’Solution-oriented by nature, sometimes to the point of annoying’: that’s how serial entrepreneur Daniël Jansen describes himself. Doing things indiscriminately in a certain way without wondering if it could be done better? That makes him itchy. So when his daughter Sofia had to walk with a taped eye at age 11 to wake up a (late-recognized) Amblyopia diagnosis, he didn’t just agree. During four hours a day only being able to see ten percent because your good eye is behind a sticker?
There must be a different approach. Daniël delved into the matter and not much later the startup Vedea Healthware was born. The first Vedea achievement: an innovative method for child-friendly training of ‘lazy eyes’ (amblyopia) with special VR games.
‘I was immediately fascinated by the ’lazy eye’ phenomenon and soon found out that it is mainly a neurological problem,’ says Daniël. ‘The eye and the brain don’t work well together, the brain doesn’t quite recognize the images that come in and starts to ignore them. The child uses the eye less and less, making it weaker and losing focus.’
At the moment, the only treatment method is occlusion therapy: taping the good eye so that the weak eye has to work harder resulting in better connections in the brain. ‘This method causes a lot of stress for children and their parents. Half don’t last and even if progress is made because the child accepts the sticker for years, the underlying problem - the poor cooperation between the eyes - is not addressed.’
Daniël discovered that research has been done abroad for years with good results into therapeutic gaming as a treatment method for amblyopia in young adults. ‘I soon knew for sure: I’m going to translate this into practice. It’s unbelievable that this isn’t here yet!’.
Daniël managed to get his friends Joël Wijngaarde (Us Media) and Teun Aalbers (Gainplay Studio) motivated to join him in this startup adventure. ‘I couldn’t do this alone. My part is conceptual, I’m a creator and seller - not a techie. I can lead the way and get others along, but without Joël and Teun as partners, the Vedea method would not be possible. Then we would never have gotten to this point.’
golden Rolls Royce
‘This point’ is the moment the MVP (minimal viable product) is delivered: a first version that can be tested and improved, and on the basis of which Vedea Healthware hopes to interest investors. ‘In this phase of the startup, working towards the test phase, Joël helped me to sharpen my vision and ideas and to improve the Vedea methodology. With his technical knowledge and expertise, but also with his experience as an entrepreneur.
Joël asks critical questions and looks for the best feasible solution. As the founder of a startup, you can have a vision of a golden Rolls Royce with a minibar and 24-inch tv, and eventually it becomes an app… That sense of reality largely comes from Joël. I dream big and he looks at how we can make it feasible and scalable.’
I dream big and Joël is looking at how we are going to make it feasible and scalable.
guarding the big picture
Virtually from day one, Joël from Us Media assisted Daniël with technical advice and support at CTO level. Together with an experienced team of developers from Us Media through a DevTeam as a Service model, Joël is responsible for the complete technical architecture of the Vedea platform.
The team ensures that the games work well and communicate with a user-friendly online platform for practitioners, parents and other involved parties, in which all data sources are linked.
Joël monitors the big picture, ensures the scalability of the solutions and ensures that all technical aspects move in the same direction and can talk to each other. ‘Certainly in the first phase of a technical startup like Vedea, it is extremely important that everyone makes choices that are aligned with the goal. You don’t want decisions to be made now that could lead to delays or high costs at a later stage.’
According to Daniël, the challenge for the development team lies in the great flexibility and empathy that is needed to come to a first version of the product ‘from scratch’.
‘It’s not rocket science per se. However, there are technical aspects to this method that are new to the developers. What is especially difficult for them: the scope of the project sometimes changes. It sometimes happens that the developers have been working on a solution for days and we eventually have to decide to go in a different direction. We test and learn - as a team.
It sometimes happens that the developers have been working on a solution for days and we eventually have to decide to go in a different direction.
It is also essential for investors that Vedea has a CTO on board, Daniël knows. ‘If a startup has a large technical component, potential investors want to be able to rely on an experienced and committed technical director within the ranks, also in the future.’
He finds this understandable, and it also fits in with the image that Daniël himself has for Vedea Healthware. ‘For us, the treatment method for amblyopia is just the beginning. We are already investigating how we can expand and improve our offer, for example with artificial intelligence, machine learning and perceptual learning techniques.
If you just look at the field of ophthalmology, I am sure that Vedea will help many more people with new forms of digital therapy in the future.’
technische oplossingen van Us Media
Joël Wijngaarde: ‘The Us Media development team built the various components in weekly iterations and in close collaboration with the team of game designer GainPlay Studios and Vedea. We ultimately opted for an API based on NestJS. We made the various frontends and tooling in Angular. The API runs in a Kubernetes cluster and the frontend in AppEngine. We use BigQuery to analyze the data we collect.’
oogje in het zeil
‘We are now at the stage of the first playtests and trials. In this phase of the start-up, we monitor and provide support, so that we can switch quickly if there are problems or adjustments are needed.’