Our Start-up of the Week is Nori Health, which has developed an AI chatbot to help support patients with chronic bowel diseases.
Based in the Netherlands, Nori Health is a digital health platform founded by Roeland Pater. Prior to setting up the business, Pater worked with teams on sleep improvement, skin cancer detection and mental wellbeing technologies.
Speaking to Siliconrepublic.com, Pater described Nori Health as an eight-week lifestyle programme for people living with inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
“Nori is a conversational chatbot coach that guides people to discover and maintain a healthy lifestyle and mental wellbeing,” he said. “This is done through daily chat conversations with Nori across more than 100 evidence-based topics impacting quality of life.”
The chatbot aims to give users guidance on looking after their mental health, and managing stress and energy levels, alongside whatever medical treatment or support they are already receiving. The platform is being offered through hospitals, patient foundations and pharmaceutical companies in order to provide free access to patients, according to Pater.
This project is particularly important to him as he lives with Crohn’s disease, which has given him an insight into the impact of inflammatory bowel disease. He said that many members of the start-up’s team have similar personal experiences that have driven them to create this technology.
“The lack of support in-between hospital visits I experienced laid the foundation for Nori Health as a company,” Pater explained.
He added that this app can provide a personalised experience at scale, saying that thousands of people can talk to Nori at the same time, “on a deeply personal level”. Using artificial intelligence, the app learns from every conversation to build a personal profile and to provide the most valuable conversation based on the user’s current needs.
“The ultimate goal is to close the gap in quality of life that exists between healthy individuals and chronic disease patients,” Pater added.
At the moment, the start-up wants to offer a vital supports for people with inflammatory bowel disease who are unable to seek support from traditional healthcare services.
“With many inflammatory bowel disease patients isolated for weeks to come [due to the current Covid-19 restrictions] and those with severe conditions and compromised immune systems advised to undergo shielding or cocooning, the Nori Health programme can offer vital support in the absence of medical care,” Pater said.
The journey so far
Pater also spoke about some of the challenges he has faced since launching the business – most of which come down to balance.
“That starts with balancing personal life and the work that potentially never stops, so you have to stop it yourself,” he said. “Balancing the team in terms of priority and productivity. And, of course, building the business in terms of customers and revenue to reach a point where you have the right to exist as a company.”
Pater said that since January, the product has been offered on the market, following closed trials with patient foundations. On the back of these trials, he added that Nori Health is now rolling out in several new countries, as part of partnerships with pharmaceutical companies and hospitals.
“During the Covid-19 situation, we are now able to offer support at home for people facing months of isolation – so we are working hard to get as many patients as possible access to the programme,” he said.
Later this year, the firm aims to open its seed round to speed up growth, according to Pater. He described the Netherlands as an excellent place to launch a start-up, with support initiatives from both the government and VCs.
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