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Start-up generation

Marc Rafat

Co-founder and CEO of HealthQuay

With a degree in Mechanical Engineering and Industrial Organization and a Master in Business Innovation, Marc Rafat worked in the automotive and industrial machinery sector for 15 years. When his wife died of cancer, though, he left it all to move into the healthcare sector. After doing the d·HEALTH Barcelona fellowship, promoted by Biocat, he founded his own business, HealthQuay, through which he aspires to help other oncology patients.

Marc Rafat: “If you believe what you’re doing is worth it, nothing can stop you”

08.07.2019

HealthQuay is an online platform that uses artificial intelligence algorithms to connect cancer patients with the best treatment options in the world. The company’s goal is to provide patients with personalized, reliable information at no charge after they are diagnosed. Marc Rafat, co-founder and CEO of HealthQuay, pivoted his career after his wife died of cancer and started up his own company to provide solutions to problems patients with this disease often face.

 

Why did you want to be an entrepreneur?

I had wanted to do this for some time, but I hadn’t found anything that motivated me enough to take the leap. They say when you fall down you can do two things: just lie there or get back up even stronger. After my wife’s death, I decided to dust myself off, get up and throw myself into solving the problems we had experienced based on what I had seen. That was motivation enough to leave my job, despite having three children. In a situation like this, most of the people around you support you, but some throw up their hands and tell you you’re crazy. But if you believe what you’re doing is worth it, nothing can stop you. Being an entrepreneur isn’t a problem: it’s a solution, a fantastic dream.

 

What is the most important strategic decision you’ve made so far?

Surrounding myself with people who have the same philosophy. We’ve looked for people who are in this world to have an impact, not for the money. They are good people, believe in the same things as we do and, moreover, have a lot more experience and know a lot more than we do.

 

What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?

Throughout the process, we’ve pivoted many times, in terms of our business model. In the early stages, we spoke with lots of people and one of the things they recommended was to focus on the problem and find a way to solve it without looking at income. And when we had it, to look for a model to bring in money. This allowed us to reach a business model that is both free to users and sustainable over time, meaning we can have an impact on lots more patients than we would have with a more traditional business model. It forced us to think it over a lot more, to work harder, but it also led us to a solution that, in the end, is much better. The only way to achieve this is through another piece of advice we got: surround yourself with people who are worth it.

 

And now what? What milestones do you want to achieve in the short term?

We’ve been developing the technology and now need to take the leap. This means forging alliances with some strategic organizations, because one of the problems we’ve had is access to information. To test our artificial intelligence algorithms correctly with different disease and patient models, we need to get capital coming in and to forge strategic alliances. The next challenge is to keep advancing at this pace. The goal is to have the fully operational technology, not just a pilot program with patients, on the market by the middle of next year.