We know that many people around the globe suffer from rare and incurable diseases. Here is a platform company that finds value in the health data generated from patients and contributes to research and development on cures and treatments for such patients. Sogang University met with CEO Min-hoo Chang of Humanscape (Business Administration, 08’) and asked him to explain the meaning of health data generated from patients and how to combine patients’ individual health data with blockchain technology.
- Hello, could you explain what kind of company Humanscape is?
Hello. I am Min-hoo Chang, Business Administration class of 2008. I started my own business Humanscape in college, and I’ve been working there for 6 years. I began Humanscape at a student start-up support center in Sogang University Teihard Hall. Since then, I have been conducting business in the field of healthcare and medical care.
Humanscape is a company that builds and operates a network for rare disease patients based on blockchain technology. When patients provide their data into the ecosystem established by our company, the data are delivered to pharmaceutical firms and research institutes to research and develop new medicines for rare diseases. For patients, encrypted HUM tokens and HUM Points (HP), or HUM Donation (HD) are offered as compensation for their data. With the compensation, patients have opportunities to get treated and overcome the diseases.
eBay’s CarePlus, a medical equipment supplier, and pharmaceutical firms including Green Cross are participating in our project. Therefore, patients can obtain the opportunity to be cured or treated with the compensated HUM Points. In addition, most of the patient groups are run heavily depending on the donation. Taking this into consideration, Humanscape designed a donation platform to use HUM Donation (HD) in the long term. To encourage donations for patient groups and patient organizations, we make it possible to donate or support campaigns by patient groups with HD obtained in the community.
The name Humanscape is the combination of ‘human’ and ‘landscape.’ Four colleagues founded it. We talked a lot about what corporate culture our company should take on, and then our conversation smoothly transitioned onto questions like “When do we feel happy?” and “What are we thinking and pursuing in life?” We four agreed that as a company is an extension of daily life, we wanted our company to be a place where people would work happily. That is why we chose the name Humanscape.
- You said you stared your business while in college. What made you interested in the healthcare industry?
I happened to find an item in the healthcare field. Preparing for idea contests and competitions, we were originally planning to make a calendar better than Google. That might sound absurd to you, but we thought that we could make it better than Google calendar (laughter). Some of the feedback we received at the time stated that if we narrowed down the userbase, we could obtain good results. We thought that made sense, so we came up with a calendar for pregnant women to provide useful information period by period, including relevant government policies with maximum utility. That was our business’ first step into the healthcare industry.
We gradually continued to pivot around the healthcare sector with different business models, and then there was a turning point that made us establish Humanscape. We were running a mobile business that helped follow-up management for patients who had an operation. Hospitals were not willing to pay for the solution we provided, so it wasn't lucrative. Therefore, we put our heads together to solve the problem and referred to similar start-up cases in Silicon Valley. We discovered that there were solution-based start-ups like us in the healthcare field in Silicon Valley that grew rapidly. They collected data from patients who used their service and created added-value business models. We thought that it would be good to apply these kinds of models to Korea, so we proceeded with this strategy and have been strengthening our weak points. That is why we have the current model now.
- Could you explain why you applied blockchain technology to patients’ health data in order to manage them safely and transparently?
First, blockchain can prevent patients’ health data from being forged and doctored. All the entered data are recorded on all servers and platforms, and the accumulated data are protected safely.
Second, the usage history of patients’ data can be transparently verified because all details are published, such as who used them and through what channel. As a result, we can avoid data overuse and patients enjoy the right to deny usage when their data might be used for a purpose they oppose.
The majority of rare disease patients do not want to let people know that they are suffering from a rare disease, and also are worried about their data falling into the wrong hands. The advantages of blockchain make it possible to prevent data forgery or falsification and to prove the channel of data distribution, thus protecting the patients’ right to own and control their data.
- You have tried many projects before establishing Humanscape, such as the calendar app for pregnant women and a quotation app for plastic surgery. Aren’t you afraid of new business trials and expansion?
For me, the joy of novelty seemed to overshadow the fear from trials. Of course, I can now say it was exciting at this point. Looking back, however, I had to agonize over what should have been done when the plan would not proceed smoothly. In hindsight, I assume that the experience became the basic nutrients for our growth. We learned not merely theoretical but also practical things from difficulties when implementing the business and challenging the world on our own.
- If so, what kinds of projects is Humanscape doing currently?
Since May, we have been conducting a campaign called ‘Beaming Effect,’ a service based on real cases. The campaign, which began through Luniverse, is in line with HUM Donation and donation campaigns. Under the auspice of Lotte Department Store, we sold goods in the campaign for one month and a half to spread information about retina pigmentosa, a rare disease, and the money from sales was donated to patient groups. The campaign was successful as many people paid attention to it. We even got calls from other rare disease patient groups stating that they would like to join this kind of campaign.
- There is word that Humanscape has partnered with Clayton, Kakao’s blockchain platform, for the first time in the field of healthcare and medicine. Is that right?
Yes. Humanscape came to be selected as the first partner of Clayton in healthcare. It is very meaningful to us as a lesser-known start-up. As you know, Kakao is a household name. We are planning to launch a DApp through the partnership with Kakao, and have not yet announced what the DApp will be like. We are preparing applications to obtain responses from the public when they are put onto the Kakao platform Clayton. One of candidates is Misetalktalk, a DApp currently mounted on Galaxy S10.
- You established a local subsidiary in Indonesia. I am wondering what made you forge inroads into an Indonesian market in terms of attributes of the Indonesian healthcare system.
It is not yet a full-blown subsidiary. We founded the local subsidiary just last year and have been doing market research for 3 years. We are in the phase of organizing a business division there.
Even though Indonesia’s healthcare system is not high quality, the average age of the Indonesian population is very low in the 20s. Its population is large, and most Indonesians are used to digital gadgets like Koreans. As such, Indonesia has a high level of Internet proliferation. Taking this into consideration, Indonesia is a country with good infrastructure where our application services will be released and provided to many people.
- Could you explain your future plans, if any?
We launched a service, a kind of prototype, called ‘MVP’ last June. Patient groups are currently using it, and we are continuously collecting their feedback. This year’s goal is to unveil an improved service on the basis of the feedback. Furthermore, we are planning to focus on making a profit from next year by collecting data valuable for new drug development or clinical tests through the above service.
- Lastly, please give advice to students at Sogang University who dream of launching a start-up.
I don’t think I am the right person to give great insight, as I am still striving to grow. However, whenever I saw my classmates, seniors and juniors starting their own businesses, I felt pity because they were very afraid of asking for help from others. For me, I actively asked for help from successful CEOs who were socially successful or managing their companies ideally. I visited those CEOs even though they were total strangers. They were busy, of course, but they still shared useful tips and experiences with me as they felt my sincerity and passion. Their lessons truly helped me build and grow my own business. I believe that it is important to actively ask for help and learn from others’ experiences.