IT Blog


Outcomes4Me Free App Created To Better Navigate Cancer Treatment Information – Forbes

Cancer is sadly an all-too-often fact of life for many. Finding reliable, helpful information and recommendations during that most stressful moment of diagnosis can be a confusing and often scary journey for many.
Outcomes4Me is trying to change that dynamic. Founded in 2017 by Maya R. Said, President and CEO; Sami Shalabi, COO and Osama E. Rahma, Chief Medical Officer (who has since left the company), Outcomes4Me is a Boston, Massachusetts-based developer of a free mobile app and platform to navigate cancer treatment and care.
Outcomes4Me Co-Founder and COO Sami Shalabi.
The company uses clinical treatment guidelines, real world data, and state-of-the-art artificial intelligence to empower patients with trusted information about their best treatment options – based on their specific condition. The hope is that by sharing experiences and interactions with the platform, patients can help to continuously generate more insights and better outcomes for themselves and others. As a result, it provides patients and their families with new ways to engage with healthcare systems globally. This founder’s journey story is based on my interview with Shalabi.
Shalabi’s journey started when his co-founder, Maya Said, who was a successful executive at Novartis, had a cancer health scare. The diagnosis turned out to be benign, but it was a scary moment for her and all who knew her. That was an inflection point for Said in her journey in founding Outcomes4Me. “On my side, because I have a lot of family outside the United States, some family members got diagnosed with breast cancer and I was getting calls to recommend a good oncologist in Boston. I then realised very quickly it’s just very complicated, very challenging, very overwhelming. I spent my whole career using AI and personalization to build world class consumer experiences to build a product that delivers the right information at the right time to people and I’m like, ‘Why doesn’t that exist in healthcare’?,” says Shalabi.
As a software engineer and product developer, Shalabi had previously started companies and had spent nearly 12 years at Google where he was the founder and engineering director of Google News, which is used by over a billion users. He understood how to create a product with a great consumer experience that scales. So while he recognised the information gap in cancer care information from his own personal experience, he had to also determine if there was a large enough business that could be built around this core concept of helping cancer patients navigate their care, based on science, that would hopefully ultimately democratize healthcare.
“So I started off as an advisor helping the team understand what it means to build world class consumer experiences. Clearly the answer was, yes, there is a very sizable opportunity that could be created here. I needed to prove to myself that this is something that could be a multi-billion dollar business,” says Shalabi. After two years advising the fledgling company, he jumped in full-time as a co-founder in 2020.
The company started off focusing on just breast cancer, but is now expanding to other cancer types. “We are launching lung cancer by the end of this year, so we’re expanding our offering to go beyond breast cancer, because it’s very important for us to take what we’ve done and replicate it to other cancers, and we’re very, very excited about that. We have seen exponential user growth,” says Shalabi. The company now has some 40 employees and is growing fast.
Outcomes4Me is part of the boom in the health information market. According to Vision Research, the health and wellness market was valued at $4 trillion in 2020 and is expected to reach $6.75 trillion by 2030. “Our organisation is this hybrid of a health tech company and a consumer company. Because we’re very much approaching the problem as a consumer problem,” says Shalabi.
As a result, the company has raised $16.7 million in financing to date. Its latest $12 million Series A round in April of 2021 was led by Northpond Ventures. Additional investors include Merstal Ltd, Sierra Ventures, Asset Management Ventures (AMV) and IRA Capital.
Shalabi grew up in Jordan and Kuwait. His dad was a mechanical engineer and his mother a teacher. He recalls watching a TV show about the robotics program at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) when he was around 8 years old. And while it might have seemed a distant dream to anyone else, he was motivated to make good on his Dad’s wishes to have him join that program at MIT. “My father told me I should do this. And then he passed away when I was 16. And that was the fire I needed,” says Shalabi who then dedicated himself to applying to and getting accepted into the MIT engineering program to honor his father.
He did well in school and then applied to and was indeed accepted to MIT. “My mom just kind of put me on a plane and I flew to the United States for the very first time to attend MIT. I landed in Boston and asked the cab driver to take me to 77 Massachusetts avenue (MIT’s address). And that was my first-time in the U.S. and first exposure to MIT beyond what I read and saw on television,” says Shalabi.
There he discovered his love of computers and software engineering and switched out of mechanical engineering into computer engineering. While at MIT, he met his future co-founder Maya Said and the two remained in touch over the years. “She was a little younger than me, but came to MIT with a similar story to mine. She grew up in the Middle East and we connected and remained friendly by virtue of that relationship. She ended up doing her PhD at MIT. I did my graduate degree in theoretical computer graphics. And then I graduated to discover that there were no jobs at theoretical computing,” says Shalabi.
He wound up getting his first job at Lotus as an extension of an internship he had there at the pioneering software company later acquired by IBM. While at Lotus, he learned professional software development and spent the next 7 years at the company. “I knew I always wanted to be an entrepreneur, but for me attending to my residency, my green card was very important because it was not possible to to do something entrepreneurial without getting your visa status under control. At year seven, I got my green card and that day it was like my shackles were removed,” says Shalabi.
After 8 years at Lotus, he resigned to co-found Zingku, a venture funded mobile first social network, which was acquired by Google in 2007. Shalabi then spent the next 12 years working for Google were he created and launched the company’s highly successful News product, prior to joining up with his former MIT school mate Maya Said as co-founder of Outcomes4Me.
As for the future? “I would love for what we’re building to be accessible for all cancers, globally. Our ultimate goal is to improve outcomes. Because now we’re getting more information in the right people’s hands and in the process democratising healthcare because now people have information and can advocate for themselves in a new way,” concludes Shalabi.