Inside the head of Adel Mebarki, Managing Director and co-founder of Kap Code
For the 10th and final episode of Season 1 of What Health, we had the pleasure of welcoming Adel Mebarki, co-founder and CEO of Kap Code. Adel is also well known at Future4care, since Kap Code is part of the first batch of startups joining Future4care's accelerated program. In addition to his status as a member, his involvement and presence have turned him into an important figure in the ecosystem.
At Vincent's mic, Adel told us about his career and his vision as an entrepreneur. We also discussed about his passion for transmission and contact, about fake news, and the American dream. Simple and honest portrait of a humble and passionate entrepreneur.
From the desire to focus on general interest matters to the success of Kap Code
After studying engineering and attending business school with a specialization in innovation management, Adel began his career at Gemalto, working in the R&D teams on the development of 4G. It is his thirst for sense and his will to have an impact that pushes him to go towards general interest subjects, and thus turn to Kapa Santé to deal with the marketing of a social network analysis tool for public health. From this first structure, Kap Code was born, with the value proposition that we know of today.
If his mother likes to tell that her son is an inventor, Adel explains the ambition he has through Kap Code: to bring the voice of the patient by watching and analyzing patients' messages day to day and by delivering summaries to health authorities. For the first time, social networks are used as a source of medical information and go beyond the more common uses of brand monitoring.
Founded in 2017, the startup is based on a robust technological foundation, while being composed of a strong medical and scientific dimension. Kap code's mission is simple: it may seem surprising, but there is on an average between 9 and 12 months of delay between two appointments with a health specialist. During this time, patients share their feelings on social networks, express their physical and mental state. As 1/3 of the French population expresses itself on social networks and patient communities are increasingly active, Kap Code collects this public data and analyzes it to convert the usual language into medical ontology.
An analysis of the lifecycle very valuable for health actors such as pharmaceutical laboratories, health authorities, or patient associations. The results provided by Kap Code based on the screening of more than 1.5 million data points, including all languages, are intended to help in the decision-making process.
"We are dealing with public data and therefore this represents very strong ethical stakes, much more than the regulatory dimension. The question we must always be able to answer is: what is the purpose of our data processing, why did we do this analysis? We want to bring the voice of the patient to have an impact on public health" explains Adel.
Fake news, or how an abstract rumor can have a concrete medical impact
Nowadays, we cannot think about social networks without taking into account the dimension of fake news. Already in 2019, 30% of the French acknowledged having already relayed a fake news. And all the harmful and corrosive potential of a fake news was widely tested in 2020 when Covid-19 propagated in the Worldwide.
Adel has decided to make this modern problem of misinformation one of his subjects of expertise. There is an interesting duality between the irrational emotion that is characteristic of rumors and the rationality of his business and the value proposition of Kap Code. "We want to have a pro-active vision towards misinformation by putting science and epidemiology applied to the subject of fake news. If you see misinformation as a crisis communication topic, it's already too late: you have to see information as a virus." Indeed, he explains that the 3 components of fake news are identical to those of a virus: contagiousness, virality, and the notion of propagation.
And facing this threat of propagation, it is necessary to react as one would treat a new virus: "In order not to suffer from fake news, we must bring the rationality of science and epidemiology to the situation. This allows us to take corrective action quickly. People who are exposed to fake news are persuaded: we must therefore act as soon as possible to have the lowest possible disinformation, and thus limit the contagion. To do this, we will not characterize the information or get into the emotional dimension of true or false, we will look at the digital activity around the information and observe the propagation pattern.
When the Covid crises hit in 2020, after just three years of existence for Kap Code, and put 80% of the company's projects at a standstill, Adel and his associates decided not to put the team out of work and to contribute at their own level: via Epilogue, a pro bono initiative, they proposed a mapping of the myriad of data generated every day at that time and analyzed it in favor of research and the common good. This analysis has led to the creation of an algorithm for the early detection of people with suicidal tendencies: "This major intellectual emulation has allowed us to set up a consortium with 17 research projects in partnership with players such as Microsoft and Harvard, and this in an extremely rapid manner" recalls Adel. We put all our energy into it, which enabled us to be funded by the Cohésion de l'Innovation en santé (Health Innovation Cohesion) on the topic of how to consider the patient experience on social networks. We were able to provide insight into the impact of Covid, on the time it takes to book an appointment, and on patient care.
Playing collective, a factor for success and personal fulfilment
This initiative for the common good sums up Adel's philosophy and his vision as an entrepreneur. Kap Code is currently made up of 20 people, including three main types of profiles (data scientists and engineers, a team of medical experts and transversal functions such as marketing, communication and business). Since its creation, the company can proudly claim to have a very low turnover rate within its teams.
When asked about his management style, Adel explains his philosophy, which is based on three main elements: proximity, trust and, finally, the notion of teamwork. "Systematically, I try to privilege the group over individual performance. You can have the best people in the world, but if you don't create a collective spirit, it will not work. A strategy based on the human aspect and the understanding of others, which reflects the character of Adel, who describes himself as a veritable social animal.
His appetite for topics he doesn't have expertise in, his thirst for connection, and his ability to generate links between people are all assets that allow him to feed the passionate person he is. "It comes from my background: when I started in 2013, there was no mentoring, no accelerator, no feedback. And I'm very proud to have made a lot of mistakes because it taught me so much. That's why I want to dedicate 20 and 30 percent of my time throughout the year to sharing."
But all the energy that Adel puts into his daily life cannot be absorbed by his career only: the balance between private and professional life, which is often so fragile when one is an entrepreneur, is essential for Adel who declares himself intransigent on the time he wants to devote to his family. It's all about balance and forming a team with your partner, and he didn't hesitate to take more than a month off work when his second child was born: "You have to have the humility to tell yourself: I'm not indispensable, and I'm lucky enough to be surrounded by an extremely efficient team that I know I can count on". The private circle is also a real source of inspiration for Adel, who confesses to being extremely admiring and inspired by his close circle of friends and family members who evolve in the world of health at strategic positions: "My family circle feeds my professional circle".
And tomorrow: focus on the international market
When asked what his wildest dream would be, Adel answers without hesitation: that Kap Code succeeds and is able to bring its contribution internationally. With a global reach due to the nature of its activity, Kap Code is already starting to export, with nearly 30% of its activity abroad. The crucial transition from startup to scale up is an important growth lever that the company is aiming for very soon, particularly by looking towards the American market where new jurisdictions regarding the acceptability of data in decision-making are being ratified. A project that is far from being incompatible for Adel and his family, who tells us that he fell in love with Boston on his last visit.
As the world continues to be disrupted by new digital uses, data regulations such as the AI Act Europe are being established. This is a positive signal for the medical data sector, reflecting the intention of governments to structure this sector. "When we look at the evolution of research since the launch of Kap Code, even 5 years ago, we were looked at as a UFO. Now, we are no longer challenged on the method, we are no longer asked for proof of what we say. We see an evolution in the practices" says Adel with enthusiasm.
Adel's philosophy for tackling these challenges? Determination and ability to listen. "When people tell me it's impossible, I just stick with it! When we launched the idea, everyone thought that patients were talking nonsense on social networks. In the end, things are moving, even if it took a while. I think that's a characteristic of entrepreneurs: our common element is resilience, the ability to never give up."