Azadeh Dastmalchi on Vital Tracer and being a CEO

AUTHOR(S) & CREDENTIALS: Azadeh Dastmalchi, CEO of Vital Tracer and PhD Candidate at the University of Ottawa, and Karolina Jalowska, Digital Media Coordinator at the APPTA hub and AGE-WELL NCE


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Candice Pollack, Executive Director at the APPTA hub

Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

I completed my Bachelor’s and Master’s in biomedical engineering and I’m currently a PhD candidate in biomedical engineering at the University of Ottawa. When I initially chose to attend university, biomedical engineering was a very novel major but I knew I wanted to become an inventor and build things that are useful to many people around the world. I always said that I wanted to be the second Thomas Edison – but a more ethical Edison. I’m currently the CEO of Vital Tracer, a startup that has created a medical-grade smartwatch that measures vital signs to increase patient health, safety and much more.

Why did you start Vital Tracer?

Around the time that I started my Master’s in 2010, my dad was diagnosed with high blood pressure. I noticed that he never used his blood pressure measuring cuff and he often forgot to track his results and bring them with him to his medical appointments. I also saw how uncomfortable the cuff was for him to use because it adds a lot of pressure to the arm and it’s quite bulky. I felt this was a good opportunity to work on a new device for measuring blood pressure. I thought that if I could make a cuff-less blood pressure monitor, it would be more comfortable, and if it could collect data and transfer it automatically, then that makes it easier for the patient and health care provider to monitor health status. One third of the population in the world suffers from high blood pressure and it’s also the first leading cause of death. I believed that an innovation like this would make a huge impact. In addition to our smartwatch, we’ve also recently launched a patch for the chest that monitors vital signs – it’s the same technology as our smartwatch in a different, wearable format. This year, we’ll be selling to academics and hospitals for their own clinical trials and pilot studies. Our commercial device isn’t ready yet, but stay tuned!

How can Vital Tracer help older adults?

Eighty per cent of older adults suffer from hypertension, so it’s important that they monitor and manage their blood pressure. Our smartwatch device makes that process really simple, easy and comfortable. It tracks all vital signs, including oxygen levels, skin temperatures, blood pressure and more. It also sends reminders when you need to take your medications. If there are any abnormalities happening to your body, like COVID-19 or influenza, our smartwatch can help detect that through vital signs and at early stage before it gets severe. Whatever happens to your body, at least one of your vital signs will change and become abnormal. That’s why it’s so important to track your vital signs and do so long-term— it’s like the voice of the body.

What’s it like being a CEO?

Being a CEO is awesome but I focus more on being a leader than a boss. Being able to take care of my employees financially and making sure they’re happy is very important to me. I grew up exposed to the business world – both my parents are in business and have held CEO positions, so it’s always something that’s interested me. What’s interesting about being a female CEO, especially one for a tech startup, is that we’re a minority, and to add to that, I’m also a visible minority, which means that it can be hard to find non-biased investors. I’ve experienced this a few times, where an angel investor thinks that I can’t handle pushing my company to the next level because I’m a woman and a mom. The truth is, being a mom makes me stronger and more productive! I think it’s important for us women to continue moving forward and support each other despite some of these challenges because we really can do it.