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Image credit: Photos and graphics by Andiamo

Naveed and Sam Parvez: Andiamo

Naveed and Sam Parvez: Andiamo

Naveed and Sam Parvez tell Queen's Young Leaders how they changed healthcare in the UK

In 2003 Naveed and Sam Parvez had a child, called Diamo, who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. He needed a body brace (orthotic) to sit up and breathe.

The measuring process took hours, and involved covering Diamo in plaster and holding him still while it dried. After all of that distress and discomfort, the brace arrived three months later. Diamo had grown, and so it didn’t fit.

Naveed and Sam battled with the National Health Service (NHS) to improve Diamo’s life. But this battle evolved when Naveed watched a presentation at Monkigras 2013. It was about using 3D scanners and printers to measure trains and then produce models. He thought, “Why can’t we do this to make orthotics?”

Current model of making orthotics versus 3D printing

I met Naveed and Sam in January 2014 on the Bethnal Green Ventures Accelerator. They had just founded Andiamo to try to use 3D scanners and printers to make orthotics. Between January and March 2014, they:

  • spoke to hospitals and medical consultants, and decided it was too hard to work within the NHS
  • bought a 3D scanner, used it to gather data and see if it was good enough to produce an orthotic
  • partnered with 3D printers and medical consultants
  • printed their first accurate prototype
  • discovered that a large academic grant (tens of millions of euros) had been awarded to develop the same concept they had been working on. They nervously got in touch with the academics. After a phone call with them, they were shocked to realise that, after a year, the academics had not actually made anything. The academics were shocked that, after spending less than £3000, Andiamo had produced a prototype in a month
  • produced a “medical grade” prototype
  • presented two prototypes at Monkigras 2014, exactly a year after watching the talk about scanning and printing trains.

Since then, Andiamo have made some amazing progress. Among other awards, they have been voted “one of the top 12 startups in Europe” (Tech All Stars) and won IBM Smartcamp UK. Most importantly, they’ve raised £63,718 through an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to help their first families.

Infographic stage 2: orthotics is engineered

I interviewed Andiamo for Leading Change to see how they have approached changing healthcare in the UK.

How did you build a strategy?

We didn’t! The difference between us and other orthotics companies is we made a conscious decision not to sell stuff, but rather to dig to find the core reasons why we were seeing problems. Then we realised that the problem is enormous and the only way to tackle it is to understand the answer to the following question: “What would you need as a company to solve a systemic global problem within ten years for over 100 million people?”

That question drives everything including solutions, company structure, and investment strategy. Our company is built around solving the problems no one else wants to. The business model can come after that. Disruption [or change] is a natural consequence.

What obstacles have you faced and how have you got round them?

Ourselves! We couldn’t believe we had stumbled on such a simple solution – it took about nine months to believe it! Ironically, others believed in us immediately and that really drove us through the (initial) doubt.

Andiamo is continually changing. We’ve been through being a campaign, charity, social enterprise, consultancy, orthotics company, clinic, software builder and service designer. Then we realised we had to be all of them.

Andiamo's Crowdfunding video: Our plans

Have you had any issues with the fact that you are dealing with such a big issue?

All of the “experts” told us this was a great idea but that we would fail because they had tried to solve it ten, 20, 30 years ago. We found their warmth and willingness to help (not all of them) was inversely proportional to our achievements.

So as you started to achieve more, the experts were harder to reach?

Yeah, it was a painful lesson but something that we had to deal with. A lot of the time it was saying “I empathise with you... if you won’t join us on this then we’re going ahead anyway... we’ll be over there fixing things when you’re ready to talk again”.

Image of Jo Taylor scanned by 3D printer

Image of Jo Taylor, scanned by 3D printer

Do you think that you have become experts now?

We couldn’t possibly be experts in all the fields we deal with, we describe it as “fashion to physics in medicine”. We are experts on getting people to sit down and giving them a common cause. Ultimately it is about reminding ourselves that this isn’t about us, we’re part of the solution.

Do you have any tips for persuading and influencing people?

  1. Patience. Sometimes you need to plant seeds and gently water them. But you also have to accept you have no idea what is going to grow out of them.
  2. You don’t know. There are so many conflicting agendas and biases, and you don’t know what you’re dealing with. Listen and understand what is behind people’s words – and understand cultural differences to communication and discussion.
  3. Be you and be honest. Be honest about your agenda and what you’re trying to achieve. That is not the same thing as giving people all the details of your business and ideas without reciprocation!
  4. Be hard on the problem not the person. Sit on the same side of table, tear apart the problem not the person telling you about it.

How have you built a network to maximise the chances of Andiamo succeeding?

Mainly by putting ourselves out there and saying “This is huge and really hard, but I know with your experience we can solve it”. Businesswise, you could argue we have opened ourselves up to being copied, but we see it as making the opportunity bigger. Finally, we reckon people are too intimidated by “experts” and won’t challenge them. Go ahead and ask them really hard questions. The ones you want to deal with will revel in it!

Infographic stage 3: child receives orthotic

After talking to Sam and Naveed I decided on three key questions which Queen’s Young Leaders could ask themselves in relation to their projects.

  1. What is your “big problem?”
  2. Who can help you? How will you respond if they say “no”?
  3. What are your competitors or partners doing? How can you improve on it?

I hope that these questions will help facilitate social change.

This article was written by Jo Taylor.