4 women in engineering discuss harassment, isolation and perseverence

Women engineers often face workplace and career challenges that their male colleagues don’t because they remain a minority in the profession: Depending on how you count, women make up just 13% to 25% of engineering jobs. That inequity leads to a power imbalance, which can lead to toxic working environments.

One of the more infamous and egregious examples is Susan Fowler’s experience at Uber. In a blog post in February 2017, she described her boss coming on to her in a company chat channel on her first day on the job. She later wrote a book, “Whistleblower,” that described her time at the company in detail.

Fowler’s ordeal cast a spotlight on the harassment women engineers have to deal with in the workplace. In a profession that tends to be male-dominated, behavior ranges from blatant examples, like what happened to Fowler, to ongoing daily microaggressions.

Four female engineers spoke with me about their challenges:

  • Tammy Butow, principal software reliability engineer (SRE) at Gremlin
  • Rona Chong, software engineer at Grove Collaborative
  • Ana Medina, senior chaos engineer at Gremlin
  • Yury Roa, SRE technical program manager at ADL Digital Labs in Bogota, Colombia

It’s worth noting that Fowler was also an SRE who worked on the same team as Medina (who was later part of a $10 million discrimination lawsuit against Uber). It shows just how small of a world we are talking about. While not everyone faced that level of harassment, they each described daily challenges, some of which wore them down. But they also showed a strong determination to overcome whatever obstacles came their way.

Feeling isolated

One of the primary issues these women faced throughout their careers is a feeling of isolation due to their underrepresentation. They say that can sometimes lead to self-doubt and an inkling that you don’t belong that can be difficult to overcome. Medina says that there have been times when, intentionally or not, male engineers made her feel unwelcome.

“One part that was really hard for me was those microaggressions on a daily basis, and that affects your work ethic, wanting to show up, wanting to try your best. And not only does that damage your own self-esteem, but your esteem [in terms of] growing as an engineer,” Medina explained.

Roa says that isolation can lead to impostor syndrome. That’s why it’s so important to have more women in these roles: to serve as mentors, role models and peers.

“One barrier for us related to being the only woman in the room is that [it can lead to] impostor syndrome because it is common when you are the only woman or one of few, it can be really challenging for us. So we need to gain confidence, and in these cases, it is very important to have role models and leadership that includes women,” Roa said.

Chong agrees it is essential to know that others have been in the same position — and found a way through.

“The fact that people talk authentically about their own jobs and challenges and how they’ve overcome that, that’s been really helpful for me to continue seeing myself in the tech industry,” she said. “There have been points where I’ve questioned whether I should Ieave, but then having that support around you to have people to talk to you personally and see as examples, I think it has really helped me.”

Butow described being interviewed for an article early in her career after she won an award for a mobile application she wrote.  When the article was published, she was aghast to discover it had been headlined, “Not just another pretty face…”

“I was like, that’s the title?! I was so excited to share the article with my mom, and then I wasn’t. I spent so much time writing the code and obviously my face had nothing to do with it. … So there’s just little things like that where people call it a paper cut or something like that, but it’s just lots of little microaggressions.”

Pushing through

In spite of all that, a common thread among these women was a strong desire to show that they have the technical skill to get past these moments of doubt to thrive in their professions.

Butow said she has been battling these kinds of misperceptions since she was a teenager but never let it stop her. “I just tried to not let it bother me, but mostly because I also have a background in skateboarding. It’s the same thing, right? You go to a skate park and people would say, ‘Oh, can you even do a trick?’ and I was like, ‘Watch me.’ You know, I [would] just do it. … So a lot of that happens in lots of different types of places in the world and you just have to, I don’t know, I just always push through, like I’m just going to do it anyway.”

Chong says she doesn’t give in to discouraging feelings, adding that having other women to talk to helped push her through those times.

“As much as I like to persevere and I don’t like giving up, actually there have been points where I considered quitting, but having visibility into other people’s experiences, knowing that you’re not the only one who’s experienced that, and seeing that they’ve found better environments for themselves and that they eventually worked through it, and having those people tell you that they believe in you, that probably stopped me from leaving when I [might] have otherwise,” she said.

Women helping women

Chong’s experience is not unique, but the more diverse your teams are, the more people who come from underrepresented groups can support one another. Butow recruited her at one point, and she says that was a huge moment for her.

