Disrupting the healthcare industry: Five minutes with Prenetics CEO Danny Yeung

Disrupting the healthcare industry: Five minutes with Prenetics CEO Danny Yeung

October 30, 2015 by Eoghan McNeill

We look for the highest-potential startups to take part in our PITCH competition. It’s a chance for startups to pitch in front of our network of leading investors, major media and world-class speakers.

This summer, all three PITCH finalists were from Hong Kong, one being Prenetics.

They’re trying to disrupt the whole healthcare industry by bringing comprehensive DNA-based drug testing to the Asian market.

Their CEO Danny Yeung made their PITCH, so I figured with our Web Summit PITCH competition starting next week I’d ask him how to stand out on stage and how strong the HK tech ecosystem is at the moment:

All three PITCH finalists at RISE were from Hong Kong. What do you think that says about the strength of the tech ecosystem in the city?

The strength of the tech ecosystem here in HK is definitely the strongest I’ve seen since I’ve moved here in 2010.

We are seeing many new entrepreneurs starting up companies within the past few years in all areas of tech. In addition, we are also seeing many people leaving established corporate jobs and starting companies.

This is all driving tonnes of energy around town and you can hear the chatter on a daily basis on who is doing what.

I would also have to say though that for Hong Kong to truly get to the next level, we need to see some major exits. A nice unicorn or two would do wonders for the ecosystem.

How did the experience of pitching onstage feel? What advice would you have for other startups preparing to take to the PITCH stage?

It was a wonderful experience all-round to pitch on stage. For us, we pitched on stage not for funding purposes but to educate and drive awareness in the general public on personalised medicine.

In terms of advice for other startups pitching, it’s key that you have someone on your team who can communicate effectively in a limited time frame. As I recall, we only had three minutes to present our pitch – it was very important to include only the key points:
  • The problem you are solving
  • The solution to the problem
  • Your team
  • How big is the market
Danny pitching on stage at RISE this summer.

It’s been said that Prenetics were perhaps ‘the most ambitious of the (PITCH) finalists’ and you’ve predicted a $1 billion valuation by 2018. How important is it to aim big?

It’s very important to aim big but this is all relative to the founders of a given company and the industry in which the company operates. If a startup is looking to disrupt an entire industry, that’s where the biggest valuations will come from.

Look at Uber which is now rumoured to have a $70 billion valuation or Airbnb which has a $20 billion valuation. Both companies share one common trait – they have disrupted the transportation and lodging industries, respectively.

At Prenetics, we are looking to disrupt the healthcare industry. According to a 2013 IMS report, it is a $200 billion opportunity in the US alone.

I would also point out to not just focus on valuations as people often are too caught up with them. For any early startup, focus on your core-value proposition and everything else will come if you execute right.

A sample Prenetics test.

 When will pharmacogenomics (studying patients’ DNA to see how they will react to a given drug) testing become a mainstream practice?

In the US, Pharmacogenomics (PGx) testing is already common having taken off in the past few years. That’s down to the cost of sequencing going down dramatically and as well major government and private insurers like Medicare and United Healthcare starting to provide coverage for PGx testing.

That said, here in Asia, PGx testing is virtually non-existent and that’s where we see a major gap and a significant opportunity. The need for personalised medicine is real as millions of people suffer from adverse drug effects. It’s the fourth-leading cause of deaths with 100,000 annually.

Our iGenes PGx test will enable physicians to identify the right drug and the right dosage for a given patient based on their unique genetic profile. The entire process takes no more than one minute and is done non-invasively with a set of cotton swabs to take DNA from your inner cheeks.

Imagine being able to understand how a drug will affect you before you even take it. That is very powerful and disruptive in nature. We envision that we can make this a common practice within the next three years here in Asia.

It’s definitely not going to be easy but if it was easy, everyone would be doing it.

What’s your favourite thing about Hong Kong?

There is too much I love about Hong Kong. I could literally write a book on the place. I grew up in the Bay Area and now after five years of living in Hong Kong, I can’t imagine moving back to the US anytime soon.

If I had to pick one thing: it’s how fast things move. If you love the fast city life where every day 24 hours just doesn’t seem to be enough, Hong Kong is the place for you.

Join us at RISE 2016. Register for your discounted tickets.

About the Author

Eoghan McNeill
Eoghan is a former journalist from Donegal on Ireland’s north west coast. In his spare time, he enjoys reading things he hasn’t written.