Entrepreneurship and startups are not just the bastions of the techies anymore. Medical practitioners and doctors, who have an inherent quality to help people, are also becoming great startup founders. These medicine men and women are utilizing their healthcare knowledge and merging it with technological advancement to develop unique solutions that can help a wider audience.
KoreaTechDesk presents some of the Korean startup founders, who have also been in medicine as physicians, clinicians, dentists, surgeons.
Seung-Gun Lee, Founder and CEO of Viva Republica and Dentist
Seung-Gun Lee is one of the most successful cases of a medical practitioner building a flourishing startup. Lee’s startup Viva Republica has developed ‘Toss’, a P2P money transfer service, that has revolutionised the financial transaction platform in South Korea. The former dentist wanted to create a better alternative for financial transactions over the archaic web and mobile banking options.
Lee had a tough entrepreneurial journey but he has taken the ‘Toss’ App to great heights since its inception in 2015. Viva Republica is now a ‘unicorn’ startup valued at over at $2.6 billion. Toss is now an undisputed leader in mobile finance in Korea. Lee teamed up with Jooyang Jan, the COO, and Hyungseok Lee, the CTO; they both founded Tic Toc, a 10 million-user messaging app for Korea.
“Before I started Toss, I was a dentist. Amazingly this was very helpful to me when talking to banks and investors. The people I was making deals with could see that I didn’t create Toss out of greed, but because I saw a real opportunity to make life easier for Koreans suffering through terrible banking services,” is what Lee shared with a tech-media magazine about his transition from a dentist to a successful founder of a FinTech startup.
Kil Yeon Lee, CEO, GIVITA & Colorectal surgeon
This surgeon doesn’t only perform complex surgeries but also wants his patients to follow healthy habits. This is where he developed a health analytics startup GIVITA.
Kil has been practicing medicine for over 30 years, and is also now the CEO and founder of GIVITA. “I am taking care of my patient’s health and lives, but I realized that medicine cannot build good and healthy habits for patients. GIVITA is health data analytics company that provides tailored data-driven solutions for users by collecting and analyzing their medical, genetic, and lifelog data. Lifelog data means a comprehensive dataset of one’s daily activities. We collect and analyze users’ lifelog data that includes various activities, such as sleep records, weight changes, and walking distance. With those lifelog data, we provide data-driven solutions for users to build healthy habits,” explains Kil.
The startup recently launched a personalized healthcare smartphone app – VITAMEANS. The app provides personalized health data analysis and works on reward-based system to help users build healthy habits. Kil, who is a professor at Kyunghee University’s medical school, says, “As a surgeon, I perform a lot of colon cancer surgery. Most of them are terminally ill, so there were many cases that could not be solved with surgery. Early detection of cancer is also important, but the more important thing is to prevent cancer, Our health management solution analyzes what diseases a specific person is most likely to get and how to prevent diseases based on the collected lifelog data such as sleep time and weight for disease prevention.” Kil has plans to expand his health analytics solutions from B2G to B2B to overseas markets.
Paul Lee, Co-founder Mind AI, Clinician
Clinician, scientist, and entrepreneur, Paul is a serial startup founder. He has three unique startups under his belt. His endeavor Mind AI is an artificial intelligence engine and an ecosystem that was created to offer an entirely new approach to AI. Rather than building an architecture that requires parallel processing, supercomputers, and large amounts of data, Mind AI is built based on an internationally patented, completely new data structure is called canonicals. Paul’s other venture Curely is the world’s first constant care marketplace for consumers and doctors. Users can have instant chats with doctors regarding health questions using Curely’s Multimedia Instant Text Chat. Kuddly, another of Paul’s venture, is an online constant care marketplace for veterinarians and consumers around the globe. As CEO & Co-founder of Curly and Kuddly, Paul has grown the platforms into one of the largest media channels in the US for the health and pet health industry with a viewership of over six billion.
Paul is a graduate of St Paul’s School and University of Oxford with a degree in Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry. He received an M.D. from The School of Medicine at Catholic University of Korea. Paul is also a graduate of Futuremed at Singularity University 2013 and Exponential Medicine 2014. He served in the ROKA as a lieutenant doctor and a director of Pogok public health center in Yong-in. Paul also co-founded JNP LAB in Seoul that acts as a development hub for global exponential technologies. He also holds a position as the managing partner at Impact Asia.
Lee Wang-jun, chairman of Myongji Hospital & CANCER ROP
The 54-year-old doctor may not come across as a conventional startup founder, but he has been utilising the advancements in medical field and his vast experience to make entrepreneurial strides. The doctor-entrepreneur believes in hospital-pharma business integration that can forge a path for new drug development. As part of his vision, Lee acquired the Kosdaq-listed molecular diagnostics firm MGMed – now renamed as Cancer Rop – from Korean genetic sequencing service firm Macrogen in 2017. Cancer Rop Co., Ltd. focuses on developing next-generation drugs for cancer treatment. By leveraging the resources of Myongji Hospital and other Korean hospitals , Cancer Rop expects to carry out its end-to-end drug R&D proccess in a speedier and more efficient manner compared to others. “We envision a future where hospitals form the foundation of the local biopharma business ecosystem — the base camp for clinical research and trials,” Lee said to a local media.
Lee also has been at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19 pandemic in the country. He and his team at the Myongji Hospital, has been at the center of Korea’s effective and fast response to the coronavirus outbreak. His entrepreneurial venture Cancer Rop has developed a Covid-19 diagnostic kit, which was officially approved by the government. Lee, who is a graduate of Seoul National University’s College of Medicine, has decades of experience operating multiple general hospitals across South Korea, including Myongji Hospital in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province, and Jecheon, North Chungcheong Province, the Incheon Sarang Hospital. He is also the founder and chief publisher of Korean Doctor’s Weekly, a Seoul-based medical newspaper formed in 1992.
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