“I think that there is a network effect where we know other women and we try to bring them in and we expand on that. So we can kind of create the change or we feel the change we want to see, and we get to make our situation more comfortable,” Chong said.

Medina says that she is motivated to help bring Latinx and Black people into tech, with a focus on attracting girls and young women. She has worked with a group called Technolachicas, which produced a series of commercials with the Televisa Foundation. They filmed six videos, three in English and three in Spanish, with the goal of showing young girls how to pursue a STEM career.

“Each commercial talks about how we got our career started with an audience persona of a girl younger than 18, an adult influencer and a parent — people that are really crucial to the development of anyone under 18,” she said. “How is it that these people can actually empower someone to look at STEM and to pursue a career in STEM?”

Butow says it’s about lifting people up. “What we’re trying to do is sharing our story and hoping to inspire other women. It’s super important to have those role models. There’s a lot of research that shows that that’s actually the most important thing is just visibility of role models that you can relate to,” she said.

The ultimate goal? Having enough support in the workplace that they’re able to concentrate on being the best engineers they can be — without all of the obstruction.

#developer, #diversity, #diversity-and-inclusion, #labor, #racism, #sexism, #software-engineer, #startups, #susan-fowler, #uber

Meroxa raises $15M Series A for its real-time data platform

Meroxa, a startup that makes it easier for businesses to build the data pipelines to power both their analytics and operational workflows, today announced that it has raised a $15 million Series A funding round led by Drive Capital. Existing investors Root, Amplify and Hustle Fund also participated in this round, which together with the company’s previously undisclosed $4.2 million seed round now brings total funding in the company to $19.2 million.

The promise of Meroxa is that can use a single platform for their various data needs and won’t need a team of experts to build their infrastructure and then manage it. At its core, Meroxa provides a single Software-as-a-Service solution that connects relational databases to data warehouses and then helps businesses operationalize that data.

Image Credits: Meroxa

“The interesting thing is that we are focusing squarely on relational and NoSQL databases into data warehouse,” Meroxa co-founder and CEO DeVaris Brown told me. “Honestly, people come to us as a real-time FiveTran or real-time data warehouse sink. Because, you know, the industry has moved to this [extract, load, transform] format. But the beautiful part about us is, because we do change data capture, we get that granular data as it happens.” And businesses want this very granular data to be reflected inside of their data warehouses, Brown noted, but he also stressed that Meroxa can expose this stream of data as an API endpoint or point it to a Webhook.

The company is able to do this because its core architecture is somewhat different from other data pipeline and integration services that, at first glance, seem to offer a similar solution. Because of this, users can use the service to connect different tools to their data warehouse but also build real-time tools on top of these data streams.

Image Credits: Meroxa

“We aren’t a point-to-point solution,” Meroxa co-founder and CTO Ali Hamidi explained. “When you set up the connection, you aren’t taking data from Postgres and only putting it into Snowflake. What’s really happening is that it’s going into our intermediate stream. Once it’s in that stream, you can then start hanging off connectors and say, ‘Okay, well, I also want to peek into the stream, I want to transfer my data, I want to filter out some things, I want to put it into S3.”

Because of this, users can use the service to connect different tools to their data warehouse but also build real-time tools to utilize the real-time data stream. With this flexibility, Hamidi noted, a lot of the company’s customers start with a pretty standard use case and then quickly expand into other areas as well.

Brown and Hamidi met during their time at Heroku, where Brown was a director of product management and Hamidi a lead software engineer. But while Heroku made it very easy for developers to publish their web apps, there wasn’t anything comparable in the highly fragmented database space. The team acknowledges that there are a lot of tools that aim to solve these data problems, but few of them focus on the user experience.

Image Credits: Meroxa

“When we talk to customers now, it’s still very much an unsolved problem,” Hamidi said. “It seems kind of insane to me that this is such a common thing and there is no ‘oh, of course you use this tool because it addresses all my problems.’ And so the angle that we’re taking is that we see user experience not as a nice-to-have, it’s really an enabler, it is something that enables a software engineer or someone who isn’t a data engineer with 10 years of experience in wrangling Kafka and Postgres and all these things. […] That’s a transformative kind of change.”

It’s worth noting that Meroxa uses a lot of open-source tools but the company has also committed to open-sourcing everything in its data plane as well. “This has multiple wins for us, but one of the biggest incentives is in terms of the customer, we’re really committed to having our agenda aligned. Because if we don’t do well, we don’t serve the customer. If we do a crappy job, they can just keep all of those components and run it themselves,” Hamidi explained.

