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Accelerator pitch: Jolyon Martin of Simprints

27 January 2015

The article at a glance

Can you pitch your genius business idea in the time it takes to get from the ground floor to the C-suite? Simprints’ …

Can you pitch your genius business idea in the time it takes to get from the ground floor to the C-suite? Simprints’ Jolyon Martin (one of five founding members, including CEO Toby Norman), who’s on the Accelerate Cambridge programme (based at Cambridge Judge Business School), gives it a shot.


The background

Millions of patients in developing countries are not getting the healthcare they need simply because there are no systems to verify patient identity and track their treatment. But now, using cloud-based technology, new hardware and software could offer an easy and cost-effective solution.

The brains

Toby Norman (PhD in Management Studies 2013), a Harvard and Cambridge graduate who spent six years in paid and voluntary international field projects and operations management. He founded SimPrints with fellow University of Cambridge PhD students Jolyon Martin (PhD in Translational Genetics 2014), Alexandra Grigore (PhD in Nanotechnology 2012), and Daniel Storisteanu (PhD in Medical Sciences 2012) and Tristram Norman (MSc Business Technology Systems 2012).

The product

We have developed a rugged, handheld fingerprint scanner and software that uses Bluetooth to send the patient’s prints to any mobile health (mHealth) application on an android mobile phone. This then links to a cloud-based matching system which identifies the patient in real-time and retrieves their medical records.

The business case

This is an accessible, affordable way to make a life-changing difference to some of the world’s poorest people. Large biometrics organisations in this field tend to target those who already have a computer, often for security purposes that do not require the high accuracy needed to match a person’s fingerprint in a database of many thousands of entries. No one is building the technology for global health applications, which requires the system to be portable, rugged, low-cost, accurate, and secure. Fingerprint scanning is well established, and our scanners cost only £40 each. Targeting the right medical services to the right people also makes fieldwork much more cost-effective.

The timing

In March 2012 the idea won The Humanitarian Centre’s Global Health Hack Day. The following month it won Cambridge Judge Business School’s first Idea Transform Weekend and we were invited onto the Accelerator programme. We have since run trials with partners in Bangladesh and will be launching our company in January 2015.

The strategy for growth

We recently won a $250,000 (US) grant from the Saving Lives at Birth Grand Challenge, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. This was then matched to $150,000 by ARM, a Cambridge-based company that has their technology in 90 per cent of the world’s mobiles. This means bigger trials of thousands of patients. We have US partners and links with Johns Hopkins University that has given us options for further trials in countries including Togo, Nigeria and Afghanistan.

The future

This product can save lives in some of the world’s most challenging environments. We have a business plan, but our top core value has always been impact over profit.

The Accelerator

The programme gave us the confidence, the skills and the connections to make a strong case for our project to the right people. The mentoring was extraordinary – I met Hanadi Jabado, Director of Accelerate Cambridge, on a Friday and by the following Wednesday I was pitching to a room full of potential investors. The mentors also helped us to define clearly who we are, what our motives are and what we want to achieve – which is to provide a product that first and foremost helps people. A lot of commercial companies are hammering on our door asking to buy the design, but we’re not interested. Yachts would be nice, but we just want to save lives.