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From a bra to a booth: learn the story of Eva, the device that detects breast cancer early

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October 19, 2020 13 min read

This article was translated from our Spanish edition using AI technologies. Errors may exist due to this process.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

  • This company has managed to raise around 10 million dollars in four years.
  • Eva Center is a booth that will be located in shopping malls around the Mexican Republic, the women will be received by a doctor, who will be in charge of entering them inside the booth and in complete privacy they can perform the study alone.

A series of unfortunate events led Julián Ríos to start his career as an entrepreneur at the age of 16, as the young man lived through the emotional and physical effects of breast cancer with his mother who suffered from the disease. This motivated him to do his bit so that fewer and fewer women had to go through this condition.

“Eva was born five years ago through a very personal motivation, my mother was a breast cancer survivor on more than two occasions and then passed away from the disease. The same story is for my partners, Raymundo and Antonio my co-founders. And as a result of this personal event, we could not sit idly by and decided to dedicate our days to working on something that would prevent some women from suffering what our loved ones have suffered, ”says Julián Ríos in an interview for Entrepreneur en Español .

Julián’s first development was a wearable ( wearable device) that was basically a bra they called Evabra, with which it was possible to detect breast cancer in its early stages through biosensors. However, together with his team, he realized that it was not going to fulfill its mission: to reach all possible women.

Julián Ríos. Photo: Courtesy.

“After 3 years of work and thousands of dollars in investment for this project we realized that we were not fulfilling the original mission, which was to save as many lives as possible, simply for the sale price of the device it would have been a product that only 0.01% of the population could use ”, he says.

From a bra to a booth and a full membership

Evabra’s goal was that by means of a heat sensor it could detect breast cancer in an early, private and non-invasive way. Despite the fact that the team of entrepreneurs and researchers no longer develop the bra but a booth, the purpose remains the same:

“Functionally analyzing the chest through thermal readings, through artificial intelligence but in a more sophisticated technology that is the technology that Eva uses today, which does not require contact on the chest, basically it is the analysis of the thermal pattern of the breastfeed from a distance ”, explains the young man.

Higia Technologies , the old name of Julián’s company, evolved together with their product, now it is called Eva and they offer a care center so that women can take a private exam in commercial places, they also have a membership that gives other benefits in the area of ​​women’s health.

Evabra. Photo: Courtesy.

“Our membership offers women a mammogram that is interpreted by our radiologists, almost unlimited studies in Eva, they can be done once a month or every three months, gynecological oncology consultation if something abnormal is detected in the masto or in Eva so that you do not have to go through the waiting times of the public system and an insurance of breast and cervical ovarian cancer. It is an insurance that compensates in 100 thousand pesos in case of being detected. So Eva, more than just the Eva Center product, aims to be a whole ecosystem of solutions to effectively prevent and combat breast cancer ”, says Julián.

Women can access membership online or purchase it at the centers, although they do not yet have national coverage.

The entrepreneurs have collaborated with institutions such as the Institute of Social Security and Services for State Workers (ISSSTE), the Mexican Institute of Social Security (IMSS), Stanford Medicine X, and others to achieve the technology they offer today. Likewise, it is a method approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States, by the CE Marking in Europe and is regulated by the Federal Commission for the Protection against Sanitary Risks (Cofepris ) in Mexico.

In private and fast

Eva Center is a booth that will be located in shopping malls around the Mexican Republic, the women will be received by a doctor, who will be in charge of entering them inside the booth and in complete privacy they can carry out the study alone.

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Once inside, the machine will proceed to examine the breast through the creation of a thermal map using infrared light. This analysis has a cost of 400 Mexican pesos (approximately 19 dollars) and lasts less than 10 minutes.

“What we evaluate is the difference in thermal patterns within the chest and what I mean by this is the differences in breast metabolism and that shows us that there are more cells reproducing in an area or that there are more blood vessels in some area. So it is a very different method from mammography because mammography is an anatomical analysis that tells you whether or not there is a mass. What we want to know is how the breast is behaving from a cellular perspective, ”says Julián.