Today, Meroxa, which the team founded in early 2020, has over 24 employees (and is 100% remote). “I really think we’re building one of the most talented and most inclusive teams possible,” Brown told me. “Inclusion and diversity are very, very high on our radar. Our team is 50% black and brown. Over 40% are women. Our management team is 90% underrepresented. So not only are we building a great product, we’re building a great company, we’re building a great business.”  

#api, #business-intelligence, #cloud, #computing, #data-management, #data-warehouse, #database, #developer, #drive-capital, #enterprise, #heroku, #hustle-fund, #information-technology, #nosql, #product-management, #recent-funding, #software-engineer, #startups, #web-apps

Formation raises $4M led by Andreessen Horowitz to train truly ‘exceptional’ software engineers

Sophie Zhou Novati worked as a senior engineer at Facebook and then Nextdoor, where she struggled to hire great engineers for her team.

Frustrated, she decided to try training engineers to meet her team’s hiring standards by mentoring at a local coding bootcamp. After two and a half years of mentoring on nights and weekends, Novati decided to turn her passion into a career.

She and her husband, Michael, founded Formation with a couple of goals in mind. For one, they wanted to offer personalized training to help people not just learn to code, but to become “exceptional” software engineers. Sophie was also struck by the diversity of the people she witnessed going through coding bootcamps, but she realized that those graduates weren’t getting access to the same opportunities that students from traditional universities do.

Formation co-founder and CEO Sophia Zhou Navati

Formation co-founder and CEO Sophia Zhou Navati

With Formation, her goal is to personalize the training experience via a remote fellowship program that combines automated instruction with access to a “network of top tier mentors” from companies such as Facebook and Google. After one year in beta, Formation is unveiling its Engineering Fellowship, where every fellow gets a “personalized training plan tailored to their unique career ambitions.” So far, it’s placed just over 30 people in engineering roles at companies such as Facebook, Microsoft and Lyft with an average starting salary of $120,000.

Formation aims to offer an experience beyond bootcamps, which Sophie argues “have gotten too big, too fast, churning hundreds or thousands of students through fixed curriculums without individualized attention.”

The startup attracted the attention of Andreessen Horowitz, which just led its $4 million seed round. Designer Fund, Combine, Lachy Groom, Slow Ventures and engineers from Airbnb, Notion, Rippling and others also participated in the financing.

“The first thing that really struck me about this community is just how diverse it is. Forty-four percent of graduates are reporting that they identify as nonmale, and the percentage of Black and Latinx graduates is nearly double the national average at traditional universities,” Sophie told TechCrunch. “But the problem is that only about 55% of bootcamp grads are getting a job as a software engineer, and of the ones that do, their median salary is only about $65,000. At the same time, companies everywhere are just desperately looking for ways to diversify their talent pool.”

Instead of having students follow a fixed curriculum, Formation leverages adaptive learning technology to build a personalized training plan tailored to each student’s specific skillset and career goals. The platform continuously assesses their skills and adapts their roadmap, according to Sophie.

About half of the people participating in Formation’s program are current engineers already working in the industry in some capacity. 

Connie Chan, general partner at Andreessen Horowitz, said she’s been examining the edtech space for a while, including companies building new tools for teaching and upleveling coding skills. 

Formation stood out to her as the “only true tech-based and scalable solution that optimizes each student’s mastery of important skills.” Its ability to dynamically change based on a student’s performance in particular was compelling.

“The founder-product fit is also super clear — Sophie brings her own best-in-class engineering experience to Formation, as well as her long-time passion for mentoring,” Chan wrote via email.

#ai, #airbnb, #andreessen-horowitz, #articles, #artificial-intelligence, #coding-bootcamp, #connie-chan, #designer-fund, #distance-education, #diversity, #edtech, #education, #facebook, #formation, #funding, #google, #lachy-groom, #lyft, #mentorship, #recent-funding, #slow-ventures, #software-engineer, #startups, #venture-capital

Better Health raises $3.5M seed round to reinvent medical supply shopping through e-commerce

The home medical supply market in the U.S. is significant and growing, but the way that Americans go about getting much-needed medical supplies, particularly for those with chronic conditions, relies on outdated and clumsy sales mechanisms that often have very poor customer experiences. New startup Better Health aims to change that, with an e-commerce approach to serving customers in need of medical supplies for chronic conditions, and it has raised $3.5 million in a new seed round to pursue its goals.

