Marco Benitez (CEO, ROOK) and Jonas Dücker (COO, ROOK)

A Tae Kwon Do champion turned biomedical engineer, turned CEO, Marco’s experiences and passion have given him a deep knowledge of the fitness, sports, and pharmaceutical industries. He value discipline, perseverance, and persistence, and strives to give to others what his fitness and coaches gave him—an opportunity for a greater life.

With an MBA as well as degrees in both international business and entrepreneurship, Jonas is fascinated by projects rooted in creating change. Through years of experience in scaling fitness-tech startups and in social impact companies, he has established the organization, dedication, and out-of-the-box thinking that are so important to empowering innovation.

Image: ROOK
Image: ROOK

Can you explain your job to a five-year-old?

Marco: We help companies to access and make sense of all their users’ wearable data

This means, if a company wants to access the data of their users, they would normally have to integrate one-by-one all these devices—from the AppleWatch, from the Whoop, from the Oura, etc.

In our case, we solve that problem and we integrate all of the wearables in one place. Instead of having to integrate them one by one, they can now simply integrate ROOK and get access to the full range of devices out there in the market. And we help to make sense of the data, normalising it so you can actually compare users between different brands/devices

Jonas: So now, I always like to use this example. If you use your favourite workout app, meditation app, or patient monitoring platform where a clinician is taking care of you, they would want to access the data you’re storing there 24/7 normally. They have to integrate all those different devices, which is a ton of devices, and then you get data sets that are so different between all the brands. This is a huge mess. So, you need someone developing integrations, maintaining integrations, and you need someone on the data science side to make sense of those different dataset from all those different brands.

And now when they integrate with ROOK, the cool thing happening for you as an end user is you just log into your favorite meditation app, and now you can connect your web device, your Apple watch, and your data from there starts syncing to this platform. And it adapts to the same format for any of your devices. So I can use different devices, or my friend or my family member is using a different device and they still see the same information in the same format. And on the other hand, our B2B client, where we integrate it, they can obviously as well use that data to leverage business decisions, et cetera. So, it's a hundred percent kind of integration play here. 

And you as a user can enjoy a more personalized experience as these companies leverage the data to build outstanding user experiences in their solutions—from rewarding you for healthy habits to giving you recommendations on how to improve, and more. 

What excites you most about your job?

Marco: We have the great opportunity to improve people’s lives and unlock a healthier world. That's, I think, our biggest milestone, our biggest mission, vision, and everything.

Also in terms of being founders and creating something from scratch. In my previous work, I was working in a very big company, and I didn't have the the chance to create things.

Everything was like: We have all the information from the the global team, and you only have to execute everything. Right now, we are in a completely different position. Now, we have to write everything. We have to create everything from our imagination. Then, we have to prove the concept with our clients. Then receive feedback, improve, and repeat. The process of creativity is completely different

Jonas: Creating something from scratch as a startup founder is just super exciting and rewarding. It’s an idea which you have in your head which you can then turn into reality, which then impacts people’s lives. It’s really, really exciting. Obviously, it’s also a huge challenge and it comes with a lot of pressure, but in the end, it’s the most rewarding thing in the world, especially with the focus we have that is allowing us to really make in an impact in the lives of so many people. 

And I think the other thing is that what we do has so much untapped potential. There’s endless untapped potential in all the wearable data being generated 24/7, 365 days a year. All this information is out there because there's so many people using wearables now—or other smart devices that are tracking information. This smart device could be just the phone in itself, capturing so much health data, biomarker data, and information about social and mental health, etc. That information, right now, is not really being leveraged to generate positive impact yet by really pulling all that information together towards a single definition of health.

And be it the fitness coach, be it your clinician, be it your therapist—there's so many people who have a huge interest in that data because they can provide you with a lot more engaging, effective, and personalized user or patient experience. That is huge.

Which trend will change the future of medicine?

Marco: I think that everything revolves around data. In general, the trends around monitoring in combination with machine learning and AI are leading us to a world of prevention, where we will be able to act before it’s too late. So, I think that’s the point here: making sense of all of this information and making it easier to understand because the purpose—at least in our case—is for it to be the best tool for physicians.

Jonas: It’s about when the data is really becoming actionable, right? The struggle we still have is often that the data we have is often not actionable. I think these new tools around machine learning and AI give us more and more opportunity to take all that data and really put it into action with simple items that people can use—be it through providers or be it patients who can be really embed it into their lifestyle.

