Ken Sakal, founder of Vohesu, has a very personnel and compelling connection to the work he's doing, developing a "voice first" Diagnosis Navigation Platform. "I'm a 20-year cancer survivor," he said. "I personally know what it's like to be that patient struggling with a diagnosis and wondering what's going to happen. Twenty years ago, most of the information we're providing wasn't even available on the Internet. To have a voice-activated companion device, capable of describing symptoms, and side effects of medication, combined with the ability to call my doctor would have been a huge help back then and today as well."
Sakal started off as a programmer after college and decided he wanted to be in a more customer-facing type position. Over the years, he spent time as a business analyst, project manager, implementation services manager and eventually a product manager. He always had something going on the side, such as his event coordination and mobile DJ business. These roles gave Sakal great exposure into sales and marketing, something most technically trained individuals get little exposure to. Sakal started working on Vohesu over a year ago and recently went full-time to devote his exclusive attention to the project.
"The idea came from two places," Sakal said. "I was working at a company that provided SAS products to specialty pharmacies, who help people with chronic diseases such as arthritis and cancer. That experience, combined with my daughter's growing interest in voice enabled devices, brought me to a conclusion that this type of technology would soon be the next big thing."
Vohesu develops software for voice enabled assistants such as Amazon Echo and Google Home. Sakal explained in more detail. "Our first product is the Diagnosis Navigation Platform which gives patients information in their homes about their diagnosis, medications, side effects, life styles choices as it relates to their diagnosis. The first condition we're focusing on is Rheumatoid Arthritis. Getting information strictly through websites can be challenging for individuals with RA."
A prototype skill called Rheumatoid Arthritis, is already available to enable on the Alexa store. Sakal's goal is to market to health systems and then tailor the content, based on the information the healthcare provider wants to communicate to their patients. They're currently marketing to early adopters and those that see the immediate value in such a platform.
Looking ahead, Sakal has already identified his exit strategy. "I'd like to build the company over the next several years and position it to be bought out within 5 years," he said. "Large healthcare providers are growing by buying smaller organizations such as Vohesu."
In terms of advice, Sakal wants aspiring entrepreneurs to know that starting your own company is a challenge in and of itself. "Getting the product and the basic foundation of your idea is the easy part," he said. "The hard part is sales and marketing and building a company around that product. If all you want to do is build a new product, you can do that within an existing organization. Building a company is a much different undertaking."