Better Health estimates the total value of the home medical supplies market in the U.S., which covers all reimbursable devices and supplies needed for chronic conditions, including things like colostomy bags, catheters, mobility aids, insulin pumps and more, is around $60 billion annually. But the market is obviously a specialized one relative to other specialized goods businesses, in part because it requires working not only with customers who make the final decisions about what supplies to use, but also payers, who typically foot the bill through insurance reimbursements.

The other challenge is that individuals with chronic care needs often require a lot of guidance and support when making the decision about what equipment and supplies to select — and the choices they make can have a significant impact on quality of life. Better Health co-founder and CEO Naama Stauber Breckler explained how she came to identify the problems in the industry, and why she set out to address them.

“The first company I started was right out of school, it’s called CompactCath,” she explained in an interview. “We created a novel intermittent catheter, because we identified that there’s a gap in the existing options for people with chronic bladder issues that need to use a catheter on a day-to-day basis […] In the process of bringing it to market, I was exposed to the medical devices and supplies industry. I was just shocked when I realized how hard it is for people today to get life-saving medical supplies, and basically realized that it’s not just about inventing a better product, there’s kind of a bigger systematic problem that locks consumer choice, and also prevents innovation in the space.”

Stauber Breckler’s founding story isn’t too dissimilar from the founding story of another e-commerce pioneer: Shopify. The now-public heavyweight originally got started when founder Tobi Lütke, himself a software engineer like Stauber Breckler, found that the available options for running his online snowboard store were poorly designed and built. With Better Health, she’s created a marketplace, rather than a platform like Shopify, but the pain points and desire to address the problem at a more fundamental level are the same.

Better Health Head of Product Adam Breckler, left, and CEO Naama Stauber Breckler, right

With CompactCath, she said they ended up having to build their own direct-to-consumer marketing and sales product, and through that process, they ended up talking to thousands of customers with chronic conditions about their experiences, and what they found exposed the extend of the problems in the existing market.

“We kept hearing the same stories again, and again — it’s hard to find the right supplier, often it’s a local store, the process is extremely manual and lengthy and prone to errors, they get the surprise bills they weren’t expecting,” Stauber Breckler said. “But mostly, it’s just that there is this really sharp drop in care, from the time that you have a surgery or you were diagnosed, to when you need to now start using this device, when you’re essentially left at home and are given a general prescription.”

Unlike in the prescription drug market, where your choices essentially amount to whether you pick the brand name or the generic, and the outcome is pretty much the same regardless, in medical supplies which solution you choose can have a dramatically different effect on your experience. Customers might not be aware, for example, that something like CompactCath exists, and would instead chose a different catheter option that limits their mobility because of how frequently it needs changing and how intensive the process is. Physicians and medical professionals also might not be the best to advise them on their choice, because while they’ve obviously seen patients with these conditions, they generally haven’t lived with them themselves.

“We have talked to people who tell us, ‘I’ve had an ostomy for 19 years, and this is the first time I don’t have constant leakages’ or someone who had been using a catheter for three years and hasn’t left her house for more than two hours, because they didn’t feel comfortable with the product that they had to use it in a public restroom,” Stauber Breckler said. “So they told us things like ‘I finally went to visit my parents, they live in a town three hours away.’”

Better Health can provide this kind fo clarity to customers because it employs advisors who can talk patients through the equipment selection process with one-to-one coaching and product use education. The startup also helps with navigating the insurance side, managing paperwork, estimating costs and even arguing the case for a specific piece of equipment in case of difficulty getting the claim approved. The company leverages peers who have first-hand experience with the chronic conditions it serves to help better serve its customers.

Already, Better Health is a Medicare-licensed provider in 48 states, and it has partnerships in place with commercial providers like Humana and Oscar Health. This funding round was led by 8VC, a firm with plenty of expertise in the healthcare industry and an investor in Stauber Breckler’s prior ventures, and includes participation from Caffeinated Capital, Anorak Ventures, and angels Robert Hurley and Scott Flanders of remote health pioneer eHealth.

