Innovator of the Month Interview by Veronica Bianchi and Beatrice Volpe
GDPR put the spot light on data protection, which has become an increasingly important issue for both individuals and corporations. The Swiss company Pryv SA offers a data management solution designed to help companies comply with regulatory requirements.
Recent events over privacy and consent management have highlighted the need for stricter regulations regarding how data is accessed, collected and transmitted. This is the focus of Pryv SA from Lausanne, founded in 2012. The company has developed a flexible data management solution compliant with regulatory requirements for companies operating in highly regulated markets.
In 2017, Pryv was ranked among the 100 Best Swiss Start-ups by startup.ch and, in the same year, took part in Microsoft’s BizSpark Plus Program winning $120’000 USD of Microsoft Azure credit.
We met with Pierre-Mikael Legris, CEO and Co-Founder of Pryv, to hear the story of his innovative start-up.
Hi Pierre-Mikael! Where did the idea of Pryv come from?
The idea originated from three people: me, Simon Goumaz and Frederic Mauch. We had different interests that combined to form the project Pryv.
Initially I was interested in finding a way to collect all my data and store it in a safe place. After being diagnosed with leukemia, I spent several years in various hospitals, visiting different specialists and sharing both medical and non-medical information with them. As a computer engineer, at the time I was looking for a data model that could meet all these requests and that would be able to upload new data and share this with doctors.
Meanwhile I met Simon and Frederic. Simon was driven by software quality assessment and ethics. Whereas, Frederic wanted to replace Facebook with a new solution where people could share their personal data online but with easy and clear consent management for data sharing. Around these three concepts, we founded Pryv… and tried to compete with Facebook, but it didn’t work!
So, in the beginning you developed a product that individuals could use to collect, manage and share their medical/personal data. How did you transition from B2C to B2B?
During the development of our first version of pryv.io we put in place the entire data model for medical applications, as well as the infrastructure that we are still using today.
Then, when Evelina Georgevia joined the company in 2014, she pushed us to obtain Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) certification for the platform. This was the turning point for us, because several companies in Switzerland then wanted to integrate our core technology of data management in their products. By that time, we understood that the market traction was in the B2B direction. Therefore, we totally transformed our business model from B2C to B2B.
Today Pryv is a company that distributes its core technology to third-party companies operating in very different fields. We could say that our technology is like the cement of a building. Not necessarily noticeable upon entering, though it forms 80% of the building itself. What we provide is really the foundation element which supports medical information and/or personal data.
What are the main difficulties you experienced at the beginning of this adventure? Do you have any suggestions for the entrepreneurs of tomorrow?
Don’t worry guys, there are never problems in the beginning! Joking apart, I think it is all about persevering! Everything goes at such a fast pace when you start out. Each step seems so significant.
Then, things slow down and become more manageable, but you still end up going back and forth improving technical features and dealing with deliveries.
Then, one day someone buys your product and uses it. And it’s at that moment you are rewarded for all your efforts and you know it was worth it.
Afterwards, the challenge is to industrialize your product and that means overcoming slightly different challenges to the ones you were initially faced with.
Do you think Switzerland is a strategic location for a start-up?
It depends on your area of business. If you are targeting B2C markets, if you work in the field of AI, or even blockchain, perhaps Switzerland wouldn’t be your first choice.
However, if you want to develop a B2B business, Switzerland is actually a very good location. Here, in general, companies appreciate good-quality technical work. In addition, from an administrative and financial point of view, the support from the Canton is tangible.
Nowadays privacy is a hot topic (e.g. Cambridge Analytica). Do you think these recent events will affect the business of your start-up?
We started to work in this field 5 years ago because we realized that there was a gap in the market.
Nowadays though, thanks to Cambridge Analytica, people are more aware of the value of their data.
At the same time, companies are forced to take care of their data privacy and ensure compliance with regulations. However, it doesn’t mean that companies were never aware of privacy issues before, or that regulations like GDPR were never adopted.
Now, as to your question, yes, Pryv has already seen an increase in sales of licenses over the last three months due to GDPR.
To conclude, what are your plans for the future?
The next step is to increase the volume of installed Pryv licenses. At present we are more focused on the IOMT (Internet of Medical Things) sector. This is a fast-growing area with a huge demand and it is easy for companies operating in this field to innovate.
However, we are not confining ourselves to this sector. At some point it would be great to be copied. That would certainly be one measure of success!