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7 June, 2021 - 23:15 By Tony Quested

Cambridge startup’s quality more than skin deep

Skinlync’s  journey began in 2019 at the University of Cambridge’s flagship start-up competition, Venture Creation Weekend, where the founders’ business idea won the day. The founders were then invited to pursue their vision through the Accelerate Cambridge initiative at Cambridge Judge Business School. 

After completing their MBAs at Cambridge, the founders immediately seized this opportunity and in October 2019 formed Skinlync as a team of three – Yigit Akar, Atiqah Zaki and Cemal Bilgic.

Common skin conditions, whilst not fatal, are debilitating. Besides the physical impact (constant itch, painful blisters and visible scars), they significantly affect a sufferer’s mental wellbeing. 

The founders are no strangers to these adversities as fellow eczema sufferers. Whilst Yigit and Cemal have had mild hand eczema, Atiqah has had chronic eczema for over 30 years (atopic dermatitis and dyshidrotic eczema) and acne. 

Recently, she had an unmanageable eczema flare-up and bore the full brunt of poor self-management support. The original idea of Skinlync was her brainchild, leveraging her experience and insights in managing her skin conditions. 

If you have or are caring for someone who has a skin condition, be it eczema, acne or psoriasis, Skinlync is here to help sufferers to overcome the adversities of managing a skin condition and strive for healthier skin and a happier mind. 

Skinlync is a mission-driven venture that aims  to leverage technology to create real impact. Individuals with common skin conditions such as eczema, acne and psoriasis (~36Mn in the UK) need to wait for 2-6 months to see a dermatologist. 

Alternatively, patients are expected to self-manage at home, but do not have adequate support to do so. The lack of medical attention and poor self-management support prolong skin conditions, which has adverse health and psychological consequences.

Skinlync’s digital skin-health platform simplifies and improves self-management of common skin conditions. Leveraging technology, Skinlync provides AI-powered patient journey support and services that cover three key support principles:-

  • Psychological support
  • Access to reliable and safe resources
  • Data collection and analysis. 

The company provides support by creating an ecosystem built on the collective intelligence of patients and experts.

Ultimately, Skinlync aims to be the go-to digital skin-health platform, empowering people with common skin conditions to attain healthier skin and a happier mind.

Skinlync CEO Yigit Akar says: “We believe that Skinlync can be the support needed for effective self-management, easily accessible and at an affordable price. With Skinlync, patients will feel less lost, lonely, and overwhelmed and more confident, comfortable, and empowered.”

From ideation to reality
After many rounds of user testing, research, and planning the founders launched the Open Beta web version of Skinlync (www.skinlync.com) in November 2020. 

They recently launched the Skinlync Blog (https://www.skinlync.com/blog), an exciting platform for sharing interesting insights by the founders, Skinlync users and experts. 

To date, Skinlync has over a thousand registered users, of which ~75 per cent are based in the UK. The business has received overwhelmingly positive user reviews and is working closely with users to improve services. Currently, anyone with a skin condition can access Skinlync for free!

So back to the future! The Skinlync adventure began with Accelerate Cambridge, which helped us lay down the business foundations for the business. 

Akar says: “With the help of mentors at Accelerate Cambridge we were able to develop the business idea and carry out guided early development activities. 

“Through collaboration between Accelerate Cambridge and Santander Universities UK, we have received valuable financial support that has helped us accomplish key milestones in our venture development. 

“Beyond business support, our relationships with fellow entrepreneurs at Accelerate Cambridge have contributed greatly to our psychological wellbeing in this arduous journey as entrepreneurs.

“Like many startups, the first lockdown interfered with our development plans. But instead of accepting defeat, we turned it into an opportunity. 

“One of our proudest lockdown milestones is that we completed our first user research within two weeks. By the end of the exercise, we had spoken to over 100 individuals with skin conditions, with each call lasting an average of 30 minutes (that’s 50 valuable hours that we cherish greatly!).

“Since then, we have collaborated with experts, patients and patients support groups to develop the best services to be delivered via Skinlync.
  
“Within the last 12 months, we have performed four different rounds of user testing, actively building our brand and online presence, and started forming partnerships with patient organisations and dermatologists across the UK. 

“We have received plenty of positive constructive feedback and now, to be able serve our users better, we are updating our technology and platform.”

A social mission supported by a strong business case
The mobile digital health market is a $230 billion play and is expected to top $1 Trillion by 2027, with an expected CAGR of 23 per cent. This growth is contributed by the growing demand for personalised patient support, that is accessible, affordable and effective. 

This sentiment is echoed in interactions with Skinlync users and experts alike. In the dermatology sector, Skinlync stands out as provider of holistic self-management support that is condition agnostic. 
Akar says: “We have developed Skinlync to serve as many people with common skin conditions as possible; we currently have users covering 13 different skin conditions. 

“Our users also love the user-friendly chatbot that welcomed them as they embarked on their journey with Skinlync. 

“Skin condition is the fourth most common illness globally. Approx. 270 million people in the EU and 36 million people in the UK have or had a skin condition. 

“Whilst our current market is the UK, Skinlync can be scaled to other regions. The Skinlync team has strong ties in Turkey and Malaysia and our local connections can help with expansion into these countries and eventually other regions. Also, our platform has received a significant number of visits from users in the United States and Australia.”

Exciting road ahead
2021 has been a great year for Skinlync thus far. In February, the business secured pre-seed funding (SEIS) from Bethnal Green Ventures, Europe’s leading early-stage tech for good VC, and joined its Spring 2021 Tech for Good Programme. 

With this support, Skinlync has managed to grow the team from three people to seven, with a focus on expanding its technology capabilities. 
Skinlync was also one out of 10 ventures selected to pitch at the recent UK Business Angels Association & Mayor of London’s TechInvest Healthtech Showcase. 

Akar says: “To take Skinlync to the next level, we will be undertaking fundraising activities in Q3 2021 (SEIS/EIS). Feel free to get in touch (skinlync [at] gmail.com) if you would like to get to know us and Skinlync better.

“We are continuously gathering feedback from our users and developing exciting new features for Skinlync. In September 2021, combining AI, data analytics and gamification, we will be launching an exciting new service that will transform and elevate self-management and psychological support for people with skin conditions.”

For more information, visit www.skinlync.com and follow social media accounts for updates! 

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