Digital health boss: 'We can help millions of people'
Co-founders Patrick Renner, Roger Arellano and Susanne Mitschke had all had experience of the caring profession when they met as Master's degree students during a university hackathon.
Renner and Mitschke were volunteering in adult care centres, while Arellano was helping his grandfather, who was living with Alzheimer's Disease, and all agreed there was a need that tech could address.
Backed by research from the University of Glasgow's institute of cardiovascular science, the trio came up with MindMate, an app that combines brain games, healthy nutrition, regular exercise and social interaction and aims to reduce some of the effects of cognitive decline.
There are currently one million users who tend to fall into three categories: those with Alzheimer’s, people with early-stage memory loss and those who want to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's in the future.
The free app provides users with a daily plan to help them live a healthier lifestyle, including mental activities, physical exercises and a recipe of the day. Each function is backed up by studies that have shown, for example, that a brain-healthy diet, known as the MIND diet, may slow age-related cognitive decline in healthy seniors by an average of 7.5 years.
MindMate recommends using the app for 10-15 minutes every day and those who do so three to five times a week tend to achieve the best results.
Research remains a huge part of the business, with partnerships formed with organisations both in the UK and US. One study with the University of Glasgow gave MindMate to three people with early-stage Alzheimer’s for three months. At the end of the period, they were found to be more independent, with a better quality of life and a sense of slight memory improvement than those who hadn't used the app.
As well as the research that's informing the app, there's a flow of information in the opposite direction.
"We're taking all the user data in the back end and building profiles that will hopefully enable us to predict memory loss and be able to provide better recommendations for those living with these conditions," says Renner.
"We're working with the research companies to find a cure for Alzheimer’s and that’s how we hope the business is going to progress."
Renner, who hails from Germany and splits his time between both offices, was studying finance following work as a consultant for PwC when he met his co-founders. His work in the care facility inspired him to do something to help, yet before then he hadn’t planned on starting his own business.
"We all had the same motivations and we were keen on the idea, so we decided to go for it," he said.
Split over offices in Glasgow and LA, the business has grown to 10 people and has raised a total £2.8 million from UK investors.
The next step will be to translate MindMate into even more languages and expand into other areas.
"We're planning to release another app in the health space for another condition, we haven’t decided what that will be but we will stay focused on people aged 55-60-plus," Renner says.
"The principle is about self-management and living a healthier life with a condition, and there are many other conditions out there that people want help with."
As a tech for good business, there are great rewards, Renner says. "It feels like we have the perfect combination of a successful business for investors and, at the same time, we can help millions of people all over the world – that’s very personal for us."