Meet PowerCards CEO Nathan

It’s been an exciting journey for three teams that met and took part in the Elsevier Hacks event in August 2017 in Helsinki, Finland. Almost one year on, and they are still working together, developing the prototypes from the hackathon into minimal viable products, as part of the Elsevier Hacks Incubation 2018.

Just before Demo Day, we took some time to interview Nathan Ratner, CEO of PowerCards, to hear more about their project, and how they have found the incubation journey.

Nathan Ratner presenting at Elsevier Hacks Incubation 2018 Demo Day

Nathan presenting PowerCards at Elsevier Hacks Incubation 2018 Demo Day

What were the best bits about Elsevier Hacks last year?

The best part of Elsevier Hacks was having the opportunity to work on the challenge of innovating medical education. Health challenges exist around the world and the need to have an educated healthcare workforce serving those needs has never been more possible or more necessary. To be surrounded by brilliant people from medicine, education, technology, and design and collaboratively work together to solve these pressing questions was one of the most profound experiences of my entire life.

Now tell us about the product you have been building during the incubation...

Our product is called PowerCards. We believe that students know how they learn best so we are building a personalized study platform that puts the power in students’ hands. PowerCards enables students to study their way, learn faster, and memorize more efficiently. It allows them to import all kinds of media and fluidly transform anything into an interactive study resource.

Can you tell us more about the specific user you have designed your prototype for?

Any medical student that needs to memorize information will benefit from PowerCards….which is to say that we believe all medical students will benefit from the program we are building.

What has been the hardest part of the incubation process?

The hardest part of the incubation process has been collaborating with my team and mentors when each person is in a different country. Creative thinking and teamwork is much better to do in person. However this challenge has also been an opportunity because it has forced me to refine my own thinking before we have our conference calls. I have had to own the problem myself and force myself to think more clearly and decisively about it so that I can communicate more clearly when my team does talk or we have discussions with mentors.

After the Crash Test, what did you focus on as Demo Day drew closer?

The final steps we focused on before the demo day were user testing and refining our strategic vision. We worked to articulate where we see our company in 1, 3, and 5 years which was exciting. It also served as a reality check because it clearly shows us how much work we have to do to get there. But we believe in our product and in each other so it’s fun to think into the future. Part of our belief is based on the responses we are getting from users. We wanted to get our product into their hands because we undoubtedly have blind spots and biases so we want to know what a medical student who knows nothing about the product thinks. The responses we have gotten are so wonderful and validating. We still have a long way to go in terms of development but we believe that the problem we sought to solve is real and that our solution is effective.

What has the experience of working on this project been like?

This has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I have learned skills and met amazing people that I never would have otherwise. I have already started using design thinking when working with patients. So in that way, I actually believe that participating in the incubation programme is making me a better doctor.

What was it like to work with Elsevier’s mentors?

Working with the Elsevier Mentors has been one of the great joys of this process. These are incredibly high level professionals who are focussing their talent and intellect on this idea I had. Their insight has forced me to think differently and more deeply about the problem we sought to solve and how we are going about solving it. I have learned so much about the process of problem solving itself in addition to improving the product we are building.

What piece of advice resonated with you the most?

Always have the users in mind and have a reason for everything you are doing.

What’s the key thing you’ve learnt?

Know your users, design for your users.

Lastly, why do you think PowerCards will win the incubation prize?

I have honestly been impressed with the work from each of the teams. The reason that I believe PowerCards will win is because it is a solution that believes in medical students. There is a proliferation of digital learning programs that teach information that medical students need to learn in new and different ways. Each is interesting but limited. They force students to learn the information the way that they teach it. What makes PowerCards different is that it is a toolset that allows students to learn their own way but quickly and efficiently. We believe students know best so why not give them the tools to act on this expertise. Where this idea gets really exciting though is the PowerCards marketplace. While medical students are not yet doctors they are likely the best people at studying in the world. We want to give students the opportunity to make revenue from the amazing work that they are already doing while also sharing it with the world.

Find out what happened at Demo Day here