastructure can withstand tens of thousands of concurrent connections and store data in secure storage. Data will be transmitted over encrypted channels and stored in encrypted form.
We will develop models that will make forecasts about the patient’s condition based on the information received. There will be several.
An analytical model is a set of rules that are prescribed together with doctors’ input.
In parallel with it, the Machine Learning model will be able to learn using the analytical model and doctors. When it begins to give a reliable result, it will become the main one.
At the moment, the choice of algorithm has been reduced to two options: GBM (Gradient Boosting Machines) vs Random Forest. As the volume of data grows, we will see which one is better suited - which one learns faster, is less prone to retraining and gives a more reliable result.
The main task of the system is predicting the onset of an episode and informing the patient, doctor and relatives in a timely manner. Thanks to the notification, the patient and their doctor will be able to prevent the onset of severe depression or mania. The disease progresses gradually, so the system will have enough time to see the trend and inform the doctor about it. The doctor calls the patient to discuss and adjusts the treatment. The benefit to the patient is significant, since in this case he or she will not need long-term clinical treatment with expensive drugs and procedures.
But the main benefit, of course, is not about saving money. About half of patients with bipolar disorder, during sucessive periods of depression, attempt suicide. Most difficult episodes end with a long hospitalization, which is a huge disruption to a normal and happy life.
What are your future plans?
Firstly, the expansion of cooperation with doctors. Now doctors of the hospital Mechnikov in the Dnieper are working on a project with us and are actually developing a new scientific method. In late 2019 - early 2020, we plan to launch clinical trials with relevant protocols, scientific publications and formatting according to international standards. In the future, we will conduct clinical trials in the regions where we plan to bring the product - Europe, the USA and Israel.
Doctors sincerely hope that everything will work out, and this will be a breakthrough in the medical field. At this time, they do not have tools for extra-clinical monitoring of patients 24/7.
Secondly, participation in startup battles. At the very first Battle of Startup Live Kyiv, we won a prize. But the main thing is that we got the validation of our idea and business model, the support of like-minded people and the recommendations of experts with many years of experience, including consultants in marketing, finance and product development.
On October 8, Alexander Sharko, our CEO & Co-Founder, visited the Startup Live battle and took second place.
The third competition was even larger. UVCA organized qualifying rounds for the annual CES show in Las Vegas. Last year, about 200 thousand people visited this exhibition. According to the results of the three stages of selection in January 2020, Ukraine will be represented at CES by 6 startups, including Bicovery.
To develop entrepreneurial skills, we want to go through an accelerator in the DACH or Nordic region. What do we expect from the acceleration program? New acquaintances among experts and investors, testing ideas and invaluable recommendations from mentors who have worked on many other startups.
What difficulties have you already encountered?
Choosing and setting up Machine Learning models is the most non-trivial technical task, and still not solved. Development of the UX application: on the one hand, it is necessary that the application does not distract users from everyday life, on the other hand, it is necessary to create a community of people with bipolar disorder around them, their relatives and doctors so that the user can get help at any time.
Alex Sharko gracefully juggles a lot of business issues, while being COO Archer Software and intending to transfer Archer to the next echelon - to break through $10M revenue for 2019.
Of course, there are other difficulties. For example, you need to continue to earn money, and therefore partially continue to work on outsourcing projects in Archer Software.
Please tell us about your team.
Of course, I am really very pleased to introduce these people. We have brought together truly dedicated professionals. I am sure that many are already familiar with Alexander Sharko - COO Archer Software, and now CEO and Co-Founder Bicоvery. Nothing would have happened without his faith in us and the support of Alexei Tulin, president of Archer Software, a serial entrepreneur, and for Bicovery, Co-Founder & Angel; Anastasia Bilous - marketing and fundraising consultant; Svetlana Moroz - MD, head of the psychosomatic center; Vladimir Falendysh - an experienced Android developer and first employee of the company; and me, Vladimir Tutov, Co-Founder & CPO.
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Do you know what unites us all? Daily methodical work, determination and experience that allows you to continue to move in the chosen direction. As well as faith in the usefulness of our product. We will continue to move forward and will share the latest news on the development of the project.