Category Archives: News

Managing COVID-19 Exposure With Crowd Tracing

As we enter winter, with fewer options to be outdoors, our personal choices can impact our risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus even more. The New England Journal of Medicine publication showed real-world examples of the effectiveness of masks and social distancing in mitigating severity of COVID-19 infection and keeping people asymptomatic. CNN reported on a study that showed people who contracted COVID-19 were twice as likely to have visited a restaurant in the prior two weeks. What if we had actionable crowding, mask usage, and social distancing data that we could analyze to inform our daily decisions to keep us safe?

Aspire Ventures, an AWS partner, has developed the Clio GO pass system — a new venue-entry system that helps track COVID-19 exposure through kiosks and mobile phones in a completely privacy-preserving way. It uses a new technology called crowd tracing, which allows users to assess whether certain locations and venues meet their risk profile. Crowd tracing data is COVID-19 location-scouting data, which helps answer the question of how much risk may be associated with entering a particular crowd.

Read the Amazon press release here.

Is Human Intelligence Outpacing AI?

Are we cyborgs? Elon Musk thinks so.

We’re on the cusp of world-changing breakthroughs in AI, neural networks, and quantum computing. What does that mean for human intelligence?

Today we’re rolling out the inaugural episode of Better Intelligence, a podcast about intelligence and how humans and machines are shaping the future together.

My first guest is Victor Owuor. He’s a polymath, a rocket scientist, and one of the smartest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. He has two bachelor’s degrees and two master’s degrees from MIT, in electrical engineering and AeroAstro, as well as a JD from Harvard Law School.

Victor has worked in product development and technology for more than 15 years, in roles such as senior director for strategy and product management at Oracle. Victor now works at Clio Health, where he oversees product design and technology for some of the most advanced AI-driven health applications.

In this episode we discuss how we might overcome the limits of Moore’s Law, why humans are doing better on IQ tests now than they did 50 years ago, whether pigeons are smarter than oncologists, and how far the most intelligent computing algorithms are from rivaling the human mind.

Listen below and let us know what you think — are we already cyborgs?

Listen on Google Play Music  

Aspire Ventures Partners with Mor Research Applications, a Division of Clalit Health Services

Last April, we partnered with Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health (LG Health) to launch a unique impact fund aimed at fast tracking precision medicine technologies and practices that leverage AI and IoT.

Just a year later, we are pleased to announce a global partnership with Mor Research Applications, the Technology Transfer Office of Clalit Health Services. Clalit is the largest HMO in Israel and the second largest in the world, with 4.3 million members, 14 hospitals, and around 2,000 clinics across the country. Mor’s commercialization portfolio comprises more than 100 different projects and companies, from pre-seed to advanced stage, aiming to solve a number of unmet needs.

Mor CEO Pini Ben-Elazar said the partnership “not only helps us enter the U.S. market, but represents a joining of international forces to pursue solutions for the challenges conceived and developed by Clalit’s professionals.”

Read the press release here.

[Un]hyping AI

This article previously appeared in Healthcare Business Today.  Check it out here.

Artificial intelligence has been one of the most important — and perhaps most jarring — technological advances of the 21st century. Lines of code have been trained to drive cars, detect faces, and decode complex radiological images, and the recent explosion of AI utilizations has created a jagged divide in societal perception. On the one hand, there are those who fear the robot apocalypse, with entrepreneur Elon Musk himself claiming that “AI is a fundamental risk to the existence of civilization.” Conversely, there are those who overzealously point to AI as a panacea, a cure-all for everything from weight loss to higher education.

Yet despite these prodigious claims, the marketing hype around today’s AI seems to be, in many ways, surpassing reality. A brief interaction with Apple’s Siri, for example, reveals how easily the clever programming can be fooled, or how often it tends to be completely inaccurate. And IBM’s supercomputer Watson, while impressive, is less magic than manual labour. In a recent STAT article, one reporter noted that although Watson can digest massive amounts of data, “its treatment recommendations are not based on its own insights…. Instead, they are based exclusively on training by human overseers, who laboriously feed Watson information.”

Marketing hype is dangerous, both for AI technology itself and for the humans that could benefit from it. Beyond just risking a complete misunderstanding, overhyping AI imperils its very progress — much like what occurred in the “AI winter” of the 1970s and 1980s, during which the technology had been so sensationalized that, when it could not fulfill every unfeasible expectation, it was met with a period of deep disenchantment that resulted in a lack of popularity, funding, and technological advancement.

Once again, AI finds itself reaching the end of the second stage of the Gartner Hype Cycle, the peak of inflated expectation — and if we’re not careful, it may slope back into what Gartner calls “the trough of disillusionment,” prompting yet another lack of public interest and capital investment.

To avoid the pit, it’s important to properly understand AI and its limitations so that we may use it more effectively in areas where AI particularly excels. Artificial intelligence essentially allows machines to “learn” from experience and adjust to new inputs, in order to accomplish tasks by synthesizing enormous amounts of data and analyzing that data to find patterns. While it’s true that AI can accomplish a variety of tasks more efficiently than us — due to a machine’s ability to store and compute far more data than a single human mind (or even a team of human minds) — it does have its limitations.

For instance, deep learning, one of the more complicated branches of AI, mimics the human mind by utilizing an artificial neural network, wherein layers of mathematically simulated neurons are trained to respond to certain inputs. This method of training, known as supervised learning, is not automatic — it requires varying degrees of attention from engineers, who feed pieces of information into a machine (such as IBM’s Watson) until the machine is able to draw out the most likely conclusion from those data.

Additionally, AI is unable — as of yet — to handle abstract reasoning. Manually-trained programs comb through historical data in order to construct patterns upon which they can make predictions. Although these programs are exceedingly useful when solving problems of categorization, they possess no true understanding in the way that a human does.

Acknowledging AI’s limitations has not impeded its progress — in fact, it’s quite the opposite. Companies from a broad range of fields have been effectively utilizing AI not in spite of its limitations, but because they have found ways to capitalize on them. Currently, FICO uses neural networks to predict fraudulent banking transactions, a process that involves high-volumes of data that are exceedingly arduous to manually sift through. The agricultural industry is also benefiting from AI, with companies using autonomous robotics, machine vision, and predictive analytics to reduce labor costs and maintain soil and crop health. In education, AI is already assisting teachers with menial tasks such as grading and has even proven useful in tutoring students. And in healthcare, Watson Paths, a research collaboration with the Cleveland Clinic designed to assist medical professionals, enables “a more natural interaction between physicians, data and electronic medical records.” Designed to mimic the decision-making process physicians use when diagnosing, the software doesn’t need to be manually programmed to find the correct answer, and it has been so successful that it’s currently being used to teach med students.

Viewing AI either as a catalyst for the apocalypse or as a panacea of all of mankind’s difficulties is a hindrance to further advancement in the field. We at Aspire Ventures take full advantage of the benefits of AI, weaving adaptive, personalized algorithms into all of our technologies in order to glean the most valuable outcomes. Only by understanding both the capabilities and limitations of these very technologies can we unlock their true potential.

Watch: Smart Health Innovation Lab Grand Opening

As a venture lab that deals regularly with healthcare startups, we at Aspire Ventures understand how healthcare silos can stymie new technologies by creating a sluggish and unpredictable path to market adoption, even after the product has been tested and is market ready.

The Smart Health Innovation Lab brings together healthcare providers, insurers, and tech entrepreneurs in order to expedite integration, help health technologies gain faster market adoption and payor reimbursement, and transform healthcare. The lab, of which we are a founding member, recently opened its doors to its first class of residents, and the grand opening event was an enormous success, drawing excitement not only from attendees, but also from both regional and national news outlets.

Check out the video from the event below.

How We Plan to Broaden the Impact of Precision Medicine

Last week, we announced the launch of the Aspire Ventures Precision Medicine Fund (AVP), a $300 million fund co-managed with Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health (LG Health) to fast-track precision medicine ventures and practices that transform care with AI and IoT. Together with LG Health we’ve seeded the fund with $30 million cash and in-kind investment and will be fundraising for the remainder over the next two years. We believe precision medicine is the future of healthcare, and we’re excited to be working with a top-tier partner to accelerate its realization.

Precision medicine matches each individual with the right treatment according to their unique biochemistry, genetics, environment, and lifestyle, instead of offering one-size-fits-all solutions for the “average” patient. This approach could have profound impacts on cost, experience, and outcomes in a healthcare system that today is wasteful, slow, and expensive. By some counts, more than $1 trillion of U.S. healthcare spending is wasted every year, 40 percent of which can be attributed to unnecessary treatments, and another 12% to medical errors. Imagine if we could eliminate that waste while making treatments more effective.

Precision medicine has been gaining a lot of momentum recently, and it’s no surprise — already it has had an exciting impact on both clinical research and patient care. Since the Obama administration launched the Precision Medicine Initiative in January 2015, the notion of precision medicine has expanded from next generation gene sequencing and pharmacogenomics to a much broader definition that has attracted a lot more investment. In fact, the global precision medicine market is expected to reach $141 billion in just eight years, driving an enormous uptick in research and development.

For precision medicine to be successful, it must address not only genetic data, but also account for other health variables, such as environmental factors, clinical narratives, or behavior analyses — essentially, it must rely on comprehensive data regarding the whole person. The challenge in doing so is that without the right technological tools, collecting and analyzing comprehensive data for each patient is often cost-prohibitive.

That’s why artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) play a key role in the realization of a practical, scalable approach to precision medicine that can be used not only to monitor cancer treatments and tame the human genome, but also to assist the larger population with a wide variety of health conditions.

Data Power

Technology like IoT makes it possible to acquire both the quantity and quality of data needed to effectively broaden the scope of precision medicine. There is a growing number of data collection devices, from consumer-level fitness trackers to Continuous Glucose Monitors and portable EEGs, that monitor a patient’s condition constantly, aiding physicians in making more accurate diagnoses. There are also a variety of apps and wearables that can help patients to manage their diet, record their medications, and monitor their own mental health status. Yet the benefits of these devices do more than merely assist patients in managing their own health — they can provide physicians the data they need for individualized treatments and even extend to the emergency room.

AI Efficiency

One of the major hurdles precision medicine solutions face is finding a way to create individualized solutions that can be scaled affordably. To that end, AI plays a vital role in achieving cost-effectiveness and lowering healthcare costs overall. In pharmaceuticals alone, AI data mining algorithms have made it faster and easier to obtain and organize large quantities of accurate information, thereby decreasing the cost of drug development and replication. Finding significant patterns and making meaningful use of massive data sets to provide personalized treatments for every patient is a nearly impossible task for humans alone. However, sifting through data is precisely the type of work that artificial intelligence can do quickly and cheaply.

The Aspire Ventures Precision Medicine Fund

The Aspire Ventures Precision Medicine Fund will focus investments on devices and practices that leverage AI and IoT to overcome precision medicine’s scalability challenges and maximize impact on population health. Aspire and LG Health will also help to fast-track technologies by contributing technological and clinical expertise along with intellectual property like health system data and Aspire’s proprietary adaptive artificial intelligence platform, A2I.

A big part of the cost related to precision medicine solutions stems from the time, resources, and risk it takes to fully develop, deploy, and integrate health technologies into health systems. Our fund’s unique structure helps ventures overcome these challenges by leveraging an ecosystem of strategic partnerships that accelerate each step of the venture development process — from ideation, to clinical trials, to FDA approval, to market adoption, to insurance reimbursement. In this way we can maximize our capital efficiency and rapidly advance new precision medicine technologies to market that will have the broadest possible impact.

For more information about our precision medicine fund, check out a few of the articles in the links below.

Silicon Valley Exodus

Last month, The New York Times published a story on the growing discontent among innovators in Silicon Valley and their search for greener pastures elsewhere. Although it’s probably an overstatement to say that “Silicon Valley is Over” — as the NYT sensationally wrote in the headline of their story — the case for leaving the Valley is becoming more compelling than ever, and it appears that some entrepreneurs and investors are catching on.

The idea that true innovation can’t succeed outside of Silicon Valley has become accepted as the holy truth. To be sure, the link between Silicon Valley and venture success is difficult to deny. According to a recent report, the Silicon Valley area still receives the most venture investment, accruing over $27 billion in 2015 alone, which accounts for nearly half of the total venture capital invested in the U.S. that year.

Harvard Business Review attributes the success of Silicon Valley companies to cultural qualities such as audacity, “grit,” strong leadership, collaboration, flexible work schedules, and strict attention to user-centered design. Yet these qualities are not limited to geography and can ultimately be reproduced anywhere. This realization that the Valley doesn’t have a monopoly on innovation has driven many — from high-profile investors to engineers in the field — to search out new frontiers for building the next technologies for the 21st century. But what’s wrong with the Valley?

Certainly, the most obvious answer is the cost of living. Business leaders and residents alike are increasingly buckling under longer traffic commutes, inflated property costs, and a steep housing shortage. While companies such as Facebook and Google have attempted to address the housing crisis by expanding their campuses to include low-income complexes, the move has largely been blocked so far by regulatory battles with local government and has been met with dissatisfaction from community residents who see it as an inadequate response from the culprits of the housing crunch.

The increasing pay scale has also proven difficult for employers to keep up with. Programmers and engineers might earn a median salary of $50,000 on average in the United States, but at companies in the Valley, like Facebook or Google, it could reach “triple or quadruple that amount.” As a result, many employers have expressed the desire to outsource to satellite offices in more affordable areas.

Another common complaint is the increasingly “homogenous” culture in the Bay Area. “There is a mono-conversation of tech that is near impossible to avoid,” says Tim Ferris, author and angel investor who recently relocated to Austin. Ferris and others are finding that although engineers, venture capitalists, and entrepreneurs are commonplace, little else is represented in the way of diverse employment.

There is growing dissatisfaction with a lack of intellectual diversity in what some call a “left-wing echo chamber that stifles opposing views.” Many in the Bay Area are “feeling increasingly squeezed by what they perceive to be liberal groupthink,” writes one reporter for The Guardian. This at least partly contributes to why some investors, such as Peter Thiel, have elected to leave the Valley to seek a broader range of mindsets.

Whatever the reasons, Glenn Kelman, chief executive of Seattle-based Redfin, believes that the exodus from expensive coastal cities to cheaper inland locations is actually good for the country as a whole. “You shouldn’t have that many people making so much money in just a few cities. It should spread to the rest of the country.”

Alternative tech hubs offer a way of living that lends itself to innovation. Smaller, more intimate communities tend to drive deeper support structures, breeding excitement for each new success. While much of Silicon Valley is racing to be part of a unicorn, innovators elsewhere are simply hungry to make a difference.

The allure of tech jobs in the Bay Area is still undeniably strong. But, as blockchain engineer and entrepreneur Preethi Kasireddy reminds us: “Silicon Valley is just one way of living… [T]echnology is global, engineering is global, innovation is global and entrepreneurship is global.”

4 Thought Leaders on Tech in Healthcare

Modern healthcare is continuously being shaped by big data, artificial intelligence, and a slew of other digital technologies. As these technologies mature, they will transform the patient experience by enabling personalized treatments and reduce the workload for physicians with automation, affecting everything from medical imaging, to management of chronic diseases, to primary care. Today’s thought leaders from across industries agree that technology is poised to make a huge impact on healthcare. Here are what leaders from payor systems, technology companies, and healthcare providers are saying about the latest technology in healthcare today.

On Machine Learning & Artificial Intelligence

“[D]eployed systems from our team and from AI efforts by colleagues employ machine learning and reasoning to help doctors to understand patient outcomes—in advance of poor outcomes. There’s a great deal of low-hanging fruit where even today’s AI technologies are well positioned to help. Sticking with healthcare for a bit, a recent study showed that nearly 1,000 people per day are dying in the US because of preventable errors being made in hospitals. I believe that AI technologies could be employed to provide new kinds of safety nets, via error detection, alerting, and decision support, that could save hundreds of thousands of lives per year.”

Eric Horvitz, Technical Fellow & Director at Microsoft Research Labs

On Wearables

“Thanks to technologies such as remote monitoring and telehealth, we’ll see people get a lot more care from home… [This will] offer patients greater independence, improved convenience, and new opportunities to tailor treatments to their personal needs…The technology also empowers doctors to prescribe a personalized set of tools for each individual’s needs. Patients now can manage their health at home and in the workplace, while caregivers and care coordinators are armed with critical information that can help people stay healthy.

The next step in wearables will be to make them relevant to people who wouldn’t normally use them. The opportunity lies in how wearables, big data and artificial intelligence come together to offer solutions that improve the quality of care, and how we as marketers can foster greater adoption of these tools.”

David Edelman, Chief Marketing Officer at Aetna

On Digitization & Precision Medicine

“During my conversations with customers and partners about healthcare, precision medicine and SAP’s connected health strategy continue to be top of mind. Digitization in healthcare addresses the need to run simple (by turning big data into smart data), the need to run with data (by breaking down the information silos) and the need to run in real-time (through the capacity to visualize relevant results within seconds, instead of hours).”

Dr. C. Suter Crazzolara, VP Product Manager for Health and Precision Medicine at SAP

On Big Data

“Over the last decade, there has been growing enthusiasm for data analytics as well as growing appreciation of the potential usefulness of so-called big data in transforming personal care, clinical care and public health, and related research. Both the public and private health sectors are investing in the technologies and analytical capabilities needed to unlock the full value of big data. For governments that are interested in using such data, a natural starting point is to link national health-care data sets, to facilitate in-depth analysis of the performance and utilization of health service. At the institutional level, the analysis of electronic health records map greatly expand the capacity to generate new knowledge by creating an observational evidence base to help resolve clinical questions. Analysis of big data is already proving critical in building accurate models of disease progression and providing personalized medicine in clinical practice. It has also facilitated the evaluation of the impact of health policies and improved the efficiency of clinical trials. By encouraging patients to participate in their own care, delivering personalized information and integrating medicine with behavioural determinants of health, the integration of electronic health records with personal data from other sources, e.g. medical devices, wearable devices, sensors and tools based on virtual reality, could also be very beneficial.

John Brownstein, Chief Innovation Officer at Boston Children’s Hospital

Cross-Functional Collaboration with Design Sprints

Turning great ideas into elegant, engaging solutions that people will actually want to use isn’t easy. Companies spend exorbitant amounts of time and resources creating a market-ready product, only to discover months down the road that the product isn’t user-friendly, or worse still, that it simply isn’t useful. To avoid that costly mistake, an iterative design process that favors speed, early user feedback, and collaboration are necessary ingredients for any successful venture.

A design sprint is a comprehensive tool companies can use to rapidly carry an initial design idea through prototyping and user testing in just five days. A concept originally formulated by Jake Knapp and the design team at Google Ventures, a design sprint is a condensed process that orients a team of diverse minds around a single design solution and aims their efforts at hitting clearly defined goals.

At Aspire, we use design sprints regularly to build rapid prototypes and get early feedback on the first iterations of our products. We recently conducted a design sprint, in a period of four days rather than the usual five, to develop a prototype for our venture MedStatix’s new consumer-facing doctor search app, M-Path. The app takes a new approach to the doctor search process by enabling cost transparency and leveraging MedStatix’s huge patient experience dataset to let users match with the right provider based on experience preferences, book an appointment, pay, and rate their experience, all from one tool.

The design sprint helped us build a rapid prototype without investing too many resources, and helped us gain early consumer feedback vital to future development of the product. But while user testing and time constraints are often recognized as the primary benefits to sprints, we’ve found that perhaps the most important (and often overlooked) benefit is the utilization of a diverse, cross-functional team.

Design sprints call for a group of key players from a variety of factions within the business, including executives, stakeholders, product managers, technology engineers, designers, marketers, or anyone else with a vested interest in the project. Developing a cross-functional team can dramatically speed up the design process by breaking down silos and building early consensus around a solution. A sprint strongly encourages equal participation from across the departmental spectrum, which helps to build a stronger community that’s focused on solving the problem at hand, and ensures that the project is less likely to be derailed by dissenting viewpoints in the future.

The M-path app in particular revealed the importance of involving diverse perspectives and disciplines, because the problem the app tries to solve is a complex one that involves numerous stakeholders. Building an app that appeals to doctors, everyday consumers, insurers, and hospital administrators requires a broad range of expertise. It was necessary to understand the everyday healthcare consumer’s user story; how insurance and pay structures work; how to receive buy-in from doctors; and how the intricacies of healthcare, technology, and design might work together to address the problem.

Obtaining diverse perspectives at the outset of the project allowed the entire team to benefit from access to unique, on-the-ground insights specific to the product. Instead of filling the room with designers and developers only, our M-Path sprint team members included a Human Resources manager, an accountant, two software engineers, an artist, and a creative manager.

The result of putting such a diverse group together not only led to better design results, it became an important way to build invaluable working relationships that advance the company as a whole.

“It was just a fabulous team-building experience,” says Renee Rahe, Human Resources Manager at Aspire. “It was phenomenal to see how people from completely different departments can come together to make something work. Everyone brought something to the table.”

Rahe, with over 20 years of experience in healthcare administration, was able to offer intimate insights into health insurance reimbursement models and practice-centered questions like: How will it affect people? Who will pay for it? What if it changes the workflow?

“You always want to have industry experts in the room for a project like this,” says Don Locker, one of the Aspire software engineers whose traditional knowhow helped guide the sprint to a buildable solution. “All of the resources we needed were in that room.”

Design sprints have become an integral part of our venture development process. The benefits of efficiency, early user feedback, and collaboration have revealed themselves not only with M-path, but with many of our other ventures as well — and we look forward to the progress we will make with other design sprints in the future.

HIMSS 2018 Conference

The annual Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference — health IT’s leading exhibit — is in Las Vegas this week, and members from our Smart Health Innovation Lab are attending to take part in the national conversation on improving healthcare.

Previous HIMSS conferences have been centered around healthcare legislation reform, medical banking, and mobile health solutions, but this year the buzz has been all about artificial intelligence and its potential to transform care. Our ventures have been focused on developing new impactful AI applications in healthcare, and we have written extensively on how AI can transform care — we are happy the industry is finally catching on. HIMSS this year also focused on important themes such as interoperability, cybersecurity, analytics, and federal health IT.

“[Now] we have dense, robust algorithms, tons of data and the ability to handle it computationally,” said Pamela Peele, chief analytics officer at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Health Plan and UPMC Enterprises, in a recent TechTarget article. “It’s the perfect storm.”

We couldn’t agree more.

Connexion Health Announces Sacramento Kings as Early Customer

Last May, we sent a group to Chicago during the NBA Combine to showcase a prototype Connexion kiosk the Aspire team had developed in a span of 6 weeks, along with its first application, Fusionetics+. Taken together, the technology generates AI-powered, touchless health screenings and personalized training programs for athletes. The result of the debut was even more positive than we had imagined.

Now, only 9 months later, Connexion is a full-fledged company and they’re winning some headline-grabbing customers. Yesterday, Connexion Health announced that the Sacramento Kings was among the first of two NBA teams that would utilize the Connexion kiosk.

“The Sacramento Kings will use Connexion to measure and analyze their players’ key physical attributes including their posture, lateral balance, and body movement, in order to prevent injuries, improve their on-court performance and fitness levels, and lengthen their playing careers,” the press release reads.

SportsTechie also published an article on the Kings announcement, lauding some of the potential benefits the kiosk can provide the team.

“Many, if not all, professional sports teams conduct regular or even daily check-ups on each athlete to gauge rest and recovery levels while checking for early signs of asymmetries or weaknesses that could lead to injury risk,” writes sports journalist Joe Lemire.  “The Connexion kiosk helps detect deviations from each player’s regular patterns.”

But this is just the beginning.  With a host of other third-party health applications already in the works, Connexion is expected to affect far more than just the sports science industry. They’re poised to transform health and wellness across a broad range of industries and are already in talks with healthcare systems, physical therapy practices, major retail companies, insurers, fitness centers, and self-insured employers. We’re thrilled to see what’s next for Connexion Health. For more information, check out their website, or follow their progress on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

2017 Was a Big Year For AI in Healthcare… 2018 Could Be Bigger

2017 was a formative year for artificial intelligence, not only regarding the technology itself, but also our own crucial understanding of how it works — or should work.  Early last year, AI learned how to detect minute vertebral compression fractures on x-rays that are often overlooked in the emergency room. In March, OpenAI generated a system that could replicate a process in reality after having seen it just once in a simulated environment. Chinese startup Face++ developed an AI facial recognition software that enables users to pay for things with their face. AI was trained to fly drones autonomously, a task involving complexities such as real-time situational awareness and multi-spectral perception. And in November, a robot called Xiaoyi passed the National Medical Licensing Exam — the first ever to do so.

This rapid technological evolution shows no signs of slowing down. From marketing to cybersecurity, AI has already proven to be both useful and practical, and it’s quickly becoming embedded in everything we do.

Most excitingly, advancements in AI are poised to change healthcare dramatically for the better. So what may the upcoming year hold for AI in healthcare? We spoke to Mike Monteiro, artificial intelligence thought leader and Chief Product Officer at Aspire Ventures, who gave us a few 2018 predictions.

AI Research Will Finally Begin to Address Its Scalability Problem

“The AI boom is going to hit a wall on scalability very soon, and that’s a good thing. We’re approaching a bottleneck of human talent and algorithmic techniques as AI’s challenges become more complex with a broader scope. Having a team of data scientists and AI experts dedicated to manually developing an algorithm works just fine for single problems with controlled parameters. But if we want to scale to complex problems such as those in healthcare, where solutions will need to account for a wide range of variables like the unique biochemistries, genetics, gut biomes, or behaviors of each individual, we’ll need an AI that can craft and refine its own algorithms with minimal human guidance. The good news is that necessity is the mother of invention, and the bottleneck of talent is already leading to the exploration of new horizons in research that could lead to a more autonomous AI. In the coming year we’ll be hearing a lot more about AI that can build its own algorithms — what I call Meta AI, and its subfields like AutoML and Meta Learning — as AI research addresses the scalability problem with less supervised approaches.”  

Interpretable, More Transparent AI Will be Needed to Advance Healthcare

“I expect to see greater efforts to make AI’s decision making processes more transparent in 2018. The black box approach to AI is fine when you want to mystify consumers with a sense of magic, but that approach will not suffice if we want to transform healthcare. Doctors need to be able to explain to patients how they reached their conclusions and justify the logic behind their treatment decisions — and in order to do that, the AI will need to be able to explain itself to doctors. The problem with neural networks is that they’re incomprehensible. In order for AI to make a real impact in our care, we will need better meta analysis so that doctors can interpret it.”

Precision Medicine May Finally Become an Integral Focus for Healthcare

“There is a perfect storm of influencing factors coming together that could make 2018 the year that we get serious about adopting precision medicine to address population health. Patients’ tolerance for one-size-fits-all diagnoses and therapies are reaching a breaking point. Wearable and mobile technologies have become so advanced and so widespread that patients now have far more actionable health data about themselves than they’ve ever had before. At some point, patients will demand that that data be taken into account by doctors. Moreover, those same technologies have helped to disrupt nearly every other sector and shift consumer expectations for a better experience that is more convenient, more effective, and less costly. To win patient satisfaction, providers are going to have to show they can truly listen to their patients, process the wealth of data their patients have on their own health, and show how they’re taking it all into account as they recommend next steps.

Fortunately, recent advancements in artificial intelligence will allow it to deliver on its promise to change healthcare and help doctors utilize the new wealth of data for radically personalized care. 2017 was a record-breaking year for precision medicine investment, and the returns on those investments could start paying off in the form of better public health much sooner than we think.”

