Eksteen de Waal
How was the idea born?
"The idea was born last year when we went to Johannesburg as part of the EMBA study tour. The week before the trip I went together with my fellow students to where I grew up and I showed them the history of South Africa through my family’s eyes. During our stay, I saw the nanny I grew up with and the conditions that she’s now living under and it really moved me. It made me realize that there are people who have to fight to survive every day, while we have such a luxurious life in Europe. I was especially moved by her family tragedy (losing her children, the ones that I grew up with) which made me see the devastation that HIV and other chronic illnesses are causing in South Africa and how little information there is. I really wanted to do something about this.
During the EMBA study tour in Johannesburg, we were assigned in groups, and each group was assigned a startup. A few of my classmates were assigned a non-profit organization that provided care to people who had HIV or chronic illnesses. It made me wonder: how can we turn this into an accelerator programme? How can we help more people? Together with a classmate of mine, we decided we had to do something about it. After the study tour, we came back to the Netherlands and commitments and work started to interfere with the plan. I realized that I had found what I had been doing for a living unfulfilling. Triggered by some of the EMBA courses, I started asking myself the question: why am I doing this?
My manager and I discussed this and we all realized that if I wanted to follow my heart it would need to be outside the organization. That was the moment I realized I had to follow my heart. For three months I’ve been working on the idea full-time, trying to figure out how to turn this concept into a viable business idea; how to help chronically ill patients receive care."
Can you explain the concept in a nutshell?
"The whole idea is about finding a way to create sustainable income for non-profit organizations, not just in South Africa, but worldwide. We are starting small, but we aren’t dreaming small. What can we do to create that? Such non-profit organizations which take care of patients with chronic illnesses already provide the care, but cannot expand. They need money and not sporadically, but rather a structured income to expand. Can we provide income for them to expand, so that once they expand they can earn more? We have to create a growth model for them, which at the same time, could enable us to be able to pay for it. And where are we going to get money from? If we pay these organizations a certain amount for taking a survey, how will that work? What kind of questions can they ask that would be interesting for other parties? After speaking to some experts in the field, I realized they would be interested in getting data for sales forecasting and demand planning. Demand planning concerns how many pills are necessary for which patient; how many times a day they need to take the drug, the duration of the treatment and how that impacts distribution etc. In a nutshell; we collect data in developing nations, from patients that are chronically ill. We transform the data by adding value through analysis, insights and predictive forecasting to provide a product to commercial companies - in this instance, pharmaceutical companies - so that they can work better with their own products and understand how these products work in real-world scenarios."
Why are you so passionate about your new venture?
"I’ll explain this by way of an example: HIV patients in South Africa have very high resistance to commonly available drugs - 60% resistance rate, one of the highest rates in the world. Such patients require more expensive drugs, which the government often cannot afford. The resistance is because people did not adhere to the drug, meaning they did not take the right amount per day and did not stick with the course of treatment. If you don’t suppress the virus, the virus multiplies again, it mutates and can’t be treated with the same drug anymore. That’s why this is so important to us! We really need to get this healthcare problem under control and ensure that governments have the right information. We will start small, by providing pharmaceutical companies with the data that they need, data they are willing to pay for. The next step for us will be looking into collaborating with the World Health Organisation (WHO), United Nations and national governments, and providing them with information about problems that we foresee. To achieve the growth, we envision in the short term we are also looking for grants and investors that share our vision and passion for making a real difference in the world"