From Microsoft Innovation Award: How will data-driven approach change startup businesses?

Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0. Image by A Health Blog.

See the original story in Japanese.

The Microsoft Innovation Award 2015 (MIA2015) is an annual opportunity to showcase how startups have developed innovative software and services that bring progressive ideas to life. The presenting ceremony for the award was held at Microsoft Japan headquarters in Tokyo a couple of weeks ago where the MIA Award and Audience Choice’s Award winners were announced following the finalist pitches.

In the event, The Bridge coordinated two panel discussions focused on data-driven startups.

Panel 1: How will a data-driven approach factor into healthcare apps and platforms?

From the right: Shinichiro Isago (Microsoft Japan), Francois Cadiou (Healint) on screen, Yoko Gibo (Noom Japan), and Yuji Mizoguchi (FiNC)

The event’s second session kicked off with a panel about how healthcare startups are leveraging big data to improve their platforms and businesses. Moderated by The Bridge co-founder Masaru Ikeda, this session included:

  • Francois Cadiou (CEO, Healint) – on screen via Skype
  • Yoko Gibo (Managing Director, Noom Japan)
  • Yuji Mizoguchi (CEO, FiNC)
  • Shinichiro Isago (Technical Evangelist Manager, Emerging Technology Evangelism, Microsoft Japan)

Healint has developed an app called Migraine Buddy which collects data recorded from sufferers of migraine headaches. By recording the symptoms of migraines from patients, doctors can more accurately report on those symptoms. Healint performs big data analysis based on accumulated user data and, by sharing and marketing that information to pharmaceutical companies and research institutions, new medicines are developed and healthcare quality is improved.

CEO Cadiou argued that the app attracts many Japanese people:

Things like one’s own nervous system can be quite difficult to grasp, so patients should record and manage their condition daily, gather the appropriate data, and then see a doctor in order to recieve the optimal method of treatment.

FiNC, a mobile health technology startup in Japan, employs full time personnel, physicians, pharmacists, and instructors in the preventive medicine field. Most recently, with the release of their healthcare news app Wellness Post, FiNC has been making the push to proliferate medical information relevant to their users. Additionally they are working on a new preventative medicine crowdsourcing platform for nutritionists, trainers, and other health specialists.

NYC-headquartered Noom has been offering preventative medicine solutions for consumer and commercial use since 2008. More recently they have been developing a smart AI (artificial intelligence)-based personal coach app called Noom Coach, as well as Noom Health, an app that family physicians and trainers can use to get an accurate picture of their patient’s health based on each patient’s recorded diet and exercise, making it possible to offer counseling to many patients remotely at low cost, and with a high degree of accuracy.

Now is the time to make healthcare data a real focus

To start the discussion, the speakers were asked to share what led them to start their businesses. Speaking from his own clinical development experience, Cadiou found himself focused on the various ways progress can be made in transitioning from paper to web apps and sensors, and so on. To approach these hurdles, Cadiou started working with data scientists and programmers, considerably progressing his research and development practices in Singapore.

In view of many healthcare startups born out in the world, FiNC CEO Mizoguchi shared his point of view on the state of the healthcare market. He said,

Healthcare is a concern everyone shares, which is why we are in such a good market to expand globally.

Noom, on the other hand, broke into the market through a NYC-based startup accelerator specializing in healthcare. Gibo expressed,

The healthcare business world as a whole has a high barrier of entry and is a difficult place to grow as a business. That’s why the existence of an accelerator that combines big business with healthcare technology is so crucial, and also why Noom has also been able to work together with a variety of medical institutions.

Adding that through beginning to offer enterprise targeted services they have seen considerable growth. The healthcare field itself appears to be experiencing a movement of innovation right now that is justifiably garnering global attention.

The three companies are each engaged in analyzing data connected to their users’ healthcare and putting that into use in developing services, so the question of how is this kind of big data to be effectively used is becoming of interest. Gibo pointed out that as far as health care data goes, the data that has been collected so far is small, and supplying data to insurance companies and patients has only recently started. However, it can be said that a data-based business model incorporating feedback regarding insurance companies is on the verge.

Mizoguchi shared,

There have been a lot of offers for the trial deployment of our services, and we’ve begun dealing with the local government. […]

This has all just recently started in Japan so data and evidence are still scarce. With consent from users, we’d like to make that data open to use and build a structure for use and application. By recording physical, location, and movement behavior data, the time when we can provide individualized health care services based on users’ individual data may be soon. Our aim is to continue searching for the best ways to utilize data to make as many people happy as we can.

