One of the four startups participating in Swinburne’s inaugural Accelerator Program has developed world-first facial recognition software to revolutionise how methadone is dispensed.
Christopher Durre, Max Mito and Kieran Start are all aged in their early 20s. They may be young, but they possess a robust innovative and entrepreneurial mindset.
These young university students have blasted onto Melbourne’s startup scene with Strong Room, a medical innovation company focussed on providing tech solutions to the pharmacy sector.
Strong Room was born out of a realisation that Australia’s medical ecosystem was highly fragmented, relying on disjointed administrative processes.
“We focussed on how facial recognition technology could improve the whole system. Specifically, the dispensing of pharmacotherapy, where patients have to go into a pharmacy every day to collect their medicine, is full of cumbersome and time-consuming administrative processes,” Max says.
Strong Room’s methadone dispensing software comprises of automated patient verification using facial recognition technology, patient alerts and a stock management system. This allows pharmacists to spend less time verifying a patient’s identity, and more time caring for them.
The launch of Strong Room’s software presents an exciting opportunity for community pharmacies to speed up identification processes for pharmacotherapy programs that assist in the treatment of opioid addiction. The dispensation of pharmacotherapy is currently time-consuming and prone to human error, especially for locum or casual pharmacists.
Swinburne supporting startups
As one of the participants of Swinburne’s inaugural 2019 Accelerator Program, Strong Room has received $30,000 in equity-free funding, expert advice and support from a network of entrepreneurs and industry partners, and access to co-working space in Swinburne’s Innovation Precinct.
Strong Room’s Chief Innovation Officer, Christopher, is currently completing a Bachelor of Computer Science at Swinburne. His childhood friend, Max, and their co-founder, Kieran, are finalising their studies at the University of Melbourne.
“Being in contact with and put in front of people who can really support us has been remarkable. We’ve had business and medical advisors brought forward by the Accelerator Program who have helped us understand the market that we’re developing for and get to the core problem and product we need to create,” Chris says.
At the end of the 12-week Accelerator Program, startups had the opportunity to showcase their businesses to potential investors and industry partners.
With the help of the Accelerator Program, Strong Room has rolled out to 35 pharmacies across Victoria. However, with over 3,000 authorised prescribers of opioid pharmacotherapy drugs in Australia, it’s only a matter of time before Strong Room stirs up the entire sector.
“In the long-term we see Strong Room making a huge difference in the aged care sector, in hospitals and in emergency rooms. Essentially, anywhere where there is a small workforce for a huge amount of patients, Strong Room’s software will reduce administrative errors, make patient verification instantaneous and ensure people avoid adverse medical effects,” Max says.
Vincent Tran is the owner of MediPharmacy Discount Chemist in the Melbourne suburb of Preston and says that Strong Room’s software has greatly supported his staff to identify patients and prevent any potential errors.
“All that the patient needs to do is look into the camera and their file comes up. While we have only recently come on board with Strong Room’s program, it has been a very positive experience. It adds a lot of value by being user-friendly and simple to use,” Mr Tran says.
The millennial startup revolution
While the release of Strong Room’s software has opened many doors, the team share that not every opportunity has unlocked so easily.
“We were laughed out of a meeting at one point. I suppose with us being young, people can think we don’t know what we are doing, but afterwards we were actually able to raise more funding than we were asking for at that meeting, so that was awesome,” Max says.
Not quick to label themselves as entrepreneurs, the boys describe themselves as “young and visionary.”
“We didn’t always think about all the regulatory requirements and various governing bodies, we just tried our best to make sure our software ticked all the boxes and went straight for it,” Max says.
“A lot of people are going to tell you that you can’t, but if you have the idea and the technical capability to execute, I think you’ve just got to give it a try,” Chris says.
“Running a startup is not easy and you have to have a lot of tenacity to stick things through, but it is really rewarding, and you could be really lucky at the end of the day.”