With Medtech Africa, a Nigeria’s startup plans to be top medical technology firm in the world

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WorldStage Newsonline– Nelson Igbiriki, the CEO and founder of Medtech Africa, a Nigeria’s startup that empowers clinicians and hospitals with digital tools to address the full Spectrum of Cardiovascular diseases and NCDs in Africa, has a big dream; to be one of the top medical technologists in the world.

Igbiriki who initially wanted to be a medical doctor is pursuing a bigger dream in medical technology as one of his company’s products, Forcardio currently provides easy access to reliable patient data from any heart monitoring devices and software, assisting in early detection, treatment planning, monitoring and care throughout the lifetime of patients.

Igbiriki, in an exclusive interview with WorldStage Television for the Startup on WorldStage (#SoW) project, said just as Elon Musk is synonymous with space science and Bill Gates with Computer, “when they say medical technology, my name should resonate with that.”

WorldStage is engaging all the startups in Nigeria as part activities to host the first annual SoW Summit in December 2022.

The Delta State born second in a family of seven children who loves Physics and calculations started practicing after finishing school and had been involved in laboratory equipment, cancer treatment and able to complete over 300 projects around radiology and cardiovascular cares before setting up Medtech Africa.

Two sad incidences eventually shaped his decision to pursue medical technology- first he lost a sibling because he was diagnosed for wrong illness and wrong drugs were applied, while secondly, he lost a neighbor who had hypertension after an attack in the market.

He identified the core reason for hypertension in Africa as lack of access to patients’ data.

 From available statistics, he said 168 million people have hypertension in Africa with two third of the population at risk.

With Medtech Africa, he said the goal is to use technology to solve medical problem, build a solution that will be able to provide access to patients’ data by doctors and to support medical decision making.

He said the core product that the company is building now is for cardio which had witnessed large adoption by hospitals, doctors, and the biggest sign of success was when a customer not only felt satisfied, but called to invest in the business.

Igbiriki said Medtech Africa will not be in direct competition with any player in the market as its approach would be to complement competitors, to get patients data across through any device across the system.

He said the traditional practices mostly deal with video consultation, ability to talk to doctors, but Medtech Africa deals with getting the data to the doctors.

“To complement our competitors, we get the data across through any device, we say, let’s be the bridge between what you currently do, to make a more efficient and reliable solution, we seek how we can complement the system,” he said.

If such system had been in place before now, he said COVID-19 would have been easily curtailed.

“COVID-19 thought us that a decentralized health care system cannot work,” he said

“If we have a centralized system, we will not have a situation where COVID is happening here and we don’t know what to do.”

So far Medtech Africa had deployed seven staff with a projection to hit 50 in two years and expand beyond Nigeria.

Specifically, he said the company intends to create more space in the tech sector for engineers, technicians, more clinical guys that could build software solutions that can be used in the technical space.

With a lot of doctors, nurses and laboratory technologists showing interest in tech, Igbiriki said his company will serve as a bridge between medicine and tech.

On its expansion plans including beyond Nigeria, he said the company had gotten support from Novartis Foundation including access to their network, grants, support from family members and friends while a fund raising initiative would be closing before the end of the year.

He named the number one challenge facing the business as funding, while calling on investors to “invest in us.”

Other challenges include access to sensitive data which requires a lot of regulatory clearances.

He specially expressed appreciation to Nigeria’s Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami who he said reached out to them to see how he could help with getting patients data, security right, privacy right among others.

He also described the market itself as a challenge, as they are losing customers and patients to Saudi Arabia with people moving out, businesses closing down and many changing businesses.

On policies, he said the government had done significantly well with the Startup Bill recently signed by President Muhammadu Buhari.

He confirmed that most startups were contacted and made contribution to the bill, saying, “Let see how it will be implemented.”

Igbiriki gave credit for motivation to his profession as an engineer, saying “being an engineer, when you’re sent to the field, you have to get solution. When I see problem, I make sure I get solution.”

He also said his family was also a great motivation and he would like to fend for his family, as he would always want to solve problems.

He singled out Shola Akinlade of Paystack as one of his role models, imagining how it must have been very difficult for him to run a startup “when he started, when no one really cared, people who worked with him, no scandal, culture of his company among others.”

He is also very fascinated with Elon Musk who he said “wants to colonise Mars”, wondering how he will do it.

Igbiriki is also very impressed with those who are not just interested in making money, but pushing to break barriers.

On his advice to potential startups, he said they should better start by working with startups even if it’s for a short time, “which would make it easy to understand the bureaucracy, to learn along the line, relate with staff on how things are done.”

He said they should have good networks, talk with a lot of founders, as they would need someone to recommend someone, they should make friends and be in peoples’ good book.

He said they should also keep pushing as there would be many more days of depression than days they would smile, and that they should see failure as a part of a journey, and have a learning mentality.

On the current exodus of Nigerian abroad due to harsh economic climate, Igbiriki said people that fell that they belong outside should go and those that believe they would succeed at home should stay.

He gave the example of the past when many Indians were said to have left their country to Europe and America, but today, they have climbed to the top, heading top firms in world, saying it may pay off for Nigerians in the future when they rise to the  top tech companies like Google.

But for him, he said he is part of people that will bring change to Nigeria and he is ready to stay and build his company to a global brand.