Photo: Courtesy.

Through the measurement of the thermal patterns of the breast it allows to detect thermal anomalies of zero point one celsius, according to the entrepreneur. After the women undergo this analysis, a certified radiologist in clinical thermography makes the risk assessment and gives the result between 24 and 48 to the patient.

“And this principle of seeking to detect cancer in particular breast cancer by means of functional analysis of the breast, is not new since 1970, but it is until now that we can take advantage of much more sensitive and more precise temperature measurement tools together with tools of artificial intelligence to be able to give an effective and precise analysis to the woman for the case of breast cancer ”, explains Julián.

“We do not intend to replace mammograms”

This product is not intended to replace mammograms, rather it wants to become a complement to help early detection of the disease, which is the second cause of mortality in women between 20 and 59 years of age in Mexico .

“Something that I always like to make very clear is that we do not intend to substitute mammography in any way, it is a method other than ours that complement each other very well, there is research where it has been proven that if a method like Eva is used together with a mammogram, the accuracy is up to 98% compared to just getting a mammogram which is 80 or 85% depending on who is interpreting it or only Eva, which is also a number between 80 and 85 percent. So, they are methods that together are more powerful and we don’t want women to use one or the other, we want them to finally use both, that is why we have our membership, which is the backbone of our entire company ”, says Julián.

Likewise, the 21-year-old says that this product does not emit any type of ionizing radiation and the patient is not touched at any time, making it “an incredibly noble and safe method.”

Eva already has teams in the ISSSTE 20 de Noviembre, the National Cancer Institute of Nicaragua, in private gynecological oncological clinics in San Luis Potosí, Guadalajara, Jalisco, and in shopping centers in Mexico City, State of Mexico, Monterrey and Puebla .

For now, Julián’s company focuses on this product and membership and they are not producing bras, but they do not rule out developing a team that can go to people’s homes.

“That will be when the economies of scale and the technologies we use have an accessible price for the general population, today we want to see and help as many women as we can and we can do it with many Eva Centers.”

Just over $ 10 million in four years

Julián Ríos started this company when he was 16 years old and today at 21 he reports that one of the greatest challenges is being able to materialize something this ambitious at such an early age and with so many knowledge gaps.

“Fortunately I was lucky enough to find partners almost as young as me but extraordinarily competent and we were building up the credibility of investors in Mexico and the United States”

In 2018, Y Combinator, an accelerator from Silicon Valley in California, had the opportunity to participate, where they received an investment of $ 120,000. They also managed to attract the attention of some of the most important funds in the world: Khosla Ventures, Hummingbird VC and Sound Ventures, and interesting personalities such as actor Ashton Kutcher, Jessica Livingston, co-founder of Y Combinator and Paul Buchheit, creator of Gmail, who invested 5 million dollars in them.

Photo: Courtesy.

It was thanks to this participation that they began to make their way. However, it was not easy, “since the reluctance to new technologies of a guild as established as the doctor is great … everything has been a challenge but the mission we have is so tangible and so close to our hearts that there are very few things that really deter us. “

In this way, they have been raising capital, and in their most recent round of investment where Kaszek Ventures joined, they raised around three million dollars, “bringing the total fundraising to a little more than 10 million dollars in the last 4 years of company history ”, explains Julián.

“We are going to use this capital to continue saving lives, we only have six centers, we seek to have national coverage and we want the vast majority of women to be part of our membership, which we see as the best package to be protected from all sides. Someone who has seen breast cancer three times tells you, once with my grandmother and two with my mother, if they had had a product like these or a service like these, their life would have been easier, the suffering would have been less So our mission is to reach more Mexican women and after that continue to venture into this investment fund ”.

In this context, Julián shares three tips to achieve an investment:

  1. Conviction and absolute passion. Investors are extraordinarily good at knowing when someone doesn’t have their whole heart in a project. The first thing is to be convinced of the value you are giving to the consumer, that you are bringing to the world and the future of the company but that does not mean that you are closed to the flipback, it is important to know why they are saying no and adjust based on that .

