Meet our Portfolio: AskDr

Startup Spotlights

AskDr from Singapore joined Accelerating Asia Cohort 3 and our portfolio in August 2020. The team at AskDr are on a mission to democratise healthcare and make reliable and verified health information easily accessible. Here, we talk to Founder, Brian Toh about how AskDr is democratising information to healthcare, the Singapore ecosystem and trends in healthtech.

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About AskDr

So first up, tell us a little more about AskDr…

AskDr is really a place for you to ensure that the health information you have is reliable,  helpful enough and medically sound to spread to your loved ones.

What we do at AskDr is we provide a platform for verified physicians to address misinformation or what the World Health Organisation coins as an infodemic. Our overarching aim is to make reliable health information more accessible to the public by connecting patients to verified doctors.

So, what are some of the ways you provide information and how does the platform work?

Essentially, the platform is broken down into different condition-based micro forums or what we like to call spaces. These spaces are micro-communities that focus on specific health issues or topics, and what that does is that it allows other patients to lend support to each and share experiences that they might find useful to others. It’s twofold, there’s the ability to access information from other people’s experience and the ability to access credible information from doctors themselves.

Let’s take the Dentistry space as an example, the space allows people to direct dental questions to dentists while dentists are able to promote health education on a certain topic by releasing editorial articles through that same space. We've since released new spaces that were high in demand, for example we now have a women’s health and orthopaedics space.

Why did you start AskDr?

So I suppose what prompted me was my background in software engineering, part of being a software engineer is that you tinker a lot with different things and we look for ways to build solutions around our own problems.

One problem really stood out for me and it was that I couldn't find consistent information online. We live in a time where there is an information overload and finding accurate information is a new challenge. I often had to resort to contacting a physician friend to sort out issues that I have personally or issues for my loved ones. And somehow, being a programmer also naturally assigns me to be the family's Googling assistant by default. So, I'm constantly solving problems or finding information for them like what drugs they can take, what the side effects are, and so on.

After going through this cycle one too many times, I realised there’s a huge problem here. How many people don’t have a physician friend to resort to? Or what if you live in a rural area where you have physical constraints to doctors, but do have access to the internet. And why can’t we connect to a doctor easily online in the 21st century? So that’s originally what prompted me to build AskDr and that was when I approached an old friend, Dr. Dinesh.

What are your future plans for AskDr?

In the short term, to deepen our presence in Singapore. The medical industry here is highly regarded all around the world and building a credible brand is especially important in our industry.

Once we have deepened our Singapore presence, that's when we'll start to expand into the region to really maximise our impact that we have by making health information more accessible to everyone.

Who is the team behind AskDr?

So my background is in Software Engineering. Prior to AskDr, I  started a digital product agency in my second year of University actually where we built custom solutions and ran digital marketing campaigns for clients. We worked across different industries and that was really interesting for us to see how different companies leverage technology. My focus eventually tended to AskDr where I was motivated by the opportunity of having a direct impact on people’s lives.

I then reached out to Dr Dinesh, who is an established key opinion leader in the medical industry, especially in medtech. He has over 20 peer-reviewed publications in leading medical journals and had prior startup experience co-founding a telemedicine company that was acquired within a year of their launch.

We were very fortunate he joined us early as an investor and because of our team chemistry and how active he was, I invited him to join me as a partner.

The Ecosystem & Market
What are some of the trends you’re seeing in healthtech at the moment?

The trends to digitisation in healthcare in the context of already skyrocketing costs/administration create mounting pressure for consolidation among stakeholders to leverage economies of scale in online marketing, technology development/adoption, and digital service operationalisation. By virtue of digitisation, consolidation also occurs at key touchpoints in the intersections of consumer health-seeking behaviour and provision of digital clinical care. This creates tremendous opportunities by way of holistic data on patient experience to improve care, scalable avenues for representative clinical trial recruitment, and opportunities for growing awareness about medications (direct to consumer for over the counter drugs, and direct to provider for new prescription drugs).

Have you seen increased demand as a result of Covid19?

We've definitely seen a spike in demand and usage of AskDr, we actually launched around the time Covid-19 started. So, there was a huge demand for a service like AskDr to be able to allay the public's fears and anxieties of what uncertainties the pandemic can bring.

So there's a current market fit there for us in terms of the changes in the industry. I think what covid has really done has been to accelerate the trends that were already in place. There has been movement in favour of telemedicine and telehealth solutions for quite a while actually, but this has been one of those events that accelerated the whole industry to adopt telehealth quicker.

Why do you see Singapore as a hub for startups wanting to expand across the region?

Well firstly, we have to understand the dynamics in Singapore. We have business-friendly policies, low tax rates, an efficient legal system and stable politics. These have been key ingredients that make it attractive to startups and new businesses to start out in Singapore and with the government highly in favour of innovation and push towards a Smart Nation,  we’ve also become an attractive place for conglomerates to set up an outpost here.

These things matter a lot because as a startup, the odds are naturally stacked against you so with less things to worry about from the get go, the more advantageous it becomes to move forward. Like you alluded to, one of the main driving forces for Singapore to attract startups is their connectivity to the region. At the end of day, Singapore is a small market and it is important for startups to think about scale, which is something the region offers. With a melting pot of cultures in Singapore, it makes for a very ideal location to test bed ideas with the many cultures that reflect and echo the region before expanding across the region.

AskDr & Accelerating Asia
Why did you decide to join an accelerator?

It was quite serendipitous because we never actually really considered an accelerator. We had already started talking to investors for a funding round but shortly after, we were introduced to Craig. It was refreshing to see the how forward-thinking the team was in how they approach startups in our ecosystem and comforting to know that the way their program is structured is founder-friendly.

What really drew us to join were the testimonials from previous cohort startups and local VCs we reached out to who spoke highly about the Accelerating Asia team and their ability to provide mentorship, network access, open doors, and put our interests first. We also respected their own experience running startups previously and it was really a no-brainer at that point.

What has been the highlight of the accelerator so far?

One thing that attracted us to Accelerating Asia and we continue to laud is their ability to tailor the program to the needs of their cohort. For us, the highlights have been the ‘aha’ moments we get when picking the minds of experts in the Accelerating Asia network which can really change the way we think about our strategies. Better yet, after implementing those changes, we get to follow up with our Entrepreneurs in Residence who have become familiar with us and our businesses.

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