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Ahead of the Curve in Digital Health Podcast: Episode 1

In this episode, we talk with Curve director Sanji Kanagalingam to find out what lead him into digital health, and his ambitious goal for Curve to improve 1 billion lives.

Welcome to Ahead of the Curve in Digital Health - a podcast about innovations, leaders and opportunities in digital health care.

This week, we talk with Curve Tomorrow director, Sanji Kanagalingam, to find out what lead him into digital health from his original background in robotics, and his ambitious goal for Curve to improve 1 billion lives.

About Ahead of the Curve in Digital Health

Welcome to Ahead of the Curve in Digital Health, where we take a deep dive into the growing field of digital healthcare each month.

We talk with experts in the field to uncover the latest digital innovations within the healthcare space.

Presented by Curve Tomorrow, a leader in digital healthcare that aims to improve 1 billion lives through transformative health technology solutions.

Episode Transcript

Welcome to Ahead of the Curve in Digital Health, a podcast about innovations, leaders, and opportunities in digital health care. My name is Beth Caniglia and today I'm talking with Sanji Kanagalingam, founder, and director of Curve Tomorrow. Curve is a digital health technology company that works with researchers, clinicians, health organisations and startups to build medical-grade apps and solutions. Sanji takes us through what led him into digital health from his original background in robotics and his ambitious goal for Curve to change 1 billion lives.

Beth: Welcome, Sanji, or should I call you the most ambitious man on the planet?

Sanji: Thanks, Beth. Thanks for having me. Really excited to talk about our purpose and mission.

Beth: Absolutely. So first, I think it's worth taking a bit of a dive into how you started Curve in the first place. Because I understand you were originally a robotics engineer at Melbourne University, which is an interesting field in and of itself, along with some of the cofounders of Curve. So I'd love for you to just give us a quick walk through of the Cuvre journey to date and so we can understand how you got here.

Yeah, thank you. Yeah, at university, we always, the three of us, always were a little bit different. We came from backgrounds, from immigrant families and from families that didn't have as much and so we always had this dream of one day, wanting to give back with our skills. That was our dream back then. Out of university, we did a startup, and it failed miserably in automation. So that was fun. We did six months and had no idea what we were doing. Yeah, but we learned a lot up.

Beth: Classic startup!

Sanji: Yeah, very classic startup. very naive engineers, bunch of tech guys who didn't know what they were doing. About 10 years later, we still had that dream of doing something, you know, meaningful. And we did, we started Curve, and the focus was probably more on the business and the profit side to start with. But we did feel that there was a little bit - it lacked meaning and a lack of purpose. And yeah, it wasn't driving where we really wanted to go. So in 2011, there was a major pivot, and we said, look, why are we doing this, the business, it's not about as much about the business, it's more around the social impact and the impact we want to focus on as a company. So at that time, we made the decision to focus on health tech exclusively, to allow us to give us focus and also make sure that whatever we were doing in the technology field was having an impact and improving people's lives.

Beth: So that brings us to that crazy goal of impacting 1 billion lives. It sounds incredible. But how do actually put it into practice? What does that look like within Curve? How do you plan to get there?

Sanji: Yeah, sure. To start with, it was this crazy goal that we said “look, we want to be able to use our skills as a team, with amazing designers, engineers, innovators, and project managers to create meaningful digital health products.”. One thing that was really important for us was, how do we make that happen? And you know, that whole saying, of, if you don't measure it, you're not going to really do it. So the impact became a core part of what we measure. So we measure two key things as a company. We regularly measure this every year and every quarter, where we measure profit, and that's to make sure we can invest in growth and innovation; And then we measure impact. So impact being the lives touched with each of our products release, and we called it an impact register, that we're tracking regularly. And that whole thing we've got a set of targets to make sure each year that's growing to hit that 1 billion lives.

Beth: Absolutely. So how many lives have you impacted so far?

Sanji: Yeah, so in the digital health space, it took us a little while to get some traction with some great partners. The space was a little bit slower. Actually, the first 100,000 took us about six years. The second 100,000 now has taken us two years. And you know, our plan is we've mapped out each year that this year will be 90,000 and it keeps going up and exponentially. With the more products we have out there, together with our partners and also the products that we are commercialising ourselves that's going to exponentially grow.

