Doctors Turning to DeepScribe Amidst Burnout
We are incredibly proud to be supporters of DeepScribe, the most powerful artificial intelligence-driven medical scribe company in the U.S., which is announcing its Series A raise this week. Supernode Ventures were early believers in the company, and first invested in DeepScribe’s Pre-Seed round in 2019 alongside Bee Partners, Plug & Play, 1984 Ventures, Wavemaker and Tsingyuan Ventures. We also purchased shares in the most recent round, which is being led by Index Ventures.
DeepScribe solves a very particular, nagging problem that busy medical professionals face. Most lay people don’t realize this, but a 2009 federal regulation called HITECH made doctors’ workflows far more arduous, tedious, and time-consuming. Among other things, time-stressed doctors are now forced to spend countless hours on the painfully rote task of note-taking while seeing patients, entering those notes into electronic health records, and then re-checking those notes. According to the American College of Physicians, each patient requires 2 hours of documentation from a physician, resulting in approximately 38.5% of a physician’s day spent on documentation alone. All this, of course, leaves them far less time to spend with their patients, and on their patients’ care.
DeepScribe’s unique artificial intelligence (AI) solution seamlessly automates such tasks, so that doctors can spend more time doing the work we all most need them to do. By doing so, DeepScribe cuts up to three hours of mind-numbing admin work from doctors’ packed schedules. Prior to DeepScribe, solutions were costlier or less accurate — or both.
When Supernode first came across DeepScribe we were enormously impressed by the team, who are all accomplished AI experts. Teams are one of the most important factors behind our decision to invest in any company, especially in the pre-revenue stage. Companies are living organisms. And the founders imbue their nascent companies with that life, as well as a sense of purpose and mission.
What first struck us about Akilesh Bapu, the CEO and co-founder of DeepScribe, and his co-founders, Matt Ko, President and COO, and Kairui Zheng, CTO, beyond their smarts, was their intensity and clarity of vision. Of course, we see so many stellar researchers who have great ideas for companies and really strong technical skills, but they cannot problem-solve their way out of a box. But we knew this team would work tirelessly to bring their vision to light because it was more than just a bright idea, it was personal. More on this in a bit.
Having done our due diligence on the competitive landscape and the technology the team was building, we knew that the market was still nascent enough to allow for multiple players. Yes, a few companies were building AI scribes, or facsimiles of them. But none had been doing so long enough to have built an unbridgeable moat. And DeepScribe’s team had a proprietary AI that could produce better results from less training data, which was unheard of in the healthcare world. Typically, machine learning models are data hogs that must consume vast amounts of data in order to titrate accurate algorithms.
We were also deeply impressed with what we’ll call DeepScribe’s “Founder Factors,” which are not easy to summarize. They are the mélange of qualities, from hyper-drive to emotional intelligence to a type of adroitness, that enable a founder to dodge bullets, pivot, and redirect energy and resources where needed. Founding teams must navigate so many pitfalls. Nothing ever goes as planned, and there are daily assaults from so many directions: customers who leave for no apparent reason, employees who disappoint, potential investors who don’t get it, code that breaks, partners who aren’t responsive.
Without those Founder Factors, such challenges accumulate, and can soon seem insurmountable. A top founder experiences these problems as tough, but is still able to remain steady while investigating every avenue possible for solutions. After all, founders are inveterate optimists. They suffer like we all do when facing the impossible, but they also believe they can find a way out. Consider the rats in the 1950s Harvard experiment that believed there was a shred of hope in a pool with no exit… They always outlived the rats that had no hope whatsoever. (This is not to say that the best founders are rats. It’s to say they are unstoppable.)
DeepScribe’s three founders met while studying at UC-Berkeley. In fact, that’s where they started their company. At the time, Akilesh and his CTO Kai were star AI researchers, who could have waltzed into a job with a 6-figure salary (and enviable stock options) at any of the FAANG companies. Matt Ko, the third co-founder, was studying business at Berkeley Haas School of Business and had previously founded a web-based SaaS platform that was built on AI and Natural Language Processing. Oh, and just for fun, Akilesh had also hacked together a startup in high school.
While the team were all obsessed with the problem they were solving at DeepScribe, Akilesh especially stood out in his drive to slay the beast. As a teen, Akilesh was endlessly frustrated by his conscientious doctor father who so struggled with the then-new note-taking requirements that he was rarely able to attend after-school events and activities. “As a nerdy kid growing up, I would try to find solutions for my dad by searching the web and having him try them out. Sadly, nothing worked well enough to save him from the long hours of documentation,” says Akilesh.
For Supernode, this personal connection, in addition to the team’s technical brilliance were not the only indicators of future success. We also appreciated that the team relied on more than just their own insights and experiences to build their product. They conducted lengthy interviews with over 100 potential customers to help them craft the product that would best solve their problems. “At first, I thought that it was just my father with this issue, but when I went and surveyed several of his colleagues, it was the same story. ‘How can I get rid of documentation? How can I save time on documentation? It’s eating up so much of my time,’” says Akilesh. He goes on to explain that “Medical software has rarely had physicians in the design loop, therefore resulting in software that wasn’t optimized for the end user. That’s why we wanted to start with the end user.”
Well DeepScribe’s attention to that “end user feedback” has certainly been the prescription for its success so far. Doctors have been thrilled with the results of these efforts. In two short years, DeepScribe is now in use at medical facilities across the spectrum from private practices to major health centers, and new user acquisition is growing 66% a month. In just the past year 500 providers have adopted DeepScribe’s technology, generating some 500,000 notes.
While it’s easy in retrospect to look back and say “we knew they were going to succeed…” in this case, we did. And we’re just as excited to see the wins ahead for this amazing team of ninjas!