SkinVision: A Dermatologist in Your Pocket

Melanoma (the most aggressive form of skin cancer) kills over 50,000 people a year worldwide, and that incidence is still rising (about 7% annually), but the most galling fact underlying this statistic is that with proper sun protection and education this risk can be hugely reduced.

Walking up to SkinVision’s beautiful glass offices (easily our favourite office on the tour so far) you’re filled with the sense that this is a company with a purpose. Loes, an INSEAD alumni (17­ D) welcomes us warmly into their offices.

SkinVision uses the camera app on a smartphone to take a picture of a skin lesion and can then accurately predict the chances of the lesion being malignant (cancerous). The company was originally started as a spin off from a Romanian University project in machine learning and visual recognition. By training the algorithm on millions of photos of skin lesions, SkinVision has improved the mode­l to be able to recognize irregular growth patterns, a sign of skin cancer, with an astounding 94­­­­% sensitivity.  That fact in itself is truly remarkable, but if you know that the average GP has about a 60% sensitivity and an average specialist dermatologist 75-92%, the statistic is mind blowing.

B2B2C is the way

There is a clear pattern emerging from the health tech start-ups we have visited, and this appears to be that there is very little reliance from a business model perspective on b2c only sales. “Our b2c users were and are extremely valuable and learned us how to further improve our services” The revenue generating opportunities of solely b2c are just too small or difficult to access. The money for these companies comes from the healthcare providers or insurance companies reducing the burden on their service. And this is exactly the focus for SkinVision at the moment.

By using SkinVision as a service, healthcare providers can save GPs and dermatologists time and money by freeing up appointments that can be used to treat patients who really need attention. It is estimated that in any given week a GP has 7 appointments for unknown skin lesions, the majority of which turn out to be harmless. SkinVision has the technology and the accuracy to drastically reduce this unnecessary patient burden. At the same time, by facilitating early recognition, skin cancer can be picked up and treated early on, significantly reducing treatment cost. And, not unimportant, significantly improving survival rates.

Saving those lives is what motivates the team every day. SkinVision is on a mission to save 250.000 lives in the next decade, and health insurance companies and public health insurance institutions are valuable partners in providing SkinVision’s services to as many individals as possible. “There’s still a great journey ahead of us in educating the world about skin cancer, and we continue to preach that skin checking should be as routine part of your life as going to the dentist”. Having an accurate skin check available anywhere, anytime helps off course.

Advice for MBAs

We were particularly interested in meeting Loes, who was in our shoes just a year ago, and we wanted to know her story of moving from an MBA to a start-up, a process that often feels daunting and a big leap from the comfy world of big corporates.

  1. Focus Your Job Search. Loes agreed that a focused job search is key. If you try and spread yourself too thin and apply to consultancy, industry and start-ups simultaneously, for example, you will find that you do not have the time to dedicate to each sector individually. You need a clear sector in mind and to wholeheartedly throw yourself into networking and applications within that.
  2. Try and find your ‘superconnector’. Loes admits she was fortunate in her job search to be introduced early to a venture capitalist who was able to act as a catalyst for her job search. ‘Finding this kind of person can be so useful to your job search…’ Loes says, so be mindful to establish relationships with those around you and grow your network extensively. This is how she found SkinVision after all… The rest, as they say, is history.

And They’re Hiring…

Finally, the SkinVision family are looking to expand, if anyone has any interest feel free to reach out to us and we can pass you on to the team.

And our two wacky questions

… If SkinVision was an animal what would it be? “A Dalmatian”obviously (great answer!!)

… And if you can hire anyone in the world for SkinVision who would it be? “A superstar medic or doctor would be amazing to project the image of the company”… I suggested Atul Gawandewhich seemed to go down pretty well.


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