I’m going to keep this newsletter fairly short as this is my last task before I’m on leave for 2 weeks. Before you ask where I’m going, I’m not actually leaving London!
In fact, chalk this up as more of a ‘staycation,’ although I’m not even sure if it qualifies as that: I’ll mainly be working every day on a music project I’m writing and producing with friends. The album has got to the point where it needs my undivided attention for more than a weekend here and there, so that’s the plan!
However, there’s been plenty of decent news since the last edition of 'Steve’s ITK’ and a few pieces I wrote that I wanted highlight in particular.
Tractable are a graduate of company builder Entrepreneur First, and is applying artificial intelligence to accident and disaster recovery. The company is using deep learning to automate visual damage appraisal and speed up insurance payouts and access to other types of financial aid.
The reason I like the piece is two-fold: Dalyac is – or claimed to be – almost entirely un-media trained and therefore gave a very raw and candid interview (and his pitch was one of the most exuberant I’ve heard in recent years!). But better still, he actually had something to say beyond just publicising Tractable’s raise.
This included strong views on AI startups selling out too early, and the need for AI to find real-world use that is commercially viable. If that doesn’t happen, he believes it won’t just be Tractable that suffers, but the continued belief and investment in AI as a whole. Otherwise we could be facing another so-called 'AI winter’.
“Sounds so Alex, infectious enthusiasm,” is how one of Tractable’s early investors summed up the article.
I’ve known Perez for quite a few years, having covered his first startup in 2012 when he was just out of Oxford University. Back then he was about as wet behind the ears as a founder can be and kinda pushy too
. He was also the first ever founder to make the effort to visit me in my home neighbourhood of Tottenham, outside of London’s main tech hotspots, even when he didn’t have anything to pitch, which I really appreciated.
Nowadays, he is doing much more interesting work.
Hinge Health is best-described as a tech-enabled platform to treat musculoskeletal (MSK) disorders — things like knee pain, shoulder pain, or back pain — and is also backed by Insight Venture Partners, along with London’s Atomico.
The company combines wearable sensors, an app, and health coaching to remotely deliver physical therapy and behavioural health for chronic conditions. The basic premise is that there is plenty of existing research to show how best to treat MSK disorders, but existing healthcare systems don’t do a very good job at delivering best practice, either because of cost and the way it is funded or for other systemic reasons. The result is an over tendency to fall back on the use of opioid-based painkillers or surgery.
Hinge’s business model is interesting, too. The startup charges per patient signed up to the program and sells into self-insured employers and health plans, including to large tech companies, with the pitch being that its platform can significantly reduce medical costs associated with chronic MSK conditions. And it’s working.
I keep asking Perez when he is going to bring Hinge Health to the UK’s NHS (he’s a big fan of our health system), especially since the startup maintains a small London office. He says it is definitely something he’d like to do.
: When I injured my neck/shoulder earlier in the year, the Hinge Health founder was the first to drop me a note after reading about the incident in ITK (#40
). “You know I run an musculoskeletal company!” he emailed, before advising that I stay moving. “Movement is medicine, even if it hurts,” apparently. To be fair, he also said I really should see a doctor; advice I readily ignored.