Collaboration Has Many Pitfalls, and it’s More Necessary Than Ever

Is the Future Being Designed by Committee?
Groupthink, design by committee, meeting overload—if you’ve worked in an office, you’re probably familiar with the ways collaboration can go wrong. As workplaces make changes to encourage more teamwork, the push for collaboration has been attracting increasing criticism.

“The fashion for making employees collaborate has gone too far,” states The Economist in an article titled The Collaboration Curse. Collaboration, The Economist argues, causes too many interruptions to the deep work that’s needed in the knowledge industry.

Similar arguments appear in The New York Times, The Harvard Business Review, and The New Yorker. In a NYT op-ed, Susan Cain calls the new enthusiasm for collaboration “the rise of the new groupthink”.

“People in groups tend to sit back and let others do the work,” Cain writes, “they instinctively mimic others’ opinions and lose sight of their own; and, often succumb to peer pressure.” That’s bad for generating new ideas, Cain warns, while she reminisces about the lone, rebel geniuses who drove the tech boom from their garages in the 1990s.

Indeed, it is a different world today. Collective achievement is winning out against solitary strokes of genius. But is collaboration really stifling innovation? Is the future being designed by committee?

Collaboration is Key in the New Frontier
It’s not an either/or proposition; collaboration and innovation can, and should, work together. Innovative ideas can come from anywhere: be it a brainstorming session in a boardroom, or a creative inventor who thrives on solitude. To be sure, the dangers of over-collaborating are real; it can result in poor design, loss of productivity, and a proneness for mediocrity instead of groundbreaking ideas. But with the right strategies and processes in place, on which you can find an excellent discussion here and here, collaboration can play a key role in bringing new ideas to life. And we’re approaching a new era where a company’s ability to collaborate may determine their survival.

Why is collaboration so important today? The frontiers we face today are very different from those we faced just 10 years ago. We’ve already built out the internet infrastructure, the game-changing devices, and the killer apps to connect the world and power the information age. The new frontiers are the complicated industries that have been resistant to change, industries that have numerous stakeholders and provide a public good that requires government regulation. Disrupting healthcare, education, or finance will take more than a guy in a garage–it will take a savvy team of specialists who know how to work with others, it will take companies who know how to form strategic partnerships with other private and public institutions.

This is what AOL founder and investor Steve Case calls “the Third Wave” in his book which shares the same title. The First Wave of the Internet, according to Case, was about building the foundations and infrastructure to get people online; the Second Wave was largely defined by the dawn of mobile and software-as-a-service apps (where the lone geniuses thrived); and the Third Wave, which we are now entering, is the era when we begin integrating the full benefits of the internet into everything we do, including the industries that have the biggest impact on our daily lives, like healthcare, finance, education, and transportation.

To navigate this Third Wave, we’re going to have to learn to work together. The Third Wave industries rely on collective efforts from multiple stakeholders and have key decision makers that act as gatekeepers. To change these industries, companies will have to work to form alliances with policy makers, industry leaders, and people on the front lines in order to make a real difference.

It’s already beginning to happen. According to a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, more companies are finding novel ways to work together as innovation cycles become too rapid for traditional mergers and acquisitions to be effective. The article points to an emerging new wave of industrial mashups, where companies share assets or capabilities with one or more partners to create new possibilities for all.

Working Together at Aspire
This collaborative approach to innovative transformation is foundational to our model at Aspire Ventures. Our ventures not only share ideas and collaborate on joint projects, they also share key technological resources like our adaptive artificial intelligence platform, A2I, as well as human resources like data scientists, developers, and designers. By pooling resources in this way, collaboration becomes baked into the DNA of all of our companies, which manifests into impactful partnerships that extend far beyond Aspire’s offices.

On Tuesday, October 10, Case visited our office in downtown Lancaster, PA, during the Rise of the Rest Tour—a tour and pitch competition to highlight growing startup communities growing outside of Silicon Valley—which kicked off this year in Central PA. During Case’s visit, we gave him a first-hand view of Aspire’s venture ecosystem and some of our exciting technologies. We also co-presented with Lancaster General Health on the strong alliances we are forming with key regional players in the healthcare industry and the many ways we are collaborating to transform healthcare.

One example of Aspire Ventures’ and LG Health’s efforts is the creation of the Smart Health Innovation Lab, a new healthcare technology center where payors, providers, and technology companies work together to validate market-ready products and expedite integration into healthcare systems. Founded through a unique collaboration between Aspire, LG Health, Capital BlueCross, and Clio Health, the Smart Health Innovation Lab will open in downtown Lancaster, PA in early 2018.

When it comes to transforming healthcare, we know we can’t do it alone. We believe in collaborating with diverse stakeholders to create an ecosystem of partners that are dedicated to innovating healthcare on a major scale. The third wave industries have been stymied for too long by siloed innovation efforts. Collaborations like the Smart Health Innovation Lab are just a preview of what we can achieve by breaking down those silos and working together.

By bringing together diverse stakeholders with unique domains of expertise, we can achieve so much more. The future isn’t being designed by committee, it’s being created by a collective effort so that it can include everyone.

News Roundup: Aspire Ventures Receives Notable Press During Rise of the Rest

On Tuesday, October 10, AOL co-founder Steve Case kicked off his Rise of the Rest tour in Central PA. Case visited the Aspire Ventures offices in Lancaster to chat about innovation and collaboration within our local startup ecosystem, and to get a first-hand view of everything we’re working on here at Aspire. As a result, Aspire had considerable mentions in both local and national media outlets. Read more about the exciting coverage we received below.

    •    VentureBeat spoke to our founder, Sam Abadir, about the challenges startups and incubators face outside of Silicon Valley. The article drew attention to our unique model of pooled resources and a shared team of staffers within our ventures to emphasize the importance of more large-scale collaboration between the Lancaster, York, and Harrisburg startup communities. Check out the full article here.

    •    Axios mentioned us in a recent article regarding how the Central PA manufacturing scene has been dealing with the recent technological upheaval. The article highlighted the importance of a “shared” workforce, pointing to Aspire’s symbiotic model that encourages cross-pollination of specialized workers between all of our ventures. You can check out the article here.

    •    During his visit, Case also took a look at our Connexion Health kiosk and spoke to Mike Monteiro, our chief product officer, about how smaller local communities can succeed in the health technology sphere. You can read the rest of Central Penn Business Journal’s article here.

    •    LancasterOnline highlighted Aspire in a recent video about Case’s Rise of the Rest tour, which began in Central PA on Tuesday.  “[The tour] is really about celebrating American entrepreneurs all over the country,” said Case in the interview. Check out the short video here.

    •    MarketWired published a press release on Monday detailing Aspire’s collaboration with key healthcare partners, such as Lancaster General Health, Capital BlueCross, and Clio Health,as well as Aspire’s involvement in the Rise of the Rest tour. Take a look at the full release here.

The New Frontier of Innovation

The internet, the smartphone, and the resulting ecosystem of apps has dramatically transformed the way we shop, the way we communicate, and the way we gather information about the world. Until recently, technological innovation has been limited, for the most part, to consumer convenience in these relatively straightforward industries. But now we’re approaching a new frontier for innovation.

According to Steve Case, author of The Third Wave and the catalyst for the Rise of the Rest tour, complex, change-resistant industries such as healthcare, education, and agriculture—all of which are deeply ingrained in our society and fundamental to our daily lives—are facing an era of transformation.

There seems to be considerable interest in the revolution. Federal healthcare IT spending is predicted to exceed $4.8 billion by 2019; there has been a considerable uptick in tech spending in public schools over the last several years; and agricultural technology investments nearly doubled in 2015. But if the funding is available, why is disruption still slow to initiate?

Although long overdue, perhaps it’s unsurprising that these industries, set in place for the public good, have been historically resistant to technological innovation. Within the healthcare sector, patient safety is an enormous factor; without proper testing, deviation from an established physician workflow could prove to be not only inefficient but perhaps even deadly. There are also a variety of HIPAA regulations and data security concerns that make moving secure documents into the cloud a tedious, yet necessary, challenge. And, of course, government standards in education and agriculture must be considered whenever a new improvement is introduced.

Regulatory hurdles aside, these complex industries also are comprised of multiple stakeholders in both the public and private arenas. There are also key decision makers, Case writes in his book The Third Wave, who act as gatekeepers for their industries, such as school board members for a school district. Given these considerations, transforming these industries is much more complicated now than ever before–but it’s certainly not impossible. Startup companies may be able to build innovative healthcare apps on their own, but if they want to truly make an impact on the industry, they need to enlist the help of stakeholders and policy makers, Case writes.

While immense tech hubs like NYC or Silicon Valley certainly benefit from expansive networks, the best place to engage with the new innovative frontier might be a little closer to home. The anonymizing forces at play in larger, coastal cities can create barriers between innovators and policy makers, making it difficult for innovators to reach the audience necessary to turn their ideas into a scalable reality. In smaller communities, such as our very own city of Lancaster PA, it is much easier for startup companies to gain access to the key influencers within their local ecosystem. It is only then, once innovators have partnered with regional policy makers and stakeholders, that the innovation can be brought to scale.

Creating innovative solutions to real-world problems requires a deep understanding of how people are affected by those problems. Although the business networks available in larger tech hubs can be helpful for executing an idea, those very tech hubs may also be too far removed from the problems that need solving on the new frontier. If you want to transform agriculture, or innovate suburban school districts, living among the people who will use your product, working closely with the stakeholders, and being close to the problem will give companies in smaller communities a clear advantage. In many cases, being in smaller, more tightly-knit communities can give both innovators and policy makers deeper insights into user stories, allowing them to better understand the needs of their customers and then deliver accordingly.

In Central PA particularly, there is abounding openness between policy makers and innovators, as well as a strong push to build lasting partnerships. Many of the Central PA finalists in the upcoming Rise of the Rest tour, which stops in Central PA on Tuesday, October 10, are uniting with school districts, insurance companies, and healthcare policy makers to generate transformational change. Lancaster-based BeneFix works with insurance companies to make it easier and faster to obtain accurate insurance quotes; CrimeWatch Technologies has partnered with police agencies to decrease crime by increasing community engagement between law enforcement and private citizens; and Device Events is collaborating with the FDA to implement a software tool that can rapidly detect faulty medical devices, therefore reducing the risk of malfunctions or device-related injuries.

Here at Aspire, we also believe in working with all stakeholders to disrupt and transform complex, change-resistant industries. To begin that endeavor, we’re collaborating with hospital system Lancaster General Health, a member of Penn Medicine, as well as Capital BlueCross in the creation of the Smart Health Innovation Lab, a new healthcare technology center where payors, providers, and technology companies work together to validate market-ready products and expedite integration into healthcare systems.

We understand that in order to be successful on the new innovative frontier, we need to rethink how—and where—we innovate. To truly transform the industries that matter most to us, we must forge bold new partnerships and get closer, physically, to the problems we’re trying to solve. This is what we believe gives communities like Lancaster PA a considerable edge over the larger coastal tech hubs.

William Gibson once wrote that the future is here, it’s just not evenly distributed. Now we’re part of a movement to equally distribute a culture of innovation across the United States and beyond.

Rise of The Rest Coming to Aspire Ventures

With the approach of this fall’s Rise of the Rest tour—a startup pitch competition led by AOL co-founder Steve Case and his investment company Revolution—we are looking forward to hosting Case and his team here at the Aspire Ventures offices to showcase the innovative work we’re doing in the region.

Revolution’s RISE OF THE REST ® with Steve Case is a nationwide effort to work closely with entrepreneurs in emerging startup ecosystems. Their view is that this is the beginning of a new era for entrepreneurship across the U.S. — high-growth companies can now start and scale anywhere, not just in a few coastal cities.

They will kick off their national tour this year in Central PA, before heading to Ann Arbor MI, Indianapolis IN, Columbus OH, and Green Bay WI. In Central PA, nine finalists have been announced, four of which hail from our very own city of Lancaster—a testament to our strength as a startup community. On October 10, Case and the Rise of the Rest tour will visit York, Harrisburg, and Lancaster. In Lancaster, Case will visit two locations, one of which is Aspire Ventures—and it’s no wonder, given that we share such similar visions for the future of innovation.

In his book “The Third Wave”, Case argues that we’re on the cusp of a new era–that is, the third wave–in which the Internet becomes a “ubiquitous force in the world,” one which is integrated into every aspect of our lives. This new era will be about transforming industries that are heavily regulated and generally resistant to change, such as healthcare, finance, and education. In short, the Third Wave is about making connections between us and literally everything we do.

Gone are the days of a lone inventor generating apps in his basement. In this upcoming third wave, partnerships and networks will prove vital to the disruption and transformation of historically change-resistant industries. The Aspire model relies heavily on collaboration. Not only have we recently co-founded the Smart Health Innovation Lab in collaboration with Capital BlueCross, Clio Health, and Lancaster General Health/Penn Medicine, we also employ connectivity within our own internal ecosystem of ventures and projects. We encourage the constant cross-pollination of ideas between our ventures in order to ensure a symbiotic, mutually beneficial system, and all of our ventures utilize a tech pattern that combines cloud computing, sensor integration, mobile capabilities, and our A²I adaptive artificial intelligence platform.

This notion of innovation through interconnectedness has recently taken the world by storm, and it’s certainly not limited to Silicon Valley. Startup ecosystems have cropped up all over the country; which is precisely why Case initiated the Rise of the Rest tour–to draw attention to emerging startups in local communities that propagate these qualities of Internet integration.

Those of us here at Aspire are excited about the Rise of the Rest tour, because it’s initiating conversations we support, raising public awareness about important issues, and bringing our attention to other startups in our region that are doing some amazing work. In addition to hosting the Lancaster tour stop, we will attend the fireside chat in Harrisburg as well as the pitch competition to get insights from Revolution on what we’re doing right here in Central PA. Our CEO, Essam Abadir, will also be spending some time with Steve Case and his colleagues at Revolution on the Rise of the Rest bus. We’re proud to be a part of this event, as well as the growing technological movement in Central PA. As the innovation ecosystem here continues to grow, we can have a global impact for a better future.

Validation in Vegas: Presenting our Prototype to the NBA Summer League

Aspire Ventures is taking on the world of professional sports with our AI-powered healthcare technology platform Connexion. With our partner Fusionetics, we introduced our platform to athletes at the NBA Summer League in Vegas, and previously to attendees of the NBA Combine in Chicago. Now, the Connexion is stirring up lots of excitement in conversations about what this means for professional teams everywhere.

Connexion uses a multitude of powerful sensors that can be harnessed for a host of new health applications–a technology that some are calling the “iPhone of Health Care”. However, the first application, powered by Fusionetics’ movement efficiency technology, primarily attracts members of the sports industry.

So far, we’ve gained interest from trainers, athletics directors, doctors, and high-profile athletes from NBA teams all over the country, and garnered international interest from athletic executives abroad.

Overall, the feedback we received from our Summer League appearance was immensely positive. A handful of teams and coaches spent hours with our team and engaging with the Connexion, asking questions about how the technology works, and how they could incorporate it into their own training programs.

We’ve learned a great deal in the short time since our debut at the NBA Combine in May, like how important it is to have a rapid prototype to gain valuable feedback from customers. By showing an early prototype in Chicago, we were able to incorporate invaluable feedback in our second iteration in time for our showing in Las Vegas. We also learned that there is a plenty of interest in our technology.

We continued to improve the clinical accuracy of the platform for Vegas, further personalizing the experience for each user. Now equipped with faster, more accurate technology, potential customers are already seeing value in a product that gives actionable data at the convenience of the user.

Trainers, doctors, and team executives understand the potential for such a technology. With further development we will be able to read hydration levels, recognize fingerprints, and test jumping abilities using force plate sensors. And with facial recognition and other sensor memory functions, regular users can continuously monitor their health and check their progress throughout routine training.

Ultimately, we are working to create functionality in Connexion that benefits everyone, not just professional athletes. The world of sports science is just the tip of the iceberg, as we envision wide-reaching healthcare applications for our advanced sensor fusion technology.

Large companies could use the Connexion to evaluate workers’ comp, dermatologists could use the multitude of sensors to detect cancerous skin lesions, and doctors could have a noninvasive way of taking vital signs.

The traction we’ve established in the sports world is just the beginning. A platform with so many potential benefits doesn’t just have potential to transform performance health, it could dramatically change the way we manage our health in our day-to-day lives.

AI & Fitness: How AI Can Help World-Class Athletes and Average Jo(e)s

When we think of professional sports, we think of strong athletes with strict diets and hardcore training routines who just so happen to be extremely good at what they do. Compared to average people, athletes typically have lower heart rates, longer life expectancies, and overall higher levels of positivity through the help of their everyday regimens. Although we aren’t all Olympic medalists or multi-million-dollar football stars, it doesn’t mean that everyday people can’t train like the pros. With the help of AI, athletic performance can be tailored to any individual, promoting both training efficiency and preventive care.

There are many ways AI can impact athletics and other forms of exercise – here are a few for you to consider:

Improving Cognitive Strength

The idea of training your brain is growing in popularity for athletes and those engaged in physical exercise. With regular cognitive training, levels of attention, memory, visual processing, sensory integration, and thinking skills can be significantly improved. Neurotracker, a company specializing in cognitive training across athletic, educational, medical, and scientific use, provides a mind exercise program that tests athletes’ ability to recognize and identify objects and improve their overall situational awareness. By training the brain, athletes can become more focused and attentive to stimuli while possessing and processing multiple pieces of information to make a more informed decision.

Implementing AI into pre-existing brain training programs could allow athletes and average Jo(e)s to tailor their own cognitive exercises. AI could be used to monitor patterns in the brain’s recognition ability and could tailor each module to enhance strengths and improve weaker areas. The average Jo(e) can also benefit from cognitive training by increasing awareness and memory extension to make daily routine tasks – like driving and holding a conversation – much easier.

Heightening Endurance

To be a successful athlete, high levels of endurance are critical. To perform at their utmost potential, athletes’ bodies need to be able to give it their all. A wearable device called Humon is helping professional athletes build and monitor their personalized endurance training programs. Typically marketed towards marathon runners, Humon is a lactic acid threshold monitor that is strapped to the leg or other working muscle. It measures oxygenated blood by shining light into the skin and recording changes to the color of the blood. By tracking these changes, athletes can measure their levels of endurance as they improve.

By using AI to track these changes, athletes can form a personalized performance plan that indicates how much or how little to push themselves, taking signals from the body to tell how much exertion is right for them. Just like professional athletes, the everyday person would be able to find the right exertion balance for training, performing, and recovering phases.

Increasing Hydration Levels

We’ve all heard the advice to drink eight glasses of water a day to ensure our bodies stay hydrated. However, intense exercise can rid our bodies of the fluid it needs through perspiration. To help athletes manage their hydration levels, Gatorade created the Gx Platform to deliver personalized hydration for athletes that fits their exercise routines. By measuring an athlete’s sweat content, including sodium levels and electrolyte concentration, the program delivers a personalized drink formula to replenish the lost nutrients. Gatorade is also developing “smart caps” on water bottles to keep track of fluid intake, promoting healthier ways to manage hydration during exercise.

With the help of AI, athletes and everyday people can track patterns in their fluid concentration levels. Artificial intelligence can take personalized hydration one step further by forecasting the body’s levels in the future to create more dynamic recommendations for each individual.

Producing a Healthier Diet Regimen

In order for our bodies to perform, we need energy. This energy comes in multiple forms, most commonly through the foods that we eat. A new app called KingFit is in the works to track glucose levels and provide the user with recommended eating plans based on the monitored results. With various alerts and reminders, athletes can work to keep a routine healthy diet.

AI can be used to tailor this experience to each individual. By applying artificial intelligence to the app, athletes can learn how to feed their bodies efficiently through each phase of activity – training, performing, and recovering. Personalizing dietary intake at each phase promotes maximum performance and optimal health.

Analyzing Movement

Flexibility and balance are two key points in movement efficiency. In order to have high movement efficiency, the body must be able to exert the least possible amount of energy while simultaneously yielding maximum athletic performance. Atlas wearable devices assist athletes in monitoring their movement by recreating their body in 3D space, pinpointing the differences of each exercise and their effect on the body as they perform.

Using AI provides increased scalability and accuracy, exceeding the capability of humans. With an automated training assessment, this insight can be accessed by everyone, not just those who can afford expensive trainers. When it comes to factors such as reaction time, AI can measure more precisely than humans, down to less than a millisecond.

The Connection

Here at Aspire, the connection is the Connexion, an AI-powered technology platform equipped with a multitude of powerful sensors that can be harnessed for a host of new health applications. The first app of Connexion is a movement efficiency screening using our partner Fusionetics’ technology. By combining powerful sensors and AI to create an automatic health assessment, the user can pinpoint which parts of the body are working efficiently and which parts need more work.

As we dive into the age of intelligent technology, we will continue to see changes in our daily routines. These changes are influencing our health – from cognitive memory to mobility and stability.  Artificial intelligence is fueling great innovation in training and exercise. And whether we are athletic pros or average Jo(e)s, it is becoming clear that AI can help us maximize our performance.

How Rapid Prototyping Can Transform Ideas Into Impact

It is both exciting and rewarding to see our hard work develop into something measurable. But at the same time, it may be a bit audacious to implement our ideas into tangible assets, knowing that when we do we will be subjected to criticism. Whether we are painting a picture, writing a story, or designing the newest mobile app, our work can be interpreted as a reflection of who we are. The sense of vulnerability that comes with revealing our work can be very personal – and very real. It’s only natural to prefer to keep our work under the veil until we feel it’s the best possible representation of our efforts.

But when it comes to making a successful product for customers, we need the help of the user to test our assumptions and, in the end, determine how that product should evolve. After all, prototyping is about embracing the “wrong” as a stepping stone to the “right”. Accepting potential failure is critical in the development of market-ready products because trial and error provides a clear path to a finalized product. Creating a rapid prototype is not easy, but it is a critical step in developing a product that people want to use.

We are no strangers to the difficulties that come with sharing prototypes with consumers. We recently debuted a first prototype for a new product called Connexion after only five weeks of development. That was no small feat, considering the prototype was a full-sized health kiosk that used multiple sensors and artificial intelligence to automatically perform health assessments on athletes. In partnership with Fusionetics, we showed our first iteration of Connexion in May to professional athletes, doctors, and sports trainers during the NBA Combine in Chicago, even though the product was far from complete. Letting potential customers try out our work-in-progress for themselves came with some stress to say the least, but it proved to be a necessary step to communicating our vision to the market, gaining user feedback to revise our hypotheses, and further improve the user experience.

Like any company, at Aspire we have plenty of perfectionists who are inclined to keeping their work under wraps until it fully meets their standard of quality. But if everyone operates with this mindset, it produces more risk for the company. To overcome this perfectionism, we use different strategies — such as design sprints and a collaborative culture. These strategies help each person to embrace failure and influence idea sharing. Without releasing prototypes during development stages, you have no way of knowing if your market hypotheses are correct, and you could end up spending a lot of time and resources perfecting a product based on the wrong assumptions. Even if your assumptions are correct, too much unnecessary fine-tuning will delay your launch and let your rivals beat you to the market.

In an article published by TechRepublic, author Shelley Doll explains how early prototyping can save money by making it easier to make adjustments during development. “While some might argue that prototyping creates rework, its purpose is to actually avoid the rework that comes from unknowns or incomplete design,” she says. If you feel the prototype is taking up too much time to become a finished product, think of all of the time you could potentially be wasting if your assumptions are inaccurate. Essentially, all of your time would be wasted on a product the user doesn’t want to use, or no longer wants to use.

Presenting our prototype at the NBA Combine gave us a lot of insight on how we could improve the development process and our product the second time around. We learned which parts of the initial UX worked well and which needed improvement. We found that we needed to use lighter materials to make it easier to transport and we need a ceiling redesign to better accommodate exercises that require athletes to raise their hands above their heads.

In addition to gaining critical feedback, early prototypes can really help communicate the company’s vision through a tangible product, giving potential customers or investors something to touch and feel. Unlike a verbal or written concept, a real product validates the idea and proves the idea can, in fact, be brought to life.

Our initial pass at the early prototype has generated real-life excitement in the sports industry. Debuting it at such an early stage already has users excited about what’s to come in the future of exercise training. Through the private demos performed by select NBA teams and trainers, we can tell the industry has been seeking this type of technology.

Quick prototype turnaround also helps you solidify your role as a market leader. In the case of Aspire, the Connexion kiosk is the first healthcare technology to implement advanced sensor fusion using A2I, Aspire’s proprietary AI platform. From a business standpoint, rapid prototypes gain first-mover advantage; they start conversations about your product, creating early interactions with your audience before the fully fledged product is out on the market.

The magic of having a prototype is simply that: it is the prototype! It doesn’t have to be perfect, just sufficient enough to establish the goal. Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling once said “the best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas.” And just like ideas, to get to a successful end-product, you will need to develop multiple prototypes to achieve the ultimate goal. Exposing a prototype, even in a short amount of time, can surely transform those ideas into products that provide users with valuable tools they’ll be eager to use.

Building The Bigger Picture: How We Can Use Sensor Fusion to Change Healthcare

Everywhere we look, sensors surround us, collecting important data and interfacing our digital world with our everyday lives. There is a whole ecosystem of sensor technology already in place, but are we using that technology to its fullest potential?

In 2016, the sensor market was valued at $123.5 billion and is expected to increase to nearly $240.3 billion by 2022. With constant advancements in technology and, consequently, the number of sensors, the data they are producing is becoming increasingly more valuable in understanding how our world works.

Sensors are usually designed for a single purpose: to gather and stream one type of data related to a single function. But overlapping these data streams could lead to an entirely new level of complex understanding. In the same way that our brains fuse all of our senses to create a more complete perceptual realization of the world around us, combining multiple sensor technologies could enable much deeper, more useful insight.

To achieve that level of insight, we need tools to piece together all of the data – we need artificial intelligence. With the use of AI, we can weave together data streams from multiple inputs to create a comprehensive view. This combination of sensor data is called sensor fusion.

Sensor fusion is already powering some of our most revolutionizing technologies. Smartphones combine gyroscopes, accelerometers, and compasses for all kinds of useful applications; and self-driving cars will rely on sensor fusion to navigate busy, unpredictable streets.

But what if we could use sensor fusion to accomplish something bigger? What if we could use it to change healthcare and live healthier lives?

In the healthcare industry, sensors play an important role in monitoring health data in real time. And to some extent, we’re already seeing some forms of simple sensor fusion. But integrating an advanced form of sensor fusion that combines a larger network of sensors could completely transform healthcare as we know it.

That’s the vision we’re working on here at Aspire Ventures. We’re developing a healthcare platform, Connexion, that fuses a large array of auditory, optical, and pressure sensors in an AI-powered healthcare kiosk that rapidly produces deep insights into the body. Users will be able to use a number of health applications within the kiosk—from automated musculoskeletal assessments, to skin cancer screenings—independently between their regular doctor visits.

A combination of multiple high-speed cameras and a Kinect sensor work together to analyze posture, lateral balance, and body movement for subtle musculoskeletal irregularities; the cameras also run through advanced algorithms to enable facial recognition, mood analysis, and even remote heart rate detection; and a pressure sensitive mat measures body weight, the arch of your feet, and lateral balance.

That’s what we’ve developed so far, but there are vast possibilities for powerful new healthcare applications. By leveraging our adaptive artificial intelligence platform, A2I, Connexion cameras could remotely measure respiration rate and pulse oxygenation; a microphone could take the place of a stethoscope, using data from breathing patterns to infer internal issues such as valve dysfunction; and users could sync their wearable data with the Connexion for a deeper health analysis that shows the body’s changes over time.