  2. Persistence and Resilience. I saved parts of the story for simplicity, says the entrepreneur, but precisely already being in Y combinator, in one of the best accelerators in the world to which by the way we had applied three times, it was not until the last time that they already accepted us, But even when we were there, we had to go through almost 15 years of investors until one said yes, and once that one said yes, our doors began to open, so persistence is the most important thing, it’s a numbers game. and I did well with only having 15 to 20 us, I have heard stories of hundreds of us to raise capital.

  3. Knock on all the doors. Realize that you already have NO, it is the default and you do not need anyone to present it to you or fly to Silicon Valley, the investors’ emails are out there, write a good email telling a good story and have a good company behind, it is very easy for them to be interested.

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The Trump campaign celebrated a growth record that Democrats downplayed.

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The White House celebrated economic growth numbers for the third quarter released on Thursday, even as Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s presidential campaign sought to throw cold water on the report — the last major data release leading up to the Nov. 3 election — and warned that the economic recovery was losing steam.

The economy grew at a record pace last quarter, but the upswing was a partial bounce-back after an enormous decline and left the economy smaller than it was before the pandemic. The White House took no notice of those glum caveats.

“This record economic growth is absolute validation of President Trump’s policies, which create jobs and opportunities for Americans in every corner of the country,” Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign said in a statement, highlighting a rebound of 33.1 percent at an annualized rate. Mr. Trump heralded the data on Twitter, posting that he was “so glad” that the number had come out before Election Day.

The annualized rate that the White House emphasized extrapolates growth numbers as if the current pace held up for a year, and risks overstating big swings. Because the economy’s growth has been so volatile amid the pandemic, economists have urged focusing on quarterly numbers.

Those showed a 7.4 percent gain in the third quarter. That rebound, by far the biggest since reliable statistics began after World War II, still leaves the economy short of its pre-pandemic levels. The pace of recovery has also slowed, and now coronavirus cases are rising again across much of the United States, raising the prospect of further pullback.

“The recovery is stalling out, thanks to Trump’s refusal to have a serious plan to deal with Covid or to pass a new economic relief plan for workers, small businesses and communities,” Mr. Biden’s campaign said in a release ahead of Thursday’s report. The rebound was widely expected, and the campaign characterized it as “a partial return from a catastrophic hit.”

Economists have warned that the recovery could face serious roadblocks ahead. Temporary measures meant to shore up households and businesses — including unemployment insurance supplements and forgivable loans — have run dry. Swaths of the service sector remain shut down as the virus continues to spread, and job losses that were temporary are increasingly turning permanent.

“With coronavirus infections hitting a record high in recent days and any additional fiscal stimulus unlikely to arrive until, at the earliest, the start of next year, further progress will be much slower,” Paul Ashworth, chief United States economist at Capital Economics, wrote in a note following the report.

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Black and Hispanic workers, especially women, lag in the U.S. economic recovery.

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The surge in economic output in the third quarter set a record, but the recovery isn’t reaching everyone.

Economists have long warned that aggregate statistics like gross domestic product can obscure important differences beneath the surface. In the aftermath of the last recession, for example, G.D.P. returned to its previous level in early 2011, even as poverty rates remained high and the unemployment rate for Black Americans was above 15 percent.

Aggregate statistics could be even more misleading during the current crisis. The job losses in the initial months of the pandemic disproportionately struck low-wage service workers, many of them Black and Hispanic women. Service-sector jobs have been slow to return, while school closings are keeping many parents, especially mothers, from returning to work. Nearly half a million Hispanic women have left the labor force over the last three months.

“If we’re thinking that the economy is recovering completely and uniformly, that is simply not the case,” said Michelle Holder, an economist at John Jay College in New York. “This rebound is unevenly distributed along racial and gender lines.”

The G.D.P. report released Thursday doesn’t break down the data by race, sex or income. But other sources make the disparities clear. A pair of studies by researchers at the Urban Institute released this week found that Black and Hispanic adults were more likely to have lost jobs or income since March, and were twice as likely as white adults to experience food insecurity in September.

