Startups from Australian venture capital fund Tempus Partners’ second fund are tackling the impact of COVID-19 with their individual specialities. In response to the current climate, a number of Tempus founders are stepping up to support their customers and the community at large.
One carries COVID-19 testing kits to where they are needed, with limited direct human interaction. A second is offering free patient recruitment for clinical trial researchers working on COVID-19 treatments and vaccines. And a third is supporting the migration of schools online by providing data security and app integration and through its platform ensuring that disadvantaged children don’t go hungry during school closures.
Tempus, which specializes in early and seed stage technology investments, has an investment team made up of start-up founders and operators that is advising its 14-company portfolio through the current climate in order to slingshot those companies’ growth out the other side.
Alister Coleman, Managing Partner, Tempus Partners says: “Startups are crucial to the Australian economy – now, and especially going forwards as we reshape and rebuild industries and services. Technology companies are, by nature, adaptive and customer focused, and it is with great pride that we watch and support them in addressing the current crisis in ways that deliver a social benefit.
“The highest priorities currently are human health and well-being and that is what these founders are tackling. As an investor, we are leaning in to support all of our founders as they navigate their business to meet changing demands, noting that the greatest success stories are often built during the hardest of times.”
“Opportunities exist for those founders who think creatively and make an impact on a global basis, and like many of the tech giants today that came out of the GFC, we believe Australian startups will persevere through this period to go on to greatness. This is why continued support of Australian tech startups, especially at early and seed stage, is necessary to grow our future technological capability and to help the country to rebound from COVID-19.”
“These three incredible companies are part of a global pool of frontier-minded founders solving for challenges in the current climate and for people in need. In times like these, it’s innovation and creativity that will enable founders to step up and build the next generation of companies and products that we need the most.”
Clinical trial matching platform HealthMatch pairs patients with lifesaving clinical trials. In response to the pandemic, HealthMatch is offering free patient recruitment to support medical researchers finding treatments and vaccines for COVID-19. This means highly efficient patient screening for pharmaceutical, biotechnology, NFP, universities, government and other organisations unified in the fight against COVID-19.
It has also developed a free, public global clinical trial tracker at healthmatch.io/covid to enable researchers and the general public to view clinical trial data in real time. The tracker, which will be progressively developed to provide more insights, will help keep people informed regarding diagnostics, treatments and cures for COVID-19. At the time of writing, over 3 million patients across 220 trials are being tracked, with six ending in the next month and nine already completed.
HealthMatch founder and CEO Manuri Gunawardena said “During this crisis, we’ve already seen unprecedented levels of international cooperation between researchers, public and private institutions, and governments in the race to find a vaccine or treatment for COVID-19.”
“Thanks to this, significant progress has been made in both our understanding and ability to treat COVID-19, with several new diagnostic tests now in production, and repurposed medications and innovative vaccines entering clinical trials.”
“HealthMatch was founded to accelerate treatments and cures by more efficiently matching patients who need treatment with those trialling treatments. Four in five clinical trials are delayed or abandoned because they can’t recruit the right patients – the current crisis puts in the spotlight how urgent this problem can be in a race against an illness. But for many patients with cancer or chronic illnesses, this urgency around delayed research is a daily concern.
“Many researchers and patients have had existing clinical trials disrupted, delayed or abandoned due to current conditions, and we will be there to continue to support them as soon as they are able to resume.”
Medical drone delivery service Swoop Aero is combatting COVID-19 in Africa with remote drone delivery. After COVID-19 forced its on-the-ground team to leave Africa, Swoop Aero last week became the world’s first internationally-piloted drone delivery service.
Swoop Aero is able to carry between eight and ten COVID-19 testing kits in a single drone flight, involving minimal human-to-human contact meaning they can be safely delivered without the risk of further spreading the infection.
Swoop Aero’s software enables its pilots to communicate with the drone at all times from anywhere in the world. Combined with the efforts of the trained local staff in the country of operation, Swoop Aero is able to run the network from outside the country of operation. In times of high demand when healthcare is strained, like the current situation, Swoop Aero’s logistics can strengthen local health supply chains and alleviate mounting pressure.
At some point when a treatment or cure is finalised, Swoop Aero will also be able to deliver it across the globe, making a huge difference, especially to remote locations and those with weakened health systems. Swoop Aero is currently working to scale up its drone network to facilitate more flights per day.
Swoop founders Eric Peck and Josh Tepper commented: “We wanted to continue to support the Malawian government’s response to the accelerating numbers of coronavirus cases, but our Australian team had to return home in line with travel restrictions. Fortunately, we were able to make the first ever drone flight operated from outside the country the flight was in.”
“This isn’t just important in fighting COVID-19; people need to continue to receive all necessary medicines despite restrictions on travel and strains on health services. We are working to keep the global health sector operating, and in a cost-effective, safe and reliable way.
“The infectious nature of COVID-19 and other illnesses make drones particularly well-suited to delivering medicine, but they are also able to reach areas that would be difficult and/or costly by land or sea. Our software allows us to operate from overseas meaning partners like our local Malawian ground operations teams are not losing their jobs at a difficult time.”
“We’ve been fortunate to be able to respond quickly in a way that will contribute to the global effort to address COVID-19. It has shown us the importance of working with good partners, and Tempus has provided us support throughout.”
Education technology company Wonde was setup to help integrate student data between a school’s central database and their third-party education apps, enabling schools to more easily bring new tools online for students. But as schools across the UK closed due to the COVID-19 lockdown, Wonde rolled out a platform to help digitally deliver meal vouchers to underprivileged families that had always relied on free school lunches.
In response to concerns over school closures, the UK government offered meal vouchers or meal packages to low-income families, however no online mechanism existed to facilitate distribution.
Already equipped to handle highly-sensitive student information and data privacy issues, Wonde is ensuring no disadvantaged child will go hungry during school closures. Within a week, Wonde built and deployed a solution that is now facilitating the distribution of these meal vouchers across 3,200 schools – a number growing daily. In the first five days, Wonde distributed nearly £4.2 million worth of meal vouchers to families in need.
CEO and co-founder of Wonde, Peter Dabrowa said: ”Although it’s currently not our core product, we quickly realised we had the infrastructure to play a part in getting meals to schoolchildren that need them the most. Everyone is working hard to keep wheels on the road despite the disruption of COVID-19; it’s incredible to see how our team, families and teachers have banded together to make this happen. We will keep working with schools to make sure this is as far-reaching as possible.”