More than 70 percent of global deaths are caused by chronic diseases such as diabetes. The statistics are even more stark when we look towards the Middle East, the region with the highest percentage of diabetes-related deaths in people of working age. Patients with chronic diseases require frequent access to quality care and ease of access to health providers, both in terms of platform and language, which is critical.
In 2017, an ambitious team of entrepreneurs in Qatar saw an opportunity to improve the region’s delivery of chronic disease care, with what would become the world’s first suite of digital therapeutic products available in both English and Arabic. Droobi Health has since become a complete digital care platform that is designed to empower people living with chronic health conditions to better manage their condition and improve their overall health. Droobi’s platform combines artificial intelligence, real-human coaching and engaging Arabic content to help members master healthy changes in their life.
In 2020, Droobi received funding from Qatar Science & Technology Park (QSTP)’s Tech Venture Fund (TVF), which is open to tech-based ventures with early product validation who are looking to scale. The investment allowed Droobi to enhance its product, expand the team and identify more opportunities to grow its user base. Shortly thereafter, Qatar’s state primary healthcare provider, Primary Healthcare Corporation, started adopting Droobi programs, and several private clinics followed suit. Since then, the number of Droobi members has increased rapidly to more than 30,000 to date.
“When we received funding from QSTP, our development was primarily outsourced, but the QSTP team advised us to focus on building a strong in-house team who understood our product, and more importantly, our mission to improve human health,” says Noor Jandali, one of Droobi’s co-founders. “This helped us significantly as we shifted from a third-party developer to having most of our platform development done by Droobi’s own software engineers. The funding also allowed us to transform our data infrastructure to allow for a more stable and efficient platform which supported our user growth.”
The QSTP TVF is open to applications from young businesses that have surpassed product validation and have a strong competitive advantage, typically backed by an intellectual property position. In addition to capital support, the Fund links startups with a team of industry experts and mentors to support the initial months of their journey. QSTP, part of Qatar Foundation (QF), lowers key barriers for promising tech founders, which fuels the development of tech-based products and services as well as the commercialization of scientific research.
“As startup resources are generally very limited, it is critical to know exactly how to use them in the most efficient way,” Jandali continued. “The TVF team was very collaborative and had multiple discussions with us to make sure Droobi’s business model was sustainable and the priorities for using our funding were clear.”
Droobi offers personalized programs that leverage a proprietary AI behavior change messaging system along with health coaches to help each member reach their unique health goals, whether it’s weight loss or steady blood sugar levels. “More than just language, the entire Droobi product has been tailored to the local culture in the Middle East, with food image recognition technology that detects foods from regional cuisines that are often missing from mainstream food tracking apps,” Jandali explained.
“Since the pandemic, we are seeing more and more employers who are looking for digital health solutions to build a healthier workforce, which is especially important given that we know productivity and health are strongly related,” Jandali added. “Droobi is well on its way to becoming a one-stop-shop for chronic conditions, offering a seamless experience for patients to manage their condition in one single platform: Droobi is adding virtual consultations with physicians for members who need more help controlling their conditions. Members will now have access to behavior change support, diabetes and hypertension self-management education, tracking tools, and medical management of conditions all in one place.”
The MENA startup ecosystem is rapidly growing, with Q1 2022 showing a 161% increase in capital vs. Q1 2021, according to the latest Magnitt MENA report. There is also a growing interest from international investors, reflected by their participation in 55% of capital deployed in 2021.
Innovators from across the globe who would like to expand into the MENA region can apply to QSTP’s TVF throughout the year. To read more about the eligibility or to apply, visit: https://qstp.org.qa/tech-venture-fund/
To read more about Droobi Health, visit https://www.droobihealth.com/
Published in Magnitt on May 18: https://magnitt.com/news/droobi-health-from-digital-therapeutics-53426