We recently debuted our first Connexion prototype to professional trainers and doctors during the NBA Combine in Chicago in partnership with Fusionetics, a leading performance health technology company that works with professional sports teams across the country. In Chicago we demonstrated the first functional app for Connexion: an automated movement efficiency assessment that analyzes the user’s movements during a set of exercises and recommends personalized training programs for remediation, injury prevention, and improved body control.

“The Kinect data, video, and pressure mat data are ‘fused’ in a compensation detection algorithm to determine issues that could lead to poor performance or injury, like arm drop, excessive back arch, or heel lift,” says Peter Funke, Scientist at Aspire Ventures. That’s one piece of the performance health puzzle. We’re also working with Fusionetics on a number of other applications that will let athletes test strength, flexibility, and balance.

The Chicago unveiling has given us a promising outlook for the future of the Connexion and its impact on sports science, but it will have much broader applications in healthcare. By fusing all the sensory technology available to us, we can change the way we assess and manage our health—letting patients do everything from automated skin cancer detection to guided physical therapy sessions. It will also change the way we interact with healthcare systems. The Connexion experience gives patients a convenient point of access to care, increasing their engagement and allowing patients to take more control of their health and wellness. It also gives doctors far deeper insight into their patients that will aid diagnosis and treatment.  

Using sensor technology to track our health is nothing new. But we can get so much more value from the technology that we already have. With AI-powered sensor fusion, we can use existing technology to change the way we see and understand our bodies to live healthier, happier lives.

Lancaster’s Growing Tech Scene is Taking a National Spotlight

When people think of Lancaster PA, “tech hub” usually isn’t the first descriptor to come to mind. But a healthy culture of innovation and entrepreneurism is thriving here, and it’s becoming a prime location for building a new ecosystem of next-generation technologies. Now, the Lancaster tech community is finally getting the national recognition it deserves.

Steve Case, founder of AOL and investor in emerging tech startups across the nation, has announced his route for the Rise of the Rest bus tour coming this October. With a first stop in Central Pennsylvania, Case will tour eight startups at each stop to hear their pitch for a $100,000 investment. After visits in Harrisburg, York, and our hometown Lancaster, Case will continue his journey into Ann Arbor, MI, Indianapolis, IN, Columbus, OH, and end in Green Bay, WI.

Case believes inventive tech companies can flourish outside of major tech hubs like New York, Boston, and Silicon Valley. In rural places such as Lancaster County, we foster great technological innovation in a non-budget breaking setting. Unlike most major tech hubs, small cities offer lower taxes, lower cost of living, more government support, and solid corporate communities and infrastructure.

Technology that could change the world doesn’t need to be restricted to big-name cities. And Case’s tour is shining the spotlight on ecosystems, like ours, that are working behind the scenes to create innovative technology. After visiting 26 cities, and surely more to come, recognizing the potential behind these small tech communities could be the driver to redistributing tech across the country.

At Aspire, we are excited about this opportunity for Lancaster and the Central PA region to finally get deserved recognition for the burgeoning culture of innovation happening here. We’re proud to be a part of it, we’re committed to nurturing it, and we look forward to sharing the great technological innovations coming from our region.

Wylei Transforms Personalized Marketing with Optimization Cloud

One of our later-stage ventures, Wylei, is making great strides in the marketing automation space. Wylei announced this week the release of their recently patented Wylei Optimization Cloud™, an enterprise SaaS platform, increasing brand engagement and ROI by over 50%. 

Wylei has been revolutionizing digital marketing with proprietary machine learning technology that delivers truly one-to-one personalized content at scale for some of the world’s biggest brands. Their technology anticipates engagement based on behavioral patterns and automatically assembles and presents relevant content in real time, creating a unique experience to each individual every time.

Now, the pioneers of Predictive Content™ are offering their marketing automation software as a SaaS platform. This gives marketers the opportunity to build fully-optimal online campaigns to gain maximum content engagement through email, video, Facebook, and display ads.

Wylei is truly disrupting the marketing landscape by driving step-change ROIs with state-of-the-art artificial intelligence technology. We look forward to seeing what Wylei will do next! 

Connecting the Dots in Healthcare: Unveiling Our New Platform at the NBA Combine

The dawn of the smartphone has played a critical role in transforming nearly every industry — from transportation to retail to hospitality and beyond. But healthcare has not yet had its “iPhone moment.” So far, there has been no platform powerful enough to fundamentally change the way we interact with healthcare in the same way that the smartphone and apps like Uber, Amazon, and Airbnb have changed their respective industries.

Despite the recent explosion of wearable sensors and health-and-wellness apps now available to consumers, these technologies have only been able to affect change in healthcare delivery piecemeal, at best. Healthcare, to no one’s surprise, is a bit more complicated than hailing a cab.

With the vast number of sensors and mobile applications available, there is immense potential for transforming healthcare into a patient-centered service with a streamlined, personalized, and engaging patient experience. The problem is there hasn’t been a platform to integrate all of those technologies into one comprehensive and centralized point of access to healthcare delivery.

This is the problem we at Aspire Ventures set out to solve with a new venture called Connexion. The Connexion platform, a healthcare kiosk that fuses multiple powerful sensors with artificial intelligence for automated health assessments, not only connects and integrates disparate technologies into one engaging device, it will also connect patients to their healthcare — giving them easy access to rapid assessments, deep insights into their health, and recommendations for next steps in their care.

The Connexion concept has been garnering intense interest from the healthcare community as a solution for dramatically increasing access to care, streamlining the healthcare experience, and empowering patients with deep insights into their health. But consumer-facing health systems aren’t the only ones who see value in this venture.

Over the past week, Connexion has been getting a lot of attention from the sports science industry. We debuted our first prototype last weekend to professional trainers at the NBA Combine in Chicago, with our new partner Fusionetics, a global provider of evidence-based performance healthcare solutions for more than 300 professional and college athletic teams.

Five weeks ago, we began working with Fusionetics on a new vision for automated health assessments for professional sports trainers. Our task was to build the first iteration of the Connexion platform, while Fusionetics was set to integrate their clinically proven performance health assessment system as our platform’s first featured application.

After those five short weeks of development, we built a healthcare kiosk that successfully fuses multiple sensors to capture visual, auditory, and pressure data. That data is processed with our adaptive artificial intelligence platform, A2I, to create a 4D picture of the user’s health. We worked with leading live event supplier Tait Towers to design and assemble the physical kiosk. And working with Fusionetics, we integrated their system to automatically measure movement efficiency with an engaging, intuitive assessment that athletes can complete on their own in a matter of minutes.

The result of this joint venture, called Fusionetics+, has been met with enthusiasm that has far exceeded our expectations.

We sent a team to the NBA Combine in Chicago to debut our first prototype with Fusionetics. After a weekend of private demos for select NBA teams and trainers, it’s clear that this is the technology the world of sports science has been waiting for. Trainers, doctors, and team executives took turns trying out the Connexion experience, and the response has been universally and overwhelmingly positive.

This game-changing technology will capture an unprecedented amount of data, unlocking deeper insights into performance health that, frankly, the sports world has never seen before. Connexion will streamline training operations and help trainers select athletes, prevent injury, and maximize performance potential.

And that’s just the beginning. A host of other applications, with new sensors and new functionalities, will make Connexion a comprehensive health and fitness platform that will let everyone engage with their healthcare like never before.

Thinking Inside the Box: How Constraints Can Help Drive Successful Innovation

As Orson Welles famously said: “The enemy of art is the absence of limitations.” But limitations play a vital role in far more than just art: constraints are at the heart of all kinds of innovation.

Consider this scenario: It’s fifth grade. You’re in art class. The teacher points to the closet, brimming with all kinds of art supplies, and offers no direction except “Make something.” Maybe you do — or maybe you exit class an hour later with nothing to show for your time. But, alternatively, what if the teacher handed you a 36” x 48” sheet of paper and instructed you to draw your bedroom from memory using only a red pen?

Each of the components in the latter scenario — the size of the paper, the writing utensil, the delineated image — represents a specific constraint. And together they create boundaries that aid the creator in producing better work.

On the surface, it seems paradoxical to suggest that limitations — of time, money, human and natural resources — can be in any way beneficial, but research suggests that such constraints are actually crucial to creative output.

Artist Phil Hansen sees limitation as a source of innovation. After having developed a tremble in his hand that he believed had destroyed his dreams of becoming an artist, he soon learned to “embrace the shake,” and in the process he discovered a new way of creating art that was “perpetual and unencumbered by results.”

While involuntary limitations such as Hansen’s shaking hand can certainly inspire innovative approaches, many others in the business world are calling for self-imposed constraints to boost productivity. Technology executive Marissa Mayer points out that constraints can actually speed up corporate progress. “By limiting how long we work on something or how many people work on it, we limit our investment,” she writes in a Bloomberg article in 2006. Limited investment means that more time and money can be spent on a wider variety of ideas, thereby increasing the chance of success.

Having constraints also forces people to take on more innovative strategies in order to accomplish an intended goal. Researchers at Cass Business School and Bocconi University conducted an experiment to investigate the effects of financial constraints on product development. They found that while unlimited options tend to stifle creativity, “constraints such as limiting the number of available materials or imposing a budget can actually lead to more creative solutions.”

In the tech world, there are some very big players with seemingly unending resources. While some believe those players will continue to dominate the future, their vast resources may actually end up working against them. Tech giants have spent billions of dollars in the past trying to solve some of the world’s biggest problems, often to no avail. Perhaps their failures weren’t due to a lack of resources, but to a lack of constraints.

At Aspire, we believe in the efficacy of constraints and we use a number of strategies to create appropriate boundaries that make us more efficient, more focused, and more apt to arrive at the best solutions. Here are a just a few ways we’re using constraints to stimulate innovation:

  1. Our tech pattern. All of our ventures must utilize cloud computing, sensor integration, mobile capabilities, and our A²I platform. Ensuring our venture companies use these four pillar technologies keeps us focused and ensures we’re taking full advantage of all of our resources, including our libraries of reusable components. Setting aside ideas that do not benefit from our tech pattern speeds up our progress and leads to better results.
  2. Our model. Once assessed, each of our ventures run through a venture development pipeline — a phase-based maturation model that begins with ideation and ends with the venture “leaving the nest.” Upon completion of each phase, we assess the venture’s progress using our built-in “go/no-go” process to determine whether or not to continue with the project. These checkpoints allow us to build in time constraints for each project, thus limiting our investment and limiting the risk of each venture.
  3. Our design strategy. For design and development, we use time-constrained processes like design sprints to help us arrive at the best solutions sooner. We also rigidly maintain specific design constraints unique to each project and it’s user stories — whether it’s limitations on scope, on technology, or on accessibility.
  4. Our focus. At Aspire, we believe not in incremental but transformational change. That’s why we limit our investments to companies that will have a positive impact on the world, with special emphasis in precision medicine. Supporting ventures that share our passion for changing the world hones our focus and creates more synergistic value between our ventures.

Whether self-imposed or externally manifest, constraints will always be present — it’s not a matter of how to get rid of them, but of how to convert them into advantages. Conventional wisdom advises us to think outside of the box — but if it’s the right size and shape, why should we waste energy and resources thinking our way out of it?

“Most of what we do [in life] takes place here, inside the box, with limited resources,” Phil Hansen reminds us. “Learning to be creative within the confines of our limitations is the best hope we have to transform ourselves and, collectively, transform the world.”

Bricks and Bits for a Blended Healthcare Experience

Consumer habits are changing faster than ever. Whether from macroeconomic pressures, generational shifts, or technological innovation, the way we shop and the things we buy are going through a profound transformation. The change is impacting nearly every industry, and some sectors are struggling to adapt to the new consumer.

At the forefront of this change are the millennials. According to economists, millennials are more interested in spending money on experiences than they are in owning stuff — and they may be onto something. An abundance of psychology research has shown that spending money on experiences brings more happiness than spending money on things. Experiential purchases create a more enduring sense of happiness, more anticipation, and have stronger associations to identity, connection, and social behavior.

And this shift might not just be generational: for example, Americans across the board are eating out more now than ever before, with restaurant spending overtaking grocery spending for the first time in 2016. The same uptick in experiential purchases is occurring in air travel, tourism, and entertainment, while retailers are struggling to keep shoppers interested.

So if the shift isn’t generational, then what’s causing the change?

Digital technology is opening up new ways to experience traditional services and goods, and that’s creating a fundamental change in our economic behavior. The millennials, the first digital natives, were only the first to convert.

The result is a new reality for business, with digital experiences that pose serious threats to traditional models. While some fret the potential death of traditional brick and mortar establishments, others are scrambling to keep up by redefining their own customer experience.

Six years ago, Marc Andreessen famously wrote in the Wall Street Journal that “software is eating the world,” meaning traditional businesses were being disrupted and supplanted by software-driven models. But are brick and mortar businesses truly going the way of the dinosaur? Amazon, a pioneer in online retail and a primary subject in Andreessen’s article, may provide a clue. Recently, they’ve begun opening their own brick and mortar bookstores in several states, as well as a high-tech grocery store in Seattle with no check-outs. The stores, Amazon says, are extensions for their online presence. Alibaba, Amazon’s Asian equivalent, is doing the same thing in China with luxury brands.

It appears that digital experiences can’t replace the value of real-life ones, at least not yet. Customers still like browsing for books among the shelves, just as they prefer to try on a pair of shoes, or touch and feel a shirt’s fabric before they buy it.

Despite the threats online retail giants pose to traditional stores, Amazon and Alibaba’s recent forays into brick and mortar help to point a way forward for everyone. The future, it seems, is in a blended customer experience where physical and digital experiences work together and complement one another.

“With consumers already living a blended physical/digital life,” writer Brad Howarth asks in a recent CMO article, “shouldn’t providers of physical experiences be stepping up to deliver accompanying digital ones?”

The answer to Howarth’s question, we believe, is a resounding YES. We need brick-and-mortar establishments that fully integrate digital technologies for an omnichannel experience. It’s a model that we call bricks and bits, and it’s not just for retail, entertainment, transportation, and restaurants.

The healthcare industry, which has yet to go through the significant tech disruption that has occurred in other sectors, stands to benefit the most from a bricks and bits model that blends digital technology with traditional services and physical infrastructure — not just because patients want a better experience, but because it could help to lower costs and improve health outcomes.

It’s only a matter of time. The behaviors and expectations of consumers have already gone through a fundamental shift. They’re more informed, more empowered, and more connected than ever before, writes Clara Shih in TechCrunch. Meanwhile, more than 13,000 health and medical apps for mobile devices and wearables are available to those consumers. At some point, “mainstream medicine will have to integrate itself further with the online experience,” Shih writes.

Consumers are ready for it, and the healthcare industry as a whole, with at least one-fifth of healthcare spending going to waste, is in dire need of a digital transformation. Telehealth solutions, mobile diagnostics, and AI-assistance for doctors could help to reduce that waste, while also improving health outcomes. And more digital points of access to care with streamlined scheduling could create a much better patient experience that increases engagement and helps patients manage their health more easily.

At Aspire, we’re not only developing digital health technologies like mobile apps and AI-assisted diagnostics, we’re also investing in brick-and-mortar facilities that will seamlessly integrate the best of digital technologies. The bricks and bits model, we believe, will enable a blended experience that’s better for both the patient and the provider. Our first iteration of that model, Clio Health, is due to open early 2018 in Lancaster, PA.

Clio Health Lancaster, currently in construction, will be a smart healthcare facility designed from the ground up to integrate digital technologies that streamline the patient experience and lower costs. It will include a specialty hospital, physician offices, and ancillary services. But it will be more than just a hospital — it will be part of a technology ecosystem that will deliver far more points of access for the patient.

Mobile health solutions, artificial intelligence, and telemedicine will never replace living doctors and physical infrastructure. But those solutions need better integration into the care continuum. With a bricks and bits model like Clio Health, we can create a better future for healthcare.

Scaling Precision Medicine

Much of current medical standard procedure is trial and error. You’re feeling ill, you relay your symptoms to the doctor, and your doctor then prescribes you a treatment—the same exact treatment that’s prescribed to anyone with your symptoms. And if it doesn’t work, you’re prescribed another one. And another. But what if you could get it right the first time?

Instead of a one-size-fits-all method, precision (or personalized) medicine is tailored to fit each individual. Using this approach, doctors take into account not only current symptoms but also patient history, environment, genetics, and lifestyle in order to treat and prevent the disease. The generalized care system is moving towards “more effective, targeted drugs; less uncertainty, more accuracy—and, ultimately, better care.

Although precision medicine is most often associated with genomics, mobile technology and health applications can also play an enormous role in individualized care. As consumer digital technologies become more sophisticated, a vast amount of data is becoming available that creates a more accurate picture of each patient. “We’re heading toward being able to do your own medical selfie,” Eric Topol, a leading cardiologist and professor of genomics, says in an interview with MIT Technology Review. And with the right tools, those “medical selfies” will be extremely useful for precision medicine solutions.

But precision medicine isn’t without its problems. First of all, it’s expensive and time-consuming. That has made it slow to deliver on its promise of transformative outcomes. Consider ivacaftor: according to one writer at the Scientific American, although the drug eased symptoms in 5% of cystic fibrosis patients, it also took decades to develop and costs $30,000 per year per patient. Worse still, it functions similarly to three other, cheaper medications already on the market (including high-dose ibuprofen).

Personalized treatments require enormous amounts of data, and that presents a challenge. Collecting the data can be burdensome for patients, and parsing the data is tedious and time-consuming for doctors, even with algorithms to help automate the process. However, we’re approaching major advancements in both mobile healthcare technology and artificial intelligence, and that will soon help deliver precision medicine treatments at unprecedented scale.

At Aspire, we’re working on advancements in multiple fields of healthcare using a very unique approach to artificial intelligence. The problem, we believe, with most AI approaches to personalized medicine is that they still use a one-size-fits-all algorithm. We think it’s a fool’s errand to employ the same static algorithm for every patient and expect personalized results when everyone’s biochemistry and behavioral patterns are dynamic and unique. Our adaptive artificial intelligence platform, A²I, assembles algorithm components on the fly to create a fully personalized model. This approach means that not only is the data analysis fully tailored to each individual patient, it also means that the algorithm is always self-optimizing and always adapting to new variables, new data sets, and new inputs.

One of our ventures, Tempo Health, has achieved some exciting results in their work with diabetes management using A²I that we believe could point a way forward for scaling other precision medicine solutions. Tempo Health recently partnered with a clinic in the Netherlands called Diabeter on a joint study, and the findings of that study have been very promising.

Diabeter is one of the largest diabetes specialist centers in Europe focused on providing individualized care and 24/7 support to help children and young adults with type 1 diabetes better manage their blood glucose. The doctors at Diabeter remotely monitor data from each patient streamed from CGMs, insulin pumps, and other devices on a regular basis, and in some cases doctors even make adjustments remotely to patients’ insulin pump dosages based on the data. This high-touch approach has achieved truly impressive results, with a hospitalization rate of only 3%, compared to the Netherlands’ average 23% hospitalization rate for diabetes patients. But offering around-the-clock support and individualized treatment plans takes a team of medical specialists and a lot of resources, and that makes their model incredibly difficult to scale.

That’s where Tempo Health comes in. In their study with Diabeter they used our unique adaptive artificial intelligence platform, A²I, to see if we could automate parts of their data-tracking and analysis model without sacrificing outcomes. Not only was A²I able to match the doctors’ results, A²I actually made improvements–with a 20% increase in patient time spent in the safe blood sugar range and 9% fewer hypoglycemic (dangerously low blood sugar) events.

Better yet, these results are scalable. With the introduction of A²I in a wearable glucose management solution, another project that Tempo is working on, we could dramatically reduce the hospitalization rate and save billions in diabetes-related healthcare costs every year.

The observational study is just the beginning. Next, Tempo Health will be developing a closed-loop artificial pancreas system called Rhythm that will take advantage of our sophisticated A²I platform. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. With a dynamic, adaptive AI solution, we can use our same A²I platform to scale other precision medicine solutions in a vast array of other fields in healthcare–from medical imaging to personalized physical therapy assistance.

Precision medicine is the next step in the transformation of healthcare, and A²I, we believe, is the next step in transforming precision medicine.

New Smart Health Innovation Lab to Accelerate Technology That Improves Patient Care, Lowers Costs

Lancaster –  Smart Health Innovation Lab, a new health care technology center, has announced plans to open this summer in downtown Lancaster. The innovation lab is set to be the only facility of its kind in Central Pennsylvania, where technology innovators, an insurance company, and a health system will offer companies an efficient path to test health care innovations, ultimately making them available to consumers faster.

Smart Health Innovation Lab is currently finalizing plans for its Lancaster facility, which will be located in Lancaster Square at 100 N. Queen Street. Four Central Pennsylvania-based organizations have founded the organization, each bringing their unique expertise to the lab: Aspire Ventures, Capital BlueCross and its wholly owned subsidiary Geneia, Clio Health and Lancaster General Health, a member of Penn Medicine. 

“Technology companies often struggle to become integrated into the complex health care system,” said Dan Mitchell, vice president of corporate development for Aspire Ventures. “Smart Health Innovation Lab will be a vehicle to help companies overcome common obstacles to bringing technology innovations to market. The four organizations that are collaborating in the lab understand that rapid and strategic injection of technology into our health care system is another powerful way to increase patient satisfaction while lowering costs.”

Smart Health Innovation Lab will seek to accelerate products that advance health care technology in four categories: improving population health; improving the patient experience; lowering costs; and improving the provider experience.

The lab will house simulated environments such as clinical office space, patient care space and home settings. After an initial review process, participating companies will be able to use these simulated environments to test their technology.

Examples of technology that the Smart Health Innovation Lab will help companies accelerate include wearable devices such as diabetic monitors and orthopedic products. One such company is Biogaming, which is developing a digital health platform to engage, assess, train and monitor physical therapy patients. By using the lab for product testing, Biogaming will be able to integrate its technology into real-world systems and payor reimbursement models.

“Our core mission at Clio Health is to deliver exceptional value to our patients, physicians, third-party payers and the community-at-large,” said Joe Frank, CEO of Clio Health. “The Smart Health Innovation Lab will be essential to identify and perfect clinical breakthroughs which will enable us to deliver on our core mission.”

“Advancing the health and well-being of our customers is core to our mission,” said Gary D. St. Hilaire, president and CEO of Capital BlueCross. “Smart Health Innovation Lab will help turn ideas into powerful new products faster, so that our customers and the broader community can benefit from better health care outcomes and lower costs.” 

“We look forward to sharing our expertise with innovators and entrepreneurs who are equally passionate about enhancing health care and our community’s well-being,” said Jan Bergen, president & CEO, LG Health. “Our physicians and clinicians know first-hand the vital role technology plays in developing ways to improve access, lower costs and successfully partner with consumers to improve their health.”

For more information, visit

About Aspire Ventures
Aspire Ventures, an Aspire Universal Company, is a private equity firm focused on transforming industries and impact investment. Aspire Ventures leverages its capital, intellectual property and domain expertise to help bring breakthrough technologies to market faster and more cost effectively for the benefit of people worldwide.

Aspire Ventures has developed A2I, an adaptive artificial intelligence platform, to help its portfolio companies offer innovative technologies in the areas of mobile, cloud, machine learning, and big data analytics for a variety of industry sectors, most notably healthcare. Aspire Ventures is leading several initiatives in healthcare designed to break down silos, foster innovation and integration, and effect revolutionary change, and the company’s vision for healthcare is a patient-centered model that is focused on creating a better patient experience through precision medicine.

About Capital BlueCross
Capital BlueCross, headquartered in Harrisburg, Pa., is the leading health solutions and insurance company in Central Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley. A partner in the community’s health for nearly 80 years, Capital BlueCross offers health insurance products, services and technology solutions that provide peace of mind to consumers and promote health and wellness for our customers.

More than a health insurer, the company delivers innovative solutions through a family of diversified businesses that is creating a healthier future and lowering health care costs. Among these solutions are patient-focused care models, leading-edge data analytics, and digital health technologies. Additionally, Capital BlueCross is growing a network of Capital Blue stores that provide in-person service and inspiration to help people reach their health goals. Capital BlueCross is an independent licensee of the BlueCross BlueShield Association. For more information, visit

About Clio Health
Clio Health Lancaster, an Aspire Ventures affiliate, is a smart healthcare facility focused on transforming the patient experience and improving health outcomes at lower cost through innovative processes, a cutting edge technology ecosystem, and strategic collaborations. The campus, due to open early 2018, will include a specialty surgical hospital, physician offices, and ancillary services. The Lancaster campus is the first phase of a broader initiative by Clio Health to impact healthcare with innovative facilities across the U.S.

About Lancaster General Health
Lancaster General Health (LG Health), a member of the University of Pennsylvania Health System (Penn Medicine), is a 663-bed not-for-profit health system with a comprehensive network of care encompassing Lancaster General Hospital, Women & Babies Hospital and the Lancaster Rehabilitation Hospital (in partnership with Kindred Healthcare). Our membership in Penn Medicine brings together the strengths of a world-renowned, not-for-profit academic medical center and a nationally recognized, not-for-profit community healthcare system. Outpatient services are provided at the Downtown and Suburban pavilions, along with additional outpatient centers and Express and Urgent Care locations throughout the region. Lancaster General Health Physicians is a network of nearly 300 primary-care and specialty physicians, at more than 40 offices throughout the region.

Kimberly Ireland
Director, Smart Health Innovation Lab

The Rise of Startup Communities and the Redistribution of Tech

As far as startup communities are concerned, Silicon Valley has long been hailed as the biggest—some might argue the onlygame in town.  But as the technological landscape expands, the old-fashioned reliance on physical geography is slowly becoming moot.

The high concentration of tech entrepreneurs and ecosystem resources certainly give the Valley and edge. But it’s getting easier and easier for inventors to gain traction elsewhereso much so that it’s becoming a movement.

It’s no secret that the Bay Area is astronomically expensive.  Many entrepreneurs are attracted to the lower cost of living in other locations, and digital communications make it easier to work remotely. Additionally, economies across the country are shifting from manufacturing to knowledge-based services and products. Denver in particular is acutely aware of this, and has been making increasing attempts to attract tech-minded university students to the area.

As tech entrepreneurs look for more cost-effective locales, and smaller cities pull out all the stops to entice them, successful startups are beginning to pop up across the nation. In Cleveland, for example, Medtronic’s biomedical tech startup, CardioInsight, developed a safe and non-invasive way to 3D map the cardiovascular system in order to better prevent heart disease. And Louisville-based El Toro invented an algorithm that allows online advertisers to precisely target customers “one-to-one” based on their IP addresses.

These instances, among a slew of others, serve to remind us that the true purpose of digital technology is—in essence—democratic. It disseminates the ownership of information, lowers the barriers of entry, and in turn de-centers power structures. In other words, anyone (regardless of locality) can become key contributors to the digital economy. Technology is supposed to empower people. So why does the belief that that great tech can only come out of Silicon Valley persist? Now, communities across the country are proving that’s not the case.

Steve Case, AOL co-founder and an investor himself, calls this phenomenon “the rise of the rest,” and he believes that inventive tech communities can, and often do, succeed outside of Silicon Valley. 

“I think there is a little bit more investor attention in terms of companies outside of California, New York or Massachusetts,” Case said last fall in an interview with Entrepreneur. “I think within these [smaller] cities there is a little bit more optimism, a little more sense of possibility, a little bit more of a network effect. There is momentum… And within the cities people are really rallying together.”

