Japans medical researchers join Aussie innovators to hack Ageing Population
These days the term ‘hackathon’ can mean many things. More recently the term has been used to describe a style of program which can be best described as a “mini-accelerator program”, with the same lean and business model canvas tool playing a central role in essentially creating a number of potential new startup teams that pitch at a demo day style event at the end of the program. Somewhat similar to the Startup Weekend style of programs.
The original hackathons were very different, and instead of focusing on building a potential startup and acquiring entrepreneurial soft skills, they were typically focused on “building something usable”, be it a software or another technology and rather than teams with mixed backgrounds and skill sets pitching a potential business concept, primarily computer science students and software developers would participate with a view of creating something that works within the few days and presenting the prototype instead of a polished pitch. Our latest program at Innovation Dojo has developed yet another take on the hackathon format — enter the Dojo Health Hackathon.
Like all of the Innovation Dojo programs, a key differentiation is to import talent and integrate the diverse cultural and language skills across the participating teams. In this case, a delegation from a prestigious medical faculty in Japan made of students, researchers and even a venture capitalist traveled to Sydney to participate. The eight Japanese participants formed teams with local Sydney innovators from UNSW, Macquarie Graduate School of Management and a sprinkling of professionals including a General Practitioner.
The key three goals of the Dojo Health Hackathon were
1. to acquire a new hard skill (by doing it)
2. to overcome the challenges of working in a cross-cultural, truly multi-lingual team (by doing it)
3. to build a global network of like-minded health and medical innovators
In addition to the Innovation Dojo core team representatives (Kaoru Nishinakagawa and I), the guest speakers and mentors into the program included the infamous BioFoundry co-founder and biohacking thought leader Meow Ludo, who played the role of lead mentor, Mike Skalsky, a serial CEO and Managing Director of medical device startup companies, local legend in the world of IP and regulatory issues for health and medical startups, Jacinta Flattery-O’brien from Shelston IP and co-founder of BeacoHealth, Sylvain Marion who spoke through the journey as an early stage tech startup going global.
Obviously, different styles of programs demand different categories of mentors and domain experts, so it was amazing to watch the contrasting but all very relevant content, styles and approaches delivered, For example, lead mentor Meow Ludo, whilst being best known for his work related to the biohacking movement, has a strong and diverse background guiding and mentoring teams through hacks of all shapes and sizes. The software specialist mentor in the Dojo was Ryan Cross, who gave his time generously to supporting the software development component of prototypes and brought his background as a serial software entrepreneur to the table in this regard. Starting a health or medical technology startup requires specific skills and know-how, and our healthtech and medtech entrepreneur, Alyse Sue had just this plus a background in biomedical technologies for good measure.
For government and industry insights, we were chuffed to have Jobs for NSW executive Wendy Carroll participate as a subject matter expert drawing from here knowledge and experience as the Cluster Champion of Health Precincts in NSW. When English isn’t the native language of 50% of your team, and they’ve just arrived in country on the morning of day 1 of the program, support is needed to create efficient and clear communication methods — even if for teams as small as four people. Startup Muster team member and Innovation Dojo cohort #1 graduate Kalya Medica played this cross-cultural communications mentor splendidly.
So what were the participants able to achieve over 2.5 days?
* the Asclepius team had no electrical or software engineering experience yet successfully created a mobile application that triggered an electrical door to open and shut as part of a prototyped medicine storage box
* the ScriptMD team, who won the competition part of the program, were able to create their own blockchain token and transfer it from one mobile device to another for a product that allows doctors to send medical transcripts directly to patients utilizing blockchain technology.
* the NutruCam team has no coding experience yet learnt to code and created a prototype application that captures food images and extrapolates dietary requirements instantly
* the VR Medical team had some very basic software coding experience yet learnt how to code in new VR languages and built a prototype Virtual Reality world that simulated the experience of being in an increasingly confined space as part of a treatment for claustrophobia (it should be noted the methodology was validated against existing research for the treatment of claustrophobia).
In addition to acquiring these new skills, the participants are all part of the growing Innovation Dojo network and plans have already commenced among them to meet again to take some of the projects forward.
If you’re interested in why we are focused on the Japan-Australia relationship via the lens of innovation and entrepreneurship, please see this piece I wrote recently on the size and scale of opportunities in this space. If you’d like to know more or to get involved, please contact us via the Innovation Dojo website. We are currently looking for companies operating or wishing to operate across Australia and Japan to explore partnership and collaboration opportunities. Big things ahead in 2018!