Amir Helmy is a recent computer science graduate from Georgia Tech, and CEO of HealthAppy Tech. Since high school Amir has been interested in pursuing research related to epilepsy and mobile health, and published research related to mobile fall detection algorithms.
While in college he refined his computer science skills and specialized in research on mobile health algorithms and signal processing. He also published research in mobile health algorithm development. Most of these publications are specific to epilepsy and seizure detection.
Through Georgia Tech’s Create X startup launch program, Amir founded HealthAppy Tech was able to take the research to an initial prototype, called Epipal. Since then the Epipal patient prototype has over 10k+ downloads and has been received well by users
Epipal is now at a pivotal inflection point and has much room for innovation and improvement. After graduating this past spring, Amir has started working full time on the HealthAppy Tech project.He is excited to be taking his technical background and extensive research expertise in this domain in a commercial direction to lead this company to improve the lives of millions living with epilepsy and their families.
Connect with Amir on LinkedIn.
What You’ll Learn In This Episode
- Current status and success and failures
- Their customer discovery to current pivot realization/journey
- The impact their company aims for
- The grand vision when their company is successful
- The unique use of machine learning and AI in their platform
This transcript is machine transcribed by Sonix
Intro: [00:00:03] Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX studios in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s time for Atlanta Business Radio, brought to you by on pay. Built in Atlanta, on pay is the top rated payroll and HR software anywhere. Get one month free at on pay. Now here’s your host.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:31] Lee Kantor here. Another episode of Atlanta Business Radio and these are my very favorite episodes the Gesu any radio episodes. And today on the show we have Amir Helmy and he is with HealthAppy Tech LLC. Welcome, Amir.
Amir Helmy: [00:00:48] Thank you, Lee. Thank you for having me.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:50] Well, I’m excited to learn what you’re up to. Tell us about HealthAppy Tech. How are you serving folks?
Amir Helmy: [00:00:56] Yeah, absolutely. We are a health tech company. We produce we make software specifically. Our mission is to create software that helps families with neurological diseases or families with an individual with neurological diseases. More specifically, right now, we are focused on the epilepsy community. So we develop family centered software that helps epilepsy families live safely and get peace of mind by managing their loved one’s epilepsy effectively.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:25] So what was the genesis of the idea? How did you get started in this kind of direction?
Amir Helmy: [00:01:30] Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I’m now graduated from college, but the story actually goes way back to when I was in high school and I had a classmate who had epilepsy and I could see how they were trying to how they struggled to stay safe and manage their epilepsy on a day to day basis with their family. And when the science fair rolled around for for the high school, I was into programing at the time, just basic mobile apps like car racing games, things of that nature. So I knew how to use the sensors in the phone and I started doing research with individuals at the University of Florida where I went. I went to high school in Florida into using a smartphone to detect seizures. And that research continued into my college years when I moved to Atlanta and I ended up we’re now taking that research that was on seizure detection, mobile algorithms for for epilepsy safety and making it commercial through this Apple family platform.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:30] So was that the first time that people had used their phone as a way to even detect that a seizure was happening?
Amir Helmy: [00:02:38] So there is quite a few. There’s been a lot of research on seizure detection, actually. However, most of the research that is done involves specific devices, you know, custom wearables. And so those can be like a very common one is the empathic embrace. Watch. Those are hundreds and hundreds of dollars. And they also require a really expensive monthly subscription. And their accuracy is kind of vary it varies depending on the individual with epilepsy if it works for them or not. And so by being a software only solution, we actually wanted to purposefully stay away from any hardware so that we could also provide something that’s affordable and accessible to many individuals in the epilepsy community, also specifically families that are in underrepresented communities that have a loved one living with epilepsy. Sometimes they can’t afford those very expensive monitoring devices. So we are we were the first ones to develop a mobile algorithm for seizure detection software, only using a phone or ubiquitous smartwatch. And we’ve continued to refine it throughout the years.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:47] So you’re kind of leaning on the technology and the accelerometer of the phone?
