Matthew Amsden wants to use technology to make it easier to conduct clinical trials.
Then, maybe people will do more of them. After all, there’s a lot of room for improvement when it comes to research studies, said Amsden, 41.
Roughly 97% of registered clinical trials don’t end on time and half of medical treatments aren’t based on any evidence at all.
Amsden -- who previously worked on HIV prevention studies -- started ProofPilot over a decade ago. Up until this year, it was mostly a consultancy for researchers who were conducting randomized trials and research studies. It has worked with a variety of clients ranging from John Hopkins to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and AIDS Clinical Trials Group.
In May, ProofPilot launched a software as a service product to make it easy to launch a scientifically valid study quickly -- at a third of the cost.
What about your job most excites you?
When people think about research, they automatically think about scientists in white lab coats finding a cure for cancer. While my company, ProofPilot, is more than honored to support these researchers, what’s more exciting for me are the studies that we can make possible beyond curing and treating illness.
Historically, researchers have encountered three major barriers that prevent them from doing better, faster research: funding, participation and infrastructure. It’s hard enough to get funded to prove or disprove the results of a study, so the idea of doing research around preventative health is even more difficult.
A lot of people don’t think that research can take place outside of a lab or hospital. In my role as a CEO of a SaaS platform for researchers, I’m most excited about the studies that will give us answers on what works to prevent illness to begin with, and what we can do to optimize my wellbeing and performance.
How many hours do you sleep?
I listen to my body to determine how much sleep I need, usually it’s between 7.5 and 8 hours a night.
Travel can royally mess up my sleep schedule, so I prepare for it like an endurance sport event -- because that's what it is. I want to be at my best to enjoy the destination I’m traveling to, so that means avoiding alcohol, adapting my sleep schedule little by little, and eating very carefully days before I even step on a plane. It makes a huge difference during and after the trip.
What do you eat for breakfast?
Morning is the time of day that I have the most control over. So, I try to stock up on vegetables -- and get those banked early. This morning, it was two hard boiled eggs, arugula and raspberries. I don't drink coffee. Instead, in the summer, Iced Matcha green tea does the trick.
If you could pitch to one person, who would it be?
Richard Branson. He brings style and excitement to every business he's in, which often ends up elevating an entire industry. I'd love to get his input on ProofPilot, and our efforts to elevate the research participant experience.
What’s on your home screen?
My iPhone’s home screen is dedicated to apps that support me while I travel. TripIt is a must. FlightAware gives you the most accurate info on flight status, and suggests delays well before the airline admits to one. I’m a bit of a nervous flier, so I always check with the Air Turbulence Forecast app. If I know to expect turbulence, it really helps.
Back at my desk, I'm a big believer in cleaning out my inbox removing things from my desktop at the end of every day. I keep two folders on my home-screen: “To Organize” and “To Do.” I clean out "To Organize" once a month or so. It's where I stash stuff I want to save but isn't quite right for Evernote. "To Do" is where I keep things that I'm working on for easy access.
This leaves a lot of space to place a piece of art or a photo I've taken from a trip. The one on my home screen now is a photo I took last fall in Lviv, Ukraine. I was there setting up our European offices. People say it's like what Prague was 35 years ago.
How often do you exercise?
Shortly after breakfast, I run and lift weights. I do this daily. I know research says the best time to exercise is in the late afternoon but what they find in lab studies is just not applicable in the real world where people rarely have the leisure of working out in the afternoon. If I waited until then it just wouldn't happen.
I don't go hard or fast -- I think that can do more harm than good. I go hard enough for a slight runner’s high and a little pump. If my body feels tired when I wake up, I give myself permission to skip a day or two.
What app can’t you live without?
Like a lot of folks in the tech and research, I have a tendency to write long complex sentences ... with a lot of jargon. HemingwayApp is a simple text editor/word processor. It helps me keep my sentence structure simple and my word choices concise. It reminds me to avoid meaningless fluff, marketing speak, and technical jargon.
What's your favorite city and why?
You're never going to get me to decide between New York and LA. I'm a small town guy at heart, but the way I see it, these two cities are just a bunch of close-knit small towns stacked next to each other. The diversity in these cities means you can walk a couple of blocks to travel thousands of miles. I'm bullish on the Bronx now, and think it's the biggest undiscovered urban gem in the world.
What’s the most important company we’ve never heard of?
It's not one company, but a group of under-the-radar companies (and divisions of multinationals) that export English language (mostly American) content overseas. It’s taught a generation of 20 and 30 somethings how to speak English, and paved the way for American internet companies. And, it probably helps makes software outsourcing more productive. We might not understand their culture well, but outsourced programmers have grown up with Friends and Modern Family, so they (sort of) understand ours.
Are there any social platforms you refuse to participate in?
I'll download and try almost anything, and some of them stick. But, you won't find any selfies of me -- regardless of platform. In fact, you won't find photos of me taken by others either. When I'm traveling and experiencing something -- I want to experience it. Getting the cell phone out and staging the photo interrupts and changes the mood.
What are you reading right now?
I read cookbooks. Cooking is a scientific experiment that you can eat. This past weekend I read "The Big Book of Kombucha." I have a batch brewing on the kitchen counter now.
Do you think there’s a tech bubble?
No. Today, there’s a huge amount of innovation. The smart money and talent is trending toward solving broader, more complex problems with huge markets like healthcare, education and finance. These markets require a lot more initial development work, bigger seed raises, and have an initially slower ramp up. But the markets are huge, and once established, the barriers to unseat a first mover are incredibly high.
I do think there are a small number of highly visible companies that do little more than create products for other tech companies and their affluent employees. They get a lot of press because the ideas can be kind of cool. But Bay Area 30-somethings make up a very small, atypical market. Some of those companies may not survive as they try to expand to a wider market.
Best piece of advice you've been given?
Be decisive. If you make the wrong decision, you can always decide to change your mind.
What keeps you up at night?
Doesn't worrying about money keep everyone up at night sometimes? Usually, I sleep well. But, if I am up ... it's usually about money. Do I have enough? Have I spent it wisely? Did I pay that bill on time?
If you could tell your 18-year- old self one thing, what would it be?
Don't try to follow in someone else's footsteps in hopes of replicating their success. What worked for them was a unique combination of circumstances that's unlikely to be repeated exactly. Learn from what created success and failure from others, but be smart about it and set your own path.