IN­TER­VIEW

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Business & Appointments - - FRONT PAGE -

AFEW years ago Ciara Clancy went to a din­ner where a lot was at stake. One of the din­ner guests was go­ing to get €20,000 for their busi­ness, and if it wasn’t her, Beats Med­i­cal would prob­a­bly be no more. It was right be­fore the dead­line for sub­mit­ting pa­tents, and the com­pany — which makes a smart­phone app that pro­vides ther­a­pies for peo­ple with Parkin­son’s and other neu­ro­log­i­cal con­di­tions — had run out of money.

“We hadn’t raised a large round at that point and when it comes to fundrais­ing in health­care a lot is put on pa­tents. They say with­out a patent it’s very hard to raise, so I sup­pose I knew if we lost that, our abil­ity to raise would be com­pro­mised,” says Clancy.

Peo­ple were al­ready re­ly­ing on the prod­uct so the stakes were higher than would be the case for most startups on the brink.

But Clancy won the prize and im­me­di­ately sent a photo of the over­sized nov­elty cheque to her patent lawyer — the patent was sub­mit­ted.

Fast for­ward to to­day and now Clancy is look­ing to raise €3m in Se­ries-a fund­ing to help drive the com­pany to the next level.

It’s cur­rently avail­able di­rectly from the app store to cus­tomers for €1 a day, but Clancy thinks busi­ness-to-busi­ness sales is what will re­ally help scale the com­pany quickly. The pro­ceeds of the fundrais­ing ex­er­cise will in large part be de­ployed to­wards grow­ing that part of the busi­ness.

De­vis­ing corporate strat­egy is not some­thing Clancy ever thought she would end up do­ing. From a young age she knew she wanted to en­ter the car­ing pro­fes­sions, and in her teens a vol­un­teer­ing stint with a lo­cal phys­io­ther­a­pist con­vinced her she wanted to help peo­ple strug­gling with Parkin­son’s.

As a keen dancer, move­ment was a source of much joy in her life, and she wanted to help peo­ple re­claim their abil­ity to move.

She went to Trin­ity and stud­ied phys­io­ther­apy — but by the time it came to hands-on work with pa­tients, she was left un­sat­is­fied.

“I re­ally felt af­ter all those years that I was fall­ing short, that I wasn’t do­ing every­thing I thought I could do. I thought I was go­ing to help all these peo­ple with Parkin­son’s dis­ease, and I was help­ing them — but it was on such a small scale. I was help­ing them in hospitals and they were go­ing home and the symp­toms were per­sist­ing.”

The vast bulk of the care for Parkin­son’s and other neu­ro­log­i­cal con­di­tions takes place in the home and so Clancy wanted to de­velop some­thing that would work there.

So-called “metronome ther­apy” (where pa­tients are asked to re­spond to a beat to train the brain to work more ef­fi­ciently) had been shown to be ef­fec­tive but it was only avail­able in hos­pi­tal be­cause it had to be in­di­vid­u­ally tai­lored ev­ery sin­gle day.

So Clancy went about build­ing the re­search that would en­able her to de­velop al­go­rithms for in­di­vid­u­alised pre­scrip­tions. Once that prob­lem was solved, build­ing a busi­ness be­came the chal­lenge. There was just one dif­fi­culty — she had no busi­ness ex­pe­ri­ence.

“Grow­ing up, there were ab­so­lutely no plans to go into en­trepreneur­ship. I had no in­ter­est in busi­ness. Peo­ple say they set up mini-busi­nesses and lemon­ade stands and things like that. I did none of that,” says Clancy.

She de­cided to build an ad­vi­sory board that would en­able her to lever­age the ex­pe­ri­ence of oth­ers. Tele­coms en­tre­pre­neur Sean Melly — also an early in­vestor — joined, as did Trin­ity phys­io­ther­apy pro­fes­sor Emma Stokes and Philips on­line sales vet­eran Gra­ham Mer­ri­man.

All of this was de­signed to help de­liver Clancy’s vi­sion of mak­ing Beats the num­ber one provider of non-in­tru­sive so­lu­tions for neu­ro­log­i­cal con­di­tions. Among its func­tions are speech and lan­guage ther­a­pies, dex­ter­ity ex­er­cises, and tai­lored metronome ther­apy to help im­prove pa­tients’ move­ment.

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