Pf’s tech columnist, David Reilly, profiles the founder of Giant Health, Barry Shrier. Giant Health is a global community of 200,000 healthcare technology innovators, with a vision to improve the health and well-being of people around the world, by promoting and facilitating innovation in healthcare and supporting health-tech entrepreneurs.
Give us a quick summary of the inspiration behind Giant Health
I am a technology innovation entrepreneur and have successfully launched, grown and scaled, internationally, a number of technology innovation businesses which I founded and exited. This includes the telecoms industry and the clean technology sector, building a business addressing global warming and climate change. I built up a group of five engineering business in the cleantech sector and successfully exited the business nine years ago.
I was fortunate to be able to take some time off after the sale of my businesses, which enabled me to spend time with my parents and help look after them. Being in their eighties, they were relying heavily on healthcare professionals, and this is how I fell in love with healthcare. The whole experience inspired the concluding chapter of my career where I set up Giant Health.
Giant is an acronym for Global, Innovation and New Technology. This year, we will be hosting European Innovation across five cities, ranging from Liverpool, Barcelona, Berlin and Paris. We have our annual event Giant Health in London in November and in December, we are launching a new innovative event, Giant Scotland.
How has the pandemic impacted innovation and technology in healthcare?
The pandemic has demonstrated the need to accelerate innovation in multiple ways. With the requirement for social distancing and people having to stay at home, telemedicine has really come to the fore. Now, patients appreciate access to their GPs through telephone and video consultations. The pandemic has accelerated other areas like remote monitoring and wearables to monitor the heart and blood pressure.
The pandemic has highlighted more than ever before the importance of innovation and technology in healthcare and has accelerated the adoption of it. From an investment perspective, the past three years have been the highest in the history of healthcare.
What do you think the most significant challenges for health start-ups have been?
The healthcare sector is tricky and complicated. The industry is heavily regulated and cautious across the world which is, of course, good news for patients. For a start-up, the necessary regulation, caution and evidence throws up unique hurdles and can make it difficult to sell into the system.
There is a challenge for healthcare start-ups in terms of procurement, for example, a large hospital group cannot buy two or three thousand little individual widgets from start-ups. Start-ups in healthcare need to figure out how the ecosystem works and how to engage with potential intermediaries, for example collaborating with international partners or systems integrators to get commercial buy-in. This requires special skills, patience and tenacity.
What have you learned about yourself in the recent lockdown?
I have learned that I love working from home. I am lucky that I have a lot of hobbies I enjoy; gardening and growing fresh, organic vegetables and flowers which I’ve done for many years and I have a greenhouse at home. I also enjoy woodwork, arts and crafts and my wife and I have been sailing around the South of England. But of course, in lockdown you are not meeting people as much as normal so I learnt the value and importance of face-to-face time.
What’s the best way for new or entrepreneurs to get involved in the Giant Health ecosystem?
I invite everyone to join the Giant Health community. We exist to help everyone whose business is health, technology and innovation. We work with a range of healthcare companies, ranging from large digital therapeutics companies, major brands like Eli Lily and McKinsey, as well as very small businesses. In addition, we provide free support to the NHS Clinical Entrepreneur Program, which, last year, including 12 start-ups.
Giant Health will be hosting its European Health Tech Innovation Week 2022, from 16th to the 20th May. It will include informative conferences, speakers and immersive workshops.