Beth: So when do you expect to hit that big goal? what's your current trajectory?

Sanji: Current trajectory’s by around 2045 is when we plan to hit that. With both parts of our business through, where we're providing partnering services, where we're building products for medical research institutes for hospitals for health tech innovators, and also, we're commercialising our own products and having our own spinouts. So, we've already successfully created our first spin-out. And our plan is to in the next three to four years, create another two to three spinouts and growing our services part of the business much faster in order to achieve that. So, to give you a more tangible number, by 2024, we want to be - I'll give you an exact number, but 917,000. To hit that trajectory.

Beth: That’s very specific!

Sanji: Yeah, like I said, we've got a yearly target in order to achieve that billion to make it real.

Beth: Fantastic. So look, every fantastic idea had does have its naysayer. So what do you come up against that a lot? And what do you say to people who kind of react with “Look, I don't think it can be done.”?

Sanji: Yeah, it's a great question. And it is definitely a reaction of many people. They're going  “Ah, you're another tech company. A billion lives. Yeah, good on your for real.” And the truth is, everyone in our team, and I will say one thing that's really important, it's not just about me or the other directors, it's definitely about every person that joins. The reason they join is for the mission of improving lives. That's at the core of why people work at Curve, the energy that goes into building our products, that goes into caring for our clients, that goes into the user experience that we deliver for the end user. And for that naysayer, I guess it's something that you kind of have to live and breathe at Curve, that social impact and impact improving lives is at the core of what we do and it's how we make decisions. So for example, if we get a project that doesn't have a social impact aspect, or it doesn't have the ability to improve someone's life, we do not take it on. So it's like a simple value we hold to, as one of our core values is - we're building products that improve lives. So that's within everything we do. Every lens we apply has got that. I truly do believe that digital health specifically has the amazing potential to improve a billion lives and more, especially with the healthcare systems the way they are. Australia, we're very lucky to have excellent quality doctors and an excellent healthcare system, but there are many countries around the world and regions in the world that don't have that same access, and digital closes that gap. Digital health and health technology closes that gap and enables people to get good quality health care access. I call it like the great enabler. It's a great enabler, it allows clinicians to have more reach for medical research to happen at larger scales than what we've seen before. I guess to summarise, I think it's definitely doable. I do think there will always be sceptics. And you know, with any crazy goal, there's always sceptics, and that's okay. We're happy to hear that, and you know, let the numbers show the truth of what we're trying to do.

Beth: Love it. Absolutely love it. I guess now the big question is, what will you do when you finally impact a billion lives? Like, what's next 7 billion?

Sanji: Yeah, it's funny! I've started changing the wording now around about when we talk about a billion lives because for me, it's not even a we kind of have to do it and everyone's driven to improve more and more lives. It is a target that we're setting to make sure we're going towards it, it is our NorthStar. But to be honest, we're going to just keep going. If it goes to 2 billion, it means Hey, maybe we look at starting education technology, how else can we improve people's lives with the use of technology, that will just keep growing and the team, what we're also hoping to do is create a movement. It could be that people in the organisation are moving into our spinouts and there's more and more companies created in order to create social impact with the use of technology that's our really long-term vision. There is another crazy one where we think we could potentially redefine healthcare and how it's delivered.

Beth: Sounds like a small goal that one, just like a little side project?

Sanji: That’s a small one, like, you know, creating an entirely, you know, the best user experience you can have in healthcare using digital and we think that is possible. So that's just a side project. I definitely think it's a target. We want to surpass that.

Beth: Absolutely. And that's I think that's the best way to approach your goals is, I mean, you've set them pretty high to start with a billion! You’re definitely not setting yourself a small task, but I think it's really incredible what you and the Curve team are doing. Thank you so much for your time, Sanji and we definitely look forward to seeing how you go, just changing the world. So, no pressure, but we expect big things!

Sanji: Thanks, Beth. I really like the opportunity to be able to talk about this because it's what really motivates us and excites us as a company and really glad that we could share that. Thank you.

Beth: Thank you for that, Sanji, and thank you all for listening. If you loved hearing Sanji's story, and you're keen to hear what we talk about next, please go ahead and subscribe. We'll be dropping these podcasts every month going forward. So we'll chat to you next month on Ahead of the Curve in Digital Health.

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