As part of our new series of client interviews, below is our interview with Marina Massingham, CEO at Aifred Health.

A bit of background and inspiration

Q: First off, can you tell our readers about Aifred?

Aifred is developing a clinical decision support tool designed for doctors treating patients with mental health conditions, starting with depression. The team is made up of 5 full time employees and we have a management team of 6, including 2 doctors. Our wider team also includes several consultants and volunteers. The company was incorporated in August 2017.

Q: Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Marina Massingham, CEO. My background lies in management consulting, HR and marketing. I’ve been working in healthcare for the past several years. Aifred is my 3rd healthcare startup. I joined the Aifred team as a professional CEO in January of this year.

Q: What inspired you to start a business?

The founding team is made up of doctors, neuroscientists and computational engineers. They are all inspired with a genuine passion to help patients with mental health challenges lead better, healthier lives.

Challenges & Solutions

Q: What do you think is the biggest challenge you face today? 

While there are multiple challenges we face that are common to any healthcare startup, the changing regulatory environment around the use of AI in healthcare is definitely one of the biggest we face.

Without a well-trodden regulatory path in major markets such as the US and Canada, predicting the time and resources to approval for our second generation (AI-based) product (and with that allocating resources appropriately and managing risk) is a significant challenge.

Q: How does Aifred Health Inc. make the world a better place? What problem are you solving? 

According to the WHO, depression is the leading cause of medical disability worldwide. Many physicians, particularly family doctors, are underquipped to manage depression. And current treatments are not well-differentiated. Consequently, a ‘trial and error’ approach to treatment is the norm. Unsurprisingly, this approach isn’t very effective – 67% of patients fail to get better after their first treatment and around 1/3 fail to get better even after their fourth treatment.

We want to help doctors to make better-informed decisions. That will in turn assist them in getting their patients feeling better faster. It’s a big win, both for the patients themselves and their families. But it’s also a big win for the healthcare systems bearing the costs of treatment.

Building a business and defining success

Q: What stage of the product life cycle are you currently in?

We are in the piloting phase.

Q: How does Aifred Health Inc. approach financing its operations? What stage are you at today? (Ex.pre-seed, seed, Series A). Can you share how much you have raised to date? 

We are at the pre-seed stage and have raised nearly $500k in investment. We have also raised approximately $260k in grants and prizes.

Q: How do you define success for Aifred? A million visits or downloads? A million dollars in sales?  

As a for-profit startup, the numbers are of course extremely important. In fact, we have both patient acquisition rate and revenue goals, as well as many other metrics that we track. However, we also define our future success in terms of our tool becoming an integral part of the standard of care in the treatment of depression within healthcare centres across the world.

Q: How do you define success for yourself at work? What are your key objectives? 

While I wear many different hats within the business, my biggest priority is building and harnessing the talent within my team.

Particularly as an early-stage startup, I firmly believe the company is only as great as the team behind it. Fortunately for me, our team is amazing!

Beyond that, I am ensuring that we are continously and rigorously testing all assumptions behind our business model, building a robust and sustainable governance and financial structure, and leading the exploration of avenues for future growth. 

Q: What’s the best advice you can give to someone else at a company which is at about the same stage in terms of development? 

Make sure you are addressing a genuine need/pain point and understand who will pay to resolve it. Articulate your mission clearly and align your team and culture around it. Stay focused and allow plenty of time to raise funds. Be prepared to challenge your assumptions and don’t hesitate to seek advice from more experienced entrepreneurs and thought leaders in your industry.