Tag Archive for: Covid-19

As we approach virtual New York Blockchain Week (NYBW) taking place May 7-15, 2020, the industry continues to exemplify innovation and leadership in donating to relief efforts for COVID-19. CoinDesk, which runs the Consensus conference, Ethereal Summit, an event held by Consensys, Gitcoin, a mission driven project to grow the open source community, and nonprofit crypto donation platform The Giving Block are delivering a series of intelligent crypto-driven fundraising activities.

The fundraiser will use a method derived from a paper based on Microsoft Principal Researcher Glen Weyl’s “liberal radicalism” ideas and co-written by Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin and Harvard researcher Zoë Hitzig, whereby the mathematical formula results in the largest matching grants going to causes that attract the broadest spread of contributions across the largest number of participants. Citizens make public goods contributions to projects of value to them. The amount received by the project is (proportional to) the square of the sum of the square roots of contributions received. Under the “standard model” this yields first best public goods provision. If this works correctly, nonprofits elevate their impact, crypto donors lower their tax bill and crypto adoption accelerates.

Scott Moore, head of partnerships for Gitcoin said: “So far over $2 million has been distributed to public goods using Quadratic Funding on Gitcoin. We’re excited to continue experimenting with these innovative mechanisms in new ways, especially for charities in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Donations will be given directly to critical charities serving on the frontline of the global pandemic including Operation Masks, Action Against Hunger, Save the Children, Meals on Wheels, Médecins Sans Frontières, SOS Children’s Villages-USA, The Water Project, International Medical Corps, United Way, Team Rubicon, No Kid Hungry, and International Rescue Committee.

This is not the first initiative from the Blockchain community. In addition to many individuals and companies making donations, The Giving Block announced the start of the #cryptoCOVID19 alliance. Alex Wilson, the executive director, commented “in total, there are over 20 industry partners helping support our efforts, each contributing in a unique way.”

Whether it be donations or technology, the industry is coming together to fight.


Article first appeared May 5, 2020 on Forbes.com.


Wash your hands, social distance, isolate!  Humans are doing their part to fight COVID-19, but   the technology side of the story that is currently underreported.  There was a boost last week to Google’s Verily when President Trump mentioned that they were going to be using technology to screen.  As we saw, they were nowhere close to launching such a tool. Verily’s rush to build a COVID-19 screening tool on the fly underscored how tech companies have been forced to improvise to stay in Trump’s good graces.  There’s no way to do this in days, weeks, or even months. The data has never been properly aligned in healthcare, and COVID-19 is exposing this weakness. There are many self assessment mediacal tools however, CloudMedx is one of the only companies that uses crowdsourced data and artificial intelligence (AI) to fine tune and inform doctors’ models to flatten the curve of COVID-19; they have been in development for 5 years.  CloudMedx does this by using AI on data to help both doctors and patients.

The company believes in “Aligning Intelligence” to the 3 Ps in healthcare – Payers, Providers, and Patients to serve their needs. CloudMedx uses AI to enhance existing workflows and generate automated clinical insights, which in turn improve operations, case management, and patient engagement for health organizations.

Supporting some of the top hospitals and payers in the country, CloudMedx integrates natural language understanding (NLU) and deep learning with major EHRs and healthcare organizations nationwide. In the case of COVID-19, this may include predicting surge, length of stays, resource utilization (ICU beds, equipment, etc.), staffing needs, and identification of high-risk individuals based on available data.  Without aligning all the data, you can’t treat people based on the one thing that drives all care, i.e. what happened with the other person who was just like you, had similar symptoms, because you need to do what worked last time again.

For patients, CloudMedx announced that its AI chatbot, AskSophie, is now enabled to help them self-assess for the risk of COVID-19.  AskSophie is a free, online symptom checker that uses guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to provide patients with the relative risk of contracting the disease based on their location, symptoms, and age. It further provides reference guidelines on what to do if patients are high, medium, or low risk.  AskSophie is available via Medicare.gov and Covid2019.health.  t works similarly to how Waze sources user-provided traffic information. However, instead of real-time traffic information, CloudMedx uses guidelines from the CDC to better inform the  patient about their relative risks, lab centers near them, and having a meaningful and personalized conversation with a doctor. Then, like an Air Traffic Control, it provides the healthcare ecosystem with the location, spread, and impact of the virus, so they can prepare for what’s coming.  This allows patients to be a part of the decision-making process with their doctors while avoiding public interaction as symptoms persist. AskSophie is not intended to provide anything definitive, but rather to provide patients with categories of conditions common to people with similar symptoms for education purposes and to further investigate with their health providers.  In the near future, CloudMedx plans to connect AskSophie to telemedicine providers and provide additional resources to assist patients.

