Syed Abrar, Founder of AzaadHealth, a Pakistan based healthcare startup, has won the award for “Outstanding Entrepreneur from an Emerging Economy” at U.S. Department of State’s GIST Catalyst Competition 2019 hosted at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in The Hague, Netherlands, June 3-5. Abrar was one of the 30 finalists at the competition, representing 18 different countries, competing in five categories of Food and Agriculture, Connectivity, Energy, Health, and Water.
The GIST Catalyst Competition offers science and technology entrepreneurs an opportunity to showcase their businesses on a global stage, while receiving coaching from American entrepreneurship experts. Over 4,000 entrepreneurs from around the world applied for the competition this year for the prize of more than $650,000 in entrepreneurial resources provided by Amazon Web Services, the Consumer Technology Association, Google, IBM, Microsoft, Philips, and Silicon Valley Bank. Top 5 finalists in each of the GES focus sectors were selected to pitch in front of the GES during the GIST finals plenary.
AzaadHealth is a global patient-owned health data exchange network built on blockchain which aims to empower patients by democratizing health records, by pulling and combining health data from multiple disparate sources like healthcare providers, personal wellness devices and other sources. The idea is nothing short of a blessing for many families with loved ones suffering from a terminal or chronic illness. The startup was founded in August 2016 after Abrar went through a personal loss due to mismanaged medical records. Abrar applied for incubation at The Nest I/O and was selected as one of the startups in the fourth cohort where he received training and mentorship to turn his idea into a practical business. Startup Guide talks to Abrar and he shares his Global Entrepreneurship Summit experience first hand.
Speaking of his expetations prior to going, he highlights, “We wanted to learn about the digital health space in Netherlands and find an opportunity to expand into EU. However, our primary concern was to compete in the Global Innovation through Science and Technology (GIST) Catalyst Challenge for which we were shortlisted as semi-finalist.
We didn’t expect to win, we only wanted to get up on the stage and show everyone that we exist, that we are working for helpless patients and that we will continue to work for patient empowerment and to prevent every death and suffering caused by medical errors.”
He found the sessions at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit riveting, “The Summit brought together an assortment of entrepreneurs, investors and government organizations which made it an amazing event to network. The entire Summit was dedicated to the Sustainable Development Goals and focused heavily on five key areas for innovation and development. These areas were water, energy, connectivity, food/agriculture and health. The talks and sessions were riveting, however, we spent most of my time in meetings and chasing down potential leads.”
Sheding light on the top learnings from the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, he shares, “We found out that there is a huge opportunity in the digital health space in Netherlands because almost all the healthcare providers there are not satisfied with the current health systems. We also learned that Netherlands is in need of innovative companies and there are different organizations working to bring in potential startups, which can thrive and ultimately benefit the economy. This event affirmed our belief that growing your network and making connections is crucial for an entrepreneur because even the most random of acquaintances might end up benefiting your startup in ways you could never imagine. The knowledge gained and the connections made are already turning out to be invaluable for us. We are currently following up with several leads in Netherlands and other parts of the world to discover synergies, which would allow us to work together to solve many problems, which are plaguing healthcare.”
Abrar was successful at making quite a few partnerships and at expanding his network – “right after the event, we received an invite to be part of a series of events in the Middle East which would involve highly influential people from the industry and the government sector. We now also have the opportunity to be part of GIST business incubator and expand into US. We will also be receiving a booth at the CES 2020 event to showcase our startup.” We wish Abrar and his team all the best!