On October 19th and 20th, 2020, some of the brightest minds in technology across many, many fields, came together in a collective, global, virtual summit. Leaders from across the world and across a hugely broad spectrum of technological innovation met and discussed through a virtual conference put on by Interface Health, to share ideas, missions, concerns and points of optimism as we collectively tackle COVID-19.
Speakers from backgrounds in global finance, mental health, virtual reality, mobile technology, behavioural science, journalism, public health – all collaborated to find common ground and ways to be resilient, to move forward, and find ways that technology can work cohesively, comprehensively with public health as we face this pandemic and its ensuing additional challenges.
Darwin Labs’ CEO, Ashish Anand was invited to speak during a panel discussing “rethinking global health“. It was a highly engaging discussion, exploring technology’s role in public health as it pertains to combating the many faces of COVID-19.
Moderator, CEO of Interface Health and Organizer of the Interface Health Summit 2020, Michael Bidu opened up the discussion on “RETHINK: Reinvent Technology & Innovation during COVID-19.”
Michael Bidu: To be in line with the theme of the event, which is rethinking global health, I invited some of the best entrepreneurs we have in digital health in British Columbia to talk just about that, like how did they rethink about their technologies and innovation and going to market?Michael Bidu
Ashish Anand: The challenging part for us, has primarily been trying to understand how things are shifting because everything’s moving quite rapidly. So when we looked at the situation, back, I would say in February and decided to jump in and start developing health management platforms, we were trying to imagine what the world would look like, and what the challenges would be. And you know, how everyone would react to this thing that was still evolving, mostly quite clear, how society will respond our response on how long and how to manage it. So I think one of the challenges was trying to imagine the world before, you know, you could even when we first started talking to potential users might be they didn’t know what we’re talking about, no one had experienced a pandemic. So it’s all very new. So part of it was finding that balance between trusting our gut, trusting our, instincts, on what the need would be,
validating in real time, in some cases, the prototype thing.
So a big challenge for us has been, you know, everything’s moving quickly, the world still is kind of coming to terms with, this means of how to respond. And we’re trying to build, in some cases, we are sort of far ahead of some of our competitors, because we envisioned and trusted or invested in building something. And in other cases, we’re still finding the challenge to be bringing people along, who are just now coming to the point where we were in April, just becoming connected to the reality that things are changing very quickly. That’s been probably our biggest challenge.Ashish Anand
Michael went on to discuss rethinking of technology and its role with global health, and finding ways that various innovations at the #InterfaceSummit2020 could connect and possibly collaborate.
MB: We have talked about this idea that it’s strengthening our ecosystem by having our own companies trying to work with each other. And based on my experience with the seven or so companies in the COVID-19, showcase, we found out actually, that’s quite possible most of the time.
So Ashish, maybe you can share some thoughts, whether you see or not, you know, opportunities for collaboration?Michael Bidu
AA: I’ll actually go farther than where you’re going, Michael, I think it’s actually essential. You know we’re a digital health company. But so much of what we do is around safety. And safety is really, really misunderstood safety in the workplace. Traditionally, for example, what it meant in the resources sector, or in the construction sector, it had to do with physical things like hard hats and the right kind of boots. And now we’re looking at a whole new picture, in terms of, you know, we’re all kind of presenting a risk to other people. And we all are responsible for our own health and the health of other people. So as a response to that, the companies that right now we’re working with are things like testing labs, and testing companies. And that’s absolutely essential, because managing this challenge, it’s not just about screening, it’s not just about, you know, someone’s declaring that they don’t have some things very soon, it’ll have to be verified declarations.
So does your test result actually say that you’ve tested negative, and then eventually, as vaccines come in, it’ll be, you know, verified by sort of an independent body that you’ve actually got immunity? So I think the ability to kind of integrate is a requirement. It’s not, it’s not just a nice to have, I just don’t think at least for what we’re trying to do. It’s impossible [to manage this successfully] without having links to testing and continuous integration with tele-health, real estate companies, benefit companies. So we kind of taking this ecosystem approach, and it’s absolutely essential for us to be collaborative and integratedAshish Anand
MB: What I would like to do is give you a magic wand to your business model or your company, would you start the same company or you would you do something different?
Ashish, I know that culture and purpose is extremely important to you. And so what are you with Darwin labs? And how do you instil that culture? You know, in your company going forward?Michael Bidu
AA: I’ll answer your first question, do something differently. I would say move faster. I would say listen to the customer. You know, just recently we were going through our notes about things that we learned from some of the trials, early trials that we did. And, you know, we could have listened a little bit more carefully to some of the things. I think we’ve had to learn some of the lessons a little bit the harder way, because we did ignored some of the insights that we were getting.
In terms of culture, I think it’s probably even more important now than it was before, culture has always been important. It really is the DNA of the company, it shapes so much, how motivated people are? Do they find purpose in what they’re doing? You know. How hard they work, how creative they are, how much of themselves do they put into, into the work that you’re doing together as a team? We don’t we have a whole mission vision yet. But it’s just, you know, it’s how you relate, it’s how you are with your team. It’s the standards that you maintain, it’s the expectations you have of yourself and others. And it’s the boundaries that you create, and, you know, how you inspire just by practicing the things that you’re talking about. So it’s not something that we focus a lot on in a conscious way. It’s sort of embedded in the the practices that we’re observing ourselves and expecting of others as well. But we’re really, really fortunate, we have a fantastic team. I’m not just saying that because some of them are watching. We really do a fantastic team and I am really proud of them and and look forward to adding to that. There’s a lot of really smart people that we’re planning to bring on. So yeah, just super excited. But yeah, we’ve moved faster out of necessity and will be more careful about listening to what customers are telling us a few months ago.Ashish Anand
In closing, on technology as a vehicle for helping change inequality.
MB: Time for the last question. I hope that all of you have watched some of the content today, maybe you’ve seen Dr. Henry, Dr. Bonnie Henry, you know, challenging us to focus our technologies and fixing some of the inequalities in the world.
So I would ask you to tell the audience, how does your company, you know, plan to do that?Michael Bidu
AA: So, going down the path that we’re on actually started with sort of the realization that this was going to accelerate a lot of the trends that were already happening. The inequality was already getting worse in our society as well as between societies; that was one of our primary motivators. The want for those that were sort of at the lower end of the ladder to kind of fall off or, or be further down. So we actually started a program called Project Vital and organizations can learn more about it on our website, Clear360 dot com slash Project Vital. So it was this for me. Even I would say, pre-day one, we wanted to help food banks, we wanted to help those that are helping the most needy in our society, whether people suffering from addiction or mental illness. So for those organizations, we give away our service for free. We’re wanting to do that in 2021 at a national scale. And I mean, beyond that, you know, actually helping entire countries by licensing our platform to public health organizations and other countries, so they could use our platform, reorient their economy safely. So it’s just in the DNA of the company. It’s something that all of us believe in, we get behind. And we adjust our plans accordingly. So that’s, that’s how we are looking at it.Ashish Anand
For more on the great topics and discussion from the Interface Health #InterfaceSummit2020, check back here or read highlights on the Interface Health website.
Special thanks to Michael Bidu, the Interface Health team and all attendees and speakers at this fantastic event! We were honoured and glad to be part of such a timely, relevant, encouraging and educational, and collaborative.