#YesWeCode interviewed the founders of Hurt Technologies - Deven Hurt & Simone Abegunrin - to learn about their journey and their first product - MedKit. Founded in 2015, Hurt Technologies was born out of the desire to make healthcare easy, accessible, and affordable for everyone. Applying the latest technology and design concepts with a highly specialized and dedicated team, Hurt Technologies is bringing healthcare up to the 21st century and beyond.
Head of Design
#YesWeCode: Tell us a bit about yourselves.
Deven: I am from Long Island, NY. I am currently a junior at Harvard college, studying bioengineering. In my free time I like to read, travel, and train in mixed martial arts. For as long as I can remember, I have been interested in health, technology, and computers. In many ways, I combined all of these interests to create the startup.
Simone: I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California to a father from Ibadan, Nigeria and a mother from New Orleans, Louisiana. Growing up, I loved learning languages, reading books, playing sports, and engaging with the visual arts. I was lucky enough to play soccer, visit family, and study abroad around the world, experiences which coalesced into my global worldview and my desire to effect large scale positive change. I am now a junior Social Studies concentrator at Harvard, where I focus on international conflict resolution. Hurt Technologies epitomizes my passion in changing lives and making the world a better place, and I get to combine my global sensibilities with my creative side to make it happen.
#Yes: What is Hurt Technologies?
Deven: Hurt Technologies is a digital healthcare startup. Our goal is to create products that will empower people to live the healthiest lives possible in an easy and affordable way.
Simone: Hurt Technologies is a digital healthcare startup determined to make healthcare easy, accessible, and affordable for everyone. Our vision is creating an ecosystem of streamlined, intuitive products that integrate easily into any workflow.
#Yes: What made you decide to start up the company?
Deven: Freshman year, after finishing my introductory computer science final project, I had the pleasure of speaking to Laura Butler from Microsoft. I told her about my project, and she was the one who really encouraged me to pursue the idea further and made me see I could turn that and other ideas into ventures. The idea I spoke to Laura about that day became our first product, MedKit, which is an electronic medical records platform aimed at streamlining the records process for primary care physicians operating in small practices.
#Yes: How did you get involved, and what made you decide to get involved in tech?
Deven: I feel like I have been interested in computers forever. One of my earliest memories is when my mom put together the Gateway desktop we just got when I was 6 years old. I loved playing around on that computer and more than that, trying to figure out how it worked. Fast forward to high school, that’s where I learned what programming was -- and I loved it. In college, I was really able to explore my interest in technology and computers and, before I knew it, I was starting my own company.
Simone: I knew Deven from a consulting club of which were both members when we were first years and sophomores. In the fall of 2015, I received a message from him essentially saying “Hey, I’m starting a technology company and I need a designer. Do you want to do it?” I was intrigued, so we met at this little burrito place in Harvard Square where Deven outlined his vision in full -- and I decided that I was in, and that I would do anything in my power to help make this vision a reality. I am a social studies scholar interested in understanding complexities of people in order to figure out efficient ways to improve the world; I was inclined towards public sector careers, and I had not much considered technology as my path to effecting change. However, approached with this opportunity to positively impact many lives sooner and more directly than I thought I could, I knew that this was the time for me to take the chance and start a new path. The tech space is exciting and dynamic, and I am so glad that I decided to jump into it.
#Yes: What was an obstacle you faced, and how did you overcome that obstacle?
Deven: A huge obstacle I faced was knowing absolutely nothing about how to get a company off the ground. At some point, I realized I had put this team together and they were expecting me to lead them, though of course, I didn’t know much more than they did. The best thing I did was ask for help from any and everyone. People are surprisingly willing to help you out. Eventually things started to fall together. Now, I like to think that I have a good feel for managing the startup, but I still constantly ask my mentors for help.
Simone: One of the personal obstacles I faced were my insecurities about being relatively new to the tech industry. I thought technology, in general, was cool, but my tech experience was largely defined by teaching myself design software. I was acutely aware of the fact that I didn't know how to code and that I hadn't worked at a tech company before, and I feared that would invalidate my design contributions to the team. In order to overcome my own insecurity and establish myself as a member of the team, I threw myself into my design responsibilities, learning new software and creating everything to the best of my ability. Now, I am confident in myself and know that I am just as capable as my peers to contribute meaningful results. I even started taking an advanced design class in order to continue improving my skills, as well as a coding class this semester so as to better communicate with my coding colleagues.
#Yes: What was your perception of the tech industry before entering it, what is your perception now?
Deven: Before entering the tech industry I thought putting together a successful tech business was mostly of a function of the idea itself and everything else would somehow fall in place. I’m constantly struck by the amount of time we spend proving not just that the idea makes sense, but also that we can get it to users at scale. A great idea means nothing if no one buys or uses it. I also see how important the people building the product are to the organization. I’ve heard companies brag about their culture, but I didn’t realize how important it was until I saw all the time I was spending with my team. We may primarily work with computers, but the people are even more important.
Simone: Before entering the tech industry, I was surrounded by it via the secondhand exposure of our generation. Product releases of innovative music players, computers, and the like punctuated my childhood, and the advent of social media took place all throughout my middle and high school days. Therefore, my relation to the industry itself was largely superficial, as I was a consumer of the products and a user of the media, but knew nothing about the business driving it. I never knew that there were so many roles, responsibilities, and needs on company side, or that there were literally countless, creative ways to solve problems through technology. Whereas tech had first seemed to me a vague space where people who knew how to code seemed to work, now it represents to me a huge opportunity for anyone who sees a problem and wants to fix it.
