Interview with Wanda Fiat, Co-founder & CEO MediNav

Wanda is a creative thinker who loves tackling data, finding interesting connections, building on cross-domain synergies to solve problems. She has over 12 years’ experience in consultancy and data science and has worked on over 100 international projects.

Read on for her thoughts on AI, MedTech, MediNav, her experience with the start-up’s ecosystem in Romania and much more.  

What was the spark that made you start this business?

It all started when I was diagnosed with a chronic condition. I visited doctors in different countries and identified the same problem: the doctor wasn't 100% focused on me, he was more interested in filling in thepatient documentation while I was talking. On top of that, there was no single source of medical information, and I found it very difficult to quickly communicate an entire medical history in 10-15 minutes.

How does MediNav help doctors?

MediNav is an assistant that reduces up to 70% of the time spent generating medical reports. MediNav listens when the doctor speaks, understands, transcribes, extracts relevant medical information and pre-fills medical forms. MediNav learns daily from its mistakes.

What was it like going from employee to start-up founder?

I made this transition more than 8 years ago when I returned from Denmark to Romania and created the first company for a foreign investor. For me this position is the natural one. Although I had been employed in the past, which helped me enormously in creating a managerial persona, in none of those places did I fit 100% into the position, I extended my "tentacles" to other business areas of the company and became a kind of swiss-knife in a short time.

What has data taught you about people?

I had exposure to data about people from different points of view. From a consumer point of view, the data reveals that people are not rational agents. From a medical point of view, it's a bit more complicated. The data rather reveals a gap between the medical sector and the patient, a disconnection caused by difficult language, heterogeneity of specialist expressions, even within the same pathology. In this sense, the products developed by MediNav achieve a standardization, with the help of which it is possible to create a kind of "translator" between medical specialists from different specialties, but also between doctor and patient.

“We created a complex, hybrid AI + humans architecture that can scale easily and quickly become the best product on the market”

Why is MediNav special?

MediNav is created by both doctors and technical people. It is constantly evolving, and the dedicated medical team makes it today's top performer and the best assistant for completing medical records by voice. It learns daily, and those learnings are not only checked manually to ensure increased accuracy but are also distributed in a federated manner to all MediNav users. From the beginning, we created a complex, hybrid AI + humans’ architecture that can scale easily and quickly become the best product on the market.

How do you see the start-up ecosystem in Romania?

In development. It is completely different from 8 years ago when I came back to Romania and had my first contact with the Eastern European startup world. It seemed like a wild wild west.  Now the ecosystem is becoming more structured and seems more cohesive. Venture capital investment funds with Romanian capital, angel investment groups, of which Growceanu is a part, have appeared and Romanian startups can be fully funded from Romania at the moment. Although we have mixed capital, the fact that three years after we began working on our the startup things have already changed in this sense is a proof of the rapid changeof the ecosystem. We still lack easy-to-get, pre-seed, 50-100k type tickets that are accessible for teams at any stage, even at the idea level. A large amount of such vouchers could significantly accelerate innovation in Romania - lowering the cost of entry.

How do you see Growceanu’s role in the ecosystem?

Very important. Growceanu is one of those partners of startups that are very suitable especially in the early stages of companies, because they  have a more varied risk profile - being a group of individuals, not an institution. At the same time, they can become a strong ally of a startup precisely because the group is comprised of private professionals as investors and a specialization that is not venture capital most of the time. They can bring valuable industry know-how for startups. Growceanu in particular, was and is a reliable partner for MediNav, a group of very well organized people with a smooth and clear process. We benefited directly from their support, also post investment, in the sales, market access and market intelligence process.

How do you know when you're on track with a start-up?

One of the moments when we realized we were doing a good job was when clinics and hospitals started contacting us on their own initiative - we didn't have big marketing budgets or significant marketing activities. Another moment, recently experienced in one of the major hospitals in Bucharest, was an initial demo meeting - where most of the doctors had seen or interacted with MediNav outside the hospital, through "free trial" accounts that we give to any doctor. Clearly one of the challenges is to get all these users into the paying customer zone - but we are very happy with the significant traction we have in the market.

What do you wish for MediNav?

I want MediNav to make a significant contribution to improving the health sector. 2-3 years ago I said in interviews that I wish every doctor entering a hospital or clinic for the first time would ask for their MediNav as they ask for their badge - to feel that working without MediNav is a thing of the past.

What does the future look like now? New plans, goals, hopes, dreams.

We want to become a complete hospital or clinic EMR automation assistant, an AI with which you can do administrative work very quickly, in your native language. As next steps we have a strong focus on structuring data and turning it into research-ready data, thus bringing innovation to clinical research.

What motivates you? What makes you perform?

Most of all, I am motivated by creating value for certain categories of people through the products I build with my team.