The doctors behind cancer support app, CancerAid, secured a $500,000 investment from entrepreneurs Andrew Banks and Dr Glen Richards during the season premiere of Shark Tank, this week.
Founded in August 2015 by doctors Nikhil Pooviah and Raghav Murali-Ganesh from the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse cancer hospital in Sydney, CancerAid was developed in collaboration with cancer patients, caregivers and healthcare professionals, with the goal of reducing the hidden burden of cancer – the sense of isolation and confusion that accompanies diagnosis.
Launched last year, the app helps cancer patients and their caregivers navigate through each stage of their cancer experience by providing them with an organisational platform plus medically-reliable, peer reviewed information. As a result of the start-up’s annual licensing fee model, the app is ‘free to use’ for patients.
Doctors Pooviah (CEO) and Murali-Ganesh (COO) spoke to Dynamic Business about securing $250,000 investments each from both Banks (co-founder, recruitment company Morgan & Banks) and Richards (founder, Greencross Vets) in return for a stake in CancerAid, which this week launched its new ‘Champions’ feature.
DB: What motivated you to appear on Shark Tank?
Pooviah: We came up with the idea of CancerAid around three years ago and since then we have been working hard to establish it in Australia. Last year, we realised that we were ready to take the next step and scale our operations into the US. We knew we needed support to do this – and that’s when we first thought about Shark Tank. While we needed the investment from a financial perspective, we were also really seeking that mentorship and skillset from experienced Sharks to help build on the momentum we were generating locally. At the heart of our business has always been the desire to raise awareness of our product amongst as many patients and their families as possible and so, naturally, we felt that appearing on Shark Tank would help with this.
DB: How would you describe the experience?
Murali-Ganesh: Pitching to the Sharks has been the most difficult and nerve-wracking experience of my life! Putting forward CancerAid in front of experienced angel investors on national TV does leave us very exposed. However, we pulled through and are proud of the outcome from the show. Banks was the first Shark to accept our offer on the show and the belief, encouragement and motivation he’s shown in us after shooting the episode means he’s a real pleasure to work with.
DB: What strategies helped you secure $500,000 in funding?
Pooviah: First off, knowing our financials back to front and having a clear vision of where we saw the company going put us in a good position. We were also able to prove to both Andrew and Glen how they could leverage each others value to grow their investments despite initial push back. And Raghav’s brilliant negotiating skills certainly helped!
DB: What success has your app enjoyed since launching?
Pooviah: CancerAid has fast become the number 1 cancer app in not just Australia, but also the US and the UK with a growing community of 30,000 users across 24 countries. We have raised $1.3m AUD funding to date and following the airing of Shark Tank, we are the number 2 medical app on the App Store.
DB: What support will the Sharks provide moving forward?
Murali-Ganesh: We are confident that Andrew will help scale our initiative into the US market, where we have just started to find some early success. His guidance and mentorship with growing the business will be invaluable for this initiative and being able to have introductions to the right networks is a great opportunity for us.
DB: What value will the new Champions feature generate?
Murali-Ganesh: Champions is a world-first feature that we believe has the power to revolutionise the way cancer care is currently delivered. Accessed within the existing app, patients will now be able to nominate their champions – be it a loved one, care giver or clinician, to have access to their CancerAid digital journal and information. For patients, this gives them a supportive network of ‘Champions’ who have an understanding of their journey and can give them reassurance every step of the way. For those patients with family members at work, interstate or overseas, they can now keep up to date in real-time of their loved one, where ever they are. For our customers who license our app, Champions ensures they have a value-added solution for medical ‘Champions’ such as doctors, nurses and allied health team members who can now monitor the progress of patients, ‘Heroes’, and provide care without being face-to-face.
See also: CancerAid valued at $4.25m after welcoming seed funding from strategic investors