Kaasa Health

Interview with Ulrich Schulze Althoff

Tell us something about yourself. Who are you and what do you do here at Kaasa Health GmbH?

My name is Ulrich Schulze Althoff, founder and managing director of Kaasa Health. We help children who have problems with Maths, Reading and Spelling using our app "Meister Cody".

How can we picture this app? Is it like a Sudoku or rather like a real adventure?

The children experience Meister Cody as an adventure in cinema-format for several months. They have to free the land of Talasia from the dragon Sordan and carry out their magical exercises at the same time to improve their skills in Maths, Reading and Spelling. We have created a separate area for the parents which informs them of their child's development and progress at all times. It isn't really like Sudoku.

How did the app based on Meister Cody originate and how did the start-up team come together?

I used to make mobile phone games and in 2008 decided to bring the motivation from such games to the health sector and that is how Kaasa Health began. The basic idea was that online games help to make people healthier. At the time, everyone said I was crazy, the health sector would never become digital but now most of them see it differently. We are experiencing digitalisation in the health sector with far-reaching consequences. We launched the idea very early and so could position ourselves well in the market.

How exactly did you get the idea?

We looked closely at the health market and thought about how we could achieve success with a playful approach and in which areas. My co-managing director Misti Frantzen has a great deal of experience in the online sector and I had a computer game background so we complemented each other perfectly.

What is the principle behind Meister Cody?

It quickly became clear to us that an app could best have an effect on development disorders in the brain as there is a direct channel to the brain through the eyes and ears. Then we started looking more closely at dyscalculia and dyslexia (difficulty in learning or comprehending arithmetic/reading and spelling) and it occurred to us that only constant repetition of the same exercises could create the processes in the brain that are required for calculation, reading and writing.

What makes your product so special?

We are unique in that we first look at the child's current status before he or she begins to work with the app. What can the child already do, what are his or her strengths and weaknesses, what is his or her current level. Every child is different and there are so many different subtypes of arithmetic, reading and spelling disorders. We cannot lump them all together but need to work with them individually, adjust training units so that the child is supported in exactly those areas where he or she has problems. That is why our product is so effective. We are not only able to motivate the children but actually help them too.

That sounds like a very demanding and sensitive area of business. Did you seek scientific support?

Of course. We obtained scientific support from Professor Holling and Dr Kuhn from the University of Münster who are experts in this field. We also asked Professor Schulte-Körne from the LMU in Munich if they would like to help us build an app which we could then make available to many thousands of children and which would help them work on their problems. That was when the idea of Meister Cody was born in April 2011.

Who are your competitors on the market?

There are existing forms of care in our field of business with which you can do various exercises, on paper for example or with therapists. We have the advantage however, that we can take the therapy into the living room and that the children can practise more often with Meister Cody than if they just have an appointment once a week with a therapist. You have motivated children sitting at home that can work in a medium they really love and that are being pushed to their performance limits at the same time. Children come first with us, are they having fun? Will they use the app again? Do they notice their achievements? We want to be honest and transparent with the children and show them where they are making progress. With this type of presentation, we succeed in maintaining the child's motivation. Studies at the University of Münster have shown this too.

In preliminary talks, you told us that there are around 30 staff working on your apps. How do you actually work together?

Our values are to be inventive, dynamic and friendly. We set ourselves strategic goals to achieve which we then break down into small units and work through. After three weeks, we then come together again, exchange results and consider the way forward for the next three weeks. This is how we continuously improve our product. It is never finished but just developed further.

Can you give us a rough description of how your business model works?

Our business model works in that we first allow the parents to try out the product in full for 5 days initially. They can then decide to opt for an ordinary membership or a premium membership for just under €20 a month. This naturally includes the games app, an area for parents to understand the progress of their child, scientific support and evaluation by the University of Münster and also a "sympathetic ear" on our part. That means they can always ring us here if they have any questions or problems. You can terminate the membership at any time with a 30-day money back guarantee. So we try to be really fair with our customers and are delighted when we can help the children, that is our main priority after all. You mentioned that you are constantly working on improvements to your company and your product. You presumably have a vision, a primary objective, that drives you forward? Yes, we want to have the best program in the world for children with dyscalculia and dyslexia and so give children everywhere in the world the opportunity to work with Meister Cody and to improve their skills regardless of where they come from or what language they speak.

Would it be an option for you to sell your product to a major player such as Ubisoft?

No, that is not our goal. We want to build up a company that is successful in the long-term. Our next goal is first of all growth, growth and more growth. At the moment, we are on the right path and very satisfied. This has not only been confirmed by our good ratings and feedback from parents but also by the awards we have won, for example the Transfer Prize of the University of Münster which we received on 9 June, we are naturally very proud of that.

You can indeed be proud. Best of luck for the future and thank you for the interesting interview!