#8vc, #advisors, #caffeinated-capital, #health, #healthcare-industry, #humana, #medicare, #medicine, #oscar, #oscar-health, #pain, #port, #robert-hurley, #shopify, #software-engineer, #surgery, #tc, #united-states

Brazilian startup Tractian gets the Y Combinator seal of approval for its equipment monitoring tech

Igor Marinelli and Gabriel Lameirinhas were raised around manufacturing plants. Marinelli’s father worked for International Paper in a plant outside of Sao Paulo while Lameirinhas’ father worked in a cement plant. 

Throughout their lives, the two friends had heard their parents complain about the sorry state of maintenance and monitoring of the heavy equipment that their factories depended on to stay up and running.

So the two men decided to do something about it, and set about to develop the technology which would become Tractian.

Friends from their days at University of Sao Paulo, Lameirinhas and Marinelli kept in touch as Marinelli pursued a career in the U.S. as an entrepreneur, they reconnected in Brazil after the collapse of Marinelli’s attempt to launch a predictive chronic health condition service called BlueAI.

Marinelli spent some time working in a paper plant himself and became a software engineer for the facility. It was there that he saw the shoddy state of affairs that industrial monitoring tools were in.

Together with Lameirinhas he determined that there could be a better way. Factories in Brazil aren’t equipped with wifi or gateways or other networking technologies that the newest solutions from companies like Siemens or Schneider Electric require. Integrations with existing enterprise resource planning software from companies like SAP present another headache, said Marinelli.

“Only industries with huge capital can go through that mess,” Marinelli said.

Tractian’s sensors measure four things: vibration, temperature, energy consumption and a horometer to measure how long a machine has been up and running. The company has also developed software that can analyze the data coming off of the sensors to predict when a machine might need maintenance.

Y Combinator found the software and hardware package compelling and so did investors like Soma Capital, Norte Ventures, and angel investors including Alan Rutledge and Immad Akhund.

Tractian’s tech costs $90 for the sensors and the analysis and software is another $60 per month, per sensor. Marinelli claims that the service can pay for itself in less than two months. Already, the company has signed up AB InBev as an initial customer and has roughly 30 buyers in total using its sensors.

 

#brazil, #energy-consumption, #entrepreneur, #heavy-equipment, #monitoring, #sao-paulo, #siemens, #software-engineer, #soma-capital, #tc, #united-states, #y-combinator

Slapdash raises $3.7M seed to ship a workplace apps command bar

The explosion in productivity software amid a broader remote work boom has been one of the pandemic’s clearest tech impacts. But learning to use a dozen new programs while having to decipher which data is hosted where can sometimes seem to have an adverse effect on worker productivity. It’s all time that users can take for granted, even when carrying out common tasks like navigating to the calendar to view more info to click a link to open the browser to redirect to the native app to open a Zoom call.

Slapdash is aiming to carve a new niche out for itself among workplace software tools, pushing a desire for peak performance to the forefront with a product that shaves seconds off each instance where a user needs to find data hosted in a cloud app or carry out an action. While most of the integration-heavy software suites to emerge during the remote work boom have focused on promoting visibility or re-skinning workflows across the tangled weave of SaaS apps, Slapdash founder Ivan Kanevski hopes that the company’s efforts to engineer a quicker path to information will push tech workers to integrate another tool into their workflow.

The team tells TechCrunch that they’ve has raised $3.7 million in seed funding from investors that include S28 Capital, Quiet Capital. Quarry Ventures and Twenty Two Ventures. Angels participating in the round include co-founders at companies like Patreon, Docker and Zynga.

Kanevski says the team sought to emulate the success of popular apps like Superhuman which have pushed low-latency command line interface navigation while emulating some of the sleek internal tools used at companies like Facebook where he spent nearly six years as a software engineer.

Slapdash’s command line widget can be pulled up anywhere, once installed, with a quick keyboard shortcut. From there, users can search through a laundry list of indexable apps including Slack, Zoom, Jira and about twenty others. Beyond command line access, users can create folders of files and actions inside the full desktop app or create their own keyboard shortcuts to quickly hammer out a task. The app is available on Mac, Windows, Linux and the web.

“We’re not trying to displace the applications that you connect to Slapdash,” he says. “You won’t see us, for example, building document editing, you won’t see us building project management, just because our sort of philosophy is that we’re a neutral platform.”

The company offers a free tier for users indexing up to five apps and creating ten commands and spaces, any more than that and you level up into a $12 per month paid plan. Things look more customized for enterprise-wide pricing. As the team hopes to make the tool essential to startups, Kanevski see the app’s hefty utility for individual users as a clear asset in scaling up.