The financial impact of the pandemic hit many of the families that were least able to afford it, even as white-collar workers were largely spared, said Michael Karpman, an Urban Institute researcher and one of the studies’ authors.

“A lot of people who were already in a precarious position before the pandemic are now in worse shape, whereas people who were better off have generally been faring better financially,” he said.

Federal relief programs, such as expanded unemployment benefits, helped offset the damage for many families in the first months of the pandemic. But those programs have mostly ended, and talks to revive them have stalled in Washington. With virus cases surging in much of the country, Mr. Karpman warned, the economic toll could increase.

“There could be a lot more hardship coming up this winter if there’s not more relief from Congress, with the impact falling disproportionately on Black and Hispanic workers and their families,” he said.

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Ant Challenged Beijing and Prospered. Now It Toes the Line.

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As Jack Ma of Alibaba helped turn China into the world’s biggest e-commerce market over the past two decades, he was also vowing to pull off a more audacious transformation.

“If the banks don’t change, we’ll change the banks,” he said in 2008, decrying how hard it was for small businesses in China to borrow from government-run lenders.

“The financial industry needs disrupters,” he told People’s Daily, the official Communist Party newspaper, a few years later. His goal, he said, was to make banks and other state-owned enterprises “feel unwell.”

The scope of Mr. Ma’s success is becoming clearer. The vehicle for his financial-technology ambitions, an Alibaba spinoff called Ant Group, is preparing for the largest initial public offering on record. Ant is set to raise $34 billion by selling its shares to the public in Hong Kong and Shanghai, according to stock exchange documents released on Monday. After the listing, Ant would be worth around $310 billion, much more than many global banks.

The company is going public not as a scrappy upstart, but as a leviathan deeply dependent on the good will of the government Mr. Ma once relished prodding.

More than 730 million people use Ant’s Alipay app every month to pay for lunch, invest their savings and shop on credit. Yet Alipay’s size and importance have made it an inevitable target for China’s regulators, which have already brought its business to heel in certain areas.

These days, Ant talks mostly about creating partnerships with big banks, not disrupting or supplanting them. Several government-owned funds and institutions are Ant shareholders and stand to profit handsomely from the public offering.

The question now is how much higher Ant can fly without provoking the Chinese authorities into clipping its wings further.

Excitable investors see Ant as a buzzy internet innovator. The risk is that it becomes more like a heavily regulated “financial digital utility,” said Fraser Howie, the co-author of “Red Capitalism: The Fragile Financial Foundation of China’s Extraordinary Rise.”

“Utility stocks, as far as I remember, were not the ones to be seen as the most exciting,” Mr. Howie said.

Ant declined to comment, citing the quiet period demanded by regulators before its share sale.

The company has played give-and-take with Beijing for years. As smartphone payments became ubiquitous in China, Ant found itself managing huge piles of money in Alipay users’ virtual wallets. The central bank made it park those funds in special accounts where they would earn minimal interest.

After people piled into an easy-to-use investment fund inside Alipay, the government forced the fund to shed risk and lower returns. Regulators curbed a plan to use Alipay data as the basis for a credit-scoring system akin to Americans’ FICO scores.

China’s Supreme Court this summer capped interest rates for consumer loans, though it was unclear how the ceiling would apply to Ant. The central bank is preparing a new virtual currency that could compete against Alipay and another digital wallet, the messaging app WeChat, as an everyday payment tool.

Ant has learned ways of keeping the authorities on its side. Mr. Ma once boasted at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, about never taking money from the Chinese government. Today, funds associated with China’s social security system, its sovereign wealth fund, a state-owned life insurance company and the national postal carrier hold stakes in Ant. The I.P.O. is likely to increase the value of their holdings considerably.

“That’s how the state gets its payoff,” Mr. Howie said. With Ant, he said, “the line between state-owned enterprise and private enterprise is highly, highly blurred.”

China, in less than two generations, went from having a state-planned financial system to being at the global vanguard of internet finance, with trillions of dollars in transactions being made on mobile devices each year. Alipay had a lot to do with it.

