Friday, January 13, 2012
Interview with Kian Saneii, Independa
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
One of the areas that startups and healthcare investors have turned their attention to in recent years, is leveraging the many advances in technology--wireless, smart phones, software, and more--and applying those to the health area. Among those startups is San Diego-based Independa (www.independa.com) , which is trying to crack the code to figure out how to apply the convergence of wireless technology, cloud computing, and software to elderly care. We spoke with CEO Kian Saneii to learn more about the firm.
Talk about what your products are used for?
Kian Saneii: What we have is a platform that helps all sorts of channel partners, including family members, assisted living facilities, home care and home health providers, and even insurance companies, help the elderly to stay home longer and more comfortably. How we do that it is we've integrated a breadth of different technologies, and also designed and architected one software platform to manage all of that. If you're familiar with the design firm Ideo, they actually deferred their costs to help us launch our company.
What's the story behind the company?
Kian Saneii: We formally launched in 2009, but I started looking at the market in 2008, to see what applications were out there. The gist of it was, I though that there has got to be a much better way, particularly where we are with technology today, to take care of my mom living at home. As I got more involved, it became clear that there are a whole bunch of point solutions, but no one actually addressing how you put things together so that someone or an institution can address taking care of someone. There are around nine different, known areas of geriatric care, and all are important to keep someone health. That goes beyond just a phone call or I can't get up and have fallen. There are physical aspects, emotional aspects, health aspects, scheduling activities, cognitive skills, financial issues.
There's no technology available which acts as a first line of defense, so you end up spending thousands and thousands of dollars on home care and home health, and even more on assisted living. You may not want to send your parents to assisted living, financially or emotionally, but you have no choice. But, if you can even delay that for one month, that pays for a lifetime of our product. One of our partners, LivHome, is one of the best home care companies, and has talked to us about helping to delay someone from assisted living for three to four years. You can see the ROI, and we're hoping to redefine how the elderly age in place, with technology as the first line of defense. There are a hodgepodge of vendors--clock alarms, wireless devices connected to the cloud, your iPhone, your devices for I can't get up, prescription reminders--all becoming more and more available, but if you want to handle that through one entity, it's impossible.
Talk about your background -- you were in the wireless industry earlier, correct?
Kian Saneii: I was at Websense here in San Diego, and my last position was General Manager of Websense Wireless. That division was focused on implementing core technology for the wireless industry. Coming out of that, I got very involved in wireless technology, new cellular technology, and handsets. It's been fascinating to figure out how this third screen, which we call the smartphone, is going to fit into our society and world. In terms of new paradigms of business, people are looking at replacing credit cards, coupons, and lots of others ways you might imagine. I got involved in the health side looking at different applications, and even ran into one in Japan where, if you were blind, you could wear one around your neck and it could tell you what is ahead of you. There was even one where, for wound management, you could use it to show what a wound looked like, instead of someone coming out to see a wound. That's how I got involved in the health site. Once there, it quickly became clear that the opportunity was long term care. It's an area where our care system is paying huge amounts of money out of pocket, multiple times what insurance might pay. There's also a lot of pain, guilt, affection, time, and anguish all around this problem. The state of the art is literally, I've fallen and I can't get up. So, there's a huge opportunity here, Ideo has helped us validate the market, and we think this is really what is needed.
It seems like there is a lot of technology out there, why haven't people put together these systems before?
Kian Saneii: There's a couple of things. One, is there has been a convergence over the past few years of the technology. Ten years ago, this was not feasible, and in ten years, I think it will be commonplace. It's because there's a transition from wired to wireless technology. Ten years ago, we were barely into Bluetooth headsets, if that. The cellular technology was not even 2G, let alone 3G. Now, wireless sensors are available at very low costs, you've got motion sensors, open/shut sensors, pressure pads. There's been a revolution in cost and pervasiveness of wireless technology, and multiple standards around this. Cloud computing is also very important. Back then, if you had a glucometer, no one had wireless. Now, you have wireless, multiple types of connections like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and even cellular. That way, if a child is diabetic, they can check in that they are testing themselves, the data is being trended, and exceptions being raise. However, if you're elderly, it ends up that is not enough. You might work with the same device, but because they often have multiple issues, such as congestive heart failure, diabetes, blood pressure issues, and medication, collecting all of that data at one time is impossible. The elderly are the only place where doctors need to have a holistic view of the individual. It's not just, come in and replace that joint or fix the flu, you've got to figure out all the pills they're taking, ask the how their life is going, check on their financial status, ask them how often they see their family. There are problems like depression and other issues leading from that, not all of them necessarily medical.
Can you talk a bit about your recent funding round?
Kian Saneii: We were oversubscribed when we closed, and have also extended the round by some amount. We're looking to close that imminently in the first half of the year, then we'll start to look at funding on the Series A front.
Do you run into any regulatory issues or require any approvals?
Kian Saneii: That's a great question. We avoid it, because we don't prescribe or diagnose things. Think of us as letting you care when you are not there. We're not replacing a doctor, and we're not diagnosing anything. An example is when it's too hot. Many elderly lose their sense of heat and perspiration. Lots of those I've fallen and can't get up calls are due to dehydration and fainting, such as getting hot in a humid environment in Orlando or Houston. So, if the temperature of a home reaches 85, and they've forgotten to lower the thermostat, what we'll do is we will know it is 85, and you set a threshold alert which gently taps you on the shoulder saying you may want to do something. That's something you set, we don't. That's why we don't have to have FDA approval, because we're not giving this to doctors to diagnose anything, and it's not telemedicine.
What's your next big goal for this year?
Kian Saneii: 2012 is a big year for us. We have pending customer engagements, pending financial engagements, and this year is where the brand and visibility we've been building in 2011 really goes and shifts from a unique platform and solution. We're going to take our great advisory group and management team, and build our channel partners and customer base.