Amir Helmy: [00:03:51] Yeah. So I mean, over the years, even just doing research in this space, we’ve seen everyday smartphones and everyday wearable devices become more and more capable. So, you know, back in back when we first started this research, we were just using the accelerometer sensor in the phone. And then then we added the gyroscope. And now you can start also incorporating other modalities like heart rate from everyday wearable smartwatch if someone has that. And then also you can look at different there’s activity recognition APIs that, you know, Google and Apple have come up with. So you can put them in sequences alongside these accelerometer readings and these other sensor readings like heart rate readings, and have a pretty good algorithm at trying to classify whether there’s an emergency event with high probability or not. So yes, originally it was just accelerometer sensor in the phone and that’s like the core of the algorithm. But we also added other modalities through our iterations.
Lee Kantor: [00:04:47] And so it’s relying primarily on the phone or the watch device. Does it also like kind of pair, like if they have a Fitbit or a woop or one of those more robust kind of fitness trackers?
Amir Helmy: [00:05:02] Right now, we don’t have the capability. We haven’t we’re not compatible with those devices that you mentioned. It’s the everyday the wear OS for Google. And then now we’re developing also the iOS and the Apple Watch version as well. But I think a lot of these devices are going to be on similar operating systems soon, so we should be able to be compatible with them. But yeah, it does depend. Like the either the phone has to be on you or your watch has to be on your wrist or both. Rhythm will work in terms of detecting dangerous epilepsy event.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:33] Now, what stage are you at right now? Do you is this out in the wild yet? Do you have beta folks testing this?
Amir Helmy: [00:05:41] So what’s interesting is we actually took the algorithm that I’ve been discussing for a while now and we put it in an application that we put live on the Google play store. It’s called EPI Pal, and it’s a patient facing version of the application. So individuals with epilepsy would download it. We would detect their seizures, help them have a digital journal for their events, which is really important when they go to see their care provider or doctor for improved treatment, we would help them with their medications, give them analytics, all these kinds of things. And that application got actually over 10,000 downloads and it’s rated over four stars in the Google Play store, and it’s been there for a year or so. But one thing that’s very interesting that we realized in talking to a lot of our customers, our users of the application and going to different epilepsy events and talking to families is we realize that epilepsy, safety and management is we kept coming back to this this realization that epilepsy safety and management is really a family effort in many, many cases. So we wanted to really approach the problem the correct way.
Amir Helmy: [00:06:42] And so right now we’re actually kind of rehashing what Apple is and we’re taking it down from the Google play store and we’re doing something new, which is a family facing platform for individuals that are familiar with Life360. That’s kind of like a similar, analogous, you know, the structure of our application that we’re putting out now that we’ve realized that epilepsy management and safety is the most is most effective when the family is all working together and it’s collaborative, we’re onboarding families into our new platform in digital family circles. So a lot of the features from our previous application that was live will carry over. But the stage we’re at now is we’re developing we’re pivoting slightly, pivoting based on our extensive experience in this field, actually launching a reasonably successful product, getting feedback. And then now we’re pivoting to what we believe is an even better solution for this community. So that is still in the development and beta testing stage right now. Hopefully it’ll be live within a month. Now, family platform.
Lee Kantor: [00:07:41] The family platform. So if I have epilepsy, I have the app on my phone, I’m having a seizure. Is it something where now that’s also notifying my circle?
Amir Helmy: [00:07:52] Yeah, absolutely. So there’s a couple of benefits from having this family circle, digital family circle onboarded. So let’s say, like you’re an individual in high school, like my old classmate who has epilepsy and, you know, your family. Yes, of course. If there’s if a seizure is detected, your family will be notified. Not only that, based on the cycles and patterns of individuals, particularly particular epilepsy, we can also predict seizures a little bit beforehand with some new research that’s come out. You know, we can kind of raise like a yellow or orange flag if, you know, certain indicators match up for for a potential seizure, that’s going to happen. So there’s prediction and detection and then there’s other safety features as well that are family involved. So a family can passively if individual with epilepsy allows for it, they can passively check on or monitor the individual with epilepsy without bothering them with a passive check in. And also every day management becomes collaborative with the family platform. So there’s a shared journal which is really, really important when it comes to epilepsy, sharing a regular journal of what’s happening, how you’re feeling, your medications, your auras before a seizure, your epilepsy events with your doctor that has become collaborative. So a patient with epilepsy can input their information, but also that information can be supplemented from those closest to them that really have a sharp eye on what’s happening with their loved one’s epilepsy.