Tashfeen Suleman, CEO of CloudMedx said, “Instead of user-submitted transportation information, we want to gather and organize large volumes of medical information to help patients and healthcare administrators assess this disease together and collectively align care to drive better patient outcomes.”

Doing the right thing for patients is deeply rooted into the ethos of the company and is also the genesis. Six years ago, Suleman’s father went to an emergency room twice complaining of frequent headaches, and twice doctors sent him home with a diagnosis of allergies. It turned out he was suffering from a subdural hematoma — bleeding around the brain. Following the second misdiagnosis, he went into a coma and required emergency brain surgery (he made a full recovery). After trying to get to the root of the inaccurate diagnoses, his family discovered the hematoma was the side effect of a new medication his father had been prescribed a few weeks prior. He lacked physical symptoms like slurred speech and difficulty walking, which normally would have prompted doctors to order a CT scan and detect the bleeding earlier. CloudMedx exists today because of this misdiagnosis.

“We believe healthcare is a fundamental right for everyone, and we are driven to tackle its greatest challenges by aligning intelligent insights to improve care at scale,” said Suleman.  “With enough crowd sourced self-reported data, we can get a better handle of the disease. COVID-19 has exposed that the health system has a data problem. When you are sick, it is all the other sick people who preceded you, from their symptoms and pre-existing conditions to their heredity and location, that enables doctors to ensure you’re properly guided for care. Without this insight, it’s very hard to make the right call about treatment. And that’s why COVID-19 is tricky, because there is no history to work from, and it’s being exacerbated by the speed of which it’s coming, making it impossible to ensure that only people who need assistance can be prioritized and properly cared for.  Healthcare is a village, and with the current pandemic growing in numbers, it becomes paramount to contribute patient data to a broader collaboration with technology companies and healthcare service providers, to join forces and tackle this challenge together.


Article first appeared March 18, 2020 on Forbes.com.


Last week, Sequoia Capital, one of the oldest and most respected venture funds, issued its “Black Swan” memo to its portfolio companies warning them to have enough cash on hand and make decisive decisions to weather the storm that has been the financial, economic and social crisis triggered by Coronavirus. Since then, there has been a debate among venture investors whether to continue to fund, pull out of existing commitments, write “Corona Clauses” in their term sheets, or invest as an opportunity against the drop in other asset classes.

There are many smart investors who are continuing to invest right now. There is still dry powder out there that needs to be invested, just cautiously. It seems like much of the venture business is “open for business” according to Fred Wilson at Union Square Ventures. Others are posting about how they are closing deals from start to finish using Zoom and not meeting in person. The technology and investing businesses are used to operating fairly decentralized anyway. It seems as if Coronovirus has just accelerated that trend – and perhaps will make it more permanent.

Historically, startups might find it difficult to raise capital with recession warnings. No matter what the economic circumstances are, there’s always capital for companies that have the product market fit and a strong relationship with a diversified set of customers. Some investors already have been pressing founders to be more mindful of the fundamentals of running a sound business: cut unnecessary expenses to extend cash runway, expand their customer base, be sure to have a dependable board of directors and, at last, become a great storyteller about how their company is successfully solving a problem. Companies should hold off on deploying capital until they understand business drivers that enable them to become category-owning companies offering a defensible product or service.

As Sequoia notes “Google and PayPal soldiered through the aftermath of the dot-com bust. More recently, Airbnb, Square, and Stripe were founded in the midst of the Global Financial Crisis.” Some of the best returning funds also happened in those years.

So what is the case for investing in technology at the earliest stage besides the fact that returns are the best and investors are seeking a long term game now? Early stage pre-revenue tech startups become in relative terms less risky. At the early stage, risk doesn’t change much in absolute terms but changes dramatically in relative terms. If you at normal times evaluate a pre-seed startup risk to be, say, 100x higher than that of a later-stage company, at the time of crisis this could become only 20x. this of course assumes the crisis is bounded in time. If the crisis is long-term other factors come into play, like sharply increased funding risk.

Pre-revenue startups have zero exposure to market, and generally benefit from crises, because they can get cheaper workforce (this assumes employees will still want to join a company with financing risk). If you expect the crisis will take x number of months, and the startup has >x runway, you know it will survive. There are almost no other variables except in the Coronavirus instance, we don’t know x number of months yet.

There is no supplier risk. Compare this with revenue-generating companies. Market demand squeeze makes them shed costs, which is detrimental in the long term. Growing back to the same size will take more time than small companies. They also are more exposed to supplier risks, and systemic economic shocks (lending etc.).

Technology trends are not going to stop moving forward in a crisis – in fact they will accelerate in many areas. Think of the Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things and other technologies that are currently being used to assist in the Coronavirus crisis for instance. In China, Blockchain startups popped up to assist this quarter. Innovation is born of necessity. It’s a matter of looking in the right places at the right time.


Article first appeared March 13, 2020 on Forbes.com.