Alex Haslehurst, Co-Founder at Musculoskeletal Health Startup: Vitrue Health

Vitrue is a musculoskeletal health startup that I launched in 2018 with my co-founder Shane Lowe. Our aim is to empower clinicians with the tools they need to improve musculoskeletal assessments and diagnoses.

We’ve pooled our combined expertise in engineering and physiotherapy to build cutting-edge clinical, biomechanics and motion capture technology, which accurately tracks and measures patients’ movements during physiotherapy assessments. The tech is making diagnosing and treating musculoskeletal conditions far easier for clinicians, and is making it easier for patients to track and engage with their own progress over the course of treatment.

We’ve also built a tool tailored specifically to making working from home safer. Using the same motion capture technology – this time via your laptop’s webcam – we’ve built an AI programme that assesses your desk set-up and suggests simple improvements to make your space healthier and more ergonomic. It will measure things like the height and distance between your eyes and your laptop screen, the level of natural light in the room, and your seated weight distribution.

It will then produce a bespoke report outlining practical tips and exercises to optimise your set-up for productivity and good posture.

As we continue to work from home in the long term, it’s essential that we start to take better care of our bodies. Our aim with our new VIDA tool is to make it as easy as possible for people to do that.
Vitrue Health - Crista Galli Ventures

How did you come up with the idea for the company?

I studied Mechanical Engineering at Cambridge University, and that’s where I first became interested in biomechanics. I was fascinated with the complexity of the human body and the new technologies that were being developed to analyse this complexity.

After university, I worked at a blood diagnostics startup, and realised that I could combine my mechanical and biomedical engineering expertise to make a real difference in the healthcare sector.

I knew that musculoskeletal healthcare was still relying on eyesight to diagnose patients: the technology to deliver accurate diagnosis and to track treatment just didn’t exist. So, after meeting my co-founder Shane, we embarked on a joint project to build the first quantitative diagnostic tool for musculoskeletal healthcare.

The tech was extremely well received by physiotherapists and patients, which motivated us to continue to grow Vitrue. In the two years since launching, we’ve worked to refine our diagnostic tools and develop more advanced technology. We’ve also built some brilliant relationships with physiotherapists, elite sports coaches and AI experts, allowing us to tailor our technology so that it really makes a difference to users’ lives.


How has your background in engineering helped you build your startup?

The wealth of knowledge and experience I built throughout my academic studies – and later on through my professional experience in the Engineering sector – laid the foundations on which Vitrue’s technology was developed.

Both my co-founder (also an engineer) and I have previously worked on an array of projects in the crossover between health, technology and engineering, and so launching our own venture seemed like a natural progression. We knew how to go about planning and executing our ideas, and we had an understanding of every technical detail of the product we wanted to bring to market. While it’s obviously not impossible to do without an engineering background, being able to develop the initial product ourselves was a huge boost in securing investment and pursuing our goals.

Perhaps most importantly, an engineering background has helped us put a data driven, scientific approach in every aspect of the business. Engineers are taught to be problem solvers, to pay close attention to detail, and to always seek out improvements to processes and technologies. Those are qualities that have now been adopted by every member of the Vitrue team, and which have been invaluable in our development and continued growth.

What advice would you give to other aspiring female entrepreneurs?

In the workplace, women often put pressure on themselves to be ‘non-threatening’ and ‘likable’ in a way that men rarely do. This means that women are more likely to compromise, to avoid risk and to diffuse confrontation.

However, if you want to succeed as an entrepreneur, you have to accept that your job is not to keep everyone happy. Your job is to pursue your company’s goals, and to use your own unique skills and experience to build your business and achieve the company’s mission. This takes a bit of practice and a good dose of self-confidence, but the fantastic thing is that being a startup founder pushes you into developing these skills. Whether it’s pitching to a boardroom of investors or a conference hall of customers or setting product priorities when you are not holding yourself back or worrying too much about opinions it’s an incredibly refreshing feeling.

By knowing that you deserve the same respect as others, and that you know what you’re talking about, you’ll make others see it too. This mantra has been really important to me throughout my life, because as a female engineer I have often been in the minority. It was by putting myself in difficult positions that I developed the self-confidence that has made me a better entrepreneur.

What can we hope to see from Vitrue in the future?

If you look at most areas of healthcare, a lot of the excitement is around predictive diagnosis or moving towards more preventative models. That hasn’t necessarily been the case in musculoskeletal healthcare: we haven’t given clinicians like physiotherapists or orthopaedic surgeons the tools to do it.

Vitrue’s technology is providing massive value to patients right now, but it’s also creating something that has never existed before: an accurate and broad dataset describing the musculoskeletal health of tens of thousands of people whether in clinical settings or at their desk. That dataset can provide the foundation for a shift to predictive and preventative care for the entire musculoskeletal healthcare industry.

We are working hard to continue