Amir Helmy: [00:09:19] They can supplement information, they can take videos of seizures and upload it as well. The thing with epilepsy is oftentimes during seizure events, because it’s a brain related disease, is individuals will forget exactly what happened or how long an epilepsy event lasted, or if they took their medication or not, they can be very hazy coming out of a like after a seizure, the state after seizure. So, you know, having a platform that gently reminds the family to input really important information helps put all the pieces of the puzzle together. Later, when a shared journal is shared with a doctor, for instance, medications is also become a collaborative family thing where family can remind gently or monitor, you know, from a distance the medication adherence over time. So if there’s an adolescent with epilepsy who is slowly gaining their independence and living a free life, the family can have the peace of mind as they monitor the manage and manage, help manage the epilepsy from a distance digitally. And also they have all those safety features. So they know if an emergency event, seizure event is going to happen beforehand or during a seizure event. And then also their loved one can have the. That they need and want while also staying safe.
Lee Kantor: [00:10:34] Now, do you have any advice for other founders? It’s a it’s fantastic that you’ve gotten an idea off the ground, out of your head into real world. And then you you know, you were running with it. And then even though it was successful, you kind of paused and reevaluated and decided to then kind of pause that and then go a different direction. Can you share some advice for other founders when it comes to doing that type of a pivot? You know, a lot of folks who are on a path and are getting any kind of hint of success are kind of always doubling down on that. But you chose to kind of reevaluate at that point and then chose a different path. Can you talk about that, how that decision was made and and how you kind of looked at the trade offs of of going a new way?
Amir Helmy: [00:11:24] Yeah, absolutely. I mean, first of all, the first thing I would say that was effective for us and, you know, obviously, we’re still kind of early on in our company. So hopefully, you know, the pivot pays off and we end up making a really good impact in the epilepsy space and the health tech and neurological disease space in general. But the thing that really made things clear for us was talking to individual our our customers, talking to individuals and families with epilepsy, you know, going to getting, getting as they like, getting out of the building, whether that’s virtually reaching out to people, everyone that would email us with an issue, we would ask to chat with them about their experience using the application. We would do a lot of customer discovery even after our product was live. And we would we also saw, you know, for us, we kept a good eye for software, which is something that’s super important, is retention. So we kept our eye on the retention and we saw that while the retention was okay and good, we felt that it could be better. So we felt like a key piece of the understanding our customer was missing. So we made an active effort to get out there and talk to everyone that we could.
Amir Helmy: [00:12:43] We went to epilepsy events here in Atlanta and we just talked to families and individuals with epilepsy. And it just kind of became really clear the approach that we needed to take. And furthermore, what helped also solidify this pivot was being validated by the not only just talking to the customers and coming up with with the idea for for taking this new direction on our own and then just going for it. But we also validated by some of our close testers previously they really liked this idea. And also professional foundations like the Epilepsy Foundation awarded us like an innovation award this year for the idea behind this pivot. So all the validation that came from the customers, you know, really trying to discover the truth about individuals and families with epilepsy becoming obsessed with that, you know, really shed a light on a lot of insights and angles that we weren’t didn’t know before. And then the validation from the professional foundation just kind of hammered it home that this is what we need to do, and now we’re pivoting and we’re all in on this new direction and we’ll see how it goes.
Lee Kantor: [00:14:05] Now, can you talk a little bit about your experience with Main Street? How has that been? What inspired you to apply for that and what have you gotten out of it?
