Having a good social support network is key to living a happier and healthier life.
Based in Vancouver, Curatio helps provide that, and more, to patients and health care organizations worldwide.
The company's cutting-edge software-as-a-service (SaaS) acts as a social networking app, connecting individuals who live with the same diseases or diagnoses. Today, patients have a secure and private platform where they can discuss similar issues, share health strategies, provide support to one another, and even hope. Curatio's platform also provides a virtual concierge capability that supports personalized care, monitoring and disease management from home.
Building on their success as the winner of numerous national and international awards for innovation, entrepreneurship and business leadership, Curatio continues to expand. Today, the company has a global team and a product that is used in more than 100 countries in 20 languages.
The National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP) has played a critical role in helping the company along its successful journey.
In 2014, Curatio turned to NRC IRAP for support to build out and differentiate their platform from other apps in the health care market.
NRC IRAP started its relationship with Curatio by first providing some technical guidance on usability, metrics and the functionality of their product. Early support also included funding to hire young graduates to build a more robust version of Curatio's product.
"There is a lot of opportunity to optimize software products in the health care space," says Rizwan Kheraj, the NRC IRAP Industrial Technology Advisor (ITA) who first engaged with the company. "We didn't want this software to be something users would only use for a few months; we needed to help the company ensure their product would be something users could depend on. That reliability of product is what has made this app quite different than anything else out there."
Digital health products were still fairly new even a half-decade ago. As such, Curatio needed to also position itself and its products in a way that target markets would understand. "Our early days with NRC IRAP were very much around them advising and coaching us so we could articulate our value proposition and understand market forces at play," says Lynda Brown-Ganzert, CEO of Curatio. "At the same time, they were keeping an eye on the future of health tech."
Over several years, NRC IRAP has worked alongside Curatio, facilitating the company's growth through more than a dozen projects. This support was paired with advice and guidance on product strategy, the alignment between vision and revenue model, and the development of an intellectual property strategy.
To enable the company to continue adding intelligence into its software platform, NRC IRAP also facilitated relationships for Curatio with potential partners and investors, international business experts, and researchers specializing in artificial intelligence and machine learning.
"There's nothing NRC IRAP has done that hasn't had an impact on us; they have lent such huge value and it's been a privilege to work with the program and with Riz in particular," adds Lynda. "He's an incredible advisor, exceedingly smart, and hugely knowledgeable—he's been a bit of our secret sauce for sure!"
For Rizwan, the ITA role is all about providing guidance to help businesses make smart decisions.
"It's about listening and working with the client. We discuss things with them and they can generate the right strategies out of that discussion by deciding what to do for a better entry to the market," he says. "My job is about laying out the strategies, seeing what the pros and cons of these strategies are, and letting the client choose the right path."
"I think of NRC IRAP as a program that grows companies right from the seed up. As you work with them through different business stages and your company evolves, you can see how strategic the ITAs are in terms of the progression and sequencing of business activities. They're basically plotting out a roadmap for you and helping you as you grow."
The next step for Curatio is taking things globally. NRC IRAP is now working with them on the export and distribution side of the business, helping to develop partner channels and expand business opportunities.
Through NRC IRAP, Curatio was provided with advice on international co-innovation programs with Australian companies that have EU operations. Guidance also enabled the company to better understand the regulatory environments of the UK and South Korea,which are markets of interest.
"South Korea is a market we had been and are still looking at, so NRC IRAP was able to prepare us for a business-to-business (B2B) digital health mission by helping us understand the landscape and meet and network with other Canadian companies there," says Lynda.
Curatio also took part in NRC IRAP's International Co-innovation Action Program (ICAP). This 2-day workshop helps small and medium-sized businesses who are planning to expand into global markets, looking for international co-innovation partners, and need help building an international market-entry strategy and action plan.
"That was really helpful in terms of understanding new markets and how to chart a path to them," says Lynda. "It certainly helped us build out our path to market and consider what our strategy should look like."
Since completing the ICAP workshop, the company has had a number of business successes: it refined its targeted foreign market to focus on the UK, completed an assessment of the UK health care market including product positioning and competitive analysis, finalized General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance of their software platform, and brought more external advisors on board to help secure new partnerships and revenue streams.
Then, now and into the future
Today, the company is ready for export and in the process of building distribution and technical partners outside of Canada. Meanwhile, NRC IRAP continues to advise on the investment and business side.
"We're rapidly expanding and benefiting greatly from some of the work that NRC IRAP has helped us with," says Lynda. "We're excited to have started building contextual data and data analytics into our platform and seeing how it improves health care. Meanwhile, we love hearing every day how our software is helping patients and families, and how scalable a solution this is in a global market. We hope to eventually get it in the hands of every patient on the planet and truly transform health care."
According to Lynda, partnering with NRC IRAP spells success for all companies.
"If you look back at Canadian giants that have succeeded, every company I've ever spoken with has benefited from NRC IRAP's advisors, mentors and strategists who work quietly behind the scenes. I'm talking hundreds if not thousands of companies. In that sense, NRC IRAP is the unsung hero of so much tech success in Canada. It's hands-down one of the biggest advantages of having a company in Canada."