#Yes: What is your experience being a POC in the tech space?
Deven: POC definitely aren’t proportionally represented in the tech space and that in of itself is a huge problem. I would never say that I have felt unwelcome in tech, but I can’t help but be conscious of the general gap in representation. Where I can, I try to encourage other POC to get and stay involved in tech. As I gain the means to, I would definitely like to be able to help POC get involved in tech at scale.
Simone: As a POC in the tech space, I am acutely aware of the lack of representation in tech companies -- not just at the employee level but at the leadership as well. I am constantly thinking about who are the people making the hiring decisions, strategic company moves, or funding considerations. Like Deven, I have never felt unwelcome in tech due to being a POC; however, I also know that the implications of not having enough diversity in general (including socioeconomic, gender, etc) relates to the types of products that are created, the price points that are set, and the marketing campaigns that are used. I am excited to be in a position where I can positively impact lives do my part in breaking down the implicit bias in the industry.
#Yes: What are three tips you can give to high school/college students, like yourself, who want to enter tech?
Deven: Wow here goes:
Don’t be afraid. Whether you commonly see people who look like you in tech or not, whether you currently have access to a formal technical education, there are ways you can learn. Just keep working.
Don’t give up. Learning tech is an emotional roller coaster. You feel the highs when you see and learn new things, but there are many lows when things don’t work or it seems everyone else knows more than you. Weather the lows, live for the highs.
Figure out what you love. I promise you, there is something in tech you are interested in or a problem that you care about which can be solved with tech. Attack that and have fun with it.
Simone: My three tips are as follows:
Start now! Tech is one of those industries that you don’t have to wait to get involved, you can start as young as possible. Contact local tech companies and see if they have any work you can do after school, look for local tech-related events like seminars and workshops in your area, and explore what you might be interested in. The beauty of tech is that not all the roles are technical; there are tons of positions in the marketing, administrative, and other areas that tech companies need, so see what you might be interested and learn more about it!
Be prepared! No matter your role, anything in tech requires hard work, dedication, and self motivation. It is on you to spend time understanding what excites you, developing your skills based on that passion, and building your portfolio to demonstrate that passion. Download the apps of news organizations and set notifications for technology industry updates. Start reading tech industry-focused websites. Like anything in life, the more time you put in, the more you get out!
Stay positive! In this industry, there is tons of competition and a LOT of rejection. If you don’t get that internship you wanted, others seem to have better skills than you do, or an idea you had gets ruthlessly critiqued by people you showed it to, remember that these don’t reflect on your worth as a person. Regardless of what others think or what you think others are doing, believe in and focus on yourself and your abilities. Keep iterating your idea until it’s even more amazing than you thought it could be. Don’t be afraid to pivot to something else if you realize you can come up with something even better! Keep applying for internships and ask for feedback from your interviews -- or, start your own company! There are many paths in this industry; realize the ones that work for you that will allow you to achieve your dreams, and stay positive on the journey there!
#Yes: What is your next big step?
Our next big step will be getting MedKit through the compliance and regulatory hurdles. In healthcare IT, there are a few hoops through which you have to jump before having a sellable product. Once our product is sellable, we will be in a position to make real sales.
#Yes: What do you need to take the project to the next level?
Deven: To take the product to the next level, we will need to find industry and venture partners who are willing to work with us. Going through the certification process, integrating billing systems, and selling MedKit will quickly become a very expensive processes. We will need capital and industry expertise to make it through.
Simone: To take Hurt Technologies as a whole to the next level, we need financial backing in order to expand our product offerings and geographic penetration and strategic support in order to effectively grow our market share and connect with other complementary entities. In this way, Hurt Technologies moves from an exciting Boston startup to a fast-growing leader in quality, affordable products.
#Yes: What is the biggest challenge you currently face?
Deven: Currently, our biggest challenge is figuring out how we will be able to sell MedKit at any sort of scale to the decentralized market of primary care physicians operating in small practices. We may be able to build a good product for a few doctors and even sell it to them, but we have to prove that we have a product that can and will be sold to many doctors. Once that happens, we will hopefully be seen as a real company that can make a real difference in this very complex market.
Simone: In general, our biggest challenge is establishing our legitimacy. When people think of millennials in tech, they think about social media or consumer products, not about reformation of one of the most complex systems in the nation. We get questions all the time: do we understand just how complex healthcare is? Do we know how deep the problems the go? Aren’t we in over our heads? Shouldn’t we just do something else that’s easier? We have been proving and will continue to prove that choosing healthcare as our industry of choice was not a mistake, and that we are capable of achieving what we have set out to accomplish.
#Yes: What is your long-term company vision?
Deven: Long-term, I see us building an entire ecosystem of products which allows people to seamlessly and easily take control of their health in a way that contributes to their living the healthiest lifestyle possible.
Simone: Our vision is to be a formidable leader in the healthcare space known for creating systems that smoothly integrates into anyone’s lifestyle, from the healthcare provider to the patient and everyone in between, thereby streamlining the process and improving their quality of life.