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Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Healthtech startups to watch and how covid-19 leveled the playing field

Healthtech startups to watch and how covid-19 leveled the playing field: As the pandemic took hold, global VC funding in digital health broke records in 2020, reaching USD 14.8 bn, according to a report by Mercom Capital Group. Although this level of funding was not directly mirrored in Egypt, with our internal trackers showing only six healthtech investments in 2020, a growing need for healthtech during the pandemic helped many homegrown startups see significant growth spurts.

We look at the healthtech startups that have grown enough to seek an expansion outside of Egypt, helped by their recently obtained investment rounds. The reality of covid-related conditions and restrictions, as well patients’ needs for their health requirements to continue being fulfilled, has created a new need and forced the growth of startup-born tech solutions that were dynamic enough to adapt to the circumstances.

Taking pharmacy delivery a step further: “The average monthly ‘medicine basket size’ was around EGP 750, but the pandemic grew that figure to EGP 1.7k during the two weeks of infection, and EGP 1.4k for three months after recovery,” meds delivery platform Chefaa founder Doaa Aref says. That’s why a number of startups in the sector focus on enhancing the customer experience when transacting with pharmacies.

Chefaa users get their meds delivered from the nearest pharmacy, and patients with chronic diseases or recurring prescriptions pay a monthly subscription fee to get their meds delivered to their doorstep every month. Starting this year, Chefaa also offers to cover 25% of the medication price of its 38k monthly auto-fill orders. In total, 190k customers use Chefaa’s order-and-deliver service from its 900+ partner pharmacies.

Over 1.8 mn users from all over the world use the platform’s unpaid perks, such as dosage reminders, a virtual pharmacist and a directory of medications. With the seven-figure series A funding it received last year, Chefaa is working on enhancing its customer experience, expanding to other countries, and building the tech that helps identify gaps in medication supply and trends based on geographic locations.

Adding a twist to the game is Yodawy — a pharmacy delivery app with a built-in AI ins. approval engine and a digitized prescription tool. With a six-figure number of orders completed, the startup also built its own partners and pharmacy portal to facilitate order processing methods.

“At the beginning of the first wave of the pandemic, there was a growth surge within our company with up to 5x of normal order rates, mainly because there were about 15-20 specific SKUs that most people were looking for. Those rates normalized once again a few months in,” founder Karim Khashaba says.

Yodawy successfully raised USD 1 mn in funding so far, and has partnered with over 2k pharmacies across the country. This year, the startup is looking to expand regionally, as well as grow its partnerships with leading ins. players.

Solving the radiologist per capita shortage: Most countries are suffering from a very low radiologist per capita ratio. Locally, there are only around 2k active radiologists serving the entirety of the population, according to Amr Abo Draie, founder of Rology. Rology is a teleradiology platform that connects healthcare providers and hospitals with radiologists, matching them with the cases based on expertise and availability. The platform automatically matches scans with the relevant radiologist, and allows diagnosis to be ready within 24 hours of the scan, which under normal circumstances could take up to three weeks.

Startups in general have faced a shortage of private sector partners that would readily embed their technologies into their existing frameworks — a pain that covid-19 has been slowly alleviating. The same goes for the healthcare sector. “Previously, the main challenge for startups was having physicians and organizations adopt and embed their technologies into their everyday processes, but covid-19 forced everyone to adapt,” Abo Draie tells Enterprise. “Additionally, more investors are now interested in business-to-patient (B2P) solutions.”

With a total of USD 1 mn raised in funding, Rology wants to focus on scaling outside of Egypt, namely in Africa and the GCC. Currently, there are 52 doctors on the platform, and 113 hospitals are using it, 10 of which are located outside of Egypt, including Saudi Arabia, Kenya, Congo and the Maldives.

One of Rology’s big milestones is a nationwide agreement with the Republic of Congo, through which all hospitals in the country will be using the platform throughout the year.

The startup has also created a tool that automatically detects covid-19 traces in CT scans. Additionally, it is working on more AI tools that could learn from the 80 mn x-ray images in their data bank to apply these learnings on future cases.

Healthy mind, healthy body: While one’s physical health is crucial, a few startups are focused on mental health as a cornerstone for a person’s wellbeing. Dubbed as a mental health platform, Shezlong allows users to find therapists and book online sessions, ensuring complete secrecy and anonymity in the process.

During 2020, Shezlong tripled its customer base, revenues and number of sessions conducted. Currently, Shezlong hosts 80k customers with more than 100k sessions conducted since its inception in 2014, with patients flocking in from different countries.“With patients and doctors staying at home due to the global pandemic, demand has risen on both sides,” founder Ahmed Abu Elhaz tells us. That is where Shezlong comes in as an alternative domain for delivery. Given covid-19, there is a much more vital need for diagnostic tools that help patients rest assured about their health, he adds.

The startup raised USD 1 mn in investments so far, with a series A round in the works. The startup plans to expand in the GCC in 2021, as well as introduce a product roadmap with new features and services, including group therapy.

Telemedicine without borders: Online platform Docspert Health connects patients in the Middle East and Africa with leading international experts. For instance, if someone is seeking a second opinion on scans and lab results, Docspert’s platform allows them to input the type of needed consultation and their contact details, in order to book a video conference appointment with a leading physician in the UK, US or Europe.

While the platform is just one year old, it was able to triple its customer base in the last four months, and is looking to do the same over the next year. It has over 100 international experts on its platform across 40 medical specialties.

Docspert Health recently raised a six-figure investment round in order to expand into GCC, launch covid-specific services, and expand into the ins. market. “Covid-19 drove a lot of consumer behavior in 2020, and upped the need for telemedicine as a whole, which helped Docspert grow,” founder Hisham Mehanna says.

Will the surge in interest for these startups continue this year? Shezlong’s Abu Elhaz thinks 10% month-on-month growth is sustainable throughout the pandemic. Yodawy’s Khashaba thinks the spike in interest in healthtech solutions will cool as covid fads, but sees room to grow in B2B.

Your top infrastructure stories for the week:

  • EV future: Infinity Solar subsidiary Infinity-E will install 300 electric car charging docks across Egypt by 2023.
  • CIT: Fiber optic connectivity will be one of the public utilities required for new construction permits as of April — and will be treated like all other required utilities.
  • Public transit: Canada’s Bombardier is expected to submit a bid for the Transport Ministry’s tender to upgrade the Raml tram overground line in Alexandria.
  • Natural gas transition: Some 170 new natural gas stations will be ready to fill up cars by mid-April.
  • Iraq reconstruction: Hassan Allam Holding is bidding for a power generation facility in Iraq and could start work by the end of the year.
  • Green energy: President Abdel Fattah El Sisi and the CEOs of Belgium’s DEME, Antwerp, and Fluxys discussed potential cooperation and investments in green hydrogen production.
  • Rural development: The Planning Ministry expects to complete the development of 375 villages by the end of the year as part of the government’s EGP 500 bn ‘Hayah Karima’ initiative.

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