In a similar vein, Ankur Gopal, CEO of Interapt, a mobile development and strategy firm based in Louisville, Kentucky, focuses specifically on building up companies outside of historically popular tech hubs.

In an interview with TechRepublic, Gopal says there is a “quiet exodus” from the big tech hubs, while small cities like his hometown Louisville are becoming attractive alternatives with lower taxes, lower cost of living, more government support, and solid corporate communities and infrastructure.

Here at Aspire Ventures we’re proud to be part of the movement, and we’ve found major benefits to developing world-changing technology in a small town.

When people think of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, ‘tech hub’ isn’t usually the first descriptor that comes to mind. People usually imagine horse-and-buggies and unspoiled farmland from the surrounding countryside. But in Lancaster City, there is actually a burgeoning tech scene and a quickly growing knowledge economy that we are helping to build. 

Downtown Lancaster has experienced a resurgence like few other small towns on the East Coast. Its proximity to major metropolises like Philadelphia, New York, and Baltimore; the large number of colleges and universities; and a strong healthcare industry has made it an attractive place to live for young professionals looking for good jobs and affordability.

And that makes Lancaster an exemplary location for tech startups–it’s the ideal mix of talent, affordability, community support, and access to major markets. At Aspire we’re working closely with that community to develop a new kind of technology ecosystem that could have a lasting impact on healthcare and other industries that reach far beyond our region.

We’d love to hear from you about other parts of the country that are becoming their own startup hotbeds—because, as you can see, the list continues to grow…

Aspire Ventures Announces Groundbreaking A2I Technology Use in Type 1 Diabetes Study

LANCASTER, PA–(Marketwired – Feb 15, 2017) –

– Aspire Ventures introduces its adaptive artificial intelligence platform, A2I, which self-assembles and self-optimizes algorithms for any business case
– Daibetter, formerly TempoHealth, LLC, an Aspire portfolio company offering a smarter way to manage diabetes, announces results of observational trial with Netherlands-based Diabeter, one of Europe’s largest specialized treatment centers for type 1 diabetes in children and young adults
– Results of a small observational indicated that Daibetter’s* Rhythm system — based on A2I — was found to considerably increase time in range and decrease time in hypoglycemia compared to results obtained by an experienced team of doctors
– Diabeter to present findings of the trial at the ATTD 2017 conference in Paris on February 15-18

Aspire Ventures today highlighted the role of its groundbreaking proprietary adaptive artificial intelligence platform, A2I, in an observational trial with Diabeter, one of Europe’s largest specialized treatment centers for type 1 diabetes in children and young adults. Diabeter’s doctors routinely achieve some of the best results in the world in terms of managing diabetes, and the conclusion of the study authored by the Diabeter doctors is that use of A2I would potentially significantly improve on the doctors’ already world-class diabetes management results.

A2I is the backbone of the Rhythm system developed by Daibetter*, an Aspire portfolio company offering a smarter way to manage diabetes, with the Rhythm system achieving improvement of glycemic control compared to traditional monitoring in the observational trial conducted by Daibetter* and Diabeter. Diabeter, a Dutch diabetes care organization owned by Medtronic, will present the findings of the trial at the ATTD 2017 conference in Paris, France from February 15-18. Diabeter participates in several technological studies that will help improve the lives of people with diabetes.

Through the A2I platform and its ability to provide ultra-personalized, predictive blood glucose management and predictions, Daibetter* developed the closed-loop Rhythm system. This system forecasts and manages blood glucose levels of people with diabetes, based only on non-invasive biometric sensors and artificial intelligence. By leveraging personalized blood glucose prediction models that adapted to each of the eight patients that participated in the Daibetter*/Diabeter trial, and we found that in seven of the eight patients, Rhythm alone would have been able to achieve a 20 percent increase in time in range, and a 9 percent reduction in lows, as compared to the actual results achieved by active “control tower” monitoring by focused and experienced doctors and their diabetes teams using patient-activated remote monitoring.

“We were highly encouraged by the results of the observational trial we conducted with Daibetter*, as they offer a positive outlook for potential improvement of treatment in people with diabetes across the world,” said Dr. Dick Mul, pediatric endocrinologist for Diabeter. “The results of this observational trial imply that the Rhythm system, using only a non-invasive biometric sensor and the Rhythm application powered by A2I, might be a tool for increasing the accuracy of blood glucose predictions in patients on CSII. The good news from the trial results is that both time in range increased and time in hypoglycemia decreased. This can be achieved without the direct need for additional or constantly invasive continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) devices and might help to reduce the need for active manual remote monitoring by a clinician. This is important, as currently not all our patients will yet be able to use sophisticated technological sensor-augmented insulin pump systems.”

This technology has now been applied in patients with type 1 diabetes. Together with type 2 diabetes, these two diseases account for an aggregated annual direct medical cost of $176 billion (2012) in the United States, largely due to diabetic complications and associated hospital admissions. Essential in preventing these admissions and debilitating complications is a strict control of blood glucose values with prevention of dangerous low values (hypoglycemia). However, studies show that only one third of type 1 patients achieve a target level of glucose control that keeps them relatively safe from such complications. Applying technology that matters is fully in line with the value-based healthcare mission both Diabeter and Aspire Ventures believe in. Diabeter has and will publish data on the Diabeter methods with extensive use of eHealth, resulting in better outcomes and very low admission rates. Rhythm and A2I technology will further help even more patients reach or go below their target level of glucose control, thereby reducing the burdens of diabetes, including costs.

A2I uses a vast number of algorithms for relentless self-optimization, and through the platform Aspire Ventures helps its companies move to market faster with more precise and more personal results. A2I can utilize any type of data — from text to video to biometrics — and by drawing from a massive library of analytical components, A2I assembles, optimizes and combines components from multiple algorithms to build the best possible adaptive algorithm. A2I is the technology that is helping Aspire Ventures drive healthcare initiatives that are designed to break down silos, foster innovation and integration, and effect revolutionary change.

“Transforming healthcare for the better has been one of the main goals of Aspire Ventures from the beginning, and organizations like Daibetter, formerly Tempo Health, LLC, and Diabeter share our vision for making precision medicine a key to unlocking patient-centric healthcare,” said Sam Abadir, Group Manager of Aspire Universal and CEO of Aspire Ventures. “The results of this trial suggest that with one virtual arm tied behind A2I’s back — as the technology didn’t have access to all of the data the doctors gleaned from the invasive blood glucose monitor — its algorithms were able to outperform the best diabetes doctors in the world in terms of predicting and managing blood sugar. Our hope is that the A2I technology can positively impact clinicians’ daily lives so they’re able to spend more quality time with more patients — with the creation of better patient outcomes as the unwavering goal.”

Dr. Mul will present the in-depth findings of the Daibetter*/Diabeter trial at the ATTD 2017 conference in Paris, France from February 15-18. To learn more about ATTD 2017, please visit

*Daibetter, formerly Tempo Health, LLC

About Aspire Ventures

Aspire Ventures, an Aspire Universal Company (, is a private equity firm focused on transforming industries and impact investment. Aspire Ventures leverages its capital, intellectual property and domain expertise to help bring breakthrough technologies to market faster and more cost effectively for the benefit of people worldwide. 

Aspire Ventures has developed A2I, an adaptive artificial intelligence platform, to help its portfolio companies offer innovative technologies in the areas of mobile, cloud, machine learning, and big data analytics for a variety of industry sectors, most notably healthcare. Aspire Ventures is leading several initiatives in healthcare designed to break down silos, foster innovation and integration, and effect revolutionary change, and the company’s vision for healthcare is a patient-centered model that is focused on creating a better patient experience through precision medicine. 

Aspire Ventures is based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. For more information please visit

Follow us on Twitter @AspireUniversal

About Diabeter

Diabeter is a focused clinic for (type-1) diabetes headquartered in Rotterdam, Netherlands. As a cure for diabetes is yet lacking, its mission is to alleviate and prevent diabetes and its acute and chronic complications. This mission requires constant improvements in care, implementation of new technology and eHealth, with transparency on its outcomes and a clear value-addition for its patients. In this value-based healthcare concept, Diabeter also functions as a research and education center for two pediatric university clinics and has four satellite offices in the Netherlands. Diabeter is owned by Medtronic, but has a formal clinical and scientific independency. More on

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Helping Girls to become Future Leaders in Tech

Here at Aspire we believe the really great investments lift all boats in the long run. Sometimes that means doing more than investing in our venture companies to positively impact industries, it can also mean giving to our local community to create critical value for the greater good.

That’s why we’ve created a local giving committee at our offices in Lancaster. Each quarter we’re helping to financially support nonprofits and initiatives that we believe will strengthen the community in which we are rooted, and help to effect wider change beyond Lancaster’s borders.

Recently, we funded the expansion of the Girls Code Club at the Lancaster Science Factory—a monthly class where girls ages 8-13 can learn web design, computer programming, and gaming application design. There was so much interest in the club, LSF was able to double the size of their program with a little financial help.

“Thanks to Aspire, the Lancaster Science Factory is able to respond to the overwhelming local demand for girls’ computer science opportunities,” LSF Executive Director Emily Landis said. “Computer Science is a ‘new basic’ skill necessary for economic opportunity and social mobility. …the Girls Code Club is intended to build girl’s confidence and knowledge in computer science at a critical age.”

It’s well established that the tech industry has a gender gap problem. According to a Crunchbase report, in 2014 only 18 percent of funded startups were founded by women. And perhaps related, only 18 percent of computer science degrees in the U.S. are awarded to women, according to National Science Foundation statistics.

Last month, the issue was in the media spotlight again after investor John Greathouse drew a storm of criticism for his WSJ column advising women in tech to only use their initials online to create a gender-neutral persona. Greathouse reasoned that doing so would open up more opportunities for women, letting investors or potential employers review their work impartially. Although the column drew widespread condemnation, and Greathouse later gave a whole-hearted apology for his statements, the column illustrated the challenge women face everyday in a male-dominated industry.

This is an issue that should concern everyone, especially those of us who want to create a more robust knowledge economy. We’re missing out on a diversity of perspective and talent that should be at the heart of a culture of innovation.

Supporting the next generation of women with educational programs like the Girls Code Club is a great place to begin effecting positive change. Now, more girls in Lancaster are getting the educational support they need to confidently pursue their interest in tech.

“We hope this program will continue to draw attention to girls’ participation in STEM, which is an issue both locally and nationally, and we aim to continue diminishing stigma and stereotypes in tech and showing what great things girls and women have to offer the industry,” Girls Code Club instructor Elyse Ewing said. “As someone who has been involved in tech my whole life and very frequently been the only woman in the room, I’m ecstatic to be part of something that will ensure future generations of programmers don’t have a similar experience.”

In addition to Girls Code Club, we also supported Science and Technology education for girls through sponsorship of the STEM Sister Discovery Dinner at the North Museum. At that event, Aspire’s COO Alison Lowery sat on a panel of 5 women leaders in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math to share her rich experience in technology, and to inspire young women to pursue their goals through careers in technology.

Beyond supporting local initiatives with charitable donations, here at Aspire we’re also proud to be part of the solution by supporting ventures with women at the helm. At MedStatix, CEO Kim Ireland led the team from being a regional patient satisfaction survey company to becoming a leading national patient satisfaction data company. Now doctors are using the MedStatix platform in all 50 states, and MedStatix has successfully surveyed nearly 1 million patients across the country. At Wylei, Meg Columbia Walsh recently took the role of CEO where she is already transforming the digital marketing company into one that’s ready for radical expansion. Previously, Meg has successfully led 4 companies to exit, and her experience and leadership will be invaluable to ensuring Wylei’s success.

We hope that our recent donation to Lancaster Science Factory will encourage more girls to pursue careers in technology, and we hope to see a future generation of women leaders that will enrich the entire industry as much as they have for our ventures here at Aspire.

CEO Blog: Failure is Learning. Not Learning is True Failure

Failure is an often discussed topic anywhere businessmen gather. Historically the discussion has been about how to avoid it. But more recently it’s been around how to encourage it. That’s because companies realize that they can only achieve big moon-shot successes by risking failure.

I’ve had my own recent realization about the importance and nature of failure, and how to encourage what I think of as a productive failure.

California (of course) is the epicenter of the “embrace failure” philosophy. Companies like Google X have created incentives for people to acknowledge when they fail. Johannes Haushofer, a two-time PhD, became a Twitter sensation when he posted a “Failure Resume,” of all the things that had gone wrong in his career. Author and Stanford Technology Ventures Program advisor Tina Seelig requires all of her students to write one.

“A failure resume is a quick way to demonstrate that failure is an important part of our learning process, especially when you’re stretching your abilities, doing things the first time, or taking risks,” Seelig wrote.

If you aren’t failing—if you personally aren’t failing—then you can never achieve the most ambitious things you want to achieve.

We all learn through failure, from the time we are babies discovering that the stove is hot, throughout adulthood, learning that developing any new skill requires hours of practice. The 10,000-hour rule, for example, introduced in Malcom Gladwell’s popular book, Outliers, holds that 10,000 hours of “deliberate practice” are needed to become an expert in any field. It’s constant and repetitive failure that helps us learn. Trial and error. Yet we don’t recognize this as being the key to success.

At least part of the reason is the billionaire fable industry feeds us stories that tend to follow a predictable course—a brilliant idea leads to a string of successes, and one formidable obstacle or two that the plucky hero handily overcomes through hustle, smarts, and guile. But these stories usually discount the role of thousands of little and big failures along the way that weigh heavily in the making of a success.

That makes it appear as though those of us who climb, slip, slide back down the hill, and start back up again are doing something wrong.

But try, fail, try again is the more likely path to success. Look at James Dyson, who over 5 years went through 5,127 prototypes to come up with his revolutionary bagless vacuum. He has built an empire applying similar technology to hand driers, a hair drier (600 prototypes) a floor cleaning robot 1,000-plus prototypes), and other products totaling $2.4 billion in sales last year.

Outside of California, the concept of embracing failure has been slower to catch on. Here in Lancaster Pennsylvania, there’s this crazy personal reputation thing wrapped up in what people perceive as their own integrity. People feel that if they fail they’ve literally ruined their reputations, that they will forever have a scarlet letter F emblazoned on their clothing.

Failure provokes shame. Which makes it harder to risk failure. Which makes it harder to progress.

This has proven a special challenge for me at Aspire, where we engage in ambitious projects with world changing potential.

I’ve had a bit of an epiphany around this lately, though.

We are building the world’s first Internet of Things Hospital called Clio (more on that at a later date). While designing, we found a great company called DIRTT Environmental Solutions. DIRTT (which stands for “Do It Right This Time,”) is a tech company focused on making custom-built prefabricated interior walls.

DIRTT’s walls can be put up quickly, free of construction dust, with chases built in for plumbing and electrical, and panels that are easily replaced if damaged. Its walls are now used in many major hospitals, including University of Pennsylvania.

You would think that our contractors would feel good about using DIRTT walls, since they have been proven to work in other local and nationally prominent hospitals.

But they didn’t feel good. In fact, they were highly, highly skeptical of the product.

So here’s the epiphany that I’ve had about failure. It’s not enough that people, like our contractors, see a success.

No. it’s actually about their personal comfort with the risk for failure. Faced with something they haven’t done before, or a product they have never used, they still see an unacceptable risk—even in a proven product.

It’s not that they are bad contractors—to the contrary, our guys are amazing, but they just don’t want to disappoint us by taking a risk on a product that they don’t know. This is the recipe to ensure that nothing new ever gets done.

So what can be done about it?

One answer is to find people willing to risk failure. I think the secret lies in hiring people who have rebelled against the tyranny of experts before. People who tried something they were told they couldn’t do, and who kept at it till they got it done.

Failing that, I can develop my own risk-takers by getting people to make the connection between risk and success. I suspect everyone has a “they-said-it-couldn’t-be-done-but-I-did-it” story. We can find that story, review how it came to be, and encourage that person to embrace that ethic. The business school name for that is “bright spot analysis.”

What I think people have to realize is if you’re not failing, you’re not learning. And if you’re not learning, you’ve already failed.

New Stock Trend: Betting on Data Breaches?

There’s a new trend emerging on the stock market that does not bode well for companies that let cybersecurity fall by the wayside. According to a recent article in MIT Technology Review, short-selling stocks of a company that’s believed to be vulnerable to hackers might be the next big trend.

If betting against companies with security flaws becomes a common practice for traders, hackers may have additional financial incentives to target and attack publicly traded companies, and those companies stand to lose a lot more if they have shoddy data protections.

According to Statista, the number of cyber attacks in the U.S. are climbing, increasing from 157 reported attacks in 2005 to 738 in 2015, and high profile breaches in recent years have put the issue of cybersecurity front and center.

As businesses become increasingly data-driven, cybersecurity is more important than ever. And one of the biggest, most-often-overlooked vulnerabilities that companies face is in their mobile applications. According to research by Gartner, more than 75 percent of mobile apps will fail basic security tests.

That’s why the work that Aspire venture Appmobi is doing is vitally important. By providing companies with the tools to easily implement the highest standard of security available, Appmobi helps them retain the trust of their customers, clients, partners, and investors. Now Appmobi can add another one to the list, they can help protect their public share values too.

Aspire’s Appmobi is Revolutionizing Mobile Security with their Newest Platform Release

It has been an eventful summer for Aspire Ventures. All of our companies have been making very big strides towards impacting their respective industries in powerful ways. Last week we wrote about the exciting growth at Medstatix and their recent partnership with athenahealth. Now, we’re pleased to report that Aspire’s oldest venture, Appmobi, has been creating some industry buzz of their own with the release of their new mobile app security platform Protection Center.

The dearth of security measures in mobile apps has become a major issue in the industry. According to Gartner, 75 percent of mobile apps will fail basic security tests. As demand for app development continues to dramatically outpace IT capacity, implementing robust protections continues to take a backseat to functionality. And when it comes to maintaining security, it falls on IT teams who have limited control because they didn’t’ have a hand in the app’s development.

Protection Center is the first-of-it’s-kind solution that gives IT teams an easy-to-implement tool for unmatched power to track and analyze in-app activity for security threats and to automatically resolve threats and hack attempts in real time. 

“IT teams can’t keep up with the devices they have in the field, let alone the apps running on those devices,” Appmobi CEO Mark Stutzman says. “Protection Center launches with a host of predefined events and rules that can be enabled in seconds for existing or new apps, meaning apps are protected right away and IT teams can catch up on family time when they go home in the evening.”

Since its release two weeks ago, Protection Center has already been met with enthusiasm, appearing in articles on SD Times, Yahoo Finance, BetaNews, and Network World. By offering a very wide set of capabilities and custom controls that are easy to use, Appmobi has landed on something special. 

“It’s not just a mobile security analytics platform,” Stutzman says. “It’s a fully customizable mobile app cyber security tracking and remediation platform.” 

To find out more about how Appmobi’s innovative solution works, check out their video here: 

Aspire’s MedStatix is Making a Big Impact on the Patient Experience

As the healthcare industry shifts toward a patient-centered model that’s focused on creating a better patient experience, Aspire Ventures company MedStatix is beginning to play a big role on the national stage to help providers make the transition. Thanks to a recent partnership with EHR provider athenahealth, MedStatix has dramatically expanded their reach nationwide, and they’re becoming a serious data company for providers seeking to improve care.

Transforming the patient experience is becoming a major focus within the healthcare industry. In the first half of 2016, investments in digital health companies that focus on the patient experience reached new heights, totaling $958 million, according to a midyear report by StartUp Health. That puts patient experience at the top of the list, outpacing investments in wellness, personalized medicine, and big data analytics.

Providers are struggling to adapt to a consumer revolution in which patients have more and more information about their healthcare choices and more say in how care is delivered. To adapt, providers need more feedback from patients and actionable insights that can help them provide better care. Patient experience data is becoming an extremely valuable commodity that providers can no longer afford to ignore.

That places MedStatix, a leader in patient experience data retrieval and analysis, near the heart of the healthcare paradigm shift. The result has been big growth at MedStatix.

Over the summer, after months of hard work and negotiations, athenahealth made the Medstatix Patient Experience Platform available as part of their athenaOne software package. Since then, MedStatix has been vaulted onto the national playing field, with more than 23,500 providers using the platform in all 50 states—a 650% increase in users since last year. MedStatix is quickly becoming a trusted source for insights on patients’ perceptions about quality of care—letting providers identify pain points in the care continuum and determine what operational changes will have the greatest impact. 

Even more exciting for MedStatix is the explosion of incoming patient experience data. In July alone they received 181,263 completed surveys from patients. By the end of the year, MedStatix conservatively projects they’ll have more than 1.5 million completed surveys in total. That number puts them in the running against review websites like Yelp, who has a total of 1.7 million healthcare reviews

“We’re capturing 1.4 percent of all patient visits in the U.S.,” MedStatix Data Scientist Huge says. “That’s a strong sample size for understanding the overall patient experience in the U.S.. Now we have a much larger data set from which we can draw statistically significant conclusions for healthcare providers nationwide.” 

Huge also points out that the feedback MedStatix gains from patients is far more valuable to providers than ratings and comments from Yelp users.

“We can explain to doctors why they get the ratings they get,” Huge says. “We’re able to show providers the key variables that are driving their overall patient experience scores, and we can let them know specific areas where they can adjust behaviors and practice operations to improve scores across the board.”

As MedStatix continues scaling towards becoming a major patient experience company, they’re adding fuel to the fire by pursuing other important partnerships with big name EHR vendors. Already they’re concluding integration with Greenway Health EHR to make the MedStatix platform available in their marketplace.

More and more partners are realizing that the patient experience is the key to changing healthcare, Huge says.

“We’re the feedback loop to let providers know how they can improve, and that will lead to a better patient experience.”

CEO Blog: You Can’t Copy Commitment

When I was a startup entrepreneur I was often asked, “Why won’t Microsoft or Google just copy what you are doing and crush you?”

It’s a good question. So good that Aspire asks it when we invest. And there is an answer: What can’t be copied is culture and commitment.

Just look at companies that have created great processes like Toyota, who adopted Six Sigma to create the Toyota Way, or Ikea which completely rethought how furniture was going to be developed, shipped, packed, and showcased in a store. It is the culture of the organization and the commitment to that culture which made the revolutionary process possible.

Culture is a slippery concept, but its importance isn’t. Just look at Six Sigma, the highly structured method for removing defects and minimizing variables in business processes. The process is far from secret—you can take a class to become a certified practitioner, and many do. Yet most companies that try to adopt it fail.

Satya S. Chakravoty—a Six Sigma expert who has advised companies such as Beech-Nut, Lockheed Martin, and Heinz—conducted a study of why companies fail at the practice so often. He found that firms fail to change the company culture to the point where they can effortlessly execute the process without having a consultant to look over their shoulders. Without a consultant on site, employees often abandon Six Sigma because they think it’s slowing them down.

And so thousands of little decisions that aren’t part of the Six Sigma process go differently than they would in a company like Toyota where culture and commitment automatically lead to better decisions.

I don’t mean to imply it’s easy—building a culture and adhering to a level of commitment isn’t. Look at Amazon’s dedication to plowing money into R&D. The market treated Jeff Bezos like a discount piñata because Amazon, though cash rich, wouldn’t declare dividends. But Bezos thought dividends were tax inefficient. That waste of money would take away from funds that could be used for R&D and growth.

I think any other CEO without that commitment to freeing every possible dollar for R&D would have caved in to market pressure. Imagine what he had to put up with. But the results are hits like the Echo Alexa voice control, which has sold even more briskly than Amazon anticipated, and makes it easier for Amazon to provide products and services to customers.

Which brings us back to Aspire and our question – “Why won’t Microsoft or Google just copy what you are doing and crush you?”

As an example, I’d say take a look at our commitment to changing healthcare, an industry that is so resistant to change.

We have a culture that puts prediction powered by AI as a pillar of our approach. That is why we’ve been dedicated to efforts like predicting future blood sugar levels of diabetics. It’s a critical number for them to know, and the ability to accurately forecast future blood glucose levels is crucial to avoiding deadly comas that come from unexpected blood sugar dips. The rest of the industry has been trapped in a deluge of charts and graphs they want users to look at to manage their blood sugar—instead of the hard thing which is actually creating an algorithm that accurately makes the prediction. We are up against giants like the partnership between Medtronic and IBM, which have thrown unknown millions at the problem.

But in less time, with a smaller team, and at a faction of the cost, we have achieved amazing results with our predictive AI. 

It’s because it is baked into our culture that we make predictions, not charts. Often it means going against the grain and even ignoring end users who ask for the charts! Even with prediction and AI as part of our culture, when you look at the team working on the problem, from the marketing copy writer to the lead programmer, we have 1000 opportunities a day to make little decisions that would turn the product into a charting product instead of a prediction product.

Our commitment to predictions over charts is just one component of our culture that keeps us on track. To bring transformative products to market, it also takes a lean approach and discipline to not get caught up in adding cool but unnecessary features that distract from a product’s core. And that’s where other groups without a committed culture often make the wrong decision.

So the answer to why we can’t be copied and crushed? Our culture can’t be copied, and a long string of right decisions is hard to crush.

CEO Blog: The Unicorn Apocalypse

In the past year the creation of “unicorns”—startups valued at $1 billion or better—doubled from 4 to 8. It raises a question: Are we really minting twice as many great companies as we were just a year ago?

The short answer is no.

What has increased are the deals where big brand VCs overpay for shares to drive a company’s value to Unicorn levels—on paper, anyway. It’s a strategy that can pay off for the big brand VCs, who’s returns are guaranteed, but at the expense of the other investors.

It is a legal form of market rigging, and unless you are a big brand you can prepare for the wins to come off of your high-flying unicorn investment, and for it’s value to come crashing back to earth. In fact, it’s already beginning—but I’ll get to that in a minute.

To see how this works, take a look at Square, which makes a mobile phone credit card reader and processes card payments for tiny businesses.

Helmed by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, Square was a VC darling nearly from the start. In 2012, after it’s D series round of funding, Square was valued at $3.25 billion. Two years later, after its E series round of funding, it was up to $6 billion. It’s a remarkable jump when you look at how investing traditionally worked. 

In the past, investors from early stage angels to later stage VCs, argued for the lowest price possible on shares in a company it invested in to get a greater percentage of ownership for their money.

Now, when a late stage VC comes along, it may seek to overvalue a company—paying more than it may really be worth—basically agreeing to say the company is worth billions, even if it isn’t.

Why the turn around, offering top dollar for shares, instead of trying to strike a bargain? 

At Square, their E Series investors were a pretty canny lot, including the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC), Goldman Sachs, and Rizvi Traverse Management.

When big players like those pay a higher valuation, it makes other investors think the big players know something. After all, these guys are insiders—they must know something no one else does, right? That perception magically drives the share price up. The company’s profile rises, it gets even more press, and it becomes easier to bring in new investors. Or to be less charitable, to lure in suckers.

But wait, won’t GIC, Goldman Sachs, and Rizvi Traverse Management take it in the gut if the shares are overpriced?

Nope. Because those Series E investors were protected by a mechanism called a ratchet, which guarantees their returns.

TechCrunch did a good job unpacking Square’s S-1 filing, which showed that Square Series E investors paid $15.46 per share for Preferred Stock. The ratchet guaranteed the Series E investors an IPO price of at least $18.56, roughly a 20 percent profit.

If the IPO went out at less than $18.56 per share, Square had to give Series E investors more shares, enough to reach the equivalent of a 20 percent profit.

When a company issues more shares, it means each share is worth less. So investors not covered by the ratchet have their profits funneled to the Series E guys.

