INSEAD Startup Brings Soothing Relief to Migraine Sufferers

The world’s most popular migraine tracking app was created by three INSEAD alumni.

When it was launched in 2014, Migraine Buddy was up against some tough competition. But it immediately overtook the hundreds of apps for migraine and chronic pain patients to become the world’s leading app of its kind.

How did it do it?

“While most healthcare companies are focused on the M.D.s, we are focused on the patients, every day, all day long,” reasons François Cadiou EMBA’12Dec, CEO of Healint, the Singapore-based startup behind Migraine Buddy.

Judging by the thousands of four- and five-star reviews users have posted about the app, Healint’s approach hits home.

“I feel like you really care about me and know what I am going through,” posted one user in December.

“You have improved my quality of life and I see fewer migraines in my future as I work with my doctors to find the best treatment plan for me,” comments another.

Healint, which stands for Health Intelligence, was founded in June 2013 by François and two other INSEAD alumni: Veronica Chew MBA’10J, Healint’s Chief Marketing Officer; and Ali Elgamal MBA’13D, Chief Technology Officer.

Migraine Buddy is Healint’s first app distributed worldwide and so far has been downloaded by more than 200,000 people, outdistancing its rivals by far. The startup will release other apps for other medical conditions beginning this year.

An objective patient report
Migraine Buddy was developed based on hundreds of interviews Healint conducted with neurologists, researchers and patients. It works by collecting data the patient enters about migraine triggers, duration, intensity and other factors. It then combines this with sensor data from the user’s smart phone to identify patterns that are linked to health and quality of life.

This data is compiled to create a report which gives patients continuous feedback and which they share with their doctor.

“The report is an objective view of what the patient is experiencing,” explains co-founder Ali. “It allows doctors to understand the context around these patients, what happens before, during and after a migraine.”

Thanks to the patients’ high level of satisfaction, other healthcare players are following Healint with enthusiasm. Even the UK’s National Health Service wants to prescribe Migraine Buddy to its migraine patients.

“Now nearly every healthcare professional we deal with welcomes our tools,” François says.

Healint team photo

The Healint team

Healint currently employs 12 people including the three co-founders, who, although they have different backgrounds (French, Malaysian and Egyptian) share common backgrounds in technology and healthcare.

François worked in IT and healthcare with pharmaceutical company Sanofi in Japan and France before attending INSEAD. Veronica was a medical device product manager for GE Healthcare in emerging markets based in the US, and Ali was a software engineer and IT specialist for IBM global based in Egypt.

More applications ahead
Looking ahead, Healint foresees expanding the use of its technology. One possibility is to find treatments that perfectly fit individuals or very small groups rather than whole population groups.

“Usually a drug is developed in a clinical environment with limited real world patient feedback,” explains Veronica. “But we have hundreds of thousands of people using our app in the real world. By collecting this data we can compare different population groups and tailor treatment plans to certain groups.”

The start-up has built its platform to help treat many diseases.

“We use IT and big data to better understand and help cure diseases like migraines, Alzheimer’s and other neurological conditions,” Ali says. “By using wearables and sensors and applying machine learning techniques we can do a far better job of personalising healthcare and curing diseases like these that are hard to understand.”

Adds François: “We built the platform and framework to scale extremely fast and now we have reached a point where we are gathering more data every day than Twitter did before its IPO.”

As the head of a highly successful startup, what advice can François offer those anxious to follow in his footsteps?

“Identify your motivations first,” he counsels. “Stop immediately if your objective is to be your own boss, become rich or because start-ups are cool. There are faster and easier ways to become rich.”

And, he says, work with the INSEAD alumni community.

“The INSEAD community helped us in many ways,” François says. “It started by helping our founders to find each other. Our first angel investors were from the network, and consciously or not, when choosing our first clients we tend to answer faster to INSEAD alumni.”

Healint is on the fast track to a prosperous future. And that will be soothing relief for millions of people suffering from migraines and many other hard-to-treat conditions worldwide.

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