Craig Backs, CureCoach: “Outwork anybody you see as competition”

Technology and healthcare don’t always mix well. In part, that’s because they have two wholly different dynamics: healthcare evolves slowly, technology changes on an almost daily basis. But, as we reveal in this interview with Dr Craig Backs, a specialist in chronic disease, there is another disease to fight: the inertia caused by money-making corporations that don’t want you to disrupt things with a more cost-effective solution.

So, why listen to the doctor? Because Craig Backs is an experienced specialist in Internal Medicine, caring for adults through diagnostic skills and management of acute and chronic disease. These diseases include diabetes, hypertension, atherosclerosis, and other conditions that respond to better lifestyle choices, supplements and medications. Left to progress, they can dramatically shorten or ruin an individual’s life. 

His personal journey to cure Chronic Disease began in May 2012. “My own personal health went through a dramatic makeover,” Dr Backs told TechFinitive. “I now know better and provide a more credible example for my patients. I understand the challenges they face as they pursue a healthier lifestyle. I know how to motivate and coach success.” 

Another reason to listen? Because Dr Backs has a long and distinguished career. He served as President of the Illinois State Medical Society and spent three years as Chief Medical Officer at St John’s Hospital in Springfield, Illinois. There, he opened The Center for Prevention Heart Attack and Stroke, which later became The CureCenter for Chronic Disease.

In short, Dr Backs has made it his mission to cure Chronic Disease by digging out its root causes. In this interview, part of our TakeOff series, discover his journey over the past decade and what advice he has to offer other entrepreneurs.

What’s your elevator pitch? 

CureCoach and CureCoach.App supports the reversal of the Catastrophic Unseen Reversible Epidemic (CURE) of chronic disease by identifying and mitigating the root causes more efficiently and effectively than current practices. We make life better for patients and providers with a mobile-friendly, elegant digital platform that connects patients and providers wherever they are. 

What made you launch a startup? 

Mainstream care for chronic disease isn’t solving the problem. More optimal solutions are cumbersome and unaffordable for most because they involve inefficient data collection, collaboration and communication. A digital platform that supports more efficient and affordable care that reverses cardiometabolic disease does not exist. So we created CureCoach.App and the CureScreen process.  

Craig Backs MD CureCoach App
Craig Backs, MD

What problem are you trying to solve? 

Chronic cardiometabolic disease is the number one cause of death and disability because it is presumed to be progressive and incurable. This is not true or acceptable. It can be put into remission with more quality years added to our lives so that we die old and live healthier and happier lives. 

Can you talk us through your journey so far? What’s a major milestone you’ve reached? 

I learned the medicine to reverse cardiometabolic disease in 2013. I struggled to deliver the care, waiting for a delivery model to be delivered by those who taught me the medicine. The model they delivered requires resources far beyond the resources of most who would benefit. Insurance coverage was not an option due to discounted payments and controls over testing and care.

I needed a software-supported scalable platform to support processes that started with paper templates and checklists. I worked with a developer to program a single practice support program. I then realised that there should be a market for the program for other providers to deliver the same process at scale. So we pivoted to a multitenant mobile-friendly platform initially branded as CureLInk and then CureCoach.App to collect and organise data from multiple sources, communicate asynchronously and collaborate efficiently.  

I needed a lower cost, more available screening process to identify atherosclerosis. I discovered point of care ultrasound, learned to ultrasound carotid arteries to identify plaque and settled on the Butterfly iQ+ probe and platform to show patients their disease and motivate them to address it. This was developed into the CureScreen process which can be scaled to deliver this affordable screening to millions of people with the Catastrophic Unseen Reversible Epidemic of chronic disease. 

Who are your main competitors and what distinguishes your startup from them? 

Wellness programs and a variety of providers, many trained in the BaleDoneen Method, offer mitigation of chronic disease. To the best of my knowledge, none offer this in a manner that is nearly as efficient, affordable and user-friendly as CureCoach and The CureCenter for Chronic Disease. 

How has the startup scene in Springfield, IL, helped and/or challenged your own startup’s development? 

Springfield is a conservative community dominated by a traditional medical school and strong traditional interventional cardiology care. Neither welcomes the message that cardiometabolic disease, which is a cash cow for their business model based on late-stage disease rescue and rehab, can be reversed into remission. 

Our results sound too good to be true: in nine years of caring for patients with proven cardiometabolic disease, none have suffered a heart attack or stroke and they did very well in spite of COVID and the measures taken to address COVID. 

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made and how did you overcome it? 

My biggest mistake was to assume that our value proposition is so compelling that it will sell itself.  In a world where patients with chronic disease are the source of revenue for the processed food/medical/industrial/pharma payer complex, there are many so invested in the status quo that assuming that people will line up to “do the right thing” is naïve.    

Where do you hope your startup will be in ten years? 

I hope to be serving thousands of providers empowering them to deliver lives free of the burden of heart attack, stroke, dementia and diabetes to millions of happy people who would otherwise suffer at the hands of the current approach to chronic cardiometabolic disease. Culture creates more of it for “managers” of chronic disease to profit. 

What advice would you give yourself if you could go back in time? 

Be patient and don’t assume that people will “do the right thing” without a very compelling “what’s in it for me” value proposition. 

What would you say to potential investors reading this interview? 

An investment in CureCoach is an investment in lives free of the suffering from stroke, heart attack, and diabetes for yourself, your community and the world. The world has changed in the past few years. More people than ever are looking for alternatives to the institutions and systems that failed so miserably. By delivering massively improved outcomes more efficiently, there will be financial as well as personal rewards. 

What are the key factors contributing to the success of startups in Springfield, IL? 

Relationships with longstanding members of the local and state governance and commerce. Illinois and Springfield in particular are highly political environments. 

What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs and anyone looking to launch their startup? 

Don’t let your own doubts about the imperfection of your product or service keep you from putting it out as soon as minimally viable to get feedback from the market. Don’t assume that your love and passion for your mission and product/service will be evident or embraced by those you seek to serve, especially if it is very effective. “Too good to be true” is a common excuse to say “no.” Be willing to hear “no” by reaching out repeatedly. Outwork anybody you see as competition. Brainstorm with yourself and others at every opportunity.   

TechFinitive TakeOff series

Our thanks to Dr Backs for taking the time to answer our questions. This is part of our TakeOff series, exclusive interviews with entrepreneurs and early backers of tech startups. Here are three more we think you will find equally interesting.

Taha Zemmouri, Eden AI: “It’s very difficult to project that far ahead in an AI world where developments occur in weeks, not years.”

Rachel Corn, GoPowerEV: “A significant contributor to climate change is fossil fuels, and one of the best solutions is electric vehicles”

Radek Jezbera, Kilde: “You need to deliver a solution that’s ten times more effective than what’s currently on offer”

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Tim Danton

Tim has worked in IT publishing since the days when all PCs were beige, and is editor-in-chief of the UK's PC Pro magazine. He has been writing about hardware for TechFinitive since 2023.