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Roi Carthy originally covered iMedix when they launched the service in mid-2007. Since then, iMedix has continued to grow, both in traffic and in brand presence. To learn more about iMedix, I spoke with Amir Leitersdorf, co-founder and CEO and Iri Amirav, co-founder and CMO. Our chat transcript is below. Especially relevant are Amir’s suggestions for all startups towards the end of the interview.
Allen: Can you start with a brief bio about yourselves?
Amir – I am the CEO and co-founder of iMedix. I previously co-founded Movota, which was successfully sold to The Bertelsmann Group in 2005. Prior to that I held the position of CTO at Tapuz, a public company on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.
Iri – I am a co-founder and a CMO of iMedix. Before iMedix, I established and led the marketing division at MetaCafe, where I oversaw a 2,500 percent growth to 17 million unique visitors and 450 million page views per month. I previously held positions at Time Warner and Pelephone, a leading mobile operator in Israel.
Allen: What is iMedix and where did the idea come from?
Amir – iMedix is a community-powered health search engine. It is a Web site that allows people to easily find health information from top sources across the Internet and to share knowledge and experiences with others. The information is filtered and ranked by a community of patients that help each other on a daily basis.
Iri – We started the company based on our personal experiences dealing with health issues and not being able to find helpful information. There’s so much health information available online, but how can people actually know what is useful and quickly locate relevant people with similar conditions. Sifting through masses of information can be very frustrating, and we felt the major search engines were not doing a good enough job.
Amir – This is when the idea for iMedix was born. We knew that if we could find a way to harness the collective medical knowledge of patients around the world and provide them with a venue to communicate with each other, it would truly help people in their quest for making better health-related decisions.
Allen: Ok, let’s be honest, Google owns search, why did you decide to still enter the search market?
Iri – Google has been very successful with their core search business, but we believe that the experience of finding and sharing health information on the Web is about to change dramatically. The experience iMedix offers to consumers is very different than Google. We see a growing demand for people wanting to communicate with each other regarding their health concerns and become active in various ways. iMedix allows access to online health information where individuals can benefit from the collective medical knowledge and experience of millions of others in a single click.
Amir – The way that people find health information on the Web is currently going through a dramatic transition. We see today on iMedix that hundreds of thousands of users every month are receiving great value by sharing their health experiences and knowledge with others. Our users can actively improve the site by ranking search results for the benefit of the entire community. Searching for health information is no longer a lonely business. There is so much we can accomplish with the right tools and a vibrant health community.
Allen: What are your thoughts on the Google Health product?
Iri – I think it is a great initiative and complementary to what iMedix is doing. They have an excellent team working on it and hopefully we’ll be able to work together on some level. Having Google store your personal health records can be very beneficial, if done correctly. Google is focusing on storing the patient’s medical information, whereas iMedix is focusing on sharing the information for the benefit of every individual.
Allen: Can you share some stats about the service to-date? (users, visits, number of searches, most popular searches, etc.)
Amir – We have seen amazing growth during the first five months of the site going live. iMedix currently has more than 500,000 users each month that are searching and sharing health information. With the help of our community and our health search technology, we have ranked and re-organized more than 20 millions health articles.
We are adding new servers every month to handle the traffic and continue to develop our product according to the feedback we receive from our community members. More than 4,000 dynamic communities have been created on iMedix in the past 5 months and our search is becoming more accurate as more people join the iMedix community and rank information.
Allen: What does the iMedix team look like?
Amir – We are very proud of our multi-talented team. Most of us worked together in the past and we enjoy building iMedix together. We have gathered some of the most brilliant engineers, product and marketing professionals in the business. I’ve included a list of our management team below:
- CEO and co-founder: Amir Leitersdorf
- CMO and co-founder: Iri Amirav
- CTO: Tzachi Shahar
- VP of products: Anat Sneh
- Chief Scientist: Prof. Yuval Shahar.
You can find more information about the team at http://www.imedix.com/about/management
Allen: Are you funded? If so, by who and how much?
Iri – The company has raised almost $2 million to date from private investors.
Allen: What’s the business model?
Amir – Our business model is to secure revenue from online advertising and sponsorships. We are currently focusing on building our community and perfecting the user experience on iMedix. At a later stage we will slowly introduce advertising on the site.
Allen: If your model is based on advertising, are you nervous about the supposed upcoming recession and potential drop in online advertising spend?
Iri – We believe that the supposed upcoming recession will actually push advertisers to be more conscious of return on investments. We feel that we offer a unique platform for advertisers looking to reach highly targeted and engaged health communities. iMedix is an excellent tool for advertisers to connect with people that are looking for specific information, versus throwing the bait out there on the Web and hoping that someone will bite.
Allen: Have you considered adding a human search component to your product similar to Mahalo?
Amir – Mahalo is another great example of how the community can improve search results. As a matter of fact, we have been using the human component from the very beginning of iMedix. We are involving our community in a different way than Mahalo does. The iMedix human component can be found on our community platform that continuously improves the search and enables consumers to easily share knowledge with other people on the Web in real-time. Our platform is able to retrieve relevant health articles and valuable experienced patients by studying and analyzing the patients’ preferences.
The more patients use the system the more relevant and accurate it becomes. Using an ensemble of advanced machine-learning algorithms, iMedix is able to learn from the knowledge and experience of millions of patients in order to assist individuals in making quicker and better health related decisions. The classifying algorithms are focused at bringing very high precision in predicting the probability of a medical page being a good match given a certain query. The ranking formula itself is constantly and automatically updated according to the users’ feedback. This proprietary technology was developed by some of the best engineers and medical informatics professors in Israel, but the people that truly enhance the engine are our users.
Allen: I see you are based in Israel, what’s the Web scene like there today?
Iri – Israel has an energetic Web scene today. It’s a great place to create and build Web applications. There are a few hotspots around Tel Aviv and the coastal city of Herzliya that are buzzing with entrepreneurs, angel investors, venture capitalists, engineers and marketers. Israelis love technology and especially the Internet. The Internet scene received a strong boost from a lot of brilliant engineers that immigrated to Israel from the former USSR in the 90′s and from whiz kids from the Israeli Defence Forces computing units that are joining start-ups. I think the drive to ingenuity is embedded in the culture of Israel. There are also numerous meet-ups, events and functions, so it’s a lot of fun to be on the Web scene here…
Allen: What is your best tip for someone looking to begin working on a startup?
Amir – I would recommend the following to every person who is looking to establish a start-up company:
- Take it seriously. Leave your current job and start following your dream.
- Don’t waste time on writing a full-blown business plan. Instead, create a prototype and start approaching investors.
- Find the right partner, someone that you can trust and that adds real value to your venture.
- Launch your product as soon as you can. Don’t wait for it to be perfect. You will change it a million times once it starts being used.
- Be optimistic and believe in yourself. Try different ways to progress until you get it right.
Allen: Outside of tech, what 2-3 sites do you enjoy reading each day?
Amir – I read the news on CNN.com, I enjoy the gossip on ValleyWag and I use Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn as social tools.
Thanks Amir and Iri for your time!