The world is full of smart people with exciting ideas. Sometimes, all it takes is a little seed funding and those ideas can rapidly bloom into side projects. That’s what the Tyk Side Project Fund is all about.
Tyk itself was once just the kernel of an idea, slowly taking shape in our CEO Martin’s mind. Martin wanted to bring about change, so he created Tyk as a side project in order to help people make, create and build better things. It took time and dedication to turn that idea into an internationally successful reality. Now, it’s time for Tyk to pass that opportunity to make a change onto others.
That’s where the Tyk Side Project Fund comes in. We invited all those out there with innovative ideas to let us know what it would take to help turn their passion project into reality. It’s a real joy to unveil details of those outstanding ideas and showcase the deserving winners of the Tyk Side Project Fund.
We’ve interviewed each of the winners about what their project entails, why it’s important and what makes it such a uniquely brilliant idea. In this interview, medical student Kacper Niburski explains his tool for physicians and medical learners – ddxed – which is taking diagnostic generation to the next level.
Tyk: Please can you tell us a little about your project, ddxed?
Kacper: ddxed stands for differential diagnosis education and its aim is to revolutionise the way in which differential diagnoses are handled and taught in medical schools.
In the same way that Tyk noticed the lack of open source API management gateways, we noticed that, in a clinical way, there is a lack of ability to see a patient and their often-complex co-morbidities and history, then relate that to a concrete set of differentials. Not only is it a skill that requires years of clinical acumen, but it’s also often poorly taught.
More important than that is that it’s properly instituted at a clinical level, especially if you need to be this master clinician in order to do it. So we set out to see if we could make this better. Could we make differential diagnoses something concrete and objectifiable, all with a small budget?
We started by creating and building up a database for differential diagnoses – ddxed. Our ultimate goal is to help to teach and, more importantly, to make clinically sound decisions for both clinicians and students.
Tyk: What led you to start this side project in the first place? What’s your background?
Kacper: My background is a bit of a hodgepodge! I did an undergraduate degree in chemistry and chemical biology and then a masters in history of medicine. At which point I realised I didn’t want to do anything in that field!
So, I ended up working as marketing director for a gaming company in San Francisco. I learned how to develop and scale a product and saw what it takes to try and revolutionise a field. And then I went to medical school.
I’m currently in my third year of medical school in Canada (it’s a four-year course here). I continued to work for the San Francisco company while being in medical school, though obviously to a much lesser extent. I realised that a lot of the things I had learnt as part of that work were also applicable to the medical field. This ranged from the importance of marketing and messaging to the importance of growing a product. Having a clean, usable infrastructure is also essential, as is having a product that is actually scalable! The product also needs to be something useful – something that addresses a need.
The idea behind ddxed really evolved from this. We saw a gap in the clinical acumen for the everyday practitioner. So we’re currently building up the data. There’s been a lot of fanfare and hype lately about it recently. It’s an exciting stage to be at! We have about 1,000 people signed up so far, which is excellent given we’ve not released it yet.
Tyk: What are the challenges that you’ve faced in working on this as a side project?
Kacper: Finances are always an issue. To get the software you need, for example to provide faster queries, costs money. The alternative is to build it yourself, which could take years! So there are funding issues that will never go away, but that’s the same for any company.
The time commitment is an issue, given that I’m in medical school. Although that’s become less of an issue as I’ve realised that the clinical practice I would like to do is less good without the ddxed tool, so without it I would be wasting more time in the long run.
No bullshit… sometimes the teaching on this subject is just bad. It’s a stressful situation and not everything is considered. You hear about medical mistakes and diagnoses that took years to get. That’s why creating a better differential based on probabilities and pre-test probabilities and many other statistics (versus someone’s ‘finger braining’) is so important.
Another obstacle is that, right now, ddxed is a team of two – myself and my partner Brian, who’s in my class. He’s doing the database; I’m doing the tech work. As we expand, we’ll obviously need to grow to a larger team. That requires trusting people, which is always hard to do with a start-up, I find.
Tyk: What are the values that drive you personally?
Kacper: One of the reasons that I left the company in San Francisco was that, in the end, the product was all about unfettered capitalism. Video games are about getting people to spend their time and their money. So, the outcome was always the same to make more money. That’s not a bad thing but I went to medical school with the hope that it would be somehow different – more wholesome as it’s about caring for and helping others.
This is what ddxed is about at its core. There are millions of things that people can be working on and trying to do. ddxed is there to help those people and to help those patients who are most vulnerable – patients who are ultimately forgotten in the grand scheme of things because their differential isn’t quite accurate enough or doesn’t conform to the specificities of any individual test.
All of which is to say that the hope of altruism is one of my own core principles and at the core of ddxed. We want to do good work for good people and make sure that people can stay healthy.
Tyk: How will the Tyk Side Project Fund help ddxed to grow?
Kacper: The Tyk grant is £500, which is roughly Can$748. We will use it to fund a number of essential services, such as G Suite, along with various software products, such as Algolia. It also provides the potential for using AdWords and for achieving more robust data analytics.
The publicity associated with the Tyk Side Project Fund is also helpful – everything from mentions on social media to this interview aids in raising brand awareness. It could ultimately lead to connections with British medical schools.
Overall, it’s an important step in helping us to hopefully grow from micro to macro.
Tyk: What tips would you give to someone looking to start a side project?
Kacper: I think that there’s a ‘rise and grind’ mentality – you wake up, you go to work. A side project is different because you’re doing it out of your own time and ability. You’re also doing it because you want to, as opposed to some end goal of grinding until retirement!
In terms of tips, I would advise anyone starting a side project to realise the latency within it. You need to allow yourself the flexibility to work on what you think is really necessary.