Health care startups in Turkey are developing groundbreaking solutions in the fight against both the COVID-19 pandemic and life-shortening illnesses such as cancer. One such startup, Virasoft, has signed an investment agreement with TT Ventures, a venture capital affiliate of Turkey's leading information and communication technologies company Türk Telekom. The group has been attracting attention with its artificial intelligence projects and a mobile application developed in the field of digital pathology. Virasoft received a total investment of $1.9 million from TT Ventures, which injected cash into the firm alongside Diffusion Capital Partners (DCP).
Founded in 2015, Virasoft's Digital Pathology solutions are currently used in all private Acıbadem hospitals, three public hospitals and 20 other private hospitals across Istanbul. With the investment of Türk Telekom, Virasoft's service is also expected to be used by city hospitals, a project ongoing as part of the government’s ambition to increase bed capacity and address a shortage of doctors in cities with a high population density.
800 million appointments per year
TT Ventures General Manager Muhammet Özhan stated that approximately 800 million medical appointments are made annually in Turkey. "During the COVID-19 outbreak, we have seen the sacrifices our medical workers have made. We have increased the technological skills of our doctors and hospital staff. We aim to offer more technological solutions to make appointments more efficient. We see that Verisoft's technological capabilities can offer global solutions. They have previously convinced global investors. We, too, joined this investment tour,” Özhan said.
Visual intelligence in pathology
Gökhan Hatipoğlu, the founder and CEO of Virasoft, compared the service his firm offered to Airbnb, providing digital pathology applications and solutions as if offering a good aircraft to a good pilot.
“We produce something more valuable than the device. Our software works like Airbnb. Airbnb does not have a single hotel, but rather serves millions of people all over the world. We offer a fast, high-quality service to thousands of doctors and millions of patients all over the world. So, we are giving a good plane to a good pilot. We ensure that the results determined by visual memory are resolved faster and with a lower rate of error,” he added.
Video calls with family doctors
With more than 2 million people seeing a doctor every day in Turkey, Özhan stated that the group inevitably worked to produce solutions for remote health services.
"Approximately 800 million medical appointments are made annually in Turkey,” he continued. “You can't see higher numbers anywhere in the world. Every patient visit has a cost. The state holds a tremendous amount of data in the e-pulse application. The Health Ministry and Doctor Turkey platform are continuing to negotiate on how to best provide family doctors with video services by combining remote health services with this data. We have designed this service to increase the quality of the patient-doctor relationship. The Virasoft investment also increases the technological abilities of our doctors."
AI support with the power of 20 different professors
Stating that with the artificial intelligence solution they prepared, they support doctors in difficult decision-making processes, Hatipoğlu explained more about their technology.
"We have benefited from the knowledge of 20 professors from various fields of pathology and incorporate their knowledge into our software,” he said. “In addition, we have a software capability that continues to learn independently, yet is monitored by 90 experienced pathologists who support decisions when needed. We have 12 engineers who specialize in artificial intelligence – four biology engineers and one doctor. We also provide software with visual memory that can follow-up with the patient's history when studying pathology. In other words, we prevent the need for repeated pathology tests on patients."
Global telepathology solution
Hatipoğlu stressed that the company wanted to use the Türk Telekom investment to help become one of the biggest players in the field of digital pathology in the world.
“We were the first domestic startup to attend the International Congress of Telemedicine and Pathology organized in the U.S. and wondered what kind of response we would get from the world,” he said. “We managed to become one of the top five most-visited startups at the event. During the congress, we sold our telepathology mobile application to 15 doctors. We also installed a demo for two different hospitals. Thanks to the technology solutions we have on offer, we can give clearer results in oncology and other departments.”
Logo acquires innovative human resource software Peoplise
Since the advent of the COVID-19 outbreak, institutions have widened their search for innovative solutions that can expand their customer portfolio and accelerate the digital transformation.
Turkish software company Logo Yazılım, which aims to respond to the changing environment, has acquired Peoplise, a company that offers innovative human resources software to institutions seeking to ramp up their move online amid the restrictions due to the pandemic.
Positioning its product as a Talent Management System, Peoplise is transforming application tracking systems, social media-based recruitment, digital evaluation and branding tools into mobile compatible platforms. Peoplise, which was launched by partners Çağatay Güney, Güçlü Özenci and Mehmet Ali Özenci at Middle East Technical University (METU) Teknokent in January 2013, offers corporate companies an integrated and video-enabled digital human resources management platform designed to cover all their recruitment needs. With this acquisition, Logo Yazılım aims to diversify its human resources product portfolio and offer new digital solutions to customers.
Commenting on the acquisition of Peoplise, Logo Yazılım’s founder and chair Tuğrul Tekbulut said that the group preferred to invest in innovative ventures with the first-hand knowledge that internal transformation can be a tiresome journey.
“We tried to develop a solution to human resources within the organization. Although there was a certain accumulation, we could not create an example as innovative, expert and successful as Peoplise. We have also made purchases to develop our customer portfolio before. However, now we have invested in the innovative power of the team and the new generation of human resources,” he said.
1 million candidates
Major clients of the platform, which was used in the evaluation of more than 1 million candidates during 2019, include important companies such as BBVA Garanti Bank, Coca-Cola, Allianz, Burger King, Renault, Ford and Avis.
The company, which received investments from Revo Capital and 500 Istanbul in 2016 and 2017, respectively, now has 74 corporate clients served in 13 languages. Revo Capital, one of the largest venture capital funds in Turkey, made a third successful exit with Lego Yazılım’s acquisition of Peoplise, one of the most important ventures invested in its first fund of $66 million, established in 2013.
Startups combating COVID-19 gather on map
While Turkey remains affected by the pandemic, many nongovernmental organizations, universities, entrepreneurs and government agencies have joined forces in the fight against COVID-19. The Coronathon Turkey Initiative, a competition that fielded hundreds of possible solutions to the coronavirus crisis, has gathered a number of stakeholders to focus on finding rapidly-organized solutions to some of the consequences of the pandemic.
Startups.watch, which specializes in monitoring statistics and developments in the entrepreneurial ecosystem, as well as Patent Effect, are putting the increasing number of COVID-19-fighting startups on the map, keeping those seeking to stay on the cutting edge of pandemic solutions updated on new developments every week.
A map has been prepared in English to allow for the widest spread of information in the global fight. Entrepreneurs and institutions that seek to update the map can apply to startups.watch and Patent Effect and fill out a form. The map shows startups that produce test kits, medicines and vaccines, as well as those that produce protective equipment, respirators and disinfectants for hospitals, institutions funding startups to combat COVID-19 and startups that develop data analysis and location-based software solution for contact tracking. The map, which was last updated on April 21, looks likely to continue highlighting the work of new startups for the foreseeable future.
A platform has been launched by Istanbul Technical University (ITU) ARI Teknokent's digital production center, İTÜ MAGNET FAB, to facilitate requests from hospitals and doctors.
The platform, www.destekbizden.org, is being coordinated by relevant state institutions, ensuring that products such as visors, intubation boxes, PPG masks, protective overalls, UVC lights, and room and air sterilization units are being produced and distributed to the health care personnel in most need. Energy company Petrol Ofisi has also started to provide financial support for projects initiated by ITU MAGNET. The company began by backing projects rolled out by ITU Seed, the entrepreneurship center at the ITU ARI Teknokent, to help startups developing products and services aimed at helping combat the coronavirus. Petrol Ofisi’s support also covers the costs of materials used and devices produced by ITU Seed entrepreneurs.
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