Your Business: Medical apps go global
John Moore tells Sean Gallagher about the rapid growth and ingenuity of his medical software business
Most successful entrepreneurs endeavour to set up businesses in markets where the opportunities are extensive and where there exists the possibility of disrupting the status quo. This week's entrepreneur, John Moore, whose company, 3D4Medical, develops revolutionary medical software applications, has succeeded in accomplishing both of these objectives.
Set up in 2004, the company's applications already have 12 million users worldwide, including leading education and clinical organisations. And with 105 people employed between their offices in Dublin, the US, Poland and Russia, his company is on track to achieve annual revenues this year of more than €10m. His is an inspiring story of vision, talent and innovation.
"Medicine has been taught the same way for the last hundred years, using standard text books that contain flat 2D images," explains John. "My vision, however, was to transform the teaching of medicine and anatomy by using technology where learners could interact with a virtual human body. Using our applications, users are now able to zoom in from any angle, remove layers and structures and cut through or dissect skin, muscle and bone, like a surgeon would. They can even edit these 3D models to simulate specific injuries and disease states," he adds. As John brings up one of his applications on screen, I get to see for myself how scarily real it is, everything from the brain and nervous system to the skeletal and muscular systems are brought to life.
The company's target market includes both the medical education sector, where their ground-breaking technology is being used by medical students and professors from all over the world, and medical and clinical professionals such as doctors, surgeons, nurses, paramedics, physiotherapists and chiropractors. These clinicians also use them with patients to give them a better understanding of their particular conditions. "Ninety-nine-point-nine per cent of our sales are exports, with the US by far our largest market followed by the UK, Germany, Japan and Australia," explains John. "Our Essential Anatomy app is the best-selling anatomical atlas in the world, while our Complete Anatomy app is the top-grossing application in the App Store medical category in 131 countries," he adds proudly.
Not bad for a young man from Mount Merrion who never finished college. While his parents were academics - his father a professor of engineering in University College Dublin, and his mother a Doctor of Psychology - John realised from an early age that his career path would be as an entrepreneur.
"I remember the exact moment I made the decision," explains John. "I was 18 and working in the US at the time. I had a job at a Christmas tree lot where I would take the tree that a customer wanted, saw off the lower branches, lift it into the customer's car and secure it. I was paid $3.25 an hour. After the hardest day of work I had ever done, I got paid $32.50. I began to do the sums in my head: There were four other people like me working on the lot. Each tree sold for an average of $50 and we each processed about four trees an hour, which meant the boss was making $6,500 a day - and I was making $32.50.
"I decided there and then that in future, I wanted to be on the other side of that sort of deal. I even worked out how the whole process could be streamlined to ensure that each person working there did 10 trees an hour. Excited about my ingenuity I explained this to my boss and asked for a raise. He fired me," laughs John.
Back home, John spent the next year-and-a-half in Trinity College Dublin where he studied pure mathematics. However, so intense was his desire to start his own business that he left the course early. The next few years were spent in a mix of eLearning and software development companies. Then, in 2014, he set up 3D4Medical in the attic of his home. "I went on to create the largest library of stock medical images in the world including over 18,000 made entirely from 3D digital models which we distributed through the likes of Getty Images and others," he explains. "Our images were so popular that they appeared on the front cover of Time magazine, National Geographic, Newsweek, Scientific American and Discover. But when the full force of the recession hit us in 2009, I realised that I needed to reinvent the company. I did an evaluation, not just of the business but also of myself. I came to the conclusion that what really defined me was being an innovator and that coming up with new ideas, designs, markets and solutions was what I was good at. Coming from a family of scientists and engineers I was always fascinated with how things worked and, more importantly, how they could be improved. With this shift in perspective, I promised myself that the future of 3D4Medical would be based on innovation."
As a consequence, John decided to focus exclusively on developing 3D medical training applications for the new iPhone App Store. Putting everything on the line, he even re-mortgaged his family's home. "I worked hard to forge a relationship with Apple and within a short time 3D4Medical's apps had hit the number one spot across most of the Apple App Stores around the world," says John. "And as our success grew, we began hiring the best developers we could find to push the boundaries of what could be done on these new mobile devices."
Support from Enterprise Ireland together with an investment of $16.4m from Malin Plc, in 2015, has also helped underpin the company's growth rate. Today, their technology is being used or piloted in undergraduate and graduate courses in 100s of top universities worldwide, including Ivy League colleges and nine of the top 15 medical schools in the world, putting 3D4Medical firmly at the forefront of the revolution in medical learning.
"What's next?" I ask.
"My goal is to transform medical education, not only in the developed world but also making it more accessible in the developing world," says John. "We are now moving into the age of individualisation in technology and one of our more exciting projects is to replace our current models with living ones. Imagine a digital model rendered as a living, breathing model with a beating heart and blood flow that can be dissected and even made to simulate disease states on command. Eventually this human model will have the flexibility to morph and match the specifics of the patient's body by using information such as from their own MRI scans," he adds enthusiastically. John Moore is a talented and inspiring entrepreneur. He understands that to win, you have to disrupt your industry. To achieve this, he has put innovation at the very heart of his company's culture. He also partnered with a giant in innovation, Apple, where he has gone on to win every major Apple award for innovation including their Design and Innovation 2016 award beating more than two million other apps on Apple's app store. Last year he also made it into the finals of the EY Entrepreneur of the Year Programme.
As he looks back over his journey to date, and should he ever get to meet the man who fired him from his job selling Christmas trees all those years ago, he might have a word of thanks for the inspiration that might just have set him on his current path.
John Moore's advice for other businesses
1 Speed to market
I believe that thoughts travel. So if you have a good idea, you can be sure that someone else, somewhere else, is probably having the same idea as you. If you have a good idea, you need to get to market as quickly as possible to secure first-mover advantage. It helps focus you when you realise that if you delay, someone else might just get there before you.
2 Innovate or die
Innovation is essential to remain continuously relevant in your target market. Simply put, if your company is not innovating then your company is going to die. To survive, in business, you have to be continuously looking for new and better ways of doing things. You can be sure that's what your competitors are doing.
3 Talent is key
While it is not always possible when starting out, try to surround yourself with talented and driven people. They will be key to growing your business. Evaluate your own abilities, including both your strengths and weaknesses, and then hire people whose talents and capabilities compliment yours.
Business: Medical software applications
Set up: 2004
Founder: John Moore
No of Employees: 105
Location: Headquartered in Blackrock in Dublin with offices in San Diego (USA), Warsaw (Poland), Krasnodar, and St Petersburg (both Russia).
For further information visit www.3D4Medical.com
Sunday Indo Business