Hay fever is a miserable affliction affecting almost a quarter of the world’s population. It wreaks havoc from the end of March to the end of August by which time sufferers have tried every remedy going to alleviate their discomfort.
Dr Paul Carson has been treating allergies for the last 30 years and in March 2016 he teamed up with his son, David, to create MedApp, which helps those with hay fever to manage their condition. The first version of the app was launched last year but since then both the app and the company's website have had a major makeover. Version two, which has a number of new features, will be launched in early April.
"The Hay Fever Relief app allows users to enter their symptoms and we then use a sophisticated algorithm to assess their condition and direct them towards an expert treatment plan. Users input their symptoms every day as they can vary with the pollen count," David Carson says. "The app also allows sufferers to track their symptoms, gives live pollen updates for the user's location using the GPS on their smartphone and allows them shop for hay fever products online.
“The idea for MedApp came about because a lot of my friends struggled with allergies and hay fever and were always asking me to ask my Dad for help. This made me think there had to be a better way. After discovering the massive market for hay fever and the lack of allergy doctors worldwide (One per one million sufferers) I realised mobile applications were the best way to tackle the problem.”
Carson says that most existing hay fever apps only provide pollen forecasts and “were created by the big pharma companies to promote their own products. Ours is the only one that lets you track personal symptoms and in the new version users are also able to shop directly within the app for (non-medical) products that provide hay fever relief.”
The cost of developing the original app was around €80,000 and this was family financed. Version two and the website upgrade cost an additional €50,000. The company has received support from Enterprise Ireland under its Competitive Start Fund.
The hay fever app is free to download, but to get premium features such as the treatment mode costs €8.99. The company will make its money through this in-app purchase and through commission on product sales. The products are supplied by three companies specialising in allergy treatments. Roughly 10,000 people in Ireland and the UK downloaded the original app and Carson says the target for 2017 is 50,000.
David Carson, an Irish international hockey player who has been capped 32 times, studied Arts at UCD and computing at DIT before setting up MedApp last year. The company's management team is made up of Carson, Prof Paul Dowding of Trinity College who is the company's pollen forecast advisor and Dr Paul Carson who is both a well-known allergy specialist and crime writer.
David has recently finished the Enterprise Ireland-backed New Frontiers programme at DIT Hothouse and found it a big help. “I don’t have a business background so it was hugely educational,” he says. “It helped us focus on targets, to restructure and to establish business to business relationships with suppliers. We are now participants in the Enterprise Ireland competitive start fund programme and again I’m finding the workshops and the mentoring extremely useful.”
Having a product with a five-month life cycle hardly sounds like a sure-fire recipe for success, but Carson has the answer. "Our second target market for the hay fever product is Australia so that extends the selling year and we are also planning apps for other conditions such as asthma," he says.