This week we’re catching up with Maddie Julian, Co-Founder and Director of DigiBete – a multi-award winning video platform designed to share educational resources for children managing Type 1 Diabetes 24/7.
We chatted about what inspired Maddie to set up DigiBete, the strength of the digital health ecosystem here in Leeds and what we can expect to see from the company in the next 12 months.
Tell us a bit about your company, and your role, in your own words.
My name is Maddie Julian and I’m the CEO of DigiBete, whose resources were developed in partnership with Leeds Children’s Hospital. DigiBete is a nationally recognized provider of digital resources for children and young people with Type 1 Diabetes and their families. DigiBete is funded by NHS England and Wales and works in collaboration with the National CYP Diabetes Network and the NHS Diabetes Programme. Dr Fiona Campbell, Chair of the National Children’s Diabetes Network, is our Clinical Lead and Non-Executive Director.
DigiBete offers a comprehensive, free to access, digital video platform designed to help patients and families better self-manage their condition and extend clinical diabetes services online. Launched in 2018, this provides patient-led, clinically approved awareness, education, training and support to young people, their families and communities to help improve their health outcomes and quality of life.
What was the inspiration behind setting up Digibete?
DigiBete was set up following the devastating diagnosis of our then, 1 year old son being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. The diagnosis was a complete shock and very challenging especially as our son was so young and couldn’t speak. We looked for digital tools and video resources to support our learning and reduce our anxieties of managing his diabetes in the community. We needed these resources to help us to teach others who would look after him and share his care, such as grandparents as well as staff at nursery. We found very little digital content to support children however, so we approached Leeds Children’s Hospital, who not only recognised how we could support improvements in clinical outcomes but also how we could support families to have a better quality of life.
Why do you think is Leeds such a thriving hub for tech businesses?
Leeds is a very collaborative city. The support within the digital health ecosystem is very strong. Everyone is willing to help or signpost in order to support growth. The LEP has been very active in supporting our development as has the Yorkshire and Humber Academic Health and Science Network and Leeds Teaching Hospital. Platform, run by Bruntwood, where we are based, has facilitated lots of shared learning events too as has NEXUS. Leeds is just buzzing with tech innovations and has a really vibrant networking scene. I think the openness to collaborate is one of the key strengths of Leeds. It is small enough to share but big enough to house key influential players such as NHS Digital, Channel 4, Sky Betting and Gaming and North Coders, to name but a few.
From your unique perspective, what role will innovation-led businesses have in the growth of the regional economy?
Innovation is key to rebuilding our economy. Digital innovation also supports the green economy, can happen anywhere and can scale quickly, given the right environment. The thriving Tech and Medtech sector in Leeds needs maximum support to grow and scale quickly in order to help the growth of our regional economy. Leeds is like a giant accelerator itself. It has all the right components to support scaling tech businesses although there are some challenges around recruitment and access to funding. With some really focused government support for local businesses that have already shown great promise, Leeds should be the epicentre for innovation and a true powerhouse for the North.
What’s the biggest challenge you face as a Startup currently?
Currently balancing our current and future strategic needs is our biggest challenge. We have spent a long time developing and honing our business model but as a successful business with potentially rapid growth in a very niche market, we are finding recruitment decisions difficult to make. If and when to recruit and the transition to a larger organisation, is proving to be a challenging and possibly costly process.
Looking forward, what are your hopes and ambitions as a company over the next 12 months?
DigiBete is a growing digital Platform. Over the next 12 months we hope to develop our type 1 diabetes service further, to support the ever evolving needs of our community and extend clinical services further into the community to support a more flexible approach to care . We will also continue to support other medtech orgs with media services and we will be growing our international services as well as developing our model for other similar long term conditions.
How do you personally define success?
Success for me personally is seeing social impact at scale. If your business is helping 10 people that is good but if you can evidence 100,000+ users and you are able to scale, you know the model is working. At DigiBete we measure everything – cost savings for the NHS, user experience, usage rates and ratings for our service. Success for us lies in the evidence. How are we changing lives and supporting a better journey for those living with long term conditions? How is our business growing and have we overcome our own barriers to growth. Success is also iterative. What worked last year may have changed. ‘Mindset’ is key and reflects 100% on what you do.
Who, or what, has been the single biggest influence on your working life?
The biggest influence on my current working life has probably been Dr Fiona Campbell who has believed in DigiBete from conception. Dr Campbell is a very busy consultant at Leeds Children’s hospital and has both a national and international profile. Her drive to innovate care matches mine and our Patient/Health Professional partnership through DigiBete, has truly driven and implemented lasting change. From our very first meeting Dr Campbell was fully engaged. She really understands the need for care to be around families in the community and 100% supports DigiBete’s vision to level care for all.
If you’d like to find out more about what Maddie and DigiBete are up to head over to their website, and discover more of the city’s leading digital companies on the Leeds Tech Map.