Two young entrepreneurs from Tulsa, Oklahoma have a lot of skin in the game (literally) when it comes to growing their startup and moving to Atlanta this summer.
Dani Marques and Julian Abhari launched Skin Check as an app that scans photos of skin moles and track changes to moles for potential cancer risks. The platform not only serves as an archive for a user’s own moles, but it also educates users on skin cancer and proper detection techniques.
While the app does not provide medical advice or diagnosis concerning skin areas, it can give users a better sense as to whether they should consult their doctor.
The app has grown a lot since first launching in the app store in 2019. As of last week, the app has had well over 64,000 users and has scanned over 800,000 moles.
Skin Check Comes To Atlanta
The Skin Check team’s next step of startup growth is bringing them to Atlanta. In partnership with the National Science Foundation, the Skin Check team will be spending this summer at Georgia State University doing research on how computer vision and machine learning can help detect dangerous skin cancer right from someone’s phone.
It was Georgia State University’s computer vision and machine learning research that attracted the team to Atlanta.
“As you can imagine, this problem exists in skin cancer detection, which compromises the accuracy of all ML-based skin cancer detection algorithms for people of color,’ the Skin Check team told Hypepotamus. “Due to systemic racism, most datasets are racially homogeneous, and this is especially true for skin cancer datasets, which reflect predominantly Caucasian communities.”
The team is working to “invent a way to mitigate that bias and create a solution that would be accurate and accessible for everyone,” they added.
Get To Know The Team
Marques and Abhari have been friends since high school, though they pursued very different educational paths in college. Abhari is working on his undergraduate degrees in Computer Science and Cybersecurity while Marques studied finance.
The app is personal for Abhari, who watched his mom battle skin cancer multiple times. He’s been working on building the product since high school, Abhari said he has been drawn to using AI to create “something that could provide a necessary good for the world.”
Early on, a prototype version of the app helped Abhari’s high school English teacher detect Basal Cell Carcinoma. During college, Skin Check gained even more momentum with a win at The University of Tulsa’s Research Colloquium, a competition among PhD, graduate, and undergraduate students.
Marques started his professional career in the world of venture capital with the University Investment Fellowship.
“It was that early exposure that showed me what I could be capable of. In Oklahoma, there is not much of a startup or VC scene; it is in a very early stage. Working with peers in schools such as Yale and Duke showed me that nothing was impossible,” he added. “During that experience, I was working on my first MedTech startup, leading the commercialization efforts, and went on to work in banking for a year to pay the bills. Later on, I worked at a VC-backed startup in Miami and founded Sky Ventures, the first student-led incubator and venture fund in Oklahoma.”
It was through Sky Ventures that Marques and Abhari reunited, as Abhari went through the first cohort of the Sky Ventures incubator with Skin Check. Now as co-founders, Marques and Abhari are dedicated to bringing Skin Check to more people. The team is currently working on raising its first round of financing.
“Our main goal for this summer is to continue improving the accuracy of our AI and developing brand-new technology that allows it to be accessible to everyone, including people with skin of color. To achieve this and mitigate racial biases that persist in every corner of AI, we’re utilizing our breakthrough technology, which is currently protected by a provisional patent filled this summer,” the team added. “That way, deploying our racially unbiased detector to our user base of over 64 thousand people. Additionally, we look forward to a medical publication and to continue growing our user base significantly. Living up to our mission to truly democratize access to early skin cancer detection, offering an accessible, innovative, and unbiased solution to everyone.”