Alagiri Senthilkumar + Vishnu Vardhana Balu
Digitizing medical records across India's hospitals, labs, and clinics.
Company: Be Well Digital
What drew you both to this particular problem?
(Alagiri) My wife and I were in India for the first trimester of her pregnancy. We then moved to Canada and, when she went to the doctors there, the numbers were much different. The pregnancy became more and more complicated as it progressed – the day she went into labor we were unsure if we’d leave the hospital as 2 or 3 people. When he was born, our son stayed in the ICU for 3-4 days.
The reason it got so complicated was that the Canadian doctors didn’t have access to the Indian doctors’ records. My wife herself is a doctor and if we’d had access to this info, we could’ve noticed borderline values and taken more precautions.
That was the starting point for me to really zero in on digitizing healthcare information. Vishnu himself also experienced trouble due to a lack of easily accessible, digitized medical information in his travels abroad. So we joined forces.
We’re best friends from college – we’ve been friends for 14 years. We’d tackled difficult challenges together so we knew that our partnership could play a huge role in solving a problem that was much larger than our own lived experiences.
What has it been like to become co-founders with a longtime friend?
(Vishnu) Our friendship allowed us to grow into co-founders who understood where the other was coming from without having to explain too much. I think we’ve gained an even deeper trust in one another as we work towards this single, incredibly important goal of using data to improve healthcare outcomes & making access.
What’s the best piece of user feedback you’ve gotten so far?
(Alagiri) The most useful piece of user feedback has actually been strategic; a user told us “there’s currently no incentive for doctors to digitize their records.” Without this, we wouldn’t have known about new regulations that had gone live in India – it was blunt but critical. We were able to reorient and focus on solving this problem.
We’ve also gotten really great feedback from the hospitals using our software – they’ve already expressed that they want to grow with us and use different products that we can develop down the line.
Is there a specific source of inspiration that keeps you pushing through tougher moments?
(Alagiri) What comes to mind for me in tough moments is what it could have meant for someone to live a few years longer – had they had better medical care. What would that have meant to them? Their children? Their parents? I think about all the happiness that could have been created in those extra years of life. It’s a clear way for me to think about the real impact of medical data – of having accurate data readily available.
What was YC like?
(Vishnu) YC felt like an entire grad school condensed into 3 months. As a technical co-founder, I was caught off guard when they opened the very first seminar with “What is the value system of your company?” I had only been worried about writing code! But now I’m committed to being the best CTO possible – I want to have a hand in shaping our core values and put them into every line of code I write.
It was really useful to have a community of founders going through the same intense process. It’s also really encouraging to have YC as that force saying “We believe in you.” They give you every possible support, from legal support to weekly meetings with mentors.
What has been your biggest misstep and what did you learn in that moment?
(Alagiri) I don’t think I’d characterize anything we’ve done so far as a mistake – just learning experiences. Like every company, we hired someone that we quickly realized didn’t align with our values but it was useful; it helped us figure out how we wanted to strengthen our hiring process.
What’s a song or album that’s gotten you through 2020?
(Vishnu) So for several months, we’ve regularly made TikToks together. Thank you for reminding us we haven’t made one in a while! We should do that haha.
(Alagiri) We also used to car jam a lot when we were in the same city.
Favorite emoji or gif?
(Vishnu) We aren’t big emoji people but we have a bunch of internal jokes within the team. If we had to choose, it’d probably be the raised hands... 🙌🏾
(Alagiri) or the thumbs up! 👍🏾