In response to this, Microsoft’s Isago said,

Up until now Microsoft has largely been involved in the game and entertainment industries, but the requests from people in other industries such as healthcare increased when the Kinect was introduced. […]

Basically I think you could say that more and more people are realizing the possibilities technology holds. Currently we’re focusing our efforts on the medical and security fields. We’re always on the look out for startups that are interested in working together with Microsoft to develop new services that utilize various different kinds of cloud data.

Gibo also expressed that the healthcare market itself is still in an early stage, and that through collaboration with businesses such as Microsoft to open up commercial channels, new paths are created.

Commenting on the future of healthcare Gibo had this to say,

In regard to health, we’re aiming for a worry-free society. Progressing to a society where people can understand their own bodies and have the appropriate control is the objective of healthcare.

Panel 2: How will data-driven startups change how to find the right job opportunities?

From the right: Shinichiro Isago (Microsoft Japan), Yukihiro Ikemi (Grooves), and Toshiyuki Oka (Atrae)

The second panel, regarding data-driven hiring platforms that turn skills and careers into data to meet with the needs of employers and suggest potential employers to users, featured the following people:

  • Yukihiro Ikemi (CEO, Grooves)
  • Toshiyuki Oka (Board member / Developer, Atrae)
  • Shinichiro Isago (Technical Evangelist Manager, Emerging Technology Evangelism, Microsoft Japan)

Up until now Atrae has been running Green and other recruitment sites, but recently, in cooperation with big data analysis company Brain Pad (TSE:3655), they have launched a personnel mining service called TalentBase, which utilizes big data analysis AI. Unlike the typical resume based on your previous business experience, this new service creates reference data based on human relations using data analysis. The aim is to create better person to company matches based on connections and shared evaluations.

Grooves is currently running Forkwell, a portfolio site for engineers, as well as CrowdAgent, which generates recruitment matches from its 3,500 registered companies. It aims to be a national recruitment information portal with a network of more than 16,000 business people. Additionally, Grooves recenty established a HR tech R&D unit, aiming to conduct research on applications of artificial intelligence and big data analysis within the personnel recruitment field. Kenji Hirata, the first person to become engaged in international standardization of personnel training and competency was appointed as head on the research institute.

The HR market itself is calling for a major change

It could be said that one of the essential dilemmas among companies is how to effectively match potential employees with open positions. As the field of matching through the use of data and AI experiences a swell of interest, these problems are addressed. The discussion participants were asked what reasons led to the development of their services.

Ikemi explained that despite the fact that the recruitment business in Japan alone is a 7 trillion yen ($57.2 billion) market, 44 billion yen ($360 million) globally, these business practice haven’t changed since pre-war times. He said that as a tech enterprise, they started with the idea of wanting to create a service that will shake up the HR field in Japan. Even at that, he clarified by saying that the large amount of matching of people and businesses was “unexpected”. He supposed that similarly to dating and marriage matching sites randomness is a considerable aspect.

Ikemi explained,

Optimizing matching using big data is good, but we want to suggest matches that feel like stories.

Additionally, Ikemi explained that Japan not adopting HR-XML (Human Resources – eXtended Markup Language) had a major influence on the job hunting market. In the US, more so that recruitment platforms, crawler-type recruitment services are widely recognized, for the reason that HR-XML, which aims for the collaboration of recruit information, is continuing to become more familiarized. Through HR-XML, unification of topics like “Job Description” found on recruitment media and corporate sites has made possible automation and data-based matching, as well as personalized recruitment recommendations. However, Japan took a different path while not adopting such collaboration, which is why we have seen the spread of recruitment matching that utilizes individuals’ resources. From this, an opportunity is being missed to gather superior foreign personnel in Japan and inversely to send Japan’s superior personnel out into the world.

He continued,

We want to realize a new ‘Job Description’ in Japan.

When asked if things that were before done by humans be replaced by machines, Oka said he doesn’t think career consultation can be done with AI. He also said that more so than matching a person with a company through TalentBase, the aim is to create a place where a person can connect to another person within that company, and by focusing on building human relationships, new methods for choosing a place of work can be found that don’t necessarily rely on factors like one’s previous income and company position. Because we have to consider not just data but also human relationships, which can be seen as a sort of irrationality in society, said Oka.

Isago also commented that while working at Microsoft,

When doing recruiting through the same vendor, we can only gather one type of people. If the business itself wants to experience growth, how to create a place where recruitment matching for other types of people than those that have brought the company this far, this is the time to for businesses to meet this challenge.

Similar to healthcare, this is a task carried by the world’s businesses, which is why the successes of international enterprises set a global precedents, and why the potential for services themselves to expand globally is yet to be realized.

Translated by Connor Kirk
Edited by Masaru Ikeda