This NYC Startup Is Bringing Your Intellectual Curiosity to Life



Do you ever have a sneaking suspicion about something, but knowing that your intuition isn’t enough, feel the need to research it? Well unfortunately, unless you are apart of a University or other organization, it would be logistically difficult to go through with it. ProofPilot offers a solution. Instead of going one by one to engage with your subjects their software is trained to do a good portion of the work leaving you with more time to analyze and make the study better the next go around.

AlleyWatch spoke with CEO Matthew Amsden about the company and how he is making research studies accessible to all.

Tell us about the product or service.

What is it that cures disease, prevents illness and optimizes our performance? Unfortunately, most of what we know about human health to answer these questions comes from small, flawed studies. That is if studies exist at all. Why? The kinds of studies required to answer these questions are wonky, expensive and complex. Randomized controlled trials, longitudinal outcome studies … to date, and techniques only available to big pharmaceutical companies and in the halls of academia.

ProofPilot is an online platform that makes it easy and fun to design, launch, manage and take part in these complex studies. It’s available on any internet-connected device. We’re creating a renaissance in scientifically valid knowledge about human and societal health. We’re eliminating the barriers to launching these studies. We’re automating management, and we’re making it rewarding for participants. We’re turning the research study into a new form of user generated social media content.

What are the milestones that you plan to achieve within six months?

Recent scandals involving Luminosity and Theranos highlight an issue in health innovation. It’s so early there’s still not a lot of proof around the hype.  We’re going to be releasing a new version of ProofPIlot in a couple of weeks that is geared towards health and social innovators. We want to be part of getting that proof faster than it’s ever been possible before.

Healthcare is a real late adopter market. It becomes a lot easier for a hospital to implement a new technology or program if they see scientific evidence that it works. There’s also real marketing value to scientific proof in the consumer sector.

How is it different? 

To date, you needed a Ph.D. to design these kinds of studies. ProofPilot demystifies the design process. It’s powerful enough for a career researcher (most of our customers are academic institutions), but easy enough to use for a novice.  The online design tool walks you step by step through the process.

Conducting studies typically take an army of graduate students. ProofPilot automates many of typical intern level tasks. You can run a study with far fewer resources.

A lot of people confuse ProofPilot with a survey tool like SurveyMonkey. Surveys only ask questions at one specific time. Research studies include timed interventions or treatments. They include measurements conducted over months if not years.

Sometimes we get questions about Apple’s ResearchKit. ResearchKit is an SDK. It requires programming skills. With ProofPIlot, you don’t need a programmer or a UI designer. When you’re done with your design you simply launch the study.

What market are you attacking and how big is it?

NIH alone grants almost $40 billion dollars every year for research. The pharma sector spends nearly $20 billion every year on clinical trials. Governments and foundations typically require grantees to set aside up to 15% of social program budgets for evaluations. Then there’s market research … The current market is in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

That is the research that’s being done now. NIH estimates that less than 50% of all medical treatments have evidence that they work. And that’s in a space that has a history of scientific research. There’s huge unmet need in other sectors.  We’ve seen the health tech space get in a little trouble recently (Theranos, Luminosity). They’ve made claims that products worked or did certain things without scientific studies. Then there’s been a scandal in the dietary supplement market.  Last year major retailers received cease letters from the New York Attorney General.

What is the business model?

We’re a Saas based service. We charge a monthly fee. Simple as that.

What inspired the business?

We were a consultant company for academic researchers for a long time. Every project we did was bespoke – and cost hundreds of thousands. People with really cool innovations to improve health and improve the world

What is the one piece of business advice that you never got?

That the most important role of a CEO is to be a constant cheer leader.

If you could be put in touch with anyone in the New York community who would it be?

Nate Silver editor of the 538 blog. He made secondary data analysis of political polling data accessible and sexy. He changed the game. We want to do the same thing – but for health research.

Why did you launch in New York?

New York is a microcosm of the whole world. ProofPilot is about people – and answering questions about people. We knew we needed to operate internationally. New York has the size and scale to run studies locally on orphan diseases affecting very specific populations – and large entertaining general interest studies. Few places in the world can do both.

What’s your favorite restaurant in the city? 

Nargis Cafe in Sheepshead Bay. Uzbeki food is slightly off the beaten path – for now. I bet it will get hot in the next couple of years.

About the author: AlleyWatch

AlleyWatch is the destination for startup news; opinions and reviews; investment and product information; events reported, experienced, seen, heard and overheard here in New York. But it’s who we are that makes us different: we’re the writers and the entrepreneurs; the investors and the mentors; the lawyers and the marketers; the realtors and the recruiters – the people who work in the industry.

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