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#FoundersFridays: Meet Kirill Sokol

Meet Kirill Sokol, founder of Skinive, an AI scanning app for skin health.

#FoundersFridays is a StartupAmsterdam interview series: for entrepreneurs, by entrepreneurs. Each hero answers questions on their entrepreneurial journey, their learnings, milestones and bottlenecks, as well as on Amsterdam and the Dutch startup scene. It’s a platform for entrepreneurs to speak their minds freely and pass on their learnings to anyone who’s thinking about founding a startup as well.

This week we spoke to Kirill Sokol, founder of Skinive, which has developed a mobile solution for monitoring skin health, using a smartphone camera and AI technology. Skinive apps are already being used by consumers at home and professionals in primary care, helping to improve access to dermatological care and reducing the number of late or undiagnosed patients. 

How did your career journey lead you to found Skinive?

With a technical background and education I started my career as an IT developer in the early 2000s. Soon I was running a small outsourcing company and in 2011 my colleagues and I decided to change outsourcing to a product-based business model. At the time I was involved in the development of a telemedicine service and noticed that about 20% of all questions from patients were about skin conditions. Patients had to wait a long time for an answer from the dermatologist. Market research shows a big shortage of specialists: on average, there are only 35 dermatologists per 1 million inhabitants in the European Union, which is clearly not enough. At the same time, according to a study by the European Academy of Dermatovenerology (EADV), around half of Europe's adult population suffers from one or more skin conditions.

In 2017, I was interested in a Stanford study on identifying melanoma from dermoscopic images using neural networks. We already had a large body of medical data and a network of contacts with the medical community. We wondered if we could implement something similar. We got good accuracy rates on the initial problem - identifying melanoma. We then went on to solve other problems - identifying other skin cancers as well as other diseases using not only dermatoscopic images, but also smartphone images. After several years of research and development, our technology resulted in Skinive - an AI assistant for skin health self-exam.

Today our technology is capable of detecting more than 50 common diseases: HPV including warts, papilloma and herpes, dermatitis and eczema, psoriasis and lichen, mycosis of skin and nails, acne, rosacea and others... The Skinive product range is CE-Marked as medical devices and undergoes quality control in accordance with ISO 13485.  We have developed the following solutions based on our technology: 

The Skinive app is a mobile application for patients. We launched this app in August 2022 for individuals, and in 4 months we have already received the first 60,000 installs worldwide. This app gives people the opportunity to monitor their skin without unnecessary visits to the doctor. Screening AI provides a recommendation only when it is necessary to make an appointment with a doctor for an additional check-up. 

Therefore, we recommend everyone to download this application and use it at home when you need to know if a particular skin rash is dangerous and when you need a doctor's help. Users can find the app in the App Store and Google Play. 

The Skinive MD App is a mobile application for medical professionals: general practitioners, dermatologists, nurses, cosmetologists. This app is designed for automated assessment of skin conditions using artificial intelligence, dynamic monitoring and patient management. The Skinive MD app is used by more than 1,500 doctors in medical clinics across Europe for primary diagnosis. We see that Skinive offers the greatest first-line advantage in patient care. General practitioners and medical cosmetologists serve many patients, but have little experience in dermatology. Our solution enables them to diagnose skin disease at an early stage and reduces diagnostic time and speeds up treatment, which has a significant impact on the patient's quality of life.

What makes Amsterdam a great city and a great ecosystem for a startup founder?

Having accelerated at Rockstart, my co-founders Artyom Trafimuk & Artyom Lyan and I founded Skinive BV, with HQ in Amsterdam. Amsterdam has a great ecosystem and community focused on technology and innovation. It's great to grow amongst similarly enthusiastic and innovative companies.

We get great support for new startup founders like us, like incubator help, pitch events you can participate in, and funding opportunities. Major trade shows and conferences such as TNW and the World AI Summit are a centre of attraction for innovators and investors from all over the world.  

We work closely together and get different kinds of support from organisations like StartupAmsterdam, HyperionLab, Dutch Basecamp, StartupVillage... A recent example: thanks to support from SmartHealthAmsterdam and Amsterdam Trade & Innovate a Dutch delegation of Digital Health entrepreneurs travelled to Dusseldorf to the largest medical trade fair MEDICA - Trade fair. 

What are the goals and needs of Skinive for the upcoming months?

Our main goals are to maintain our growth momentum and we have ambitious plans for next year. We plan to close the financing round in the first quarter of 2023. With this seed funding round we will be able to expand our team (marketing and sales), increase our sales and revenues, and promote our product with R&D projects not only in the EU but also in Asia and LatAm. 

What has been a recent win for your business?

December is the time to start taking stock of the year. And this year was rich in achievements: at the beginning of this year we closed the investment bridge, in the spring we won the Telecompaper Innovation Awards and successfully delivered scientific reports at IMCAS World Congress 22 (Paris), successfully completed a research project in the summer within the framework of ELISE (European Network of AI Excellence Centres), and in the autumn we became part of Plug&Play and HyperionLab Showcase program.

I am very proud that we launched a mobile app for patients this summer and how far we have come in just 4 months in terms of users, reaching the 70,000 installs. All of this is only possible because of our incredible core team and the vision we all share for Skinive. When this vision is aligned with a deep sense of purpose and strong teamwork, great things happen! As a team, we overcome new barriers every day on all fronts.

What has been a recent “challenge” for your business, and what have you learned from it?

When we launched the patient app we saw a lot of users using our app on a one-off basis. We found that patients were not in the habit of checking their skin condition regularly, like brushing their teeth or washing their hands. 

To remedy this, we registered the non-profit Skinive Foundation. The aim of this foundation is to educate the public about skin problems and to teach how to carry out REGULAR skin health self-examinations at home. We hope that our initiative will improve the statistics of healthy skin in the population and improve the quality of life not only for ourselves and our users, but also for all the people around us.