The reason I keep harping on big brand VCs, is because they are pretty much the only ones who can use this strategy. They have enough money to make big purchases that get them sweetheart deals, and they have big enough reputations that they can influence what the rest of the market is willing to pay.

Indeed, when Square went public in November of 2015, it’s IPO price was $9. Ryan Mac at Forbes did the math, which had Square issuing 10.3 million additional shares to the Series E guys. When the stock traded up 45 percent in its first day of trading, those shares were worth $135 million. That $135 million came out of the pockets of the other investors.

You might think I’ve chosen a particularly outrageous example, but a study by Fenwick & West LLP, a law firm specializing in technology, found that “Approximately 30 percent of unicorn investors had significant protection against a down round IPO.”

This is a particularly bad time to be on the wrong end of that 30 percent. The number of startups taking major value hits is high and growing, which means even more pain for unprotected investors.

CB Insights, an analytical firm, runs a site called “The Downround Tracker.” It keeps tabs on prominent startups that are losing value, whether through a “downround,” in which a company sold equity for less per share than in a previous round, a drop in share price, or a “down exit,” in which the startup was sold for less money than it had raised from previous investors.

According to CB insights, there have been 35 prominent examples of startups suffering some form of downround so far this year. Ten of those are unicorns. To remind you, there have been fewer than 8 new unicorns each year so far.

Among those on The Downturn Tracker is Zenefits, which acts as an internet-based insurance brokerage for small businesses. It had been valued as high a $4.5 billion, but Downturn Tracker recently put it at $2 billion.

A recent New York Times story dissected the drop in value, driven partially by a CEO resignation and examination by insurance investigators, and partially because of unrealistically pumped up prospects.

The Times came to the conclusion that the Zenefits crash was “a defining scandal of the tech boom.”

I wish. The Unicorn Apocalypse has barely begun.

Moore’s Law is Coming to an End, and that’s OK.

In 1965, Intel co-founder Gordon Moore observed that the number of transistors that could fit on a silicon wafer doubles about every two years, an observation that later became known as Moore’s law. Since then, the tech industry has been able to happily rely on continuously improved processing speeds and power for computers that are getting smaller and smaller. That has resulted in an endless stream of software improvements, as well as new hardware like mobile devices and sensors that have changed the world as we know it. 

But according to recent headlines, computing experts say Moore’s Law could be coming to an end within the next ten years. Silicon-based microchips are reaching the physical limits of how small they can go. Intel’s latest transistor is only about 100 atoms wide, and at its current trajectory, it could reach a width of only 10 atoms by 2020. 

As we get closer and closer to the limits of silicon, some technologists are growing worried. But reaching the boundaries of our current paradigm may not be such a bad thing. 

In a recent Motherboard article, Alasdair Allan argues that we’re finally reaching a mature technological base in computing, where computers have become so cheap and so capable that the number of possible applications for technology we already have are nearly limitless. 

“While we might no longer be expecting computing to become orders of magnitude faster, we may well have reached the point where that doesn’t matter any more,” Allan writes.

Learning to use well the technology we have will mean that the real innovators will be focused on optimizing our current computing systems and integrating disparate technologies to create greater data connectivity. That shift in focus, as Howard Yu argues in a recent Fortune article, will likely disrupt the current pecking order within the tech industry. As innovation becomes increasingly nuanced, new windows of opportunity will open up to change the game. 

“The end of Moore’s Law will not be the end of the IT world, but it will demand new ways to make better machines,” Yu writes. 

Here at Aspire, our chief software architect Thomas Rogers says that reaching the limits of silicon will be a positive for innovation and for computer science as a discipline. 

Firstly, Rogers says, the limits of what we can do are with the current technology and the current mediums. And usually when we reach a limit, Rogers says, we eventually see a radical reinvention

Already scientists are exploring theoretical and even practical implementations of new computing subsystems like quantum computing, which would in effect reset the bar for a new era in computing. But until then, developers, programmers, and engineers might have to change their approach to adapt to a plateau in computing power.

For any of the disciplines that have to use computing horsepower as a resource, Moore’s law has been an unprecedented luxury, Rogers says. 

“If we were building automobiles it would be like we’ve had the luxury of Exxon or Mobile coming up with more efficient, lower cost, higher octane fuels every year, year after year. In computing, we’ve grown complacent about building efficient algorithms because we didn’t have to,” Rogers says.

“Once that performance curve starts to slow or flatten, it’s going to force people back into being craftsman at what they do. You can’t be sloppy any more, and I look at that as a very good thing.”

That’s why at Aspire we’ve been focused on the fundamentals, Rogers says, architecting better technological building blocks that can be used to assemble more efficient systems. And that’s why we’ve been filling our bench with developers who know how to develop effective, efficient, high performance tech. 

Aspire’s artificial intelligence expert and Entrepreneur in Residence Mike Monteiro agrees that we’ll need computers to work smarter, not harder.

“Let’s suppose Moore’s law stops or slows down and we’re just sort of stuck with the computational power that we have now,” Monteiro says. “That means you have to be smarter with each compute cycle, you can’t just lazily rely on brute force.” 

And that means that algorithms need to be smarter about the resources they use, Monteiro says, without relying too heavily on memory or long calculations.

At Aspire, Monteiro says, we’re in the business of making algorithms smarter with our adaptive artificial intelligence platform A2i, a technology that optimizes algorithms to help them arrive at better answers more quickly.

A tool like A2i, built to make algorithms smarter and more efficient, will be a huge advantage in a post-Moore’s-law world. 

A Lesson from HBO’s Silicon Valley: How to Avoid the Mistakes of Pied Piper

For tech insiders who watch the HBO series Silicon Valley, industry culture jokes about Scrum or the imaginary “conjoined triangles of success” usually hit pretty close to home. But the fine attention to detail doesn’t just make for better comedy, the realism also results in some important lessons that many tech startups fail to learn before it’s too late. (Warning: spoilers ahead)

As Matt Weinberger points out in a recent Business Insider article, this season’s penultimate episode nails a very important lesson that many tech startups overlook: designing products without getting real user feedback early on can result in a fundamentally flawed product. In that episode, titled “daily active users”, Pied Piper is flying high on a major wave of industry buzz until they learn that their daily active user numbers are abysmal.

The problem? They only tested their revolutionary compression platform with other engineers and never bothered to gain insights from regular users. Despite the blood, sweat, and tears the Pied Piper crew put into building the platform and overcoming just about every hurdle imaginable, the consumers had the final say on whether Pied Piper’s technology would live or die in the marketplace.

Sadly, many startups develop products that share a similar fate to that of Pied Piper’s file compression platform. Months or even years of development time can be wasted because a startup failed to test their assumptions with consumers first.

So what can companies do to avoid wasting development time on products that no one wants to use? At Aspire Ventures we’ve found that using “Design Sprints”—a 5-day rapid prototyping method that culminates in testing with real consumers—has been an effective tool to gain valuable consumer insights early on in the process. The regimented approach, developed by Google Ventures, is a great way to test your riskiest assumptions and find out whether or not you’re on the right path.

With some tweaks to make the sprint our own, ventures at Aspire are applying the method at the beginning of the development process—prototyping concepts to find out if we should move forward with development.

Most recently, Tempo Health held a Concept Sprint to create an app that would help type 1 Diabetes patients reduce their number of hypoglycemic and hyperglycemic events (when blood sugar levels go too low or too high, respectively). After just five days, a cross-functional team laid down the framework for an app that would alert users at certain times of the day about high and low patterns in their blood glucose levels based on historical data. The app also includes motivational tools like a running clock of the user’s time within normal range of blood sugar levels, and a leaderboard where they can compare their time in range with other users.

At the end of the sprint, we tested the concept with close to twenty type 1 diabetes patients by walking them through several screens of our prototype. The response was overwhelmingly positive, and now our development team is moving forward to create a beta version of the app.

By taking just five days to hash out the design and test it with users, we gained extremely valuable feedback that will inform the rest of our development process. And we can be sure we’re not wasting valuable resources on a product that no one wants to use.

CEO Blog: There is a Reason They Call Them Unicorns

When I started in the technology business, first as an entrepreneur, then as an investor, the common wisdom was that if you had 10 investments, you expected 7 to tank, two to achieve modest success, and one home run that made up for the others, and then some. And this concept is still largely accepted.

Only, it’s wrong. It was wrong then, and it’s more wrong now.

To understand how completely wrong it is, you only have to look at the numbers.

That imagined one-in-ten home run is now known as a unicorn—a start up with a $1 billion or better valuation (whether or not it is actually producing revenue).

And that one-in-ten figure is every bit as mythological as the unicorn itself.

According to research by Aileen Lee, founder of seed capitol firm Cowboy Ventures, there are currently 84 U.S.–based unicorns. On average, eight unicorns have been created each year for the past decade.

Best estimates put the number of companies getting venture money at about 6,000 a year, or 60,000 in that same 10-year period.

That means odds of 84 in 60,000, or 1 in 714, which is 0.14 percent. The earth has a better chance of being hit by an asteroid than investors have of funding a unicorn (in which case you will have wished that you invested in Space-X).

Even one of the biggest, most influential, smartest VC firms, Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers reportedly had a period from 2000 till after 2008 where none of their funds had positive returns.

And we are not even accounting for angel investors, who put money in an average of 20,000 tech start ups per year. 84 unicorns out 200,000 investments!

VCs will tell you investing is more an art than a science. My point is, if you look at the results, they are really, really shitty. Maybe all investors throw away that whole “more of an art than a science thing” and admit that up to this point there is a big element of dumb luck. Whether you are in Airbnb at the right time is largely luck. Airbnb: it was a dog until it wasn’t. It was at death’s door many many times, then magic happened.

So what do we do about the unicorn problem?

Well, in my case, you start Aspire Universal.

The idea is to see if we can create a system to reliably produce consistent big winners. If this were baseball I’d say the objective is still to hit home runs but with a much higher batting average and fewer strike outs … and the only way to do this is to have a consistent technique.

So, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be seeking unicorns – we should help build them!

If you’re still not convinced that “a system for creating great companies” is a better play than an experienced tech who claims to know the “art of picking unicorns” … we’ll discuss more in my next post.

Introducing a Better Way to Connect with the Right Doctor

For patients seeking the optimal healthcare experience, finding the right doctor can be difficult. Whether you’re looking for a new primary care physician that you can trust or a specialist that won’t break the bank, navigating insurance and online searches to find a physician that meets all of your needs can be an overwhelming task. Although there are existing web tools to help, many of them use information that isn’t up to date, and none of them account for all of your priorities like cost, patient satisfaction scores, or safety.

MedStatix, an Aspire company, is working to solve that problem with a new mobile application that uses sophisticated data sources to deliver the most up-to-date and personalized search results possible. The application lets users create highly personalized searches, schedule appointments directly, and rate providers—streamlining the doctor search process and helping patients find the best healthcare experience possible.

MedStatix recently developed a concept prototype of the application, and now they’re looking for user feedback. At Aspire we’re big believers in user-centered design, which is why we involve real consumers throughout our development process—from the concept phase to beta testing. On Wednesday, June 29 at 12 pm EST, MedStatix will present their new app, currently in the concept phase, in an open webinar to gain insights from all types of patients.

If you’re interested in learning more about this application, register for Wednesday’s webinar here.

Technology’s Payoff Isn’t Here Yet, But it Will Be

VCs and startups that are dedicated to ushering in a new era of disruptive technology are expected to be forward thinking. As the world grows more and more complex, we need visionaries more than ever who can see the path forward, and technologies that can help us along the way.

But as a recent piece in the New York Times by Steve Lohr reminds us, today there are many challenges to implementing the technology of tomorrow. While analysts and experts look forward to the many ways artificial intelligence, cloud computing, IoT, big data analytics, and mobile health will grow the economy and improve our lives, the realities on the ground today are something quite different.

Despite hundreds of billions of dollars in annual technology spending, according to Lohr’s article the economic benefits of the latest technologies have so far been underwhelming. Lohr hones in on healthcare specifically, and points out how government efforts to bring healthcare into the digital age have not yet yielded major rewards. So far technologies like electronic health records have not appeared to make workflows for doctors and staffers more efficient. But that may be because of the inherent lag between when a new technology arrives and when people and institutions learn to use it effectively.

It may also be because the truly transformative technologies have not yet arrived. Experts say that EHRs are only the first step in a wave of innovation that will curb costs and improve care. EHRs will lay the groundwork for a host of other IT and operational innovations. As patient data becomes more consolidated, artificial intelligence will play a bigger role in big data analytics to improve everything from patient inflows to cancer diagnosis to eliminating prescription errors.

Already numerous studies are finding that AI can outperform doctors at a number of tasks. In a recent Motherboard story, the AI in a health app designed by Babylon was able to outperform doctors in triage assessments. Another study found machine learning was able to outperform humans in cancer surveillance.

Although these technologies have yet to become part of the day-to-day operations at your local healthcare clinic, and doctors are currently struggling to keep up with the digital age, it’s only a matter of time and hard work until we get there.

CEO Blog: To Grow Your Startup, Use Less to Achieve More

For companies looking to accelerate their growth, don’t assume that the way to achieve it is with more resources.

Aspire CEO Essam Abadir explains in his latest blog post how more resources can actually slow a company down, and offers up some creative ways to achieve more by keeping lean. With Essam’s leadership here at Aspire, we’ve taken the lean approach to solving some very big problems, and the results have been impressive. Learn more about how we’ve made rapid progress with and innovative approach here.

CEO Blog: For a Better Pitch, Break a Few Rules

Aspire CEO Essam Abadir has heard a lot of pitches from startups looking for investment. Of course, many startups follow a formula for communicating all of the key points that appeal to investors, but to really stand out, Essam says, you need to know when and how to break the rules. 

In his latest blog post, Essam talks about his own experience with pitches, and explains what investors are really looking for. Read his latest post here for more valuable insights on improving your pitch and reaching investors.

Watch: Soft CGM Beta Wrap-Up

Four weeks ago, we welcomed eleven users into the first Soft CGM beta for Daibetter, formerly TempoHealth, LLC. If you’re just tuning in, you can get more background on our diabetes management tool here. We had many goals for this particular beta, not the least of which was to put a potential product into the hands of users nationwide. In that respect, alone, we succeeded and the users were able to input their information and get more than 1600 blood glucose predictions in four weeks. In no particular order, here were some of the goals and how we’d rate our own success:

1.) Have an intuitive, easy to use app. If the app were trying to do nothing more than be a diabetes logbook, we’d be declaring victory. A lot of effort went into the development of our interface. The user feedback, as well as their willingness to regularly use the app for the entire four weeks, spoke to our success here. While we will certainly refine the UX as we move forward, our team really hit it out of the park on this one.

2.) Have an app that’s speedy as the day is long. We knew coming out of alpha mode that as Soft CGM gets more data to process, it takes more time to process the data and the biggest user gripe was the speed of the app when opening. Midway through beta one, we made a lot of progress in this area but – following development protocol – didn’t introduce these improvements into beta one. Users of beta two should notice dramatic improvement here.

3.) Have an app that we (the internal team) at Aspire can quickly evaluate for effectiveness. The internal Soft CGM portal – most of which was developed during the beta – is incredible and has given us exactly what we need to evaluate the accuracy of Soft CGM. This will enable us, moving forward, to see exactly where we are (or aren’t) improving.

4.) Accurately predict blood glucose values. We mentioned at the start of the beta that the first CGMs were approved by the FDA with an overall Mean Absolute Relative Difference (MARD) accuracy score of 80%. In our own alpha tests, we had some week-long periods of more than 80%. That said, these internal alpha testers (disclosure: I was one of them) certainly knew how to “game” the app for better performance, which was why it was critical to have the app tested by people whom had never used it before.

In the end, our most accurate user during the beta period had a MARD of 73%, with two other users right at 70%. Most ended up between 62% and 67%. Two were closer to 50%.

We also looked at the Clarke Error Grid for accuracy, with a goal to have blood glucose predictions be in Zones A and B as much as possible. Overall, we managed to do this more than 85% of the time, but one user ended up there 97% of time – comparable to CGMs currently approved by the FDA.

As a first pass, these results are encouraging, even more so now that our team can analyze and improve our adaptive algorithms. In fact, there are so many ways we can improve the algorithms, that our immediate course is to figure what to implement prior to our next beta.

View our final video on the Beta 1results for Soft CGM here.

News from the CEO: Everyone Hates Platform Plays… Except their Own

Building and investing in platforms is not for everyone. It’s a challenging endeavor that can come with a lot of cost and often a long time to market. But a successful platform is well worth the risk. In a new blog post, Aspire CEO Essam Abadir recounts his past success with platforms, and explains why he’s continuing to build them.

One of the most interesting pieces of advice I received came when I was raising money for my start-up, Appmobi, a mobile app development platform for “write once” apps that run on both iOS and Android. The advice came from a guy at Intel Capital who, although he declined to investment money into Appmobi, he eventually facilitated our sale of the platform to Intel—a life changing deal for me.

The advice came years before the sale. We were gauging Intel Capital’s interest in investing in Appmobi. That guy—who eventually suggested buying our company, mind you—said he “hated platforms and that all investors really hate platforms.”

To understand why he said that, I first need to explain what a platform is. Unfortunately, the definition is pretty imprecise. “Platform” is often used interchangeably with “operating system,” and the differences are subtle, and frequently shift.

Probably the best way to think of a platform is as a kind of architecture that lets others build imaginative stuff on top of it. Similar to the way a municipality puts in roads, utilities like electrical and water, and provides services like police and firemen so that others can build homes, pizzerias, stadiums, and skyscrapers on top.

I So if the municipal services are the platform then the think of the pizzerias and skyscrapers as apps.

Intel’s dislike of platforms seems odd, considering it’s the ultimate platform business for building chips. But its dislike of platforms isn’t without reason. Platforms are incredibly expensive to build, as Intel should know. After all, making chips is essentially a platform business. A chip building facility, aka “fab”, can take seven years and cost billions to develop, yet make no money until they roll out of the factory and into computers.

And when several platforms compete in the same space, there are usually only one or two winners. How many mobile phone platforms can you think of besides Apple’s iOS and Android? How about Windows, Nokia, Blackberry?

Entrepreneurs often dramatically underestimate how costly it is to build a platform. It can take hundreds of millions of dollars—if not billions of dollars—to establish an iOS or Android.

Even worse, most revenues usually don’t come directly from the platform, but indirectly from things like iPhone sales or ads that people see on their Android phones.

So you may wonder, why I am still trying to build a platform?

We managed to sell a small cloud-based apps development platform once, and perhaps we were lucky, or perhaps we were good. But I realized I really love platforms.

I love what you can do with platforms. I love the fact that the apps that were created to run on our platform were bigger than the platform itself. I love putting in the roads, electrical lines and sewers so that someone else could build a grand skyscraper.

But most of all I want to invest in the apps that the platform will eventually enable—apps that will never come to be if we don’t build the platform.

Even though I love being a municipality, you have to ask who invests in a municipality? Usually someone with a long term view that the platform can be a tide which lifts all boats, including their own. And maybe that’s what we’re doing at Aspire.

Watch: Soft CGM Beta, Week 3

At Daibetter, formerly Tempo Health, LLC, we’re in the third week of our beta test, where 11 users are regularly using the Soft CGM diabetes management app. We’ve looked at some of the results from user data in the previous weeks, and our accuracy levels show great promise. We’re making great progress towards a non-invasive continuous glucose monitor powered solely by the Internet of Things and user inputs.

When it comes to predicting blood glucose levels without invasive sensors, no model is perfect. But with Soft CGM, each model is personalized. In this week’s Inside Aspire, we explore Soft CGM’s innovative approach to blood sugar predictions. Using multiple adaptive algorithms to provide personalized models according to each user, Soft CGM scores algorithms based on accuracy for each user and then selects the top performer each day for optimized, personal results.

News from the CEO: AI’s Big Leap Forward is Personalization

Here at Aspire we’re always talking about the immense impact artificial intelligence will have on nearly every industry, especially healthcare. We also talk a lot about our AI technology, A2I—our propriety system that makes AI more adaptable and more personalized.

When it comes to finding revolutionary uses for AI technology, we think A2I will be a game changer. That’s why many of our ventures are using A2I to enhance their products with personalization that’s on a whole other level.

But what is A2I and how does it work? Well, our CEO Essam Abadir lays out the answer along with some potential applications in a new blog post that you can read here.

Physical Therapists, We Need Your Feedback!

Physical therapists in the Lancaster area, here’s your chance to see the future of physical therapy technology!

If you’re available tomorrow – Friday, May 27th – between 9:30AM-2:00PM, Aspire Ventures will be demonstrating a concept product, featuring gamified physical therapy delivered via mobile devices.

This potential product integrates several of the coolest technologies within the Aspire universe, and we’d love to get your feedback!

If you’re a PT and you’re available tomorrow, please drop an email to Marcus Grimm, CMO, at

Demo and interviews will take place at our downtown Lancaster office: 100 N. Queen St., Suite 300, Lancaster, PA.

For Daibetter, formerly Tempo Health, LLC, it’s About More than Just the Data

We talk about data a lot at Aspire. And why not? It’s the fuel that A2I uses to produce better results for all of our ventures. Without data, we’ve got nothing.

But it’s really important to realize that the data represents something much bigger. In the case of Daibetter*, it represents the lives of the people with diabetes. Being one of those people myself, it’s a little easier for me to see this. But even so, like everyone, I think of diabetes in the context of what it means to me, and everyone is different.

I was reminded of this when I had the opportunity to speak at Centerville Elementary School as part of a fundraising effort for JDRF. I was joined by Luke and Sabrina, two former students at the school, as well as Lee Hawley, former pro soccer player and current teacher in the school district. All of us have T1d, but for each of us, the disease and its impacts on us are different.

Diabetes truly is as unique as the people afflicted by it, and that’s why I’m encouraged by the Daibetter* approach. We have some more work to do to realize our vision of personalized blood glucose management, but when you’re surrounded by such a diverse group of people – all with T1d – it’s hard to conclude that anything but a personal approach is what will work in the long run.

*Daibetter, formerly Tempo Health, LLC

Healthcare is Ready for Tech Disruption

Technology has transformed nearly every industry—from retail, to transportation, to telecommunication—causing paradigm shifts that give consumers more power, more convenience, and lower costs. Yet the one industry that’s most central to our well-being remains stubbornly unchanged by technological progress. Healthcare, at it’s core, isn’t keeping up with innovation. Even though new technologies are appearing all of the time, none of them are working together to make a real difference in the care continuum. 

Industry experts, investors, and technologists (including leadership here at Aspire) have been calling for a technological revolution in healthcare—one that fully integrates new technologies in a holistic way to improve outcomes and prevent disease; one that fundamentally changes the patient experience with mobile and IoT; and one that uses big data and AI to streamline operations and lower cost. 

Now, doctors are also joining the chorus in the call for change.

In an excellent article in Tech Crunch, precision-medicine physician Florence Comite calls for a “Silicon Valley-style overhaul” of healthcare, and she explores the myriad reasons why we haven’t done so yet.

“Why is the nation’s $3 trillion creaky, monstrous and convoluted healthcare sector seemingly impervious to technological change?” Comite asks.

Innovation silos, incomplete understanding of human biology, and a massive, complex system of providers, patients, payers, and vendors have thus far prevented healthcare from keeping up. Add that to strict regulation, low profit margins, and overworked physicians who are too busy taking care of people to rethink new ways to integrate technology, and we have a recipe for stagnation, Comite concludes.

But Comite finds reason for optimism. Investors, researchers, and physicians are all beginning to coalesce to find a solution. And with more and more great minds addressing the challenge, there are sure to be breakthroughs that will extend throughout our lifetime.

Already, we’re beginning to see where the puzzle pieces fit. As AI technology advances by leaps and bounds, doctors are realizing the immense role it could play in making sense of the ever growing sea of information.

In his blog The Medical Futurist, Dr. Bertalan Mesko lists the many ways AI could be applied to healthcare to make him a more effective doctor. Ultimately, Mesko writes, empathy and communication are the most important factors to delivering better care, but as the amount of medical information explodes, it’s becoming humanly impossible to keep up with data and also have sufficient time for each patient. Mesko writes that the assistance of AI would free him as a doctor to spend more time with his patients.

Mesko lays out how AI could be used to eradicate wait times, help doctors quickly find the information they need, handle administrative tasks, improve doctor/patient communication, and encourage more collaboration.

But before AI can be truly useful to doctors, it will need access to data. And currently, no one is sharing it.

At the Health Datapalooza in Washington DC last week, Vice President Joe Biden pleaded with researchers and healthcare professionals to break down silos and begin sharing data more openly to advance research. If technology platforms can’t talk to each other, or if researchers don’t share their data, making accurate assessments is difficult, no matter how powerful the intelligence—human, artificial, or otherwise.

As important technologies like AI, predictive analytics, cloud computing, IoT, and mobile reach maturity, the key players in the healthcare space are all beginning to recognize how those technologies could be applied to revolutionize healthcare. It’s just a matter of willpower, along with some creativity, to bring it all together within the healthcare continuum. As the writer William Gibson famously said, “The future is already here—it’s just not evenly distributed.”

Watch: How Accurate is Soft CGM?

Over at Daibetter, formerly Tempo Health, LLC, we’ve reached the mid-point of the Soft CGM beta. Eleven users in the US and Canada continue to use our app that we believe when complete will be a non-invasive continuous glucose monitor powered by the Internet of Things.

The easiest way to think about Soft CGM is that it’s really two products in one. There’s the “app experience,” which can be described simply as how easy and attractive the app is to use. But then there’s also the efficacy of the app – how well it actually works, and that’s what we’re going to talk about this week.

There are two ways we are monitoring the effectiveness of the app. The first is MARD, or how close the app’s prediction is to actual BG. The first CGMs approved by the FDA had MARDs around 80%. With Soft CGM, we’re seeing overall scores as high as 72% currently. This is similar to my own experience as an alpha user last month.

The second tool to measure accuracy is the Clarke Error Grid. Here’s a video describing what it is and how we’re looking at the results for Soft CGM. In the video, we show that overall results have us inside zones A and B 87% of the time. That said, this is an area that varies widely by user, with some beta users scoring into the mid-90s.

The results have been fascinating and our developers are already implementing changes to improve the performance of the app on the next beta, currently scheduled by June.

Aspire CEO Essam Abadir Weighs In

If you’ve been following our blog at Aspire Ventures, you know we’re doing a lot of great things with exceptional technologies to help change the world. Now we’re excited to announce the latest addition to our newsroom that will give even more insight to our readers. 

Aspire CEO Essam Abadir has been burning the midnight oil. In a new CEO blog, Essam will weigh in with the big picture at Aspire each week. His first post is an introduction to the Aspire mission, our methodology, and our technology. You can find the first post here, and stay tuned for more.

MedStatix Leading Conversation on Patient Satisfaction

MedStatix, an Aspire venture, was featured today on athenahealth’s blog, CloudView, with a great post from MedStatix CEO Kim Ireland about the importance of measuring patient satisfaction. Asking patients for feedback and measuring satisfaction is a great starting point for building patient engagement, improving health outcomes, and ensuring the financial health of a medical practice.

MedStatix recently partnered with athenahealth to offer a freemium version of their patient satisfaction platform to athenaOne members, a client base of more than 50,000 providers. The new partnership will greatly increase the reach of the MedStatix platform to providers nationwide. As patient engagement and patient feedback become ever more important in today’s healthcare industry, we’re proud that MedStatix is helping to lead the way. 

