They often say that that the key to entrepreneurial success lies in finding a problem that you are passionate about solving, but when the traumatic loss of your own child pushes your inner strength to its limits, nothing could stop HealthTech entrepreneur Harpreet Singh, Co-Founder of Child Healthcare Imprints, from doing everything to never lose a precious life again.
Harpreet is an engineer — a clever engineer, for sure; he does after-all have a PhD in biomedical engineering. He has worked at Philips as a senior scientist and Stryker & McKinsey as Senior Architect. His skill and interest is in applying his knowledge of biomedical engineering to build medical solutions.
It was when tragedy struck that his interests and formidable skills mutated into a very specific idea: supporting babies in Intensive Care Units (ICU’s) in hospitals. Blessed with the gift of twins, they were born at only 27 weeks, their weight was tiny, and they were moved to ICU. Within a week, one died and the other came through.
“I watched babies die in ICU,” he said — it’s difficult not to feel emotional when you hear those words. And, to put it mildly, the experience left a big mark on Harpreet, “We wanted information,” he says, “we wanted to know what we could do to help.”
Child Health Imprints was born. The problem became apparent to Harpreet after his very personal experience. The solution seemed to tie in very closely into the area that interested him, engineering. His interest became a passion.
The Journey of the HealthTech Startup, Child Health Imprints
Back then, Harpreet was still working for McKinsey, but his wife, Ravneet Kaur, Co-Founder, Child Health Imprints kept on working at the same hospital where they lost the child to see how they could contribute to solving some of the challenges in early risk detection of premature babies in the ICU. As these babies have no immunity, weight of only a few grams and are very fragile, technology is the only thing that can help provide real time data and feedback to doctors. Harpreet started working on the technology and the algorithms as a part of a social responsibility project while being an employee of McKinsey.
When blessed with an investor providing seed funding to make this project a reality, as well as Enterprise SG (Seeds Capital) who decided to back the project after presenting to the Singapore Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, Child Health Imprints took off and have since touched 75,000 lives. Today, Child Health Imprints has its head office in Singapore, manufacturing in Daejeon, Korea, a software arm in Delhi, India and analytics centre in the Madison, WI, US. It has a team of 46 people. That spread feels very much in keeping with the Singapore ethos — a global business, taking advantage of different specialities, but with its heart in Singapore.
An Inside Look Into Harpreet’s Personal Life
Harpreet’s passion is uncountable hours working on saving young lives through his technology. So much so that, when asked “what does he do to relax?” Harpreet said: “if you love what you are doing, you don’t feel that you have to rest.” He qualified further: “If you can do something that you love, and when it helps others, it gives you purpose and that purpose will have you stay up all night” Maybe you can call it the two Ps, passion and purpose. These two Ps seem to define Child Health Imprints.
“A lot of businesses are sold, and their founders move on. But my motivation is different. Seeing my son Ekjas, who survived after staying for 51 days in NICU and going through all possible hurdles of preterm growth is my infinite source of motivation.” But surely, there are times, even when work is your passion, that you need to reset. To that question, Harpreet conceded that when you are leading a company you are also responsible for every departments. “Sometimes those things can become burdening, and you have to take a step back and re-charge yourself. But working relentlessly has never been a challenge.”
Feedbacks and comments from parents are an incommensurate source of motivation that fuels Harpreet to keep pushing the status quo. “One parent once wrote a blog about how our technology saved the life of their baby. This is very rewarding. I am motivated by walking into an ICU and seeing a product we developed next to babies.”
And There Is COVID
But these days there is a ‘C’ word. No account of a startup’s business can be presented without mentioning it. How has COVID affected the business? As is so often the case there seems to be a positive and negative side. The negative side is somewhat obvious. To develop its technology and engage with customers, Harpreet and his team need to work in hospitals and during lockdowns that was not possible.
On the other hand, before COVID, some of its technology adoption was held back by regulatory hurdles. Harpreet sees live video in ICU, as a supporting data of quality of clinical care, as a vital technology for supporting babies in ICU. But that has privacy implications. There was a certain reluctance to implement such technology. “COVID has changed this,” he says. Parents wanted this technology so that they could see their babies in ICU’s, even if lockdowns meant they couldn’t be there in person.
Harpreet’s Thoughts on Innovation
Harpreet Singh was born in India studied and then pursued most of his career in America. “I saw the US as the land of opportunity,” he says. “The US is a great place to support innovation,” He adds, that up to a three years ago, he had a Western-centric view of where the opportunity revolved — “US, Germany and Switzerland. But when I landed in Singapore, I saw opportunity is there, too. There is less depth of market, but the support is there. Singapore’s impact relative to its size is amazing, and the ecosystem is so important.”
A startup like Child Health Imprints also needs an ecosystem. This is something that exists in Singapore and is supported by the Galen Growth HealthTech Cohort. Part of the challenge, it seems, for Child Healthcare Imprints, has been, to borrow words from Harpreet, is “we have been so busy on our business.” In the process, it seems that marketing can get neglected. So the opportunity to talk about what they are doing and hearing about others has been important: “It has given us access to investors and helped visibility.”
We all have our strengths and weaknesses. For, Child Health Imprints, it seems the strength was its purpose and engineering excellence. Maybe, marketing comes second. “That’s why the ecosystem matters. It helps us find people with complementary skills, fill the gaps in our own skillsets. If we could all do everything ourselves, maybe we wouldn’t need ecosystems. But none of us can.”
About the Galen Growth HealthTech Cohort
Child Health Imprints is part of the Galen Growth HealthTech Cohort, the only acceleration programme built to scale digital health startups to be the next generation powering healthcare innovation in the New Normal in Asia. In 2020, Galen Growth is working with 25 HealthTech startups which will benefit from Galen Growth’s long-established and unmatched curated community of investors, corporate leaders and innovation teams and other essential stakeholders through our proven multi-channel tools. For more information, visit Galen Growth’s HealthTech Cohort webpage or read this article on the launch of the Galen Growth HealthTech Cohort.
Read last week’s interview with James Miles-Lambert, CEO & Founder of Hello Health Group here.
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