Tech in T.O.: Figure 1 app helps medical professionals examine cases from around the world

Click to play video: 'Tech in T.O.: Figure 1 thriving in Toronto'
Tech in T.O.: Figure 1 thriving in Toronto
WATCH ABOVE: Figure 1, co-founded by Dr. Joshua Landy, merges the worlds of social media and medicine. Landy had offers to start the company in the U.S., but explains why he chose Toronto – Oct 22, 2019

This is the seventh instalment of a 10-part series on Toronto’s technology community.

People can spend hours scrolling through social media feeds filled with pictures, captions and videos and the photos are of scenic views or selfies, but one app is combining social media and the field of medicine to help healthcare professionals diagnose unique illnesses around the world.

Figure 1 was founded in 2013 by Dr. Joshua Landy.

“I’ve always been a bit of a theatrical teacher, and in medicine there’s a lot to learn. So being able to find ways to make it interesting are the keys to making it stick. I think these days the easiest way to do that is with social media,” said Landy.

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“You take an image, you take a caption, you put them together and you have people develop a conversation. Only instead of catching up about people’s vacation, it’s about medical education and learning things you haven’t seen before.”

Landy said some posts on the social media platform receive a lot of attention and have helped diagnose rare and unique illnesses.

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“[In Haiti] … a nurse who was the only healthcare professional working at a birthing centre saw this case, this baby was born and she didn’t know what to make of this skin condition, which looks scary to be honest. So she posted it to Figure 1,” Landy said, adding the post had more than 168,000 views.

“Sixteen thousand health-care professionals from around the world lend their opinion and mostly people were supporting a pediatrician from the west coast who identified this as a benign condition. Baby goes home, everybody’s safe. So these kinds of quick checks are the sorts of things that you can get in an instant from around the world.”

Click to play video: 'Extended: Interview with Dr. Joshua Landy, co-founder of Figure 1'
Extended: Interview with Dr. Joshua Landy, co-founder of Figure 1

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The company has expanded since its start in 2013 and it has raised over $20 million in venture capital, Landy said.

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“We have 40 employees currently in an office in Toronto and an office in New York we have employees as well. And we have millions of users around the world who are health-care professionals, and they look at the cases on Figure 1 to help each other,” he added.

Landy said there were times where he contemplated launching the tech start up in the U.S., but he chose Toronto because there was room to grow.

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“Two places we briefly explored were New York and Silicon Valley,” he said.

“In Toronto we had all the resources we needed and we were able to join a growing community. We felt really welcome here. I think there certainly has been an increasing amount of people coming into Toronto to seek these opportunities.

“There’s a number of great growing start-ups in Toronto including Figure 1 that are starting to retain better and better talent. And that’s what you need to grow an ecosystem, more talented people who work at companies, leave those companies and start new companies. And those cycles are what gets the talent flowing and people coming to the city.”

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