Putting Leeds Tech on the Map with: Saile Villegas

Where AI meets Health-tech, you’ll find Seeai – a start-up working to empower radiologists with artificial intelligence. We sat down with CEO and Co-Founder Saile Villegas to discuss the Leeds tech scene, the inspiration behind the company's technology, and what the future holds for Seeai.

 

Tell us a bit about your company, and your role, in your own words.

Seeai is a med-tech startup. We are working on building tools that can help with the demand caused by the shortage of radiologists. We are building technology that can make a positive impact in clinical settings. Seeai has been working on an AI to detect bone fractures in x-ray images and generate a radiology report.

I am the CEO of the company, being the CEO of a start-up means you get to do a little bit of everything to ensure the company runs smoothly and your technology gets developed according to plan, that includes being hands-on with the development as well.

 

What was the inspiration behind setting up Seeai?

I have always been interested in the medical field, but my passion is technology. In Latin America, where I am from, there is a concerning shortage of healthcare specialists and I was misdiagnosed due to the lack of specialists to review my case.

When I came to the UK and noticed the great healthcare hub in Leeds, I thought this would be the best environment to develop a technology that could help prevent misdiagnosis and once ready, be implemented here – but also bring it to areas of the world where it is needed the most.

Reo, my co-founder, noticed a similar problem with the shortage of specialists when he was doing fieldwork investigating the healthcare situation in Tanzania. We met at the University of Leeds, and after knowing we were both passionate about making a difference in the healthcare sector, we decided to develop the technology and founded Seeai together.

 

Why do you think Leeds is such a thriving hub for tech businesses?

I have lived in many cities across different countries, and I can honestly say that Leeds is one of my favourites, because it has the best things both big and small cities can offer.

It is not easy to start a company, but we are very happy that we decided to do it here in Leeds. Being here means you are immediately plugged into a growing and very welcoming tech community that, offers a great ecosystem to help companies of all sizes thrive. When we funded Seeai, we were immediately surrounded by other entrepreneurs, organisations, and experts, who all offered incredible support to help Seeai grow.

Apart from the support for companies, Leeds has an amazing pool of talent, and people are very open minded about creating, testing, and implementing new technologies in the city. To me, that is invaluable and makes Leeds a unique hotspot for tech companies.

 

From your unique perspective, what role will innovation-led businesses have in the growth of the regional economy?

Innovation-led businesses play a critical role in the growth of the regional economy. I believe that economic growth and innovation are intertwined. If there is innovation, then economic growth is assured.

The technological progress innovation-led businesses achieve will benefit other businesses in the region by creating more jobs, making the existing ones more efficient, helping people become more productive, and helping businesses and organisations to provide better services. Therefore also benefitting businesses, customers, and citizens.

 

What’s the biggest challenge you face as a start-up currently?

The current pandemic situation has really posed a challenge for our company. Social distancing restrictions have prevented some really good opportunities for our company. For instance, the start of some project collaborations were delayed and some other projects had to be paused indefinitely. The development of our technology requires close collaboration with clinicians and hospitals, and not being able to physically be there delayed the readiness of our project.

However, amid this crisis, we have turned the challenge into an opportunity. We are now also developing a platform that can solve some of the issues caused by social distancing in hospitals.

 

Looking forward, what are your hopes and ambitions as a company over the next 12 months?

We are working on a medical device. These products require extensive research and development, testing, and more importantly, they need to go through rigorous medical device regulations. Our technology is still under development. Over the next 12 months, we expect for our product to be ready to be tested and validated in hospitals around the UK. With that ambition comes the hope of growing our collaborations, our company, and recruiting more people who share a similar passion to join our team.

 

How do you personally define success?

The definition of success is something very personal. To me, success is not about achieving a big goal, but to be happy about where you are in the process of working towards it. Success is about enjoying what you are doing and where you are going, even if you end up doing something totally different to what you initially planned. Building technology that can help people live better, healthier, longer lives has always been my dream. Being able to do just that, every day, is my definition of success.

 

Who, or what, has been the single biggest influence on your working life?

Definitely my mother. I am very grateful for the way she raised me. She was always very passionate and committed to her job. I grew up watching how she was always working towards improving herself and striving to be the best at whatever she did.

Ever since I can remember, my mother has always supported me and my siblings in pursuing whatever we wanted to do, and she taught us that when you put in the work, discipline, and dedication, it always pays off. These values are the basis of my working life, and have helped me achieve my goals.

Find out more about Seeai and discover more of the city’s leading digital companies on the Leeds Tech Map. 

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