"Vienna is a talent factory"
Baher Al-Hakim comes from Syria, studied dentistry in Damascus, went to Dubai in 2005, and became an entrepreneur. While there, he mingled with the start-up scene and dreamed of Silicon Valley. But he ended up in Vienna. His medical training inspired him to work on his latest project, the MedTech start-up "Medicus AI". The Vienna start-up package of the Vienna Business Agency was a big reason why he moved his company to Vienna. Today, Medicus has offices from Berlin to Beirut. "When I get a little time out, I like reading and normally get through two books a week," says Al-Hakim in an interview.
What does Medicus AI make?
Medicus manufactures products that help people know their health status. We help them to understand medical data, medications and laboratory results in a personalized, partly visualized, and easy-to-digest form. We also supply software for diagnostic labs and healthcare providers.
How does that work?
Our program imports and links a wide range of different health data. All data points are analyzed using artificial intelligence. All relevant findings are made available to the user. The more data we have, the more personalized the findings are. Our mobile apps can be easily downloaded and used right away.
What is the business model behind this?
The core is a B2B business model, in which the customer pays a setup fee and a fee per use. The end user B2C model is based on partnerships, reimbursements, now and again on the charging of a subscription fee.
How did it all come about?
Friends and acquaintances often asked me as a medical professional whether I couldn't explain the findings to them. Each year, some 20 billion of these reports are printed out and delivered. More than half a billion people have searched on Google to understand what's in them.
What brought you to Vienna?
We transferred Medicus AI here from Dubai in 2015 and chose Vienna for our head office because it has a start-up infrastructure and an innovation ecosystem that is very helpful. In addition to that, we received excellent government support.
In 2016, you purchased a start-up package from the Vienna Business Agency. How did you hear about that?
Through an Austrian friend from the start-up ecosystem in Vienna. He was familiar with my work, knew about my idea for Medicus and my plans to establish the company in Europe. He strongly recommended Vienna to me and encouraged me to apply.
What did the package give you?
As part of this package, I was provided with accommodation in Vienna for three months and introduced to the start-up ecosystem, including INiTS, the university start-up service. We were also introduced to Speedinvest. They invested in the company. And we took part in many Speedinvest events as a way to meet new partners, who now provide us with all kinds of support.
How suitable is Vienna as a base for your company?
Vienna is perfect for supporting our expansion. It is centrally located in Europe, our biggest market. But Vienna is also a big hub for global travel. The quality of the universities and institutes based here also makes Vienna a great place to recruit talents and is helping us to grow quickly. A high quality of life with an affordable cost of living makes it easier for us to appoint specialists from abroad and bring them to Vienna.
Do you find enough people with suitable qualifications in Vienna?
Vienna is a talent factory, fed by graduates from leading universities. The fact that the city is frequently ranked the world's most livable city in surveys by Mercer and the Economist Intelligence Unit undoubtedly helps attract some of the world's best medical and technical talents.
What could be even better in Vienna for a company like Medicus?
A more active venture capital/financing ecosystem would be helpful. We had to obtain most of our financing from elsewhere. We also faced a few challenges with corporate and labor law in Austria, which has some quite unusual features compared to Anglo-Saxon law and compared to neighboring countries like Germany.
Where do you see Medicus in ten years' time?
As a large company with thousands of employees, most of them in Vienna, but also with offices around the world. By then, we also want to have listed Medicus on the stock market.
How many employees are there at present?
Worldwide there are 121, 22 of them in Vienna. We have moved into a new, larger office to prepare ourselves for faster growth this year and in 2021.