Jason Bellet: Using AI to Fight Heart and Lung Disease
Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs and Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, who are advancing the UN SDGs.
Hi folks! I’m Spiffy, your interplanetary journalist reporting from Planet Earth, back with a new guest. Jason Bellet, the co-founder and CSO of Eko, committed to making a difference in the world. Let’s see how he’s doing it!
Spiffy: Hi, Jason, welcome! Let’s jump right in. What challenge is Eko addressing?
Jason: Glad to be here, Spiffy! Heart disease is the #1 cause of death in the US and around the world. By detecting heart disease early, healthcare providers can help patients live longer and healthier lives. At Eko, we build smart stethoscopes that use AI to analyze heart and lung sounds, enabling life-threatening cardiac conditions to be detected earlier and with better accuracy.
Spiffy: What motivated you to do it?
Jason: We started Eko almost 10 years ago after studying how often heart disease is missed due to the subjectivity of the traditional stethoscope. In the digital age, how could heart disease screening still be so reliant on the subjectivity of human hearing? We knew that with improved hardware and machine learning, we could develop the first smart stethoscope. We're continually inspired by the rapidly growing community of healthcare providers using our technology to help save lives.
Spiffy: According to you, how is Eko working towards a more equitable world?
Jason: Our social impact initiative, Eko Cares, has donated over $250,000 in products to healthcare professionals caring for patients in underserved communities. In addition, we partner with the National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics (NAFC) to provide our technology to free clinics across the US. This partnership aims to improve the detection, monitoring, and treatment of heart disease in communities acutely impacted by the healthcare gap.
Spiffy: That’s amazing! Tell me about a recent company milestone or initiative and the impact it makes on your community.
Jason: Over the last year, we doubled the size of our healthcare community and our team, now equipping hundreds-of-thousands of healthcare providers with our technology. In 2022, Eko was also named one of the "World's Most Innovative Companies 2022" by Fast Company.
Spiffy: So, failure. Every entrepreneur is familiar with it. Please share an experience when you faced it and didn't give up. What did you learn?
Jason: Anyone that has taken a momentous challenge in their career, or life, knows that failing is a key ingredient to eventual success. To learn and grow, you actually have to fail sometimes. I’ve learned and grown tremendously over this last decade building Eko, in large part due to the things that didn’t go exactly as we had hoped for or planned. I’ve learned that failing forward, with humility, is absolutely essential to developing a strong team, product, and company.
Spiffy: Failing forward with humility, I love it! Thanks for speaking with me today, Jason—it’s been an honor!
Jason Bellet is the co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer of Eko, a healthcare technology company that applies AI in the fight against heart and lung disease. He appeared in the Forbes 30 Under 30 list and is an outspoken advocate for using technology to increase access to disease prevention; President Obama’s HHS Department invited Jason to speak at the White House on pressing issues in cardiovascular care. Jason holds a degree in Business Administration from the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley. (First published on the Ladderworks website on May 26, 2022.)
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