SETsquared Bristol Case Study – OKKO Health: Bristol’s pioneering smartphone technology to protect eyesight
To help our aspiring entrepreneurs and future SETsquared Bristol members, we are showcasing a number of case studies demonstrating the breadth of tech at SETsquared Bristol and what it takes to achieve success.
We had a chat with OKKO Health Co-founder and CEO, Dr Stephanie Campbell…
What does OKKO Health do?
OKKO Health develop smartphone technology for home-monitoring of sight. We believe that everyone deserves access to great eye care, and putting that eye health data into the hands of patients will facilitate early detection of disease and the protection of sight. Together with the game technology that we develop, we harness data from the smartphone sensors – in doing so, we create brand new sets of big data, and we’ll look for patterns in that data to predict eye health.
Our product is primarily for patients that have two particular eye diseases that would mean very frequent visits to hospital: age related macular degeneration (AMD), which affects five percent of the elderly population, and also for younger adults diabetic macular oedema (DME). Eye disease affects up to ten percent of diabetics, so there’s a huge and growing market potential for remote monitoring technologies.
Tell me a bit about your background and what led you to start the business
My background is both scientific and clinical, I spent nearly ten years working for the NHS in specialist eye care and my PhD looked at the early detection of eye disease. Both working in a hospital and in academia made me realise that there was a big gap between what we could provide in the university lab, and what was actually available for patients. For example, there were many vision science techniques developed over the last 40 years that we could now bring into the homes of patients because of new technology in smartphones and iPads.
And how did you enter SETsquared?
I moved to Bristol a few years ago and had started to dip my toes into the entrepreneur scene here, because I knew this was an idea that I wanted to pursue when the time was right. We’d been working with two universities; I was originally from Cardiff University and we received a grant from the Academic Health Science Network to collaborate with the University of South Wales on a proof of concept. At the time, when I applied for SETsquared, we were having that proof of concept tested with the innovation team at the University of Bristol. I had heard on the grapevine that if you’re doing science or technology in Bristol, SETsquared is the organisation that you should be involved with. So I ended up applying and joined the programme in May 2018. How time flies!
How has SETsquared helped you?
SETsquared has helped OKKO move from an idea with a proof of concept into a young business. First and foremost, it’s provided us with a community of people who have experience in running tech businesses, such as the Entrepreneurs-in-Residence, as well as other startups in the same boat. Being part of SETsquared created the platform to validate the business proposition and take it to the next level to receive early investment, as well as providing a structure for us to engage with the local investor community. One of the key drivers in our business was meeting David Harris, a local entrepreneur and previous SETsquared member, who became our SETsquared mentor. He’s now invested in OKKO and become a member of our board.
What investment have you raised?
We’ve just received £225K investment from Bristol Private Equity Club (BPEC). We’ve partnered with Bayer, the leading ophthalmology pharma company, and they’ve invested in OKKO through a convertible loan. Our business has been selected as one of Bayer’s ‘G4A ophthalmology companies’ through their digital health programme – it’s been brilliant and they have taught us a lot about the industry, and selling into it.
What are you most proud of?
I’m really proud of bringing together a small team who are so deeply passionate about what we’re doing. I’m most proud that we’re building a great place to work and we have a passion and a purpose. We have four full-time and two part-time staff and are hugely fortunate to have such a driven team. I’m really proud that they’re taking a risk and joining the business at this early stage.
What are your next steps?
We’re using the investment to grow our team and will be hiring technical and product staff – here’s a shout out to the tech community – please get in touch if you’re interested in joining us! We’re also about to launch our first clinical testing, so thrilled to have our first large data sets to play with.
What is the one piece of advice you can give to other aspiring founders?
Speak to lots of people and listen carefully to their advice. The business community in Bristol is incredibly supportive, and pretty much everyone is so freely giving with their help and advice. At OKKO, we’ve had the most amazing mentors, both formally through SETsquared and informally through the wider network. Quite frankly, we probably wouldn’t have the business without them all. Learning from people who have been doing business for a long time has been really important for us. My biggest piece of advice is to keep your ears open and listen to others, coupled with your own gut instincts and insights from customers.