Entrepreneur Ziad Sankari Distinguished At The White House

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As a ‘trep, there might be almost no bigger validation of your success and innovation than having an award presented to you by a head of state, and that validation only increases when your enterprise is based in a highly competitive and developed market. Ziad Sankari, the founder and CEO of CardioDiagnostics, had that honor in May of this year. Speaking at the White House, President Barack Obama discussed “empowering pioneers like Ziad Sankari,” noting how the young entrepreneur had first gone to the U.S. on a Fulbright scholarship and later won a competition that earned him seed funding to develop his invention, a heart-monitoring technology that clips to clothing waistbands. “Today, he is improving the way we respond to cardiac incidents, which will have enormous ramifications not just in places like Lebanon, but potentially all around the world,” the President said, before thanking Sankari for “helping to save lives.”

Founder and CEO of CardioDiagnostics, Ziad Sankari, with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House

And how has being officially applauded by the White House impacted CardioDiagnostics’ business? According to Sankari, demand increased immediately afterward, and the company had to speed up recruitment to keep on top on the new-found consumer demand. “The recognition was a remarkable moment in the progress of CardioDiagnostics. It has raised the bar for us to deliver more and more,” Sankari said. “Although the cardiac industry in general is thought of as mature, our particular segment -wireless cardiac monitoring, long-term off-hospital monitoring- is quite nascent and hungry for innovation. Innovation in technology and business model have been the keys to [our] success in the advanced U.S. market.”   

At the age of 17, Sankari lost his father to heart failure, and that is what first spawned the idea for his invention. “The idea of monitoring patients with heart problems started after the loss of my father in 2003,” he explained. “My education in computer engineering exposed me to the use of technology and modern communication to real-time monitoring of patients. [The] first prototype appeared as part of my final year project in 2007; technology was improved during my graduate education in the USA from 2008-2010. Then, a more advanced prototype appeared in 2011 through Stars of Science, a reality TV program sponsored by the Qatar Foundation. My first endeavor was raising money from Berytech fund and launching CardioDiagnostics in 2013.”

Currently, the largest segment of the company’s business comes from the U.S., followed by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Lebanon, with Sankari adding that the Turkish market is next on the expansion agenda. The company’s devices, currently manufactured in the U.S. are FDA-approved, but at the outset, the biggest challenge faced by CardioDiagnostics was the “access to high-quality standardized manufacturing, which is required to produce a world-class product.” Sankari says that CardioDiagnostics’ innovations are two-fold: “creating a unique technology that allows dummy sensors to turn into lifesaving tools by leveraging the power of real-time analytics and cloud technologies. Our second innovation is building a lean business model to run an otherwise capital-intensive operation.”

As someone who’s extremely interested in the startup space, Sankari says that there has never been a better time to be an entrepreneur. “Never have I read about a period in time that startups and innovation had that much attention,” he said. “Never have we seen that many unicorns being born in [such] a short period of time.”

While he is keen on self-enrichment, he doesn’t necessary believe in the work/life balance debate in the established sense, instead referring to a “work/life integration,” a mixture of social and learning time that he says works well for him as an active ‘trep. A big fan of Elon Musk, Sankari dubs the entrepreneur’s ideas like Tesla and SpaceX as being “very bold and beyond this era. He acts upon his thoughts and dreams.” What about tips for ‘treps looking to successfully penetrate a challenging enterprise space? “Analyze the market carefully, focus on innovation, exceptional customer service is key to success, and find the right partnerships.”