Amir Helmy: [00:14:16] Yeah, absolutely. So my my involvement with me should actually started with my brother, who’s my co founder and a student at GSU, and he became aware of the mainstream program. And it just seemed like a really good opportunity to mingle with other really great entrepreneurs. And kind of at the same time that we applied for the mainstream program was when we started to think of this pivot. And so kind of building from the ground up, we got a lot of benefit from the mentors that were in the mainstream program. I think that’s the that’s the biggest thing. What I was really impressed with the Mainstreet program is the quality of the mentors that are there from MK, who’s leading it, and his really no nonsense, straightforward advice that gets things moving quickly to David Eckhoff and other people that have come and talked at the Main Street program and closely work with us. You know, they’re seasoned vets entrepreneurship and they take things from the bottom up. They you know, they really lay down, I think, a solid groundwork for for for building a successful MVP in business. And when we were going through that pivot, customer discovery and taking a new approach to building our MDP was really important.
Amir Helmy: [00:15:44] And those are the mentors that are at the Mainstreet program really helped a lot and kind of helping us recognize what’s necessary, what’s unnecessary mistakes in approaching customer discovery and making assumptions about your customer and really the truth behind your customer and moving fast as well, you know, and keeping us on track and accountable to our goals. So yeah, if I had to just say one huge thing about the Mainstreet program, highly recommend because of the quality of people that are running it. Are involved in in mentoring the companies along. They really care about not only the success of the companies, but I feel like the growth of the entrepreneurs as well as like to have the proper mindset to approaching identifying problems, solving problems and building businesses around that. So I would say a lot of the seminars and advice that we’ve gotten from the mainstream program is really invaluable, not only for the startup that we’re currently doing, but for myself and my co founder, my brother, as you know, young individuals who want to be entrepreneurs long term.
Lee Kantor: [00:17:01] So what do you need more of? How can we help?
Amir Helmy: [00:17:05] Yeah, absolutely. At this at this point in time, right now, we’re kind of looking for I mean, we’re we’re beta testing in the epilepsy space. So if there’s families out there that are listening to this, perhaps that have epilepsy, please reach out. And we would love to talk to you and have you onboard the platform a little bit early. Any feedback and advice that we can get from even if you don’t have epilepsy, but if you’re an expert in UI or UX, it’ll really help the community as a whole going forward. Also, partnerships and investment. We’re looking to raise money soon, probably in the next coming months. We have some non-dilutive funding and grants right now. And so with that leverage, we think that raising around maybe strategic soon and then partnerships as well. So other individuals that have run successful health tech companies, if they have advice, people that have been through the FDA regulatory process as well or done work with pharmaceutical companies because at the end of the day, also, a lot of the data that we collect on our platform is really useful to clinical trials and validation or efficacy of certain drugs for epilepsy, because that’s how epilepsy is managed. So yeah, partnerships in that, in that regard, people that are in the form of space or have worked with pharma before and gone through the FDA regulatory process, if they would reach out with their input, advice and guidance, that would be hugely helpful.
Lee Kantor: [00:18:41] So if somebody wants to learn more, connect with you or somebody on the team. Is there a website or a best way to get a hold of you?
Amir Helmy: [00:18:47] Yeah, absolutely. Our website is still being updated, but there is a live website health app dotcom, just the name of the company dot com. And also on LinkedIn, you know, you can connect with me directly and my corporate email as well is just my name at health dot com. Feel free to reach out.
Lee Kantor: [00:19:09] Good stuff. Well, Amir, congratulations on all the success and the momentum. You’re doing important work. And we appreciate you.
Amir Helmy: [00:19:17] Appreciate you. Thank you for having me on and for for encouraging us along our journey as well.
Lee Kantor: [00:19:22] All right. This is Lee Kantor. We’ll see you all next time on GSU. Any radio?
Intro: [00:19:32] Today’s episode of Atlanta Business Radio is brought to you by on pay. Built in Atlanta, on pay is the top rated payroll in HR software anywhere. Get one month free at on paycom.