Watch: Soft CGM Beta Test Yields Promising New Data

Now that we’re well into the 2nd week of beta testing our Soft CGM application, we’re finally getting to see some new data from external users on the app’s performance; and for our developers and data scientists in the venture lab, it’s a little bit like Christmas morning. Following a month-long alpha test with internal users, 11 type 1 diabetes patients outside of Aspire have been using the diabetes management tool on their phones every day, inputting finger stick, carbohydrate, and insulin data to get blood glucose predictions. And for just one week of use, those predictions are looking pretty accurate.

Our Senior Software Engineer Jason Hertzog created a great data visualization tool that lets us compare each user’s Soft CGM blood glucose predictions with their actual blood glucose level, along with all of their finger stick, carbohydrate, and insulin data inputs throughout the day. In this video, a small sample of data shows just how accurately Soft CGM can predict glucose levels, even when we’re looking ahead four hours into the future. Without invasive sensors or expensive hardware, our adaptive algorithm can achieve predictions that are nearly as accurate as a traditional CGM. But there is still plenty of room for improvement, as a few predictions miss the mark. 

Overall, out of 468 predictions made for our beta users so far, 85 percent of the predictions fall within zones A and B of the Clarke Error Grid. That means that 85 percent of Soft CGM’s predictions would lead to appropriate treatment. We will be addressing areas of improvement over the coming weeks with new operational features and a new model to include in our adaptive algorithm, which should greatly improve our results in the future. 

Now that Soft CGM is finally in the hands of a few T1D’s, we’re getting extremely valuable data and feedback that will help us fine tune our models, improve accuracy, and enhance the personalized user experience. As data pours in over the next several weeks, we’re very excited to learn more ways we can refine this truly innovative approach to diabetes management. Stay tuned for more updates.

Medical Errors Third Leading Cause of Death in the U.S.

In the national debate over how to improve healthcare in the U.S., experts often focus on topics like the rising costs of care, baffling pricing structures, or long wait times. But according to

headlines last week,

the consequences of healthcare’s shortcomings are far more serious than a long wait at the doctor’s office. 

A recent report published in the British Medical Journal reaches the alarming conclusion that medical errors are the number 3 cause of death in the U.S., after heart disease and cancer. The report estimates that at least 250,000 people die a year from blunders in care at hospitals. The authors also guess that the number underestimates the actual toll because it doesn’t include deaths surgery centers, nursing homes, or other healthcare settings. 

Clearly, we have some room for improvement. Upgrading healthcare IT networks to standardize and centralize patient data without disrupting workflows; using machine learning and predictive analytics to make better use of that data; improving doctor/patient communication with mobile technology and the IoT; and delivering patient-centered care to keep patients actively involved in their healthcare are just a few ways that we can seriously reduce errors and improve outcomes.

Although some of those changes will require major cultural shifts, the right technologies can transform culture so rapidly that we hardly realize it’s happened until long after the fact. And while some think it’s a long road ahead to change healthcare, here at Aspire we believe the future is much closer than it appears.

Mark Zuckerberg Thinks We Might Be On To Something

Over at Forbes there’s nice coverage of Mark Zuckerberg’s recent speech hinting at the power of AI to transform healthcare. In addition, the article suggests that the market for AI powered solutions could reach $40 billion by 2020, and that this type of technology may power 50% of all apps.

The article references a powerful dermatology solutions called DermaCompare that we’ve had the pleasure to review at Aspire. Here’s a video giving you a peek under the hood of this technology that can spot dysplastic lesions before they become melanoma.

Soft CGM Alpha Results

Over the past month, Soft CGM has been in Alpha mode. There are many ways to define what that actually means. At Aspire, we describe it as a fully functioning product used by internal users.

In the case of Soft CGM, there have been three of us: myself, Neal Landis (developer for MedStatix and a Type 1 diabetic), and Tom Rogers, Chief Software Architect for Aspire and a Type 2. For the past few weeks, we’ve been providing Soft CGM with our insulin, carbohydrate and fingerstick data. In my case, I’ve also been sending heart rate data via an Apple watch. If you’ve watched the Soft CGM video, you know that what makes this product unique is that multiple adaptive algorithms are competing to be the one chosen to provide current and future blood glucose estimations. This particular feature of the app has worked flawlessly, with each adaptive algorithm optimizing itself on a nightly basis and delivering a new personalized model to the app with progressively higher accuracy over time.

How accurate is Soft CGM at this point? Not too shabby for an Alpha version. 

In this figure, you can see the Clarke Error Grid for all of the 766 predictions during the test. In fact, 95.5% of these estimations fell within Zones A and B of the grid. In a study published comparing Dexcom to Medtronic Enlite, Dexcom performed best in a home study, with 98% of readings within Zone A and B. Medtronic had 94.4%. While less than our own results, it should be noted that Medtronic had 64.6% within the highly coveted Zone A, whereas Soft CGM had only 55.2%, all of which goes to say that while we have a lot of work to do, we’re quite encouraged by what we’ve seen so far.

To that end, next week kicks off an official beta test of Soft CGM. Twelve users outside of the Aspire family will be using the app for a thirty day period. In the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing updates and results as the beta test progresses.

Teaching Students How to Concept Sprint

When it comes to developing useful solutions for real world problems, learning is always at the heart of innovation. 

Last week there were lessons for everyone, including the Aspire team, when students from Hempfield High School’s gifted program visited Aspire’s venture lab in Lancaster on Friday, April 22.

Students from grades 9 through 12 joined us for the day to learn about our design and development process by participating in a mini concepting sprint, where they gained new strategies for solving problems.

Our Entrepreneur in Residence Mike Monteiro helped the students hone in on a real world problem, and then led them through the sprint process to design a solution. We chose a problem question that all of the students could relate to: how can we make standardized testing better?

With that question, students zeroed in what they saw as the biggest problem with SAT preparation: anxiety. With such a large test, and with the stakes so high, students said it was easy to become overwhelmed with anxiety, and that had negative impacts on their performance. 

To solve that problem, three student teams created concept products that would help reduce SAT anxiety, and then presented their solutions to a panel of Aspire experts. 

Although they all addressed the same core problem, they all came up with very different solutions. The first team developed a web portal solution with a strong focus on online forums in partnership with college boards to monitor and reinforce how much students practice for the test. The second team developed a mobile app solution that broke up pretests into micro tests that were easier to manage. And the third team came up with a hardware solution called the SATablet, a school-owned tablet strictly for SAT preparation practice tests.  

While students got a first-hand experience of how high-tech companies operate, Aspire also gained valuable insights into ways we can change the sprint process. At Aspire we’re always on the lookout for ways to improve our methods, and this exercise gave us a chance to see what works and what doesn’t work when you condense a sprint into a four-hour period.  

Brainstorming together with students turned out to be an excellent way of not only donating our time, but also an interesting way to refine our own business.

Machine Learning Outperforming Humans in Cancer Surveillance

For machine learning experts, it’s an exciting time to be in the field. As the technology matures and becomes more affordable and more accessible, its number of uses and possible applications are growing exponentially.

At Aspire Ventures, we’ve been anticipating this moment, as we’ve been developing and deploying our own machine learning tools to solve problems in healthcare, finance, and other impact industries. 

Previously in healthcare, the potential uses for machine learning have been inadequately explored. But now we’re finally beginning to see studies that validate what we’ve been saying all along: machine learning has the power to make healthcare more efficient, improve diagnostics and outcomes, and transform the way we deliver care.

In a study from Indiana University that was released today, researchers concluded that machine learning could outperform humans in cancer surveillance. The study found that existing algorithms and open-sourced machine learning tools were as good as, or better than, humans for reviewing and detecting cancer cases using data from free-text pathology reports. Using a computing approach to detect cancer cases was also found to be faster and less resource intensive.

That’s just one way that computers can help healthcare professionals save time and money, researchers say. In a healthcare system that is “awash in data”, nearly every part of the care continuum could benefit from machine learning and artificial intelligence.

The power of machine learning to disrupt just about every industry is reaching a critical moment. In an insightful article by Sanjit Dang in readwrite, Dang explores how it is “making the transition from specialized, expensive-to-develop code to a general-purpose technology.”

Dang fully anticipates that machine learning will become the next great commodity. As the use of cloud computing, mobile phones, and IoT devices explodes, machine learning tools will become indispensable for making use of the resulting deluge of data. 

“Until now, the hot topic of conversation has been how to analyze information and take action based on the results,” Dang says. “But the volume of data has become so great, and its trajectory so steep, that we need to automate many of those actions. Now.” 

Indeed, the growing use of machine learning to handle more and more complex tasks is inevitable. It’s an exciting time for the field, and we’re proud to be part of the next big movement in computing.

Daibetter* Helps Kids Guess Patric’s Blood Sugar

With the mission of Daibetter* being all about the creation of “personalized” treatments for diabetes, we’re very much looking forward to joining the Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania (CHOP) April 30th for their Living Well With Diabetes event.

Attended by hundreds of T1’s and their families, I had the pleasure of keynoting this event in 2012 and sharing some stories about competing in marathons and ultras with type 1 diabetes.

I’ll be joined this time around by Patric Ciervo, a Philadelphia T1 comedian, and a great friend of mine. Last year, Patric produced a hilarious improv show and web video called, Guess Patric’s Blood Sugar. In the video, Patric and his very non-diabetic friend spend a full day traveling the city while trying (and mostly failing) to understand the complexity of blood sugar management. Along the way, viewers see Patric’s ability to deal with all things – including diabetes – with humor and humility.

This year, Patric and I are hosting Guess Patric’s Blood Sugar: THE GAMESHOW! We’ll be quizzing the kids in the audience about carb counts, famous diabetics and more, with some kids no doubt being put on the spot to GUESS PATRIC’S BLOOD SUGAR! It should be a lot of fun, especially if rumors hold true that we may be joined on the stage by 2014 Miss Idaho (T1 and this year’s keynote speaker) Sierra Sandison.

*Daibetter, formerly Tempo Health, LLC

The IoT Tsunami

Market forecasters don’t always get it right, but when they’re predicting a tsunami to the tune of $1.9 trillion in size, it’s probably time to start listening.

That’s the case for the Internet of Things industry, which research analysts are predicting to grow by vast amounts over the next five years. Gartner Research predicts it to be worth $1.9 trillion by 2020, while McKinsey & Company anticipates it could have a $6.2 trillion economic impact by 2025, according to a recent article in Forbes by George Deeb.

With a growing array of devices that enable network connectivity and data collection, both businesses and consumers will see widespread benefits that were previously unimaginable. Already those benefits are becoming apparent. Smart lighting and window shading that adjust according to the weather and time of day are making office buildings more energy efficient; IoT in homes allow remote heating and lighting control or security surveillance with a smart phone; and smart shirts like the Polo Tech Shirt stream athletic performance biometrics like heart rate and energy output to the cloud.

But that’s just the beginning, as record-level investment brings the technology to maturity, a whole new ecosystem of sensors, devices, integration platforms, data analytics, and data management will emerge that will disrupt industries from retail to manufacturing to energy to healthcare.

Healthcare is one industry that will see some of the biggest IoT investments, analysts say. According to a new report from Allied Market Research, the IoT healthcare market is expected to reach $136.8 billion by 2021.

Already VC firms and some very big players are dumping huge investment dollars into the IoT market–companies like Apple, Google, Verizon, GE, Cisco, and the list goes on and on. In the first quarter of 2016 alone, the IoT industry saw $846 million in financing.

According to Gartner Research, through 2020, 75 percent of midsize to large organizations will employ at least three IoT solutions. And as IoT usage grows, Gartner predicts it will reduce operational technology costs by 35 percent in the same amount of time.

At Aspire Ventures, our portfolio companies all rely on three pillar technologies: cloud computing, machine learning, and you guessed it, the Internet of Things. We’ve been anticipating the boom in IoT to revolutionize impact industries such as healthcare, and we’ve been working on platforms that will integrate those technologies to transform operations, the customer experience, and the way we live our day-to-day lives.

While it’s easy to overestimate the future impact of young technologies, it’s clear that the IoT industry is gaining unprecedented momentum, and that rising tide is looking more and more like the wave of the future.

Fitness Trackers in the Emergency Room

Your wearable fitness tracker isn’t just a novelty to help you set fitness goals, it’s an early iteration of an affordable technology that may someday save your life.

In fact, doctors are already finding potential life-saving uses for fitness trackers in the emergency room. In the first case of it’s kind, doctors used Fitbit data to choose the best treatment for a 42-year-old New Jersey man who had a seizure at work, according to a recent story in Slate.

When the patient arrived at the ER with emergency medical staff, he was suffering from continuing rapid, irregular heartbeat following his seizure. To determine whether the patient was eligible for electrocardioversion treatment to reset his heart rhythm, doctors accessed the patient’s Fitbit data via his cellphone to find out if his arrhythmia began within the last 48 hours, a requirement for ED treatment.

The case is just one example of how consumer health devices can be utilized to improve treatment and get better health outcomes. As the technology improves and health trackers become more accurate, their usefulness in healthcare will inevitably increase. And with the right practices and enabling technology platforms, consumer devices and the Internet of Things will become an important piece of the puzzle for transforming healthcare, powering a host of much needed changes—from improving accuracy in diagnoses to boosting quality of care to powering cost-effective remote monitoring. 

In fact, it’s already happening. According to a recent post in Mobile Health News, there are 21 clinical trials currently underway that are using Fitbit devices. You can read the list here.  

These cases are just the prelude to a much bigger wave of consumer technology integration in healthcare that is sure to come, and it will probably arrive much sooner than we think.

The Growing Mobile Security Dilemma

The recent battle between Apple and the FBI over access to an iPhone that belonged to one of the San Bernardino shooters has sparked a national debate. Suddenly data privacy, the reach of law enforcement, and mobile security have become major topics for media outlets, and rightly so.

In the wake of those discussions, Facebook’s WhatsApp just announced that they added end-to-end encryption for every form of communication on their service with more than one billion users. That may be just the beginning of a new wave of much-needed mobile security measures, as the topic gains more and more attention.

Currently, the state of mobile security is not a pretty picture. According to most research on the topic, 60-80 percent of mobile apps fail basic security tests. Meanwhile market demand for mobile app development services is set to outpace IT capacity by five to one before the end of 2017. That means that developers are extremely time-pressed to get their mobile products out quickly, and when it comes down to crunch time, security is usually the first thing to fall by the wayside. 

Things look especially grim for mobile security in the U.S. Healthcare industry, according to a recent disturbing article in iTWire. The shift to mobile technology is opening up healthcare to an alarming amount of risk. The US Department of Health and Human Services reports that more than 260 major healthcare breaches occurred in 2015. 

Fortunately, there is a comprehensive solution that has been getting some attention of its own. Aspire venture Appmobi was recently featured in Applause’s ARC, a publication dedicated to expert analysis and research on the app economy, for their innovative mobile security solution.

In that article, writer Dan Rowinski lays out just how Appmobi is solving the mobile security dilemma with a mobile-security-as-a-service that makes adding end-to-end data and device encryption far easier for developers.

Read more of their story here to find out how Appmobi is addressing the important issue of mobile security and saving developers months of work.

Big Moves

When Google’s Artificial Intelligence program AlphaGo soundly defeated the Go world champion Lee Sedol four out of five games last month in Seoul, the world watched with wonder, astonished that the technology had grown up so quickly.

For the Google DeepMind team, it was a major achievement. For the field of AI as a whole, it was a lightning bolt of excitement and inspiration. 

The ancient Chinese board game, although simple to learn, is notoriously complex with a seemingly endless number of possible moves and strategies, Christopher Moyer explains in a vivid account of the matches recently published in the Atlantic.

In fact, the precise 131-digit number of possible moves was only determined earlier this year, and it’s greater than the number of atoms in the universe. For that reason, Moyer writes, many experts have viewed Go as “the Holy Grail” of artificial intelligence, and until AlphaGo’s recent victory, it was believed we were at least a decade away from an AI that could beat a professional player. 

Go was invented about 2500 years ago, so humans have had plenty of time to master the game. Now that we’ve been unseated by a computer, it’s impossible not to imagine what else AI can achieve. 

“The important thing to take away from this series is not that DeepMind’s AI can learn to conquer Go, but that by extension it can learn to conquer anything easier than Go—which amounts to a lot of things,” Moyer writes. “The ways in which we might apply these revolutionary advances in machine learning—in machines’ ability to mimic human creativity and intuition—are virtually endless.”

With the recent achievement of AlphaGo, Todd Hixon writes in Forbes, AI has won “a seat at the main economic banquet table.” 
Entrepreneurs will face a big change in their businesses as software gains the ability to take on an increasing range of tasks that have previously been handled by humans, Hixon writes. Ideally, he says, it will help businesses expand and allow people to work at the top of their skill set. For many like Hixon, the opportunities seem to be endless.

Recently AI has captured plenty of headlines to arouse the public imagination, from Google’s self-driving cars, to IBM’s Watson, to Microsoft’s less successful racist twitterbot Tay.
Those headlines, and the public excitement that comes with them, follow a considerable escalation in financial investment. Just last year, Tech giants Facebook, Microsoft, Google, and Baidu alone spent $8.5 billion on deals to expand AI capabilities, according to a report from The Economist. That number doesn’t even take into account money spent on research and hiring.

And as AI grows out of its adolescence and into maturity, investment in the field will only continue to explode. Already, a team from China plans to challenge AlphaGo with their own Go-playing AI by the end of 2016.

Despite the rapid advances, AI is still in the early stages of business deployment, according to Brian Deagon from Investor’s Business Daily. Business owners are beginning to show serious interest in AI, Deagon reports, and they’re starting to thoroughly weigh the return on investment 

While scientists continue to advance AI technology, and business owners consider ways to deploy it, some of the programs we’ve created are continuing to improve themselves. Even now, AlphaGo continues to practice Go, playing itself over and over, working out new moves, refining its strategies, pushing itself beyond what we thought was possible

Closing The Satisfaction Gap

Things are changing for the U.S. healthcare industry. The role of the patient is shifting to that of consumer, with more power to make healthcare choices than ever before. That means that providers need to spend more energy improving the patient experience to satisfy consumers’ expectations, capture efficiencies, and ultimately ensure their own survival. 

But just how satisfied are patients with the healthcare system as a whole? According to a new study, not satisfied at all, with only 19 percent of respondents reporting a satisfying patient experience. Meanwhile providers are grossly overestimating how well they’re meeting patient expectations. Welcome to the patient satisfaction gap, where provider and patient perceptions of the healthcare experience are considerably out of balance.

For the past three years, Aspire venture MedStatix has been leading the way to help providers close that gap and improve the patient experience. Read how here.

Introducing Soft CGM

WATCH: Inside Aspire Ventures we take a first look at Soft CGM, a new mobile app for diabetes management designed by Daibetter, formerly Tempo Health, LLC, that lets you monitor glucose levels without a continuous glucose monitor. Aspire’s CMO Marcus Grimm walks us through some of the key features of the alpha version of the application.

Daibetter, formerly Tempo Health, LLC, Opens Door to Diabetes Community

Developing innovative solutions for diabetes management takes intimate knowledge of patients’ needs and the challenges they struggle with every day.

Earlier this month the Daibetter* team made early steps to engage the type one diabetes community at the Junior Diabetes Research Foundation’s Type One Nation Summit at SpookyNook Sports complex in Lancaster County. At the event Aspire’s Chief Marketing Officer Marcus Grimm, a type one diabetes patient of more than 30 years, helped to moderate discussions while the Daibetter* team shared information about ways they’re using machine learning to create a software-driven approach to monitoring glucose levels.

Attendees at the JDRF event were the first to have the opportunity to sign up with Daibetter* to become “diaBETA testers”, which gives them early access to Daibetter* applications, like Soft CGM, for beta testing. The quickly growing list of beta testers will play a vital role to Daibetter* as they refine their diabetes management solutions to meet the needs of users.

Visit to help Daibetter* change the way the world deals with diabetes. 

*Daibetter, formerly Tempo Health, LLC

Gadget Fatigue and Consumer Needs

The computer, former Apple CEO Steve Jobs once said, is like a bicycle for the mind.

It’s an apt analogy, but as the number of computing devices explodes, consumers are beginning to wonder, just how many bicycles do we need?

With the endless stream of innovations and iterations in hardware, consumers are beginning to get gadget fatigue, according to a recent article by Mark Inskip in Venture Beat.

The reason, Inskip says, is because we’ve reached a technological traffic jam, with too many gadgets and too little integration between them. 

The next big disruptor to move technology forward won’t be some exciting new piece of hardware, it will be a comprehensive integration of the tech we already have, Inskip writes, one that puts consumers’ needs first and enables more data sharing between devices.

To achieve that, companies will need to create better feedback loops with consumers. And as Artificial Intelligence gets better and better at understanding consumer behavior, it will play a much bigger role in guiding more meaningful innovations.

Steve Jobs is also famous for saying that a lot of times people don’t know what they want until you show it to them. And while that’s proven to be true for a good many Apple products and other devices, it might be time to start listening to what people need.

Consumer Medical Technology is Getting Serious

Consumer medical devices are starting to get serious. If you’ve had any doubts as to whether consumer technology would make significant inroads into the medical device market, look no further than the new FDA-approved Kardia Band—a medical-grade EKG band for Apple Watch developed by medtech startup AliveCor.

The line between medical-grade technology and consumer-grade technology is growing increasingly blurry. And those lines are blurring a lot faster than many anticipated.

In a cloistered and siloed healthcare industry that is sometimes slow to innovate, the potential for consumer companies to transform the market from the outside is an exciting possibility. And as regulatory arms like the FDA accept more and more consumer technologies as legitimate medical devices, the possibility is starting to look more and more like an inevitability.

Refining The Sprint

Developing a product takes a lot of time, resources, and understanding about what consumers need and want. Instead of going through the product development process from start to finish before understanding the market, at Aspire we use an iterative product development process to make incremental, but tested, progress. The iterative process includes a series of “sprints”; where we rapidly create a prototype to test our ideas with consumers throughout the development process.

In January we held our first Design Sprint, a process developed by Google Ventures to quickly dive into critical business questions, design a product, build a prototype, and test it with consumers within a five-day period. The method for rapid prototyping was an effective way to get consumer feedback as soon as possible, so our development teams don’t waste valuable time creating a product with no market fit.

In the same way that we refine products through iterations, we’re taking the same approach with the design process itself—adjusting the way we conduct sprints to achieve better outcomes.

We sat down with Aspire’s Chief Operating Officer Alison Lowery to discuss the sprint process, and what we’re doing at Aspire to make it uniquely our own.

What is the purpose of a design sprint?

A design sprint strives to test ideas and to create something people will want as quickly as possible. We wanted a chance to experiment with a process that combined the use of cross-functional teams with a fast, repeatable process that would fit in with Aspire’s strategy.

From your perspective, how successful was Aspire’s first Design Sprint?

It was a fun and focused effort that I believe was quite successful. Working with a cross-functional team during the sprint made it a great opportunity for team building. We also learned that we can create potential solutions to problems within a very short period of time.

The results were much better than a traditional waterfall development approach, which is a sequential process that makes revisions and course corrections more difficult with little opportunity to get consumer insights early in the process. Aspire follows a more agile approach, where you do as much as you can to learn, then take that learning, fold it back in and repeat until you get to something that works.

What, do you believe, are some areas for improvement in Aspire’s next sprint?

During the last sprint we listed several areas for improvement. For example, we found it would be good to distribute the market research packet prior to the sprint to allow everyone time to read and come into the sprint with their questions. Other areas for improvement include sticking to the agreed sprint norms, focusing on the user journey development and ensuring the prototype development focuses on the questions that will be tested on Day 5 of the sprint.

Moving forward, how will Aspire continue using the sprint process, and what will we do differently?

The sprint process will become an important part of Aspire’s overall product development process. We will be using the design sprint process to do early testing of our concepts before investing in the prototyping effort.

We will keep the core techniques of sprints in place, but we plan to learn from each sprint effort. Aspire’s concepting sprints will continue to evolve over time as we refine the process. We will introduce some of those changes next week, when we begin a new concepting sprint for an internal product, the Aspire Dashboard.

Looking for DiaBETA Testers at the Type One Nation Summit

As Aspire’s Daibetter* gets closer and closer to a working beta version of a Soft CGM app that will allow diabetes patients to continuously monitor glucose without CGM hardware, we’re reaching out to the diabetes community to gain insights and to find beta testers for our technology.

This weekend, we’ll be attending the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s Type One Nation Summit at the SpookyNook Sports complex in Lancaster County.

The JDRF has been a leader in funding research to find a future cure to type 1 diabetes, and we’re pleased that they’ve also begun to expand their focus to address how patients can manage type 1 diabetes today.

The event will host a variety of activities and educational talks for kids, teenagers, and adults to help them better manage life with type 1 diabetes.

Gary Scheiner, an award winning Certified Diabetes Educator, physiologist, type 1 diabetes patient, and author of several books on diabetes, will be the featured speaker at the event. Scheiner is also the owner of Integrated Diabetes Services, a diabetes consulting service in Wynnewood, PA on the cutting edge of diabetes management.    

We’re proud to sponsor the event, and we’re excited to share with type 1 diabetes patients the technologies we’ve been working on. Getting insights from a wide variety of people who manage diabetes every day is a vital part of our process as we come up with better management solutions.

In January, we developed and tested a conceptual prototype of the Soft CGM app with a focus group of patients during our first design sprint. Since then, the Daibetter* team moved forward to develop a working model to test with internal users. Now we’re testing the application within Aspire, refining our predictive models, and working out the bugs and design quirks to get ready for outside testing.

*Daibetter, formerly Tempo Health, LLC

HIMSS 2016 and What it Means for Healthcare IT

There are a lot of interesting things happening in Healthcare IT today. And the best place to find out whats happening in this rapidly growing space is at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society conference. Aspire Venture MedStatix recently returned from the conference with new insights on where Healthcare IT is heading, and what it means for MedStatix. We sat down with MedStatix CEO Kim Ireland to talk about HIMSS 2016.

Thinning out the Herd

Things are changing for Venture Capital. The recent slowdown in the VC market is fueling some gloomy predictions for the future of startup funding. In fact, the number of U.S. Venture Capital firms have been shrinking for the past ten years. It appears that the traditional VC model is failing to deliver, but the down market may be the perfect opportunity to thin out the herd so that the true entrepreneurs and innovators can thrive. 

“The great entrepreneurs and operators love the down market,” says Michael Eisenberg in a recent TechCrunch article. “So this is THE best time to invest if you can stomach it.”

Eisenberg argues that the VC frenzy created a lot of “tourists” or “wantrapreneurs” who aren’t quite iron-willed enough to stick around for the downturn. That includes entrepreneurs who back out of their endeavors to take more secure jobs once the money gets tight, as well as investor tourists who made emotional investments without fully understanding the VC market.

Tourists, Eisenberg says, end up inflating the market, and as they leave in the face of a downturn a new ecosystem will emerge; one that doesn’t support mediocre companies and one that favors deep strategic thinkers.

The coming market correction, we believe, will also make room for new venture models to gain more traction.

Already, new models have emerged to address the high risk associated with traditional VC’s. By extending support to startups beyond financial backing—including physical infrastructure, methodology, and shared staff support—new venture models create a stronger foundation for startups to grow more efficiently.

At Aspire, we take a similar approach. Our ventures benefit from a core team of researchers, developers, scientists, and marketers so that our entrepreneurs can focus on building the best product possible. Our ventures are also subject to a process of rigorous tests that demonstrate market fit and development milestones, ensuring that the fundamentals are in place for continued success. Our ventures also gain from physical infrastructure at our venture lab.