“If you anticipate rolling this out to larger organizations, you would want the people that are using the software to have a blast with it,” he says. “We have quite a lot of confidence that even at this sort of individual atomic level, we built something pretty joyful and helpful.”

#ceo, #computing, #docker, #enterprise, #jira, #linux, #microsoft-windows, #mobile-app, #patreon, #productivity-software, #quiet-capital, #recent-funding, #s28-capital, #saas, #software, #software-engineer, #startups, #tc, #technology, #zoom, #zynga

Recession-proof your software engineering career

Software engineering is generally an employee’s market.

In 2019, demand for frontend and backend engineers grew 17%, according to Hired’s 2020 State of Software Engineers Report. In 2018 there were 23 million software developers and by the end of 2019 that number had grown to 26.4 million. 67% of IT managers said they planned to expand their teams in 2020.

But as COVID-19 spurs layoffs, furloughs and hiring freezes, hopes of a V-shaped recovery are vanishing. Where companies once fought each other for talent, software engineers are likely to find themselves out of work — many for the first time. To help you prepare for what’s next, I’ve talked with software developers who’ve been through previous recessions to get their advice on what moves to make now to put yourself in the best position possible in a recession. Let’s start with your network.

Cultivate your professional network

Workers with large, powerful professional networks get hired faster, earn more money and enjoy more professional success than their less-connected peers, according to Harvard Business Review. One survey showed referrals brought in 78% of recruiters’ best candidates. Another survey showed 70% of new hires had a personal connection at their company and 80% of professionals considered networking important to career success.

In a recession, you’ll be competing with far more software developers for each role. So it will be vitally important to set your resume apart with a personal recommendation. Companies often don’t even publicly post their best jobs. “The only reliable way to find a job is through your network,” said Grant Gould, Senior Software Engineer, Toyota Research Institute .

#artificial-intelligence, #column, #developer, #devops, #engineer, #extra-crunch, #hiring, #machine-learning, #programmer, #python, #software-engineer, #software-engineering, #stack-exchange, #toyota-research-institute, #work

Can API vendors solve healthcare’s data woes?

A functioning healthcare system depends on caregivers having the right data at the right time to make the right decision about what course of treatment a patient needs.

In the aftermath of the COVID-19 epidemic and the acceleration of the consumer adoption of telemedicine, along with the fragmentation of care to a number of different low-cost providers, access to a patient’s medical records to get an accurate picture of their health becomes even more important.

Opening access to developers also could unlock new, integrated services that could give consumers a better window into their own health and consumer product companies opportunities to develop new tools to improve health.

While hospitals, urgent care facilities and health systems have stored patient records electronically for years thanks to laws passed under the Clinton administration, those records were difficult for patients themselves to access. The way the system has been historically structured has made it nearly impossible for an individual to access their entire medical history.

It’s a huge impediment to ensuring that patients receive the best care they possibly can, and until now it’s been a boulder that companies have long tried to roll uphill, only to have it roll over them.

Now, new regulations are requiring that the developers of electronic health records can’t obstruct interoperability and access by applications. Those new rules may unlock a wave of new digital services.

At least that’s what companies like the New York-based startup Particle Health are hoping to see. The startup was founded by a former emergency medical technician and consultant, Troy Bannister, and longtime software engineer for companies like Palantir and Google, Dan Horbatt.

Particle Health is stepping into the breach with an API -based solution that borrows heavily from the work that Plaid and Stripe have done in the world of financial services. It’s a gambit that’s receiving support from investors including Menlo Ventures, Startup Health, Collaborative Fund, Story Ventures and Company Ventures, as well as angel investors from the leadership of Flatiron Health, Clover Health, Plaid, Petal and Hometeam.

Image via Getty Images / OstapenkoOlena

“My first reaction when I met Troy, and he was describing what they’re doing, was that it couldn’t be done,” said Greg Yap, a partner with Menlo Ventures, who leads the firm’s life sciences investments. “We’ve understood how much of a challenge and how much of a tax the lack of easy portability of data puts on the healthcare system, but the problem has always felt like there are so many obstacles that it is too difficult to solve.”

What convinced Yap’s firm, Menlo Ventures, and the company’s other backers, was an ability to provide both data portability and privacy in a way that put patients’ choice at the center of how data is used and accessed, the investor said.

