Chea Vireak’s father had a stroke in the left hemisphere of the brain and his chances of survival were low, with open-head surgery required to stop the bleeding and lower the pressure in the brain.
Speaking to an audience of 500 people at TEDxRUPP on Sunday, Chea Vireak, the co-founder and CEO of PillTech startup, said, “One life to live, many to save,” following his life-changing experience.
Because of this uncertainty, many negative thoughts went through his mind, but he hoped for the best and prepared for the worst. He imagined the worst possible outcome. Fortunately, his father is alive today, but forever paralyzed, confined to a wheelchair, and unable to speak for the rest of his life.
“Theoretically, strokes can be prevented, so why are there so many? According to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a stroke occurs every 40 seconds,” Vireak told the TEDxRUPP audience, who had bought a ticket for the annual conference. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design.
A stroke is a multifactorial disease caused by a combination of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and a very unfortunate coincidence. Stroke can be prevented by monitoring blood pressure, controlling blood cholesterol levels, and exercising a little, Vireak said.
His father is stable after a surgery in Bangkok.
After all this happened, Vireak made a promise to his parents back to Cambodia to do whatever he could to help them, to be closer to them, and possibly to strengthen the healthcare system in Cambodia.
“It's nearly 10 years since I've been back. In fact, a few more months would be 10 years,” he said on stage at the Cambodia-Japan Cooperation Center.
Vireak did not know what he wanted to do when came to Cambodia, however, he knew he wanted to contribute to positive health outcomes for people, and it was only when returning to Cambodia that curiosity, passion, and drive for entrepreneurship started to develop.
“My brother and I left our home and parents in Cambodia to move to the US at the age of 13. We stayed with my aunt and uncle in San Diego, California. I knew I wanted to give back to our country. I knew I wanted to contribute to better access to quality, affordable health care for our people and for ASEAN countries.”
But it was not until 2020, during Covid-19, that he found a few old friends to start his healthtech startup.
One life to live, many to save
PillTech hopes to bring better healthcare closer to everyone. “We started by focusing on digitalizing the pharmacy, and by connecting pharmacies to thousands of products on the platform, it's verified and safe.”
His vision is to provide fast, convenient, and safe medicines for pharmacies because that helps to reduce the sub-standard or fake medicines that essentially affect 16 million people in the country.
PillTech, which secured $500,000 in pre-seed investment last month, also provides better access to quality and affordable medicines to pharmacies, which in turn sells quality medicine and low-price to millions of people across the country. In addition to providing low-cost and accessible drugs to pharmacists, the government offered him a special medical IoT project, which connects blood pressure and blood sugar devices to the mobile app. Every time a person tests the body, the data will be uploaded to the app. If patients have blood pressure or a high blood sugar readings, the app will send the family an automatic notification.
“In addition, our team will also call you to make sure you’re alright. So we are building something that I believe will help save lives,” he said.
“I believe that this is the right time. I could not be happier today. What we have built so far will hopefully save many lives in the future. So what happened to my father could have been prevented if someone had monitored his blood pressure closely,” Vireak said.
“I know I can’t go back in time to save my father from having the stroke, but I can help prevent a mother or a father from having a stroke in the future. If we can connect everyone to an online centralized network to remotely monitor their vital signs through our mobile app, maybe we can, after all, prevent a stroke or other complications arising from high blood pressure. As I speak, our team is currently finalizing the latest stage of our development for the medical IoT project and hopefully we will launch our first beta version of our mobile app very soon.”
Vireak hopes to have the project up and running by the end of this year or early next year.
“I am not going to lie, it will be one of the most difficult journeys. But you will like it, you will love it. If you’re waiting for the right time, the perfect partner, or all the stars to align, then you would never build anything worth living for. Start today, fail fast, but learn even faster from it. I encourage all of you who dream of becoming an entrepreneur to roll up your sleeves today and really get started solving real-life problems.
“Because the best healthcare solutions of tomorrow depend on all of you today. I do believe things in life do happen for a reason. Believe in the process, hard work, and determination.
“If my father hadn’t had the stroke, I don’t think I would be here today speaking in front of you. If it weren’t for my father, I don’t think I would be living my dream of contributing to better healthcare here in Cambodia.
“This is my story, and I hope that you, too, can help save many lives. Together, we can accomplish anything. Help us now to achieve better health care for our people. I challenge and dare you to kick off your journey today. Your time is now! Live a life worth living because you only have one life to live but many to save! ”