David Chen, founder, Kapsule

How This African Healthtech Startup Is Creating Affordable, Accessible, And Authentic Medicines Worldwide


Sept. 26, 2022, 9:11 p.m.

Kapsule is a mission-oriented African healthtech company that aims to accelerate the Three As: Affordable, Accessible, and Authentic medicines worldwide, starting in Africa. The healthtech company says having such a clear mission gives them two things simultaneously; Focus - a north star to assess whether the technologies they are building have the desired effect, and Flexibility - to pivot, adjust their strategy, and respond to emerging opportunities.

The founder, David Chen, tells DT Africa that they are obsessed with the mission and have developed four products that address supply chain surveillance, logistics, business intelligence, and data insights.

But as the saying goes, "Rome was not built in the day," and neither was Kapsule. David, a massive nerd and an avid boxing fan ventured into the health space by sheer luck, destiny, and opportunity though he has always been into science. He studied genetics at the university, where he met his childhood friend Hannan studying medicine, who later became his co-founder.

"Hannan and I, since a very young age, had always said that we'd own a business together. We have very different but complementary personalities and can be very direct with one another (almost to the point of being rude) but not take things personally. We trust that whatever is being said comes from a place of care and love, even if it often stings."

"So healthcare had always been on our minds, though we both knew fairly early on that we were not cut out to be typical researchers or doctors. But we both happened to be simultaneously looking at the African healthcare system from two different perspectives. I looked at it from a commercial lens, from an industry / pharmaceutical perspective. Hannan saw things from a healthcare provider perspective by working on the ground in local hospitals in Kenya."

The Kapsule founders, along their journey, met Femi, a university friend who showed them a skeleton of the code they were writing to help manage medicine supply chains. He said, "I see what you're trying to do here," That was the beginning of Femi's story with Kapsule. The team also spoke to Vinesh, a seasoned pharmaceutical expert, about Kapsule's business thesis for solving some of the healthcare challenges in Africa.

Vinesh then went on to show the team his MSc thesis on the same topic and had the same conclusion about the type of system and technologies they needed. "It was pretty spooky that he had written about it 20 years earlier, and there we were, a group of young guys building Vinesh's dream system. So we were the right team with the right idea, expertise, interests, and motivation at the right time," David expressed.

Since then, there has been no looking back for the healthtech startup.

Kapsule was launched amid the pandemic around march 2020, and as was the case in most parts of the world, it was a tough time. At the time, there was an undercurrent of tech innovation, investment, and increasing focus on Africa's health and tech scene. Companies like mPharma were leading the charge, raising unheard-of amounts of money for health tech solutions in Africa and at very high valuations. They created "Roger Bannister" (who ran the first 4-minute mile) moments in the minds of would-be health tech entrepreneurs, David included.

Kapsule as a concept was a spinoff from an mPharma hackathon that David and his Co-founders attended in 2018. "That was the first time we had real-world validation that there was significant commercial viability in solving healthcare challenges in Africa through tech."

"Now it's a booming time. COVID showed the world how you can actually use tech to close the healthcare gap and augment existing healthcare professionals and the healthcare system to increase their overall reach in a cost-effective way."

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Currently, the UK and Rwandan-based healthtech startup has a suite of products that solve specific problems and serve as a funnel to capture data on the African healthcare market that doesn't yet exist. They then aggregate and analyze the siloed data to help stakeholders make evidence-based decisions in the healthcare ecosystem.

The various products they are developing include

  1. A supply chain surveillance tool using IoT devices that push data to a dashboard. For this, you need to make a button on an IoT device to turn on the sensors, place it into the cargo (whether an individual consignment, palate, crate, or shipping container), and log into a custom dashboard with your unique login information.
  2. Android and IOS apps that help manage orders and fulfillment between patient/pharmacy/logistics and warehouses -- with a corresponding web app dashboard. To use this, you download the apps and then create accounts, and you're good to go.
  3. Business Intelligence dashboard for HCPs like clinics, hospitals, and pharmacies. The HCPs, onboard with Kapsule, create the data pipeline, then login to a dashboard with their unique information.
  4. Market intelligence tools for data-driven decision-making for multinationals and health ministries. Customers only pay a monthly subscription and access compiled data and insightful market research.

These products act as funnels to feed data to help us create a complete view of the local healthcare system's performance, supply and demand of medicines, and disease prevalence.

What sets this healthtech apart is the mix of its entrepreneurial experience and domain expertise. From observation, many startup founding teams fall into one of two categories.; independent thinkers and brilliant minds applied to a problem that they've seen (but they lack experience within that industry and need to learn how to navigate the space) or former industry experts who understand the nuances of the problems that they encounter and try to use existing technology to solve those problems. Kapsule's founding team sits somewhere between. They all had a mixture of on-the-ground industry experience but have had technology and technology development ingrained in their lives.

For instance, Kapsule's CTO Femi has built enterprise tech for many of the world's foremost institutions. Its Chief of Strategy, Vinesh, worked for 30 years in big pharma but also studied innovation applied to pharma as part of his Masters. Hannan built Machine Learning models while studying at the university. And David consulted large enterprises on how to use a blend of people, processes, and technology to drive business outcomes in the most cost and time-efficient way possible.

Kapsule also recently became a recipient of the Google Black Founders Fund, a global initiative to allow selected founders to connect with founders from all over the world.

"That was huge for us. Everybody looks at Google when they find a company with dreams of replicating its success. I feel both grateful and honored to be recognized by Google because they put us through an arduous selection process. Having them decide that your idea and your team have the potential to transform the world is extremely validating."

"Google is very forward thinking and realize that talent and ideas are evenly distributed, but opportunities are not. Their Black Founders Fund looks to address that by providing capital and support to companies that show promise and could change the world. This is like going through BUDS or Navy Seal Training, so you can expect Google's relentless focus on achieving their mission and uncompromising excellence to rub off on every startup in the program."

"I wouldn't bet against any founder that has gone through that program because the work it has taken each of us to get selected was huge, and the work and resources that Google is pumping into us will put us in overdrive," the Kapsule founder elaborated.

In the coming years, the Kapsule team looks forward to rapid and uncomfortable growth, growing its team, product, sales, and, most importantly, impact. They also look forward to refining their products and growing their customer base. Furthermore, Kapsule has partnerships in Nigeria and seeks to expand into Kenya in the coming months.


tag: Africa, HealthTech, health services, Startup, Google Black Founders Fund, Rwanda, Google,


Verny Joy Author

Verny loves to write poetry, fiction and quotes. Her love for writing landed her in journalism. She loves gadgets and travelling to explore new places.