A kick-off post of the new year is about our top accomplishments and future goals. Read what we consider the most important parts of this journey. It’s a long post, grab a coffee!
Please note that these are not listed in a particular order, all are important!
Top 5 accomplishments in 2017
Alpha version available for Android users
We started working on the research based content of our mobile health platform already in late 2016 which was followed by extensive prototyping in Spring 2017. We were then ready to proceed to MVP development but at that time we did not have game developers in the team. This meant that we all needed to learn some new skills and so we collectively completed online specialization in serious games from Finnish universities during summer 2017. Although we learnt a lot and at the same time Risto was learning Unity and C#, we knew that we still need to recruit an experienced game developer because we didn’t want to make any compromises in the quality. By the end of summer, we had found not one, but two highly experienced developers to join the team. And already in late 2017 we had the version ready for early adopters - it took us a year.
Collaboration with little heroes, their families and other stakeholders
During the prototyping process we started collaborating with organizations for patients, their families and medical personnel to learn more about their needs and to gain feedback on the concept. This resulted in co-designing the platform with stakeholders and for that we are especially thankful for EVLVL, Kympin Lapset, psychologists from oncology departments, all doctors, nurses and other medical personnel who contributed. This input has been so valuable and helped us to start testing the game with children late in 2017. We first completed successful round of testing with healthy kids that was followed by testing with ill children late in 2017. These little partners are truly our heroes because with their extensive feedback and ideas we were able to significantly improve the platform. Because let’s be honest – we might think that we know what children like but only they are the true experts. And most importantly, their expert opinion on our game has been positive!
Every superhero needs an awesome squad
In Triumfland, kids find their inner superhero to fight the disease monster and the creation of this game with such an extensive storyline, content, mechanics and underlying code has been a team effort at its best. In our team, every single one of us has contributed to the platform design, even if their tasks are not directly related to product development. There is a very simple reason for that - we all share the common goal of creating the most effective and attractive mobile health platform for ill children for maximum support. And throughout 2017 we grew a lot as a team - thank you, Anna, Kertu, Lea, Pepi, Riin & Risto, you are the most awesome squad in the world!
Visibility and awareness
Our little startup put a lot of effort to draw more attention to childhood cancer and other chronic illnesses and the importance of psychological support in this context. Riin published an interview on our blog (in Estonian) with two psychologists from oncology departments and it got significant attention in the expert community and contributed to the discussion of the importance of health psychology and current situation in Estonia. Considering how valuable this topic is, we are now in the process of publishing an academic paper in Eesti Arst on the importance of mental health support in chronic illnesses. Moreover, we had a researcher Keiu Paapsi writing on our blog about the incidence of childhood cancer and our aim is to continue to grow our platform to reach wider audience. We will continue emphasizing the importance of mental health support and contribute to the field (or even disrupt it?) with our own mobile health platform to reach out to those in need, no matter the location. Besides our blog where we all contribute to, we are also active on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, make sure to follow us!
Funding issues are internal matters that rarely get public attention outside the team (unless of course you have just closed a successful funding round and write a press release about it). Only the team knows the massive amount of man-hours it requires to write grant applications, work on your investment platform profiles, meet with investors and so on. We were lucky to have a business developer with us in the team in 2017 who coordinated this part but for upcoming years Sven had a different path in mind so he is not part of the team anymore. Instead, we have two angel investors on board with us who are significantly contributing with their expertise. We couldn’t have been happier to close our pre-seed round with them. And moreover, we got a business advisor with international background to join the team late in 2017. The numbers are finally coming together! So finally it seems like all that hard work is starting to pay off - pre-seed round investment in combination with de minimis aid allows us to work hard on the platform development.
Cherry on the cake in 2017: Being chosen among top business ideas in Estonia (Ajujaht)!
Top 5 goals for 2018
Continuous improvements in the platform
We continue increasing the value of our product by adding new features to it, improving the graphics and storyline and also incorporating machine learning for personalized support. Moreover, our goal is to add a new path to the game - we hope that soon patients with diabetes are able to start using the game. Wait, there is even more - dashboard for medical personnel will be introduced soon to our customers (public and private hospitals)!
First institutional licensing contracts
With our solution (serious game for patients + dashboard for medical personnel), we make psychological support more accessible, improve treatment monitoring and intervention planning in a cost-effective way for hospitals. Medical personnel is able to follow the treatment progress and take action when needed based on the visual data from the dashboard. To take our solution in use, hospitals are paying for yearly license and for 2018 our aim is hospitals in Estonia, Finland and UK. The game is already available in English, Finnish and Estonian and negotiations are ongoing regarding the piloting and licensing.
Science is a superpower, isn’t it? Although our game has research based content and includes practical concepts for psychological support that have been shown to be effective, we also need to evaluate the effectiveness of our solution. In order to do so, we need to use that superpower! We will apply for a 2-year research grant and have more plans on how to acquire funding to pursue the science path. But in general, we will first run a proof of concept study which will result in a master’s thesis and then continue with clinical randomized controlled trials. Exciting times (read: study design and ethics applications) ahead! We also have an academic advisor Kirsti Akkermann with us, she is a highly recognised expert in the field of clinical psychology.
Closing institutional sales takes very long time, hospitals are slow in their decision process. So although customers are the best investors, we still aim to close a seed-round investment of 500 000€ this year. We are already preparing for the seed-round and negotiating with individual investors, investor networks (such as EstBAN and FiBAN), VC-s and investment platforms. Hopefully our marketing manager can send out that press release on closing an investment round in mid 2018 ;)
I am the biggest fan of our team and I will always stand behind this awesome group of experts. It’s not always rainbows and unicorns as you know and we also had some tough times in 2017 and will definitely have some in 2018 as well. But what makes me very proud is that with this team we are able to get through anything. Also, I am hopeful that 2018 brings us more things to celebrate! We have also planned to recruit more people in 2018 - 3D artist/animator being the first in the list. So let us know if you know someone who is a great 3D artist or perhaps you are one yourself? Also, in 2018, we are happy to welcome a new team member for six months - a PhD student Georgi will be with us for half a year to further develop the game narrative. Moreover, we consider our investors/advisors as part of the team so altogether we have a rather big group of experts involved with the startup. And I hope to grow both personally and professionally as the team grows to be able to continue to motivate and lead more and more people; it has been the best experience I have ever had and for that I need to be extra grateful for the team.
Thank you for reading the long post, till next time!