I think that is shifting us to a more preventive kind of healthcare system rather than one where our perspective is that it's too late already. I think there's a huge, huge, huge opportunity in this. It also relates directly to medicine and drug management.

I think with all the data we've received, we can we can get smarter, find the right dosages of medication for people based on the variables we can collect and then integrate risk. 

Marco: In fact, pharma companies are now using wearables data when they need the exact moment—to identify, for example, the patient has an elevated heart rate. So it’s super important for everyone right now—with telemedicine and everything. 

Looking back, which trends have you missed or underestimated?

Marco: I think what we’re doing right now.

Jonas: Exactly, yeah. I mean, we are an early stage startup, so we don’t have the perspective of that long trajectory where of course we’re looking back and seeing, “Okay, that’s the trend we missed.” So, I think a lot of the trends we’re currently seeing forming are really in favor of what we do right now. We’ve seen, in general, huge adoption of wearable technology, which has been one of the most dramatic trends throughout the pandemic. We have seen, obviously, machine learning and AI models being a lot more intelligent and moving forward, helping us to analyze all the data we are generating. Telemedicine and then, in general, interoperability also really align eith what we do right now. 

So it's kind of like the sweet spot we're currently in. We get access to a wide range of wearable devices. We are able to pull this all together, generating interoperability for any kind of operated ecosystem via telehealth or even in the fitness space.

So I think there's many of the current trends have given us really good timing for where we are right now. That's what most of our investors also saw in this current round, that the timing is just really great. 

But it's gonna be interesting to see what kind of trends then further down the road we might realize we’ve missed, so let’s check back in a few years!

Which medtech initiative or startup deserves more attention?

Marco: Everything around data science, machine learning, and AI is generating a lot of buzz currently. However, I feel we need to draw more attention to the operators—the providers, those who are actually going to use the data, insights, etc. They’re the ones who know what the end users—the patients—need. 

Sometimes we get too caught up in all the great data and tools to analyze we have and forget about the fact that this still has to be turned into action.That’s the reason we’re more focused on the B2B side because the providers are the ones who have a lot of information we don’t. That’s why we need to turn to providers to assure us that what we do actually is having an impact and is driving change. 

Jonas:  I think there’s a need to kind of draw the spotlight a little bit more towards the operators again—the ones who are actually providing the care to the patient. And then seeing how medtech is empowering them and helping them turn that data—or all these great tools—into action. And that's kind of what we are preaching a lot because, I mean, we are in the same spot. We have this data, we want to provide that data and have an impact, but if we're not able to really go with the operator and understand their experience with the patient and really see how it has to be embedded into the patient experience,then I think we're misleading with a lot of those medtech innovations we are creating. That's why I think there has to be a lot more spotlight on the actual operators and providers in healthcare. 

Where would you put a million dollars?

Jonas: I mean, we are huge fans of wearables, so I would probably take the money and support some other wearable companies out there. As you can see, we have them all on.

It’s just really, really impressive what they do. We do firmly believe that wearable data is going to change the whole healthcare environment because it is really leading the way towards prevention rather than reacting to outcomes when it’s too late, basically.

There’s also some other great companies in the entire interoperability space which are able to plug this all together and make information easily accessible

What's the best advice you've ever received?

Marco: There are three points for me. The basics. Be disciplined. Believe in your team and yourself. And cut through the noise. These three points for us were super important, not just to raise money, but also to build a startup. These words are present throughout our lives.

Jonas: Especially because it’s a kind of combination of personal values. Startup life—and the industry we are in—is really complicated. It’s a lot of pressure. It’s sometimes frustrating, but at the same time it’s the most rewarding experience.

And then being in health tech and fitness tech—that is another kind of environment, which is not easy to understand. There is a lot of noise, there's a lot going on. Regulations changing in each country and state, et cetera. There's so much going on, and I think especially the “cut through the noise” part has helped us so much in personal life as well as in building a group, because it's often about realizing there's so many opinions, so much input. Now, find your own way in all of this and really kind of decide on your best. Which is obviously somehow informed, but it always kind of is aligned with risk, especially in a startup world where you don't have everything figured out. It's been kind of like our mantra to move forward just like: Okay, cut through the noise.”

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