MBA Alum Satake San on the Future of Med Tech
September 22, 2017. Shanghai – In the medical industry today, many of the greatest technical innovations that we are seeing tend to come from outside the walls of hospitals. CEIBS MBA 2012 alumnus Dr. Kohta Satake says this is about to change. “We are seeing exciting advances, for example, in wellness and diet apps that are developed independently from hospitals, but in the next five years I believe China and Japan will witness a flurry of innovation from within hospitals,” he says.
The Co-Founder and CEO of CureApp, a pioneering therapeutic app often called “digital therapeutics” that provides evidence-based, personalized, real-time clinical guidance for patient support, Kohta spent five years as a physician in Japan specialising in respiratory diseases before enrolling in the CEIBS and Johns Hopkins’ dual degree MBA/MPH in 2012. The dual degree programme offers students the opportunity to graduate with two degrees, an MBA from CEIBS in Shanghai and a Master of Public Health from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.
The decision of where to study was the easy part for Kohta, who recognised the importance of understanding China’s scale of growth both in Asia and on the global stage. “The transition from physician to entrepreneur was what gave me more sleepless nights. Before I enrolled at CEIBS, my days were spent treating patient after patient. Words like ‘profit’ and ‘cost’ never entered my vocabulary, but slowly my mind-set began to change at CEIBS. Mentors such as CEIBS Professor of Economics and Finance Xu Bin had a lasting impact on how I saw the world and helped me to prepare for my career switch,” reflects Kohta.
It was while at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health that the rough idea for CureApp first began to take shape. Timing is one of the key ingredients of any entrepreneurship success story, and for Kohta his year spent in Baltimore coincided with two key developments in the med-tech industry. First, many of his peers were doing research into how mobile apps can provide patients with real-time clinical guidance. Second, the insurance industry had relaxed regulations regarding reimbursement based on guidance provided by medical software. These developments gave Kohta the confidence to pursue his CureApp venture.
Now in its fourth year, CureApp has received over US$ 6 million in venture capital funding and its potential to curb smoking habits has been featured in publications such as Nikkei, Bloomberg News and Forbes Japan. When asked about this successful transition from physician to entrepreneur, Kohta recalls the guiding words of CEIBS Professor of Entrepreneurship Dr. Ramakrishna Velamuri: “As a successful entrepreneur you have to connect the dots. The challenge is that the location and strategic importance of these dots is not always apparent”.
In order to support the next generation of Kohta’s peers, the CEIBS eLab was launched in 2015. As a dedicated incubator for budding entrepreneurs, the eLab guides members of the CEIBS community through different aspects of the start-up process, including idea, design, evaluation, and acceleration. When asked what advice he has for the current batch of MBAs beginning the eLab’s entrepreneurial boot camp, Kohta highlighted the importance of being passionate about what you do. “Entrepreneurship and medicine are similar for the fact that at times when things aren’t going well, you need an inner drive and passion for what you are trying to do. Only this will guide you through the challenging times,” he says.