Alibaba created the service in the early 2000s to hold payments for online purchases in escrow. Its broader usefulness quickly became clear in a country that mostly missed out on the credit card era. Features were added and users piled in. It became impossible for regulators and banks not to see the app as a threat.

ImageAnt Group’s headquarters in Hangzhou, China.
Credit…Alex Plavevski/EPA, via Shutterstock

A big test came when Ant began making an offer to Alipay users: Park your money in a section of the app called Yu’ebao, which means “leftover treasure,” and we will pay you more than the low rates fixed by the government at banks.

People could invest as much or as little as they wanted, making them feel like they were putting their pocket change to use. Yu’ebao was a hit, becoming one of the world’s largest money market funds.

The banks were terrified. One commentator for a state broadcaster called the fund a “vampire” and a “parasite.”

Still, “all the main regulators remained unanimous in saying that this was a positive thing for the Chinese financial system,” said Martin Chorzempa, a research fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington.

“If you can’t actually reform the banks,” Mr. Chorzempa said, “you can inject more competition.”

But then came worries about shadowy, unregulated corners of finance and the dangers they posed to the wider economy. Today, Chinese regulators are tightening supervision of financial holding companies, Ant included. Beijing has kept close watch on the financial instruments that small lenders create out of their consumer loans and sell to investors. Such securities help Ant fund some of its lending. But they also amplify the blowup if too many of those loans aren’t repaid.

“Those kinds of derivative products are something the government is really concerned about,” said Tian X. Hou, founder of the research firm TH Data Capital. Given Ant’s size, she said, “the government should be concerned.”

The broader worry for China is about growing levels of household debt. Beijing wants to cultivate a consumer economy, but excessive borrowing could eventually weigh on people’s spending power. The names of two of Alipay’s popular credit functions, Huabei and Jiebei, are jaunty invitations to spend and borrow.

Huang Ling, 22, started using Huabei when she was in high school. At the time, she didn’t qualify for a credit card. With Huabei’s help, she bought a drone, a scooter, a laptop and more.

The credit line made her feel rich. It also made her realize that if she actually wanted to be rich, she had to get busy.

“Living beyond my means forced me to work harder,” Ms. Huang said.

First, she opened a clothing shop in her hometown, Nanchang, in southeastern China. Then she started an advertising company in the inland metropolis of Chongqing. When the business needed cash, she borrowed from Jiebei.

Online shopping became a way to soothe daily anxieties, and Ms. Huang sometimes racked up thousands of dollars in Huabei bills, which only made her even more anxious. When the pandemic slammed her business, she started falling behind on her payments. That cast her into a deep depression.

Finally, early this month, with her parents’ help, she paid off her debts and closed her Huabei and Jiebei accounts. She felt “elated,” she said.

China’s recent troubles with freewheeling online loan platforms have put the government under pressure to protect ordinary borrowers.

Ant is helped by the fact that its business lines up with many of the Chinese leadership’s priorities: encouraging entrepreneurship and financial inclusion, and expanding the middle class. This year, the company helped the eastern city of Hangzhou, where it is based, set up an early version of the government’s app-based system for dictating coronavirus quarantines.

Such coziness is bound to raise hackles overseas. In Washington, Chinese tech companies that are seen as close to the government are radioactive.

In January 2017, Eric Jing, then Ant’s chief executive, said the company aimed to be serving two billion users worldwide within a decade. Shortly after, Ant announced that it was acquiring the money transfer company MoneyGram to increase its U.S. footprint. By the following January, the deal was dead, thwarted by data security concerns.

More recently, top officials in the Trump administration have discussed whether to place Ant Group on the so-called entity list, which prohibits foreign companies from purchasing American products. Officials from the State Department have suggested that an interagency committee, which also includes officials from the departments of defense, commerce and energy, review Ant for the potential entity listing, according to three people familiar with the matter.

Ant does not talk much anymore about expanding in the United States.

Ana Swanson contributed reporting.

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