MVision is using artificial intelligence and data from all around the world to improve the treatment of cancer

Company: MVision

Started playing: Q3/2017

Joined the band: Q4/2017


We had a chat with the founder of MVision, Mahmudul Hasan (CEO). He has an exciting story of how he ended up founding MVision and how he managed to find the exceptional team members.

MVision believes that collective medical knowledge is the starting point of the singularity.They use artificial intelligence in medical imagery, and they are planning to make the best clinical data available for developing countries.

MVision Interview

Icebreaker(IB):

Hey, how's going?


Mahmud:

Hi, everything's fantastic! A lot of things going on, so it's exciting times.


IB:

So, could you tell us a little bit about yourself and how have you ended up to this point?


Mahmud:

Since 2010, I have been trying to form and build startups myself. The first one was a point-of-sale system for restaurants since Apple and Samsung had just released their tablets, and as a waiter at an Indian restaurant, I noticed that their usage was increasing. Unfortunately, we saw quite quickly that this was something that the restaurants didn't even want, so we dumped the project after one month.


IB:

So you lived in the UK before, when did you move to Finland and what was your first impression?


Mahmud:

I moved to Finland in 2013 and was like "Wow, what is happening here?!". It didn't take long before I got to know new people and got into the startup community, and quite fast I found myself again starting a new project. I really like, and have always liked, the Finnish startup ecosystem, since I think it is a perfect place to kickstart your idea!


IB:

You have gone through a lot and failed several times, were you any frustrated at some time?


Mahmud:

No. Once I discovered this, I quickly understood that this was actually an interesting problem. While I  was working at my previous employer, I described the idea to a couple of colleagues, and they also liked the idea – which was quite surprising to me since I had pitched them a lot of ideas before and they had never liked them.

So I managed to recruit Aleksi Nurmi, our CTO, and we immediately started to search for people, since we didn't have any AI guys and we had an AI idea. We had a tough time to find the right people since it's challenging to hire, for example, an oncologist to a startup. Luckily, we managed to meet the proper people who introduced us to Heikki Arponen and Saad Akram, our senior research scientists, and Jarkko Niemelä, our physicist. These were the people we needed, and it was a jackpot to meet these guys. Another jackpot was that these guys actually had the contacts to get the patient data, and through that, we managed to close our first pilot. It seems like that if you can assemble the right team and create a vision, the rest will follow you.


IB:

So what is your vision?


Mahmud:

To maximize impact. We believe that artificial intelligence and cloud are democratizing the knowledge, and everyone in need should have access to medical information. Therefore, by making the information available in a scalable manner, it will become dramatically cheaper than current solutions. Imagine if we could treat a person for example in Bangladesh, where I'm born and raised, with the knowledge and expertise that a person is treated with here in Finland. This is something we are aiming for!


IB:

Interesting! What are you working with at the moment, at what stage are you with the development?


Mahmud:

At this stage, we believe we can be in the market with a product applicable to prostate cancer in September 2018. That is the target we have right now. After the prostate, we are considering to move to head/neck. A "funny" thing is that prostate cancer is about ⅓ of every cancer cases in the developed countries, but in the developing countries, it is head/neck. In women the most usual cancer case in the developed countries is the breast cancer, while in developing countries it is lung or liver cancer. So we are starting to see this kind of patterns, and therefore we are focusing on the most usual cases at first.


IB:

So you mentioned that with your solution, a person in Bangladesh could be treated with the same expertise that a person is treated with in the developed countries. How are you doing it?


Mahmud:

Basically, the hospital is connected to the cloud where we run our artificial intelligence model. The artificial model then is trained by all the information and learning data we gather and collect from Finland and other developed countries. This is a fundamental breakthrough in computing and computer science since before this the prediction has been made with a general purpose algorithm, so you can imagine all the bias that occurs in different hospitals. Thanks to artificial intelligence, we can teach the algorithm with the proprietary data from the developed countries and therefore provide better treatments to people in developing countries. Nothing in this scale has been done before.


IB:

Can this technology be patented?


Mahmud:

Yes and no. Of course, we are patenting some of the workflows, but the fundamental part is collective knowledge. Oncologists are creating the images by themselves, so it is their own experience of cancer manifested in a drawing, which is shared to our software solution.


IB:

Since you have been living in the UK, you have experienced the startup ecosystem there. You mentioned that the US is highly privatized when it comes to hospitals, do you think that Finland is the most suitable country regarding setting up a startup?


Mahmud:

So the funny thing is that Varian Medical Systems, where I worked before MVision, is the second Silicon Valley company in the history of Silicon Valley. They still have the same land they leased from Palo Alto University, from which they pay a ridiculously low price. The reason why MVision exists in Helsinki and not Palo Alto or the UK, is that for an artificial company to live and thrive, you'll need access to data. In US and UK this is not possible, so for a medical imaging company like us, the Nordics are the most suitable.


IB:

How have things changed after you got funding from Icebreaker?


Mahmud:

Oh, I can't even describe! The funding has absolutely changed the whole spirit of the company. The advice and support is tremendous, and we get all kind of help, for example about data security and management, so it is not only about the money. Another thing is the access to the investors' network. At the moment we are talking with Syöpärekisteri, and what we found out is that they have the world's best mammographic data since Syöpärekisteri is a central body that collects all data from the hospitals. Furthermore, we are an engineering team, so we have also got a lot of help about sales and marketing.


IB:

How has the MVision's journey been different when compared to the previous ones, or has it been different?


Mahmud:

That's an excellent question. There's that analogy of "you're barking at the wrong tree" which is something I've learned from the previous projects. You'll need to find the team of people who are super interested in solving the problem your idea is based on, otherwise, it will not work. From my experience, the moment you find the so-called winning ingredient, you notice that something just hit you straight in the face and it feels so good.


IB:

As the last question: what is your advice to someone who has an idea but hasn't necessarily taken the step to become an entrepreneur?


Mahmud:

I would say just try and fail; then you will pretty much know if it suits you. If you have the courage to get up one more time, then you should probably continue, if not, then find something that interests you!