They connect patients suffering rare diseases to experts who can treat them

ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Rajiv Mahale, Jonathan McEuen and Jake Boy co-founded SpeSo Health - a biz that works to empower patients suffering rare health diseases by connecting them with medical experts.

RAJIV MAHALE, 31, and Jonathan McEuen, 32, both of Center City, and Jake Boy, 26, of Roxborough, are co-founders of startup SpeSo Health at 17th and Walnut streets in Center City. SpeSo has an online platform for identifying and accessing top medical experts in 6,000 rare diseases so that health-care systems can create communities and share information. I spoke with Mahale, who earned a master's degree from Wharton.

Q: How'd you come up with the idea for the biz?

A: A family member was diagnosed with a rare blood cancer. It's very challenging to find the right expert when you have a rare disease.

Q: When did the company start?

A: We were a semifinalist in the Wharton Business Plan Competition and got into the Wharton Venture Initiation Program. That led to acceptance into DreamIt Ventures' boot camp last summer when we ramped up.

Q: How's the biz model work?

A: Our website is free for patients, and we want to empower them with better information. We charge a fee to a hospital or health-care system on a per condition per month basis. It can change if we also provide an online-appointment feature or second-opinion feature. The fee can range from $1,500 to $8,000 depending on the condition and other factors.

Q: What's the value proposition?

A: There are 25 million patients in the U.S. with rare diseases, and they're attractive for hospitals for clinical trials, reputation and federal research money. These patients are often undeserved and it can be challenging for them to find the right care.

Q: Who are your customers?

A: We have a major academic medical institution in the Philadelphia area we're currently working with and a pipeline of other hospitals. We hope to close those deals in the near future.

Q: What's been the biggest challenge growing the biz?

A: We have good data, and the key challenge is where to focus. We're focused on linking patients and doctors. The other issue is to display data in a way that leads to actionable results.

Q: Who's the competition, and what differentiates you?r

A: Websites like Vitals and Healthgrades don't focus on the granular information. We can determine what specialist knows most about a specific disease. We are the only ones focused on rare diseases, mainly in cancer, pediatrics and metabolic disorders.

Q: How big a biz is this?

A: If we can close deals with three to five health-care systems, we'll be at $100,000 to $200,000 in annual revenue.

Q: How many employees?

A: Four full-time and one part-time.


Twitter: @MHinkelman