But we take things a step further with an approach uniquely our own that helps bring some much-needed stability to the VC model (See Graph). All of our ventures draw from a community pool of proprietary technology tools, including our A2i machine learning platform. Those tools act as building blocks for a repeatable process to building new products and companies, so our ventures don’t have to lose valuable time building everything from the ground up. That means our ventures have a shorter time to market, and that means less risk of time and money wasted.

In the changing VC landscape, Aspire Ventures presents an attractive alternative for professionals who might otherwise feel themselves trapped between the two extremes of slow-moving corporate environments and unstructured, high-risk startups. And if the recent tremors in the market are any indicator, that’s exactly what investors are looking for too.

Join the Team

Here at Aspire we’re always on the lookout for top talent to join our quickly growing company. With a growing number of exciting projects in the works, our creative team has immediate openings as they expand to design more cutting edge brand campaigns, innovative websites for early-stage companies, and other creative content to help our ventures reach consumers and investors. If you’re a design wiz or gifted web developer, read on.

Serious inquiries may email or speak with our HR Administrator Renee Rahe at 717-925-8453.


Front-End Web Developer/Graphic Designer

Aspire Ventures, an Aspire Universal company, is a growing venture capital firm headquartered in Lancaster, PA, that incubates tech startups and develops cutting edge technologies with a global reach. The Aspire creative team is looking for an experienced Front-End Web Developer/Graphic Designer to design and produce front-end web content for Aspire’s various startups and projects. Work and grow with an energetic, diverse team of graphic designers, motion graphic artists, marketing strategists, and copywriters in a fast-paced environment that never gets routine or boring. The Developer/Designer will assist the creative team to develop an impactful web presence as well as a creative vision for early stage companies and products.

At the Aspire Venture lab, team members work in a collaborative, stimulating atmosphere where they can thrive to meet their fullest potential. Aspire offers competitive salaries and generous benefits packages that include health and retirement benefits, a very flexible vacation policy, and incentives that give employees a vested interest in each venture’s success.

Key Responsibilities

  • Work closely with Aspire’s Creative Team Manager, Lead Production Artist, Marketing Director, EIR’s, and Aspire Developers to understand project goals, scope, constraints, and motive
  • Develop, test, and launch front end web content requested by the Creative Team Manager, Marketing Director, and Aspire Ventures to fulfill project objectives
  • Craft attractive front end experiences utilizing advanced design principles, artistic skills, and personal inspiration
  • Availability for On-Call operation 24 hours after major Web/Application launch to correct critical errors
  • Ability to learn and apply new Development platforms, programming languages, paradigms to achieve project goals
  • Ensure the quality and accuracy of Aspire Creative Department produced assets
  • Participate in the design, art direction, and iterative refinement of Creative Team projects
  • Influence the continuous improvement of Aspire Creative Team’s web development and artistic process with personal creative input and perspective


  • Bachelor Degree (or equivalent expertise) in Front-End Web Development, Web Design
  • 2+ years of team based web production experience
  • Expert-level HTML
  • Expert-level CSS
  • Advanced-level Javascript
  • Advanced-level PHP
  • Experience with DOM manipulation & formulation
  • Experience with JQuery and Bootstrap
  • Ability to independently engineer solutions for front-end experiences
  • Advanced-level Experience in Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop (CC Preferred)
  • Excellent understanding of modern design standards and practices
  • Ability to wireframe, mockup, and design professional level page and site layouts
  • Excellent communications and organizational skills

Nice To Have

  • Experience with Angular.js
  • Experience with JSON, SQL, & general data storage practices
  • Experience with Apache server stack

Lead Production Artist

Aspire Ventures, an Aspire Universal company, is a growing venture capital firm headquartered in Lancaster, PA, that incubates tech startups and develops cutting edge technologies with a global reach. The Aspire creative team is looking for an experienced Lead Production Artist to assume team design and brand leadership while producing a wide variety of art production assets for Aspire’s various startups and projects. Work and grow with an energetic, diverse team of graphic designers, motion graphic artists, marketing strategists, and copywriters in a fast-paced environment that never gets routine or boring. The Lead Production Artist will direct team design choices in establishing future Aspire brands and developing brand image for early stage companies and products as they move to maturity.

At the Aspire Venture lab, team members work in a collaborative, stimulating atmosphere where they can thrive to meet their fullest potential. Aspire offers competitive salaries and generous benefits packages that include health and retirement benefits, a very flexible vacation policy, and incentives that give employees a vested interest in each venture’s success.

Key Responsibilities

  • Work closely with Aspire’s Creative Team Manager, Marketing Director, and EIR’s to understand project goals, scope, constraints, and motive.
  • Develop future brand designs and establish brand guidelines for Creative Team deployment
  • Assist in Creative Team project coordination and development
  • Assist in the process of hiring capable Creative Team employees to fulfill key production roles.
  • Ability to learn and apply new design software in order to achieve project goals.
  • Guide design, technique, and branding choices of Creative Team Production Artists
  • Produce media assets requested by Aspire Marketing and its Ventures to fulfil project objectives
  • Ensure quality and accuracy of Aspire Creative produced assets
  • Influence continuous improvement of Aspire Creative’s design approach by identifying techniques and reference for artistic growth


  • Bachelor’s Degree (or equivalent expertise) in Design, Media, and Branding
  • 4+ years of team based production experience
  • Extensive experience in Adobe CC design suite products
  • Extensive experience in Brand development process
  • Experience in designing for Web
  • Comfortable with uncertainty and rapidly changing priorities
  • Excellent communications and organizational skills
  • Ability to work effectively as a member of a x-functional team
  • Ability to multi-task with a high attention to detail in a fast paced environment
  • Experience in clarifying objectives, dealing with ambiguity/under-defined problems, and influencing teams
  • Collaborative work style and the ability to work comfortably in small teams

Production Artist (Design, Flat Media)

Aspire Ventures, an Aspire Universal company, is a growing venture capital firm headquartered in Lancaster, PA, that incubates tech startups and develops cutting edge technologies with a global reach. The Aspire creative team is looking for an experienced Production Artist to produce a wide variety of art production assets for Aspire’s various startups and projects. Work and grow with an energetic, diverse team of graphic designers, motion graphic artists, marketing strategists, and copywriters in a fast-paced environment that never gets routine or boring. The Production Artist will assist the creative team in shaping brand image by producing visual assets for early stage companies and products.

At the Aspire Venture lab, team members work in a collaborative, stimulating atmosphere where they can thrive to meet their fullest potential. Aspire offers competitive salaries and generous benefits packages that include health and retirement benefits, a very flexible vacation policy, and incentives that give employees a vested interest in each venture’s success.

Key Responsibilities

  • Work closely with Aspire’s Creative Team Manager, Lead Production Artist, Marketing Director, and EIR’s to understand project goals, scope, constraints, and motive.
  • Produce media assets requested by the Creative Team Manager, Marketing Director, and Aspire Ventures to fulfill project objectives
  • Ability to learn and apply new design software in order to achieve project goals.
  • Ensure the quality and accuracy of Aspire Creative Department produced assets
  • Participate in the design, art direction, and iterative refinement of Creative Team projects
  • Influence the continuous improvement of Aspire Creative Team’s art production with personal creative input and perspective


  • Associate’s Degree (or equivalent expertise) in Design, Media, and Branding
  • 2+ years of team based production experience
  • Extensive experience in Adobe CC design suite products
  • Expert level Adobe Illustrator CC
  • Expert level Adobe Photoshop CC
  • Experience in designing for Web
  • Comfortable with uncertainty and rapidly changing priorities
  • Excellent communications and organizational skills
  • Ability to work effectively as a member of a x-functional team
  • Ability to multi-task with a high attention to detail in a fast paced environment
  • Experience in maintaining objectives across quickly evolving projects.
  • Collaborative work style and the ability to work comfortably in small teams

Serious inquiries may email or speak with our HR Administrator Renee Rahe at 717-925-8453.


Using technology in schools to enrich educational experience is nothing new. Schools across the country have raced to adopt current technology resources that will prepare students for the future. But tech gurus building a school focused on technology-aided personalized learning in order to disrupt the entire educational system? Well, maybe that is something new.

This week the New Yorker published an excellent piece by Rebecca Mead that takes an in-depth look at Silicon Valley’s recent entrée into education. Mead presents an interesting portrait of a private school where students embark on self-guided studies based on their interests and level, aided by tablets and sophisticated lesson management software. Meanwhile administrative tasks are automated to let teachers focus on what they do best: teaching. Teachers and parents also have their own software tools to monitor and assess students’ progress in real time. Welcome to the AltSchool, a new type of school founded by Max Ventilla, former Head of Personalization at Google.

Learning on a unique path tailored to each students’ individual needs seems to run in stark contrast to the nation’s recent moves towards more standardization with Common Core. Traditionally it has been next to impossible for a teacher in a classroom of 25 students to cater lessons to each individual student. However, thanks to sophisticated software and mobile technology that is beginning to change. And not just in private schools founded by tech entrepreneurs, some public schools have also taken a more personalized approached recently with hybrid learning, or “blended learning” models that mix lectures, group studies, and self-guided study with special curriculum software.

At Aspire we’re excited about the potential of machine learning and adaptive software to transform education. Through our recent partnership with Yellow Brick Capital, we’ve become friends with education software experts Smart Sparrow. They’re also focused on creating personalized learning experiences through adaptive courseware, learner analytics, and engaging individualized curriculum.

In education the human component will always remain the most vital part of any child’s learning, but with the right technological tools, we can make it much better.

Future Computer

In the computing world, change is a constant. Moore’s law—the idea that processing speeds double about every two years—is for the most part holding up, and continual growth in computing power is leading to a new era that is just over the horizon.

In an insightful arti cle on Medium, tech entrepreneur and investor Chris Dixon offers a comprehensive analysis of computing trends to map out where things are headed next.

According to Dixon, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, along with wearable technology and the Internet of Things are among some of the most important technologies that will usher in a new era of Computing.

That belief is at the heart of Aspire’s model, as we focus solely on ventures that leverage three pillar technologies: mobile and the Internet of Things, Cloud Computing, and Machine Learning. Although those technologies will play a big role in the era to come, all three are already proving their power to affect significant change today.

Computing, Dixon says, has seen several major eras, and right now we’re in the heart of the Mobile Era. The explosion of mobile devices has led to massive investments in processors and sensors, which in turn has led to computers that are continually getting smaller and cheaper. That has big implications for the Internet of Things, because soon “it will be cost-effective to embed a computer in almost anything,” Dixon says.

In Software, Dixon writes, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning may finally be entering a golden age. Due to several advancements, it’s now possible for small engineering teams to build state-of-the-art AI systems, which will lead to major upgrades in all sorts of products and startups focused on AI, Dixon writes.

While technologies for the era to come already exist today, many haven’t matured enough to make a major impact yet. Technologies like virtual reality and smart devices are still in their ‘awkward adolescence’, Dixon writes, no different from PCs in the 70s, internet in the 80s, and smartphones in the early 2000s.

“But the future is coming,” Dixon writes. “Markets go up and down, and excitement ebbs and flows, but computing technology marches steadily forward.”

Home-Brewed Insulin and DIY Bionic Pancreases

For patients suffering from diabetes, managing the disease is a complicated undertaking. Keeping an ever watchful eye on blood glucose levels, carefully considering how every meal or physical activity will impact blood sugar, and knowing how much insulin to take, and when to take it, can be an overwhelming burden. Although insulin treatments and technologies like Continuous Glucose Monitoring systems are available to ease that burden, diabetes treatment has failed to innovate quickly enough to take full advantage of technologies that could transform care. The result is a broken system that fails to meet many patients’ needs for affordable insulin or for more sophisticated approaches to diabetes management.

Now, some technologically savvy patients are taking matters into their own hands. In a fascinating piece published in the New York Times this week, writer Peter Andrey Smith paints a picture of a DIY revolution in diabetes care, as diabetes patients overcome hurdles to getting the treatment they need with their own homespun solutions.  

Smith looks at how user-driven innovation is changing the market in diabetes care from the bottom up, and how it might encourage healthcare technologies, drug manufactures, and regulators to quickly catch up. Parents of children with Type 1 diabetes are using homemade computer programs to remotely monitor their children’s glucose levels; some creative patients are hacking their way towards a bionic pancreas; while patient-led groups of biotech hackers are developing generic forms of insulin by reverse engineering expired insulin patents as part of the Open Insulin Project in an effort to bring down the astronomical insulin prices in the U.S.

On that topic, A recent New York Times opinion piece points out that insulin prices in the U.S. are six times higher than in most of Europe. With only 3 manufacturers dominating the insulin market, and no competition from generic manufacturers, prices have risen at alarming rates in the past five years. For example, the price of Humulin R U-500 has skyrocketed by 325 percent between 2010 and 2015.

Those rising costs coupled with the rapidly growing diabetes population creates a market scenario in serious need of transformation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 29 million adults are living with diabetes in the U.S. That number is expected to more than double, along with costs related to diabetes treatment, over the next 25 years, according to a report by the American Diabetes Association.

While there are plenty of companies working to address these issues with new technologies and new treatments, too often diabetes patients are presented with one-size-fits-all solutions. The DIY revolution in diabetes care is a clear indication that the industry’s current approach isn’t sufficiently personalized or patient-centered.

Diabetes management and treatment can vary greatly from person to person, and it’s clear some patients are being left behind. Here at Aspire, our Daibetter, formerly Tempo Health, LLC, team is focused on personalization as we develop technologies that can adapt to each individual. Not only does our Soft CGM system have the potential to dramatically broaden access to continuous glucose monitoring with a more affordable, less intrusive solution; the adaptive algorithms our Soft CGM uses will tailor the algorithm to each individual to deliver more accurate, personalized glucose predictions.

Moreover, if the efforts of the Open Insulin project or other patient-led innovations truly lead to more options in the marketplace, and generic drug manufacturers step up to mass produce cheaper insulin treatments, the result will be more variation in insulin treatment plans, and more variation in the duration of short-acting insulin. That means personalization in diabetes management solutions will be more important than ever.

Change is coming to diabetes care. And more likely than not, the DIY movement to innovate diabetes treatment and management are just the birth pangs of a much bigger transformation to come.

The Power of Patient Feedback

In healthcare, the growing importance of patient engagement is gaining a lot of attention from journalists, healthcare providers, and other analysts in the industry. More and more experts are recognizing that when there’s more communication between the doctor and the patient, and the patient becomes actively engaged in their own healthcare, the results are better health outcomes and lower costs.

According to an article in the healthcare policy journal Health Affairs, studies have shown repeatedly that engaged, “activated” patients are more likely to engage in preventive behavior like having regular check-ups, screenings, and immunizations. They’re also more likely to adhere to treatment and avoid health-damaging behavior. That in effect lowers costs. Patients who score higher on engagement had lower rates of costly care like hospitalizations and emergency department visits, as well as lower costs overall.

The question for many providers is: how do we get patients engaged in their own care? First of all, the immense power of patient feedback shouldn’t be underestimated. At Aspire venture MedStatix, we believe a simple request for feedback can be the crucial first step to helping patients understand their critical role in a health plan, and it can give providers the knowledge they need to improve their relationship with the patient.

While customer service has long been a tenet in most industries, it’s often been an overlooked, if not ignored, facet of the healthcare experience. With the Affordable Care Act and the rise of crowd-sourced information on the Internet, patients have more and more say in their healthcare choices, and that means more consumer power. To keep pace with the rapidly changing healthcare marketplace, providers need to pay more attention to the patient experience, not only for their own financial survival, but also for the welfare of their patients and the health of the industry as a whole. And when building trust and empathy between the doctor and patient, there may be no tool more effective than a genuine request for feedback.

To manage the patient experience, providers need tools that can quickly gain reliable feedback from patients. As the truism goes, you can’t manage what you can’t measure. With the MedStatix platform, doctors get actionable feedback in real-time, with an average response rate of more than 40 percent, that drives insights to power real change in provider communication, practice operations, and the overall customer service in healthcare.  

Not only does the platform allow doctors and patients to see overall patient satisfaction scores, it also delivers useful metrics directly related to how successfully a practice engages their patients. A communication index measures how well doctors are communicating with patients. Patients can also rate how well doctors involved the patient in healthcare decisions, how well doctors listened to the patient, and how well doctors explained illnesses, options, and procedures.

By measuring patients’ perceptions in these areas, providers are sure to find ways to improve their scores with operational changes or simple policy tweaks. For example, one practice who uses the MedStatix platform wanted to improve their communication scores, as well as scores on whether patients felt they had enough time with a doctor. To do so, they simply added the policy for their physicians to always ask the patient whether all of their questions were answered at the end of the visit. In a classic halo-effect scenario, doing so not only addressed the doctor communication index, it also improved patients’ perception that they had enough time with the doctor.   

Improving the patient experience can have big benefits for providers—boosting patient loyalty and recommendabilty. In an age of ultra-savvy consumers, where an honest online review can have far more power than any marketing campaign, positive feedback is a valuable resource. But perhaps most importantly, a positive patient experience is also correlated with better patient engagement, and hence, better health outcomes.

According to the same Health Affairs article, several studies have shown that patients with high engagement scores report more positive care experiences, better exchanges with physicians, and more out-of-office contact with physicians. Although we can’t be sure which direction causality is going in that relationship, the correlation between the two should certainly get providers thinking about the potential benefits of improving patient/doctor relationships. And that should get us all thinking about just how powerful patient feedback can be.

Put it to the Test

No startup is immune to getting carried away with excitement about their ideas, but when it comes to developing those ideas into a real world product, all too often startups forget to ground themselves by testing their assumptions first.

In an interesting article from Y Combinator’s blog The Macro, author Yevgeniy Brikman argues that for startups to be more successful, they must engage in a process of repeated trial and error that makes incremental, but tested, progress towards the end goal: releasing a successful product for market.

Too often, Brikman says, startups spend months, or even years developing a Minimal Viable Product without finding out first whether anyone would actually be interested in the product.

According to a study of 101 failed startups conducted by CB Insights, an NYC data research company, the number one reason startups failed was that there was “no market need”, which accounted for 42 percent of failed companies. The number two reason, at 29 percent, was that the company “ran out of cash”. 

The solution? Put your product in front of real users as quickly as possible, no matter how incomplete, Brikman says. Most likely, you’ll have to go back to the drawing board over and over again, but the trial and error process is the surest way to get to where you want to go, without wasting vast amounts of time developing something that nobody wants.

A Minimal Viable Product, Brikman says, is not actually about the product, it’s about the process.

“An MVP is a process that you repeat over and over again: Identify your riskiest assumption, find the smallest possible experiment to test that assumption, and use the results of the experiment to course correct,” Brikman writes.

At Aspire Ventures, we’re taking a similar approach as we develop software solutions to help diabetes patients manage their disease. With periodic “sprints” followed by real-world feedback, we’re making sure real consumers are keeping us on course.

Last month, we completed a “design sprint” where we developed a concept, designed a product, built a conceptual prototype, and got customer feedback in a 5-day period.

That resulted in plans for a new mobile application, Soft CGM, that uses personalized algorithms to allow diabetes patients to continuously monitor their glucose levels without actually using a continuous glucose monitor. Instead, patients can get accurate glucose predictions based on other, less intrusive inputs like health trackers, finger sticks, and manual data inputs. We already laid the technological groundwork for Soft CGM in the previous year when we applied our machine learning platform A2i to diabetes management. During that period, we found that we could accurately predict glucose levels with non-CGM data, but moving forward with product development relied on a few assumptions that first needed to be put to the test.

The most important assumption is that users will actually be willing to enter the necessary data into a Soft CGM system such as finger stick data, carbohydrate intakes, and health tracker data. And for the app to work correctly, users would also need to input data during a “training period” to allow the system to calibrate to the individual user.

At the end of our first design sprint we received positive feedback from a group of diabetes patients that such a product would be very useful, and that they would indeed go through the training period and input the necessary data if the system provided accurate predictions. While that was indication that we should move forward with the project, we can’t claim it as a total victory, because humans are by and large terrible predictors of their own behavior.

Which brings us to the next step. To thoroughly test our assumption, we’re now in the midst of a two-week development sprint to build a useable prototype. That prototype will be tested internally by Aspire team members who have type 1 diabetes to see if users can actually follow through and enter the data for the benefits of Soft CGM. If internal testing goes as hoped, we’ll begin refining our product for clinical trials.

As we move toward the end goal of a Soft CGM market release, we’re keeping our focus on the process that Brikman so skillfully explains: identify the riskiest assumptions, and find the smallest experiment to test those assumptions. Likewise, we’re keeping focus on the consumers and diabetes patients who will ultimately benefit from that process.

Super Bowl Highlights New Media Trends, and Missed Opportunities for Advertisers

While brands spent vast sums of money kicking off advertising blitzes at the Super Bowl this year with $5 million TV ads and digital campaigns, new trends in media consumption reveal they may have missed some marketing opportunities.

According to this article in Venture Beat, half of those watching sports content do so on a mobile device, PC, gaming console, or smart TV. Indeed, it’s a new era for TV viewership as online video replaces traditional channels. So what does that mean for advertisers?

Although the big budget TV ads can steal the media spotlight, many brands overlooked a digital marketing avenue that has a higher return on investment: email. And with more people on their devices than ever—not only checking their email between plays but also supplementing their viewing experience with other online content—the opportunities to reach consumers with email advertising during big TV events are greater than ever.

Knowing how to reach customers and generate sales with email takes particular savvy. Not only do you need to know who to reach, when to reach them, and how; you also need to have an efficient way of doing so. Personalized approaches that tailor ads to individuals in particular contexts are gaining a lot of traction with a lot of brands, but there’s clearly a lot of room for growth. When it comes to intelligent solutions for hyper-targeted emails, Aspire venture Wylei is on top of their game.

Wylei’s predictive emails give companies an easy way to send individualized, context-specific emails that harness user data to self-assemble when the user opens the email. That can be an extremely useful marketing tool for any brand looking for an easy way to personally reach customers when they’re most likely to engage, like during a super bowl, an Academy Awards ceremony, or political debate.

Leading up to Super Bowl 50 last week, Wylei ran an email campaign for Marriot International that incorporated this touching super bowl-related video:

Within two weeks the video has 1.5 million views and counting.

Using sophisticated tools like the Wylei platform to create smarter email strategies is the easiest way to get the biggest bang for your buck. But don’t take our word for it, read the article here.

Design Sprint Finish Line

Last week we finished a regimented, rapid prototyping process known as a Design Sprint, where we developed a concept, designed a product, built a conceptual prototype, and got customer feedback all within five days. The process culminated last Friday in a webinar when we unveiled what we had been working on all week to a focus group of diabetes patients: a mobile application for monitoring glucose levels without a continuous glucose monitor.

Like any other inventive company, we’re not immune to getting excited about our own ideas, which is why it’s critical to get objective feedback early on in the process. Thanks to the observations from participants in our webinar—people who have intimate knowledge about which tools are useful for managing diabetes—we gained invaluable insights that will help us move forward as we develop a product for market.

That product, SoftCGM, we hope will be an entirely new way for patients to monitor their glucose levels without having to use expensive and invasive CGM hardware.

A common assumption is that once a diabetes patient begins to use a CGM device, they never go back. But actually, according to research, more than half of patients who try CGM systems end up abandoning the technology.

The same held true at our webinar on Friday, where almost half of the participants said they used CGM systems in the past but no longer do so. More than 80 percent of our respondents said they didn’t like the invasive nature of the CGM sensors.

So, we posed this question to our webinar participants: if we could eliminate your number one objection to CGM technology, would you be more likely to pursue Continuous Glucose Monitoring? The answer to that question, was an overwhelming yes.

Our solution, SoftCGM, applies machine learning technology to create a dynamic algorithm that can utilize data from health trackers, mobile devices, finger-stick data, and manual inputs to give a blood glucose score, without the use of sensors. The reading would look similar to that of a traditional CGM monitor, with some additional features to help the user know the accuracy of the reading, and whether or not they need to input more data.

Because a predictive model is only as good as its data, we built in a data confidence level and accuracy scorecard in our prototype that shows the accuracy of glucose readings. Without sensor data, the system requires other regular inputs to remain accurate. If you forget to sync your Fitbit, or you don’t upload finger-stick data, the data confidence level will drop, letting the user know that more data is needed. To improve the app’s confidence, the user simply needs to input more data, maybe by turning on their health tracker, or recording what they ate for dinner. The accuracy scorecard will compare the app’s predicted glucose readings to actual glucose levels revealed by finger stick data.

Design Sprinting Towards New Soft CGM Technology

When it comes to solving a problem, humans aren’t always inclined to sprint directly towards it. But at Aspire Ventures, that’s exactly what we’re doing.

If you’ve been following our blog, you know that the Aspire team has been supporting venture Tempo Health in their endeavor to leverage machine learning technology to help diabetes patients manage their glucose levels with a mobile application. Over the past few months we’ve pooled our collective resources to develop predictive models that can provide more accurate glucose readings and produce more accurate predictions of future glucose levels. Leveraging our machine learning tools, the Aspire science team has developed a software-driven approach to glucose monitoring, dubbed Soft CGM, that reduces the noise of current continuous glucose monitoring devices. It does so by applying unique algorithms per patient according to their unique data to automatically find the best path to accuracy. The result, in short, is a new diabetes management solution that could give continuous glucose monitoring capabilities without CGM hardware.

The challenge: How do we get this technology into the hands of consumers with an easy to use application?

To address that problem, this week we entered a process known as a Design Sprint, where we’ll dive into critical business questions, design a product, build a prototype, and test it with customers—all within five days. This regimented method of rapid design and prototyping, originally developed by Google Ventures, is a tried and true way for start-ups to quickly develop ideas and learn about their potential outcomes.

The process will conclude on Friday with testing, where diabetes patients can test our prototype and provide feedback during a webinar on Friday at 1:30 p.m. The webinar is open to anyone with type 1 diabetes. Our application will be especially targeted for diabetes patients who are on insulin and who don’t use Continuous Glucose Monitors.

To meet the design challenge, we’ve assembled a cross-functional team with members representing research and analytics, marketing, data science, software architecture, software development, and business perspectives.

On day one, the Design Sprint team examined the problem to gain a fuller understanding of the market, the consumer’s needs, and all of the challenges in meeting those needs. 

“The simplest way to describe it is how do we create something that is everything diabetes patients love about CGM but nothing that they don’t,” says Marcus Grimm, Aspire’s Chief Marketing Officer and a diabetes patient of 31 years. 

According to Grimm, consumers like how CGM systems help them understand their blood sugar trends, but they don’t like the cost and the burdensome sensors.

“So the goal here is, can we find a way to tell people what direction their blood sugar is going without exactly measuring their blood sugar?” Grimm says.

There are at least 24 factors that influence blood glucose levels, but many of the bolus calculators on the market today only look at four or five of those factors. The goal of developing a Soft CGM application, Grimm says, is to utilize measurements of a broader set of factors, which can be provided by fitness trackers and other common personal devices. That data can then be plugged into our machine learning algorithms in order to give blood sugar readings without CGM hardware.

On the second day of the Design Sprint process the team brainstormed to come up with a number of different ways to tackle that challenge. Today, the third day, they’re honing in on one solution. The Design Sprint team will then draw up a blueprint in preparation for the fourth day, when they’ll actually develop the prototype. 

Finally, after an intense day of development on Thursday, our team will have a prototype ready for feedback on Friday. That prototype won’t be a fully functional beta version of a product, but a bare-bones version of what we’re hoping will be a significant technological development for diabetes patients will be available for consumer review.

