South Australian startup using AI to improve IVF wins “best idea” at global tech pitch comp


Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak with Life Whisperer co-founder Dr Jonathan Hall

Leading entrepreneurial minds, including Sir Richard Branson and Steve Wozniak, have deemed a South Australian startup’s use of artificial intelligence to improve the success rate IVF the “best idea” at the 2017 Talent Unleashed Awards.

In winning “Best Idea – One to Watch” (Global/APAC) category at the global technology awards program, the South Life Whisperer out-pitched two other finalists. The global judging panel was headlined by Steve Wozniak and Sir Richard Branson, along with Igniting Change founder Jane Tewson. They were supported by APAC judges Yat Siu (Outblaze) Frances Valintine (The Mind Lab), Chris Gilbert (Equitise) Dan Radcliffe (International Volunteer HQ), and Matt Tindale (LinkedIn).

In addition to receiving one-on-one entrepreneurial advice from Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, the Life Whisperer team will be flown to Silicon Valley to visit leading technology companies and entrepreneurs. Co-founder and Managing Director, Michelle Perugini spoke to Dynamic Business about the progress her startup had made since launching this year and the significance of their win at the Talent Unleashed Awards.

DB: What’s the elevator pitch for Life Whisperer?

Perugini: Life Whisperer uses artificial intelligence to select healthy embryos for IVF, and to ultimately improve outcomes for couples wanting to have children. IVF success rates are very low, and selection of a healthy embryo is critical to a successful IVF outcome. The process is currently manual and subjective. Life Whisperer uses computer vision and deep learning to better determine the best embryo to implant for the highest likelihood of success.

DB: What success has the startup enjoyed to date?

Perugini: We’ve made significant progress over a short period of time having only officially launched in February, this year. In June, we secured our first local commercial partner, Monash IVF, who’ve provided us with images to build our AI models. We then completed our initial validation in October – this was a retrospective study that showed a high level of accuracy in identifying viable embryos.

We are now conducting a clinical trial to quantify how much better our algorithms do when directly compared with world-leading embryologists, and we will be launching our product globally in the first half of next year. Within our first year we have received significant grant funding from the South Australian Government, we have won multiple innovation awards, and have now won the Talent Unleashed Global Award for Best Idea One to Watch.

DB: How was the Talent unleashed pitching experience?

Perugini: My co-founder, Dr Jonathan Hall, pitched at the event and was joined by Andrew Murphy, who is our Senior Product and Technical Lead. At the time, my other co-founder Don [Perugini] and I were in the US presenting and exhibiting at two prestigious AI conferences in New York and Boston. Jonathan was extremely confident going into the pitch. He is an amazing technical mind and believes whole heartedly in the technology, which makes it easy to pitch. Don and I were anxiously awaiting the announcement of the winners in the middle of the night in New York.

DB: How meaningful is it to have your idea deemed ‘the best’?

Perugini: The credibility of winning this global award is invaluable for a start-up company such as ours. It provides us with incredible exposure and recognition of the value of our product. We are very proud of Life Whisperer and have a vision to make our product accessible and affordable for all patients and to improve the success for patients undergoing IVF.

DB: What benefits will the Talent Unleashed prize yield?

Perugini: Our team has spent a significant amount of time in the US market this year in preparation for Life Whisperer’s market entry next year. The trip to Silicon Valley will allow us to strengthen our connections within the US market. The opportunity to meet with Steve Wozniak and tour all of the large global technology companies like Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Tesla and more, will be an amazing opportunity to garner new relationships within these organisations. Having a one on one experience with Steve is a once in a lifetime opportunity. He has such a wealth of knowledge and experience, and we cannot wait to absorb any advice he has to offer us.


About Talent Unleashed

Launched in 2013, the Talent Unleashed Awards program is an initiative of Australian technology and IT services recruitment business Talent that recognises tech startups and innovators from across the APAC and EMEA regions and the United States.