Two AU med school grads develop popular app for medical students

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While still in med school, Thomas Emmanuel and Mikkel Bo Brent had a bright idea. Here four years later, they’re running a successful business – with six popular apps, 18,000 downloads and ‘entrepreneurship’ on their CVs.

2019.03.21 | Lene Ravn

QuizLab’s quiz apps were originally designed for med students, but Emmanuel (to the left) and Brent have since discovered that the quizzes are popular among users from a variety of subjects: today, they have users who are studying sport science, biology, odontology, audiology, molecular medicine, occupational therapy and physical therapy. Photo: Lene Ravn

Theme: Businesses born at AU

AU wants an ‘entrepreneur factory’. And a working group has come up with a proposal that the senior management team will consider in the near future.

In this series, you can meet the people behind four startups, all started by AU students who couldn’t wait until after their last exam to embark on their entrepreneurial adventures.  

They’ll be taking turns telling us about the journey from concept to managing director, why they chose that path and in some cases, what it has cost them.

READ MORE: AU needs an entrepreneur factory

READ MORE: Two AU med school grads develop popular app for medical students

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Aarhus Student Incubator

QuizLab.

Translation: Lenore Messick.

Thomas Emmanuel and Mikkel Bo Brent started medical school a little over seven years ago. And as they quickly discovered, the amount of reading was overwhelming. And every sentence had to be committed to memory: you were expected to transform your brain into a living encyclopedia of every subject you studied: human anatomy, pathology... And there was only one way to do that: Read the book again. And again. 

At least until Emmanueland Brent’s seventh semester, when they decided to create another option themselves. So they dove into their textbooks once again – this time to create an app for med students that lets them take quizzes to test their knowledge.   

“And yes, it’s taken a little while to write the questions,” Emmanuel says modestly. 

Today there are over 10,000 questions on six different apps produced by their company, QuizLab. 

The secret of our success? 

Their strategy is hard work. For each app, the two young doctors started with a textbook, boiled down the most important material for med students to master and then reworked the material as a series of multiple choice questions. 

“You know, we aren’t the only people who’ve done a quiz app, so sometimes we’ve also wondered why we in particular have been so successful at it,” Brent muses. His explanation?

“I think we’ve managed to create precisely the content the users need – in other words, we’ve found the right questions.”

It’s also been an advantage that they’re familiar with the syllabus both as former med students and as instructors on some of the courses. 

The process of creating QuizLab has also benefitted them as doctors:

“It’s definitely deepened our medical knowledge. We’ve been through the syllabus several times now, and we take the quizzes once in a while ourselves,” Brent says.

Photo: Quizlab

Health scores low on entrepreneurship  

The AU Incubator is where all aspiring AU student entrepreneurs with a good idea can go for advice, office space and other kinds of help. But there is a lot of variation in how popular the service is among students at each of the four faculties: the majority of student entrepreneurs come from Aarhus BSS (62%), while Health has the fewest (16%).

Perhaps the small proportion of entrepreneurs from Health helps to explain why Emmanuel and Brent weren’t aware of the AU Incubator to begin with.

“We had no idea that it was a possibility for the first 18 months, so it was kind of a tough start for us,” Brent remembers.

They had to find the solutions to problems themselves, and that went fine, basically. But nonetheless, they were – and still are – grateful for a spot at the incubator, where they still have office space today, even though they’ve graduated.

The most important aspect here is the network it gives them. And the enthusiasm.

“It’s made me believe that what we have can be big. It’s really inspiring to see some of the others succeed,” Emmanuel says.

There have been times when they’ve worked on QuizLab for 50 or 60 hours a week. “We’ve spent evenings, weekends and summer vacations on it,” Brent says. 

Photo: Quizlab

Maybe the lawyers can play too

Their advice to others is to take the leap if you have a solid idea, and it’s smart to do it with a partner:

“I’m so lucky to have Mikkel, because it can be really tough to go through this. And you can do a lot more if you have someone to work with,” says Emmanuel, and adds:

“We don’t have that much group work in the medical programme. If you had to study alone and work here alone, then you sure would get plenty of time to yourself.”

They can always ping-pong ideas off each other, and they do so frequently: 

“That’s really good, because otherwise there would never have been an app,” Emmanuel laughs. 

In April, he will start his basic clinical training at the endocrinology department at Aalborg University Hospital, where he will be working with hormonal and metabolic disorders. While Brent will be starting a PhD project on preventive treatment of osteoporosis at AU in February.

But this doesn’t mean that QuizLab will gather dust: 

“A lot of people are saying that QuizLab would be perfect for law or another subject,” says Emmanuel. And as he knows from experience:

“And there are always things to improve.”

Photo: Quizlab

Theme: Businesses born at AU

AU wants an ‘entrepreneur factory’. And a working group has come up with a proposal that the senior management team will consider in the near future.

In this series, you can meet the people behind four startups, all started by AU students who couldn’t wait until after their last exam to embark on their entrepreneurial adventures.  

They’ll be taking turns telling us about the journey from concept to managing director, why they chose that path and in some cases, what it has cost them.

READ MORE: AU needs an entrepreneur factory

READ MORE: Two young astrophysicists started a company in a WW II barracks at AU, went viral and ended up on national television

Aarhus Student Incubator

QuizLab

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