“[A service] has to be portable for it to be useful, but it has to be private for it to be well-used,” says Yap. 

The company isn’t the first business to raise money for a data integration service. Last year, Redox, a Madison, Wis.-based developer of API services for hospitals, raised $33 million in a later-stage round of funding. Meanwhile, Innovaccer, another API developer, has raised more than $100 million from investors for its own take.

Each of these companies is solving a different problem that the information silos in the medical industry presents, according to Patterson. “Their integrations are focused one-to-one on hospitals,” he said. Application developers can use Redox’s services to gain access to medical records from a particular hospital network, he explained. Whereas using Particle Health’s technology, developers can get access to an entire network.

“They get contracts and agreements with the hospitals. We go up the food chain and get contracts with the [electronic medical records],” said Patterson.

One of the things that’s given Particle Health a greater degree of freedom to acquire and integrate with existing healthcare systems is the passage of the 21st Century Cures Act in 2016. That law required that the providers of electronic medical records like Cerner and EPIC had to remove any roadblocks that would keep patient data siloed. Another is the Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement, which was just enacted in the past month.

“We don’t like betting on companies that require a change in law to become successful,” said Yap of the circumstances surrounding Particle’s ability to leapfrog well-funded competitors. But the opportunity to finance a company that could solve a core problem in digital healthcare was too compelling.

“What we’re really saying is that consumers should have access to their medical records,” he said.

Isometric Healthcare and technology concept banner. Medical exams and online consultation concept. Medicine. Vector illustration

This access can make consumer wearables more useful by potentially linking them — and the health data they collect — with clinical data used by physicians to actually make care and treatment decisions. Most devices today are not clinically recognized and don’t have any real integration into the healthcare system. Access to better data could change that on both sides.

“Digital health application might be far more effective if it can take into context information in the medical record today,” said Yap. “That’s one example where the patient will get much greater impact from the digital health applications if the digital health applications can access all of the information that the medical system collected.” 

With the investment, which values Particle Health at roughly $48 million, Bannister and his team are looking to move aggressively into more areas of digital healthcare services.

“Right now, we’re focusing on telemedicine,” said Bannister. “We’re moving into the payer space… As it stands today we’re really servicing the third parties that need the records. Our core belief is that patients want control of their data but they don’t want the stewardship.”

The company’s reach is impressive. Bannister estimates that Particle Health can hit somewhere between 250 and 300 million of the patient records that have been generated in the U.S. “We have more or less solved the fragmentation problem. We have one API that can pull information from almost everywhere.”

So far, Particle Health has eight live contracts with telemedicine and virtual health companies using its API, which have pulled 1.4 million patient records to date.

The way it works right now, when you give them permission to access your data it’s for a very specific purpose of use… they can only use it for that one thing. Let’s say you were using a telemedicine service. I allow this doctor to view my records for the purpose of treatment only. After that we have built a way for you to revoke access after the point,” Bannister said.

Particle Health’s peers in the world of API development also see the power in better, more open access to data. “A lot of money has been spent and a lot of blood and sweat went into putting [electronic medical records] out there,” said Innovaccer chief digital officer Mike Sutten.

The former chief technology officer of Kaiser Permanente, Sutten knows healthcare technology. “The next decade is about ‘let’s take advantage of all of this data.’ Let’s give back to physicians and give them access to all that data and think about the consumers and the patients,” Sutten said.

Innovaccer is angling to provide its own tools to centralize data for physicians and consumers. “The less friction there is in getting that data extracted, the more benefit we can provide to consumers and clinicians,” said Sutten.

Already, Particle Health is thinking about ways its API can help application developers create tools to help with the management of COVID-19 populations and potentially finding ways to ease the current lockdowns in place due to the disease’s outbreak.

“If you’ve had an antibody test or PCR test in the past… we should have access to that data and we should be able to provide that data at scale,” said Bannister. 

“There’s probably other risk-indicating factors that could at least help triage or clear groups as well… has this person been quarantined has this person been to the hospital in the past month or two… things like that can help bridge the gap,” between the definitive solution of universal testing and the lack of testing capacity to make that a reality, he said. 

“We’re definitely working on these public health initiatives,” Bannister said. Soon, the company’s technology — and other services like it — could be working behind the scenes in private healthcare initiatives from some of the nation’s biggest companies as software finally begins to take bigger bites out of the consumer health industry.

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