If you want to participate in Friday’s webinar you can register here, or if you’d like to learn more about the Design Sprint process you can read about it here.

The Trendsetters

Here at the Aspire Venture Lab we’re proud to support companies who are truly leading the way in their industries. We always knew Wylei was on the cutting edge with their innovative approach to digital marketing.  It’s only natural that a company specializing in predictive content would be a few steps ahead of the competition.

The industry leaders in E-commerce and digital marketing have noticed, and some of the world’s most recognized brands are partnering with Wylei to stay ahead of the game.  

The result? Jaw-dropping growth in 2015.

Wylei increased their volume of marketing emails month to month at an average of 84 percent. That means they’ve been nearly doubling their output every single month. They also grew their client base by over 150 percent with major brands like Adidas Group, Unilever, and Charter Communications. They also showed monthly revenue growth of 62 percent.

Those are impressive numbers. And judging by what journalists and marketing experts are saying about trends to expect in 2016, it’s probably safe to predict that Wylei is in for another good year to come. Learn more about how Wylei is ahead of digital marketing trends on their blog here.

Solving the Dilemma of Mobile App Security.

Mobile applications are becoming essential for any enterprise, but they are also a major security risk.

Dealing with that risk on your own isn’t easy. It can take months of work to build your own security measures for mobile apps.  

As demand for enterprise mobile apps explodes, vulnerabilities to security threats proliferate. In fact, according to a recent study by Gartner Inc., market demand for mobile app development services will outpace available IT capacity to deliver those services five to one by the end of 2017. On the security side, mobile is one of the fastest growing enterprise vulnerabilities. According to another study by Garner Inc., More than 75 percent of mobile apps will fail basic security tests through 2015.

The rapid growth of mobile breaches, as well as the increasing costs per incident, mean that mobile app security has never been more critical.

But building sophisticated data encryption and user authentication into a mobile app takes a lot of time and investment for developers who are increasingly in high demand.

Fortunately, there is a solution. Learn how to secure Cordova mobile apps to meet the highest level industry standard for security in a matter of minutes in a new webinar with Appmobi CEO Mark Stutzman on Thursday, Dec. 17, at 2:00 p.m. EST.

In this webinar, you’ll learn how to add enterprise-grade security at the code level to hybrid HTML5 Cordova mobile apps without wasting precious time in the development process.

Appmobi’s Secure Mobile Platform works with a developer’s existing development tools to add the best security available. The platform offers three different levels of application security to meet your organization’s needs, all of which can be implemented in minutes.   

Register for Thursday’s webinar here to find out more. All registered participants will get a free development and production license. 

Aspire’s Optimizer

When it comes to machine learning, knowing how to get the most out of our computing power is essential for building efficient systems and useful products for market. Here at Aspire we’re proud to have an abundance of inventive minds and pioneering experts in optimization that know how to do just that.

This week we’d like to give special recognition to Aspire’s Chief Architect, Thomas Rogers, for being awarded a new patent that optimizes how Remote Storage-DVR services store videos in the cloud. The patent comes from Rogers’ earlier work in 2014 with a previous employer, Concurrent Computer Corporation.

The patent would allow RS-DVR providers to drastically reduce storage for video content with a new file system that lets individual files share any common elements. In the case of Remote Storage DVR’s, where any given program requires thousands and thousands of copies for each individual user, Rogers’ new system could save vast amounts of storage.

When Cablevision introduced RS-DVR—a DVR service that stores the content in the cloud rather than on an expensive, bulky home device—a consortium of copyright holders sued Cablevision for unlicensed rebroadcasting. Cablevision eventually won the case, but with a caveat: in order for the RS-DVR service to not be a rebroadcast, there must be individual copies of recorded programs for each subscriber. And that has been the law of the land ever since.

With traditional files systems, a single file has its own unique set of bytes, sectors, and blocks for each file, which means that providers like Cablevision had to store thousands of large files for a single recorded program for each subscriber. Rogers’ invention is a new file system that maintains individual files, but the mapping from those files would share sectors and blocks that are the same, so that the raw contents of the file on disk is stored only once to be shared, not duplicated.

“Thus, the legal requirement of separate files for recording is maintained” Rogers says, “but the storage at the disk level is optimized.”

Rogers’ expertise in optimization and inventiveness in systems architecture has made him an essential leader to our core technology department, as they develop machine learning solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems. Although the insights that machine learning produces can be invaluable, it can also take massive amounts of computing power, and that comes at a cost. At Aspire, Rogers is building on his past success to optimize our processes and predictive models, so we can harness those important machine learning insights with less computing power.

Aspire Model Competition Wrap-up: Here’s What We Learned

Aspire’s data modeling competition, The Battle at the Nostradome, is over. The results are in, the winners announced, and now we have new predictive models to incorporate into Tempo Health’s new mobile app, BGNow, that predicts glucose levels for diabetes patients.

Beyond the useful predictive models that resulted from the contest, the four weeks of competition have also resulted in significant insights about the functionality of Aspire’s machine learning tools.

Many teams in the Aspire community used both PRDXT and A2i software tools for the first time, which not only familiarized them with our sophisticated technology, it also provided invaluable insights into how those tools can be improved.

“Having fresh, objective users allowed us the opportunity to refine the interfaces of both tools to make them more user-friendly and intuitive,” Senior Program Manager Christine Fake says.

Those insights, Fake says, will be leveraged during the development of the BGNow application as well as other applications that Aspire teams develop in the future.

The winners of the competition, Team Spacebar, were first-time users of Aspire’s A2i technology. Brian Rihaly and Luke Brodbeck, both research analysts from our research department, say that A2i made the process of optimization much easier. 

They both took home prizes (an iPad and an iWatch) last week for having the best scoring model during the third week of the competition. Their glucose level predictions showed the least deviation from actual glucose levels. 

One thing is clear from the competition, Rogers says, there are countless ways to attack a complex problem.

“That was made evident by the competitors’ diverse approaches to modeling a blood glucose predictive function,” Rogers says.

Despite the variety of approaches, many of the models throughout the competition achieved accurate predictions, Rogers says, and a few models succeeded in accurately predicting glucose levels 30 minutes into the future and beyond. 

Overall, Rogers says, the results are promising.

“It is expected that a few of the models, including the winner, will be trailed within the application BGNow during a beta test period,” Rogers says. “We’re also anticipating new models to be developed before BGNow goes into product.”

Those models will be added into a library for BGNow.

With a robust library of predictive models to choose from, Fake says, BGNow will automatically choose the best predictive model that’s most appropriate for the user and the situation.

Fake says that teams in the competition produced 7 models that may be incorporated into BGNow’s library.

And the work that was done by all of the teams in the Battle of the Nostradome will pave the way for more efficient development of additional models in the future, Fake adds.

Rogers says that the challenging rules of the competition in combination with A2i’s technical requirements created a common hurdle that all of the teams had to overcome. Overcoming that hurdle has produced new insights into how we can make technical hurdles less burdensome, Rogers says.

And that will lead to more efficient methods for modeling and problem solving in the future. 

Competition Inspires Progress for Aspire Teams Abroad

In the final two weeks of The Battle at the Nostradome—Aspire’s data modeling competition to predict glucose levels for diabetes patients—Aspire community members from abroad paid a visit to our Lancaster headquarters to get a little closer to the action.

A few members of Team Minsk, from our offices in Minsk, Belarus (naturally), have been working on building the best predictive model for glucose levels along with other projects here in our Lancaster Venture Lab for the past two weeks. Their 8-person team has been keeping the leaders on their heels with some impressive models that earned them 2nd and 3rd place over the past few weeks.

Data Scientists Christina Butsko and Darya Vlasova say they’ve been having fun with the contest. The rivalry with other teams, along with the strict weekly deadlines, has really stimulated progress for their team, they say. Team Minsk has shown continued improvement each week, as have many of the other teams.

“We’ve been gaining a lot from the competition,” Butsko says. “We started with a very simple model, but we were able to put some layers into it and combine it with other models.” 

Now they have something viable, Vlasova says, and most importantly it has shown stable performance over the weeks, which is one of the key factors when assessing a model. 

They tried a number of approaches, combining factors like basal and bolus insulin injections, carbohydrate intakes, number of steps, and heart rate.  Soon they honed in on insulin intakes to predict insulin’s level of decay in the human body.

They also tried a new modeling approach, combining a linear model with a nonlinear one.

Vlasova thinks that move helped them to finally arrive at a more sophisticated model, one that could potentially be useful for diabetes patients as they plan their insulin regimen.

Team Minsk should know all about sophisticated models. Their team was partly responsible for the development of Aspire’s A2i, an advanced search optimization tool that intelligently finds the best parameters for predictive models. It’s a tool that many of our teams have been using to test their own ideas in the competition.

Max Reshetilov, Director of Technology at our Minsk office, laid the foundations for A2i when he built a program for optimizing model parameters for Disfa to predict financial markets. Although the platform was built only for one specific sector, Aspire founder Essam Abadir realized that there could be great value in a more generalized version of the tool that could be applied to ventures in any sector. 

“This is how the idea for A2i was born,” Butsko says. “To create a tool that would be able to process any kind of data and to assess any kind of algorithm.”

That has been one of the goals of The Battle at the Nostradome, to test whether A2i can truly be applied in a general way to any kind of problem.

We’re still assessing results of the past few weeks, but so far teams have found that A2i makes model building a lot easier.

“That’s the power of A2i,” Vlasova says. “It can be applied to anything.”

Aspire’s Rafael Alcaraz Named to Prestigious Henry Stewart editorial board

We’d like to congratulate our Chief Science and Analytics Officer Rafael Alcaraz for recently being named to the Henry Stewart’s Applied Marketing Analytics editorial board. As a member of the prestigious editorial board, Dr. Alcaraz will lend his expertise to peer-review published content alongside other big-name professionals and academics for the Applied Marketing Analytics journal—Henry Stewart’s major new professional journal. Henry Stewart Publications is a leading publisher of peer-reviewed vocational journals that combine contributions from senior practitioners and consultants from the world’s most respected corporations with research from leading academics in the field.

We’re proud to have a well-respected authority on analytics like Rafael managing and mentoring our Science and Analytics team here at Aspire, and we’re glad he’s being recognized for his expertise. At Aspire his deep knowledge of big data and machine learning have been key to designing a technical roadmap for Aspire’s machine learning tools. A Ph.D in Econometrics and a former consultant for a vast array of industries ranging from academics and government to banking and retail, and we’re sure Dr. Alcaraz will be a valuable addition to the editorial board at Henry Stewart Publications.

Aspire Tools Level the Playing Field in Competition

When you have the tools to quickly test any number of ideas for building a predictive model, new ideas from just about anyone can become valuable input.

After two weeks of competition in the Battle at the Nostradome, the leading teams are finding that Aspire’s machine learning tools like A2i and PRDXT allow people from a much wider variety of disciplines to make valuable contributions for predictive model building.

“If you’re able to synthesize the technical approach to the conceptual, anyone can engage,” Aspire’s Entrepreneur in Residence and Wylei CEO Mike Monteiro says. He’s the leader of Team Pluto, the winners of the first and second weeks of the competition to build a model that predicts glucose levels for diabetes patients. The rest of Monteiro’s team are from Aspire’s finance department and the market research department.

Monteiro is an expert when it comes to machine learning and predictive software, but thanks to A2i he was also able to easily utilize input from others with no experience in predictive modeling.

It was a winning combination—beating out other teams full of data scientists, software engineers, and others with the technical know-how.

“We made a list of new things to try, and A2i simplified the process,” Monteiro says.

If you only have one idea from one person, it’s easy to test it out on your own, Monteiro says, but when you have ten people giving you ten ideas about predicting glucose levels, the problem becomes much more complex. Those ideas can interact with each other in an immense field of possible combinations, which is where A2i comes in.

“A2i lets you define a massive combinatorial search space and it says, ‘no sweat, I got this,'” Monteiro says. “It helps figure out what combinations of ideas are the best combinations.”

So what exactly is A2i?

Essentially, Mike Monteiro says, to use the simplest terms: it’s a search tool.

For those unschooled in artificial intelligence, search and optimization is a subfield of AI where machines really excel.

Search tools can be used to sift through an astronomical number of possibilities very quickly, allowing us to arrive at answers to problems that would otherwise be impossible with human reasoning alone.

But what’s unique about Aspire’s approach to search and optimization is that we’re using it to find the best possible approach to machine learning (another subfield of AI); or in other words, we’re using one category of AI to modify another category of AI. A process that could be called meta-artificial intelligence.

In the same way that humans use different parts of the brain in combination, we’re using different subfields of AI in combination with each other to create systems that can easily adapt to new information.

Although the approach may not be unique from an academic perspective, Monteiro says, Aspire is one of the first to operationalize it.

The goal, Monteiro says, is to arrive at a process that will be easily transferable to many different problems, well beyond the specific problem of predicting glucose levels for diabetes patients.

“The vision is that you can leverage the power of machine learning and the scale of the cloud to build the next generation applications without having to be a data scientist,” Moteiro says.

And judging by Pluto’s success and their ability to engage people from other nontechnical disciplines, we’re making progress to realizing that vision.

Webinar with Wylei and The Relevancy Group explains why A/B testing emails is for suckers

The future of email marketing is here, and we’re excited that Aspire venture Wylei is helping to lead the way.

If you want to learn how Wylei’s innovative approach to email marketing is rendering classic tactics like A/B testing obsolete, join our Entrepreneur in Residence Mike Monteiro, CEO of Wylei, and Chris Marriot, VP of Consulting at The Relevancy Group, in a webinar discussion on Thursday, Nov. 19.

They’ll be discussing the next generation of tactics that leading email marketers like Dell, Marriott, and Adidas are using to breathe new life into email marketing. With new solutions that are far easier to implement and far more effectual than A/B testing, they’ll explain “Why A/B testing emails is for suckers.”

An expert in big data, predictive analytics, and machine learning, Mike Monteiro is a leading resource in the Aspire community and he’s keeping Wylei on the vanguard of digital marketing. 

Chris Marriott is a seasoned expert in digital marketing, a columnist, and a principal consultant at The Relevancy Group. TRG is a well-respected market research and consulting firm dedicated to educating the market on emerging trends and the tactics needed to meet the changing market landscape.   

Register here to join Monteiro and Marriott on Thursday, Nov. 19, at 2 p.m. EST

Aspire Community Advances Collective Resources with Competition

At the Aspire Venture Lab, collaboration is an important component to fostering big ideas. The power of collective effort is usually unmatched when it comes to affecting real change; and having a supportive network of brilliant machine learning experts and data scientists doesn’t hurt either.

Earlier this month we decided to truly put the Aspire community’s collective human and technological resources to the test with a little friendly competition. Last week we launched a predictive data modeling contest for everyone in the Aspire community that we’re calling the Battle at the Nostradome—named after the 16th century physician and astrologer Nostradamus who was famous for his predictive powers.

Seven teams, with members from five different Aspire ventures and others from Aspire’s research and science team, will be working on a single, exciting problem: how to predict glucose levels for diabetes patients.

It’s a problem that one of our ventures, Tempo Health, has been working on for the past year. They’re harnessing Aspire’s machine learning tools to create a predictive mobile app, BGNow, that will help diabetics manage their disease. 

After getting some robust data sets from several patients at an adult Diabetes Training Camp in June—data that includes everything from continuous glucose monitor readings and insulin intakes to physical activity and consumed carbohydrates—they went on to build a working predictive model from that data earlier this year. 

Now they’re going to take a 2nd pass at hardening their predictive model in competition with six other Aspire teams this month. That’s one of the advantages to being in the Aspire nest, ventures don’t face their challenges alone—they have a pool of resources, technology, and brilliant minds at their disposal.

 “No data scientist is ever going to ask for less data,” Aspire data scientist Peter Funke likes to say.  In the same vein, it doesn’t hurt to have a wider set of perspectives to approach a problem.

At the end of the competition, which will take submissions every week for the next four weeks, the best predictive models will be integrated into Tempo Health’s mobile app in time for an Alpha test in December.

But beyond meeting the challenge of building a model that can predict patient outcomes, the Battle at the Nostradome competition is also a way for Aspire to put its technological resources to the test. 

The teams will be testing and optimizing their predictive models with Aspire’s A2i model-building platform. Another Aspire venture, Disfa, built the platform from the ground up to predict outcomes in financial markets.  For Disfa, A2i was foundational to their company. Now it’s being used to manage a $20 million Hedgefund. 

Now, we’re putting our A2i model-building platform to the test to see if the technology can be easily applied to our other ventures, while at the same time refining the tool with more user feedback.

Aspire’s model for nurturing new ventures differs from other venture capital firms, and we believe our method is the way of the future. Beyond providing our ventures with funding, staff, and infrastructure; ventures can also draw from foundational technology tools that were developed within the Aspire community. 

“Aspire continues to be a leading-edge company in that our employees are using our own tool, A2i, for complex problem solving,” Chief Architect Thomas Rogers says. “The lessons learned will benefit employees and Aspire as a whole as we feed back improvements to A2i.”

Stay tuned for more updates on our data modeling competition in the coming weeks. The Aspire community is sure to gain valuable insights about the role our core technologies can play in building predictive model tools. 

Aspire Attorney Speaks on Avoiding Litigation

Aspire Ventures attorney Todd Bartos was recently interviewed by leading industry publication General Surgery News about how physicians can best steer clear of malpractice trouble. In recent months, Todd has become a particularly valued voice within all of Aspire’s ventures in the healthcare space. Click here to view the full video interview or here for text highlights.

Daibetter* Completes First World Trial, Prepares for U.S. in June

Working with renowned Dutch clinic, Diabeter, Daibetter* gathered a wide variety of data from patients of the clinic for use with their machine learning software. Daibetter* believes there are many applications for the data, with the highest use being to predict future blood sugars. Proving the models requires data. Hence, the trial with Diabeter. Daibetter* EIR René Bruinsma worked with the volunteers and physicians to gather key metrics, including insulin, carbohydrate, activity and blood sugar data.”We were grateful to everyone at Diabeter for partnering with us,” said Bruinsma. Together, we believe we can create better outcomes for patients with diabetes, and the completion of this trial is a first critical step in the journey.” Diabeter, given their recent acquisition by insulin pump manufacturer Medtronic, clearly understands that technology plays a key role in the future management of diabetes. While data scientists will spend the coming weeks putting the data through machine learning algorithms, the Daibetter* team is already preparing for their first US beta test, in conjunction with Diabetes Training Camp.

Held each year in Lancaster, PA, Diabetes Training Camp is an adult-only camp, offering attendees the opportunity to learn to better manage their blood sugars through exercise. Daibetter* EIR Peter Funcke explained the difference between the two trials.”With Diabeter, our focus was on getting the data and applying it to machine learning. In that case, it was our people working with the physicians to get that data. For maximum use and efficiency, we believe our tools need to be in the hands of the person with diabetes. So while we’ll be applying machine learning to the data to build insights, Diabetes Training Camp actually marks the debut of a product that a person can use to do the uploading themselves. The product is called Acuity, and it really represents the maximum insights for a person with diabetes willing to contribute a healthy amount of data.”

Daibetter* will be on hand for the duration of Diabetes Training Camp to assist with training on Acuity. After camp, attendees will be asked to upload their data on a weekly basis for seven additional weeks. 

*Daibetter, formerly Tempo Health, LLC

Two Weeks – Two Investor Meetings

Aspire Ventures was host to two separate investor meetings over the past week. Last week, we welcomed the Aspire investors to our Annual Investor Summit. For them, it served as an opportunity to get updates on the direction of the company, as well as learn about the recent performance of portfolio companies, appMobi, MedStatix, Wylei, Daibetter* and Disfa, in addition to some great projects on the horizon.Earlier this week marked the appMobi Shareholder Meeting, with similar content, albeit more focused on appMobi, MedStatix and Wylei, both of which leverage the former with their own unique technologies. For some of the investors, it was their first time at the new Aspire HQ, as well as their first time to interact with the Entrepreneurs in Residence. For CEO, Sam Abadir, this interaction is one of the highlights of the events.”Smart investors aren’t just interested in technology,” he said. “They’re equally as interested in the people behind those technologies. These types of events give everyone the ability to share in the vision and the passion behind our accomplishments for today and our goals for tomorrow.”Those who wished to attend but were unable to were also able to live stream the events.

*Daibetter, formerly Tempo Health, LLC

Music to Our Ears

Who doesn’t love a good looking piano? Today, we were thrilled to see the Aspire Ventures logoed piano wheeled just outside of our building on North Queen Street in Lancaster. This will be one of more than a dozen decorated pianos placed around the city all summer long as part of the Keys for the City Program put on by Music for Everyone. MedStatix’s own Scott Haiges sits on the Board of this wonderful organization. If you’re making your way downtown, be sure to take a moment to tickle the ivories!

MedStatix Year in Review

It is always good to take a few minutes to reflect on the past year as we enter into the next. First, we at MedStatix would like to thank our great nationwide clients and reselling partners for the commitment to providing a higher quality of care by allowing their patients a voice in the care they receive. We have seen remarkable changes in our practices and are thrilled to provide these insights to the practices.

This past year we rolled out a second version of our patient surveys for all specialties. We utilized mobile optimization techniques to ensure that the survey was responsive on all the possible devices and browsers and we were able to reduce the total time to take our survey by over 35%. We were extremely pleased to see how this impacted our completion percentages. We are now averaging 35-45% completion rates – far out performing other industry benchmarks!

Understanding how precious our end users’ time is, we also rolled out automated monthly reporting to bring the data directly into the inbox of both the administrators and providers. This has helped increase the engagement of the providers and their thirst to understand how they can improve. We also introduced an outlier report to not only highlight the top performers in the practice to hopefully glean best practices from, but also alert in the event that a provider or locations scores are in the bottom as these are the areas of biggest risk to the practice.

From a partnership prospective we welcomed four new reselling partners: AzaleaHealth, Professional Office Services, SE Quality Healthcare Consulting, and Talksoft. We are committed in 2015 to expanding and growing our relationships with these partners and helping the platform get into the hands of more practices to further strengthen our benchmarks.

We are excited for some of the new items that are on our roadmap for early 2015 that will continue to provide our clients the ability to manage the relationship with their patients for the best care possible.

I also want to recognize the outstanding team at MedStatix without whom none of the above would have been possible – Thank you!

Wishing you all the best in 2015!

Kim Ireland, MSIS, CEO – | | 717.283.2220

Daibetter, formerly Tempo Health, LLC, Featured on WGAL News 8

Regional news channel WGAL (Lancaster, PA) featured Daibetter, formerly Tempo Health, LLC, on the evening news on November 05, 2014, and focused on the innovation and impact this Aspire venture is making to the lives of Type 1 diabetic children, parents and doctors. News 8’s Mike Straub focused on Daibeter’s* work on wearables, doctor and parent information dashboards and the practical impact on the lives of diabetics.

You can view the newscast here –

The news coverage generated substantial positive reactions in the Susquehanna Valley, as well as in-bound calls and emails, visits by potential new technology and telecommunications partners, and volunteers to participate in future Daibetter* trials. Viewers of the broadcast also received a sneak-preview of the new Daibetter* Acuity App for iOS being launched in December via the iTunes App Store.

Type I Diabetes Mellitus is an enormous and growing healthcare problem with costs to individual patients and society escalating exponentially every day which affects more than 350 million people worldwide.

*Daibetter, formerly Tempo Health, LLC

MedStatix, LLC, Welcomes POS® as a Featured Integration Partner on Its Patient Experience Survey Platform

Lancaster, PA-based MedStatix, LLC (an Aspire venture) welcomes its newest integration partner, POS® Professional Office Services, who will resell MedStatix’s white labeled, cloud-based specialty-specific patient experience survey platform to its healthcare customers.

MedStatix is a healthcare technology company with a mission of empowering patients to tell their doctors about their healthcare experiences in real time so that doctors and administrators can immediately change what is not working and amplify what is.

POS® is a healthcare communications company offering practices a variety of digital and printed communication materials and solutions. For more than 40 years, POS® has helped practices improve the patient experience through improved patient communications.

An expert in Healthcare IT, MedStatix CEO Kim Ireland, is leading an initiative of “patients as partners” who actively collaborate in improving the quality of their healthcare. She shared, “By integrating the MedStatix platform into their services, POS® will be able to help thousands of patients find their voice and be heard by doctors and healthcare administrators. POS® can have a powerful impact on patient satisfaction by engaging primary care and specialty healthcare practices to survey their patients and continuously learn from and adapt to the real-time, ever-changing results.”

Mike Williams, President, POS Professional Office Services, said, “At POS, we see ourselves as healthcare partners in patient communication. Our partnership with MedStatix reinforces our belief that good communication is important during every stage of patient care. By offering practices an opportunity to survey patients, we are providing another valuable tool to practices to improve their patient experience.”

New Diabetes Insights Through Biosensor Data

Daibetter, formerly operating as Tempo Health, LLC, and award-winning Dutch health clinic Diabeter are working together to retrieve and analyze biosensor data from young Type I Diabetes Mellitus patients. The resulting analysis of this high-level observational pilot should provide new insights and correlations between the various data, and provide the foundation for the creation of new tools to optimize treatment of the disease.

Traditional treatment of Diabetes Mellitus is done by monitoring glucose levels at least four times per day and to respond by injecting insulin-based on the measured value, and finally a calculation based on guesses as to the amount of carbohydrates in meals. A growing number of patients have started to use an insulin pump, which drips a ‘basal’ amount of insulin into the body. These users still must calculate and initiate the ‘bolus’ injections during mealtime and before sleep.

The majority of patients under the care of the Diabeter clinic have an insulin pump as well as a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM), which constantly monitors glucose levels. Ideally, this provides far better insight in the varying glucose levels throughout the day; however, it does not alleviate the user from manual monitoring actions, and the need to validate CGM values and calibrate the CGM itself.

Most CGMs and pumps have interfaces to websites of the manufacturers, where users can evaluate their values, and share these with their doctors.

For the last five years at Diabeter, the standard practice is a therapy regime where the doctors use uploaded data to instantly advise the patients as to the optimal pump settings for the next days. The results have been impressive and gained attention from diabetes research and practice doctors worldwide, although Diabeter still believes that there is room for improvement.

Ultimately, a fully “closed-loop” system where measurements trigger automatic dosage activities would ease the burden on the patient substantially.

Monitored glucose levels are the (delayed) result of a wide range of variables. Some of these variables can now be monitored with the latest developments in sensor technology and the application of advanced data analysis. This is where Daibetter* has become a critical component of this research.

Daibetter* has selected a new patch that contains 15 biosensors that are monitoring body functions in real time, and transports this data wirelessly, and in real-time, through the user’s smartphone. These biosensors measure values like heart rate, skin temperature, stress, activities/steps, sleep, respiration, posture, etc.

Combined with the data from the glucose monitors and pumps, Daibetter’s* data analysis should provide insights that change in glucose levels can be attributed to, triggered by or influenced by one or a combination of the data from these biosensors. For example, if the heart rate and/or stress level increases without a corresponding activity, like walking or exercising, it may indicate another change within the body that is materially relevant to blood glucose levels.

This is what the Diabeter and Daibetter* teams will investigate in the pilot. The pilot will equip a group of 24 children with different current treatment plans for diabetes for about two weeks with biosensor patches. These children are already comfortable working with their CGMs and insulin pumps.

No investigation like this has ever been conducted and there are great expectations from the medical teams and scientists involved.

*Daibetter, formerly Tempo Health, LLC