Local start-up's app gives personalised tips on managing diabetes

The GlycoLeap app has more than 1,500 users, said Holmusk chief executive and founder Nawal Roy.
The GlycoLeap app has more than 1,500 users, said Holmusk chief executive and founder Nawal Roy.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong declared a "war on diabetes" last year and set up a task force to combat the disease that's plaguing more than 400,000 Singaporeans.

Local healthcare analytics start-up Holmusk is hoping to bolster that effort with an app launched last October.

Named GlycoLeap, the app acts as a "mobile dietitian" and gives users customised advice on how to prevent or control diabetes.

"Diabetes kills you slowly. Most people don't pay attention to it until it becomes chronic - for example, when you're about to lose a limb - and that's when it's impossible to reverse. We prevent people from reaching that stage," said Holmusk chief executive and founder Nawal Roy.

Users upload photos of meals, input glucose levels, attend interactive online lessons and receive personal coaching from Holmusk's in-house dietitian on how to prevent or control diabetes.

The firm, which saw revenue grow from $100,000 in 2015 to $1.5 million last year, aims to raise $6 million by April to further drive expansion.

It also hopes to raise $25 million in a separate funding round by the end of this year.

Sales are expected to surge sixfold to $9 million this year and hit $20 million in 2018, said Mr Roy.

The company has 55 staff across its offices in Singapore, Malaysia and the United States, and plans to have 100 employees by this year, and 250 by the end of 2018.

However, the company is not profitable and will not be "in the foreseeable future" as its priority is to capture market share, said Mr Roy.

GlycoLeap - which is available worldwide - claims to be the first of its kind in Asia.

Prices start from US$16.67 (S$23) a month. The app has more than 1,500 users, with 10 to 30 more signing up daily.

The company aims to have 30,000 to 50,000 GlycoLeap users within the next three to five years and intends to expand the app's reach in Indonesia, India, Japan and the Middle East, all of which have a sizeable diabetic population.

Separately, Holmusk is also making strides in analytics.

It has partnered with the National Heart Centre Singapore to analyse data and build better predictive models in cardiovascular disease.

The company plans  to launch an app for dementia similar to GlycoLeap within the next year, a project fully funded by the Ministry of Health.

"At a macro level, the problem of chronic diseases is too large and our current hospital system can't handle it," said Mr Roy.

"The current model is to visit a doctor and run through a diagnosis, but the doctor doesn't monitor your behaviour after. What we do is a continuation of that, as a supplement to your doctor's visit.  

"We are looking at the next generation of healthcare, where chronic diseases are handled in a personalised manner. We want to build real solutions and make real changes in healthcare. This is the key driving notion for all of us; if not, what we do is too hard!"

Correction Note: This article has been edited to clarify that the project to launch a similar app for dementia is only partially funded by the Ministry of Health.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 25, 2017, with the headline 'Local start-up's app gives personalised tips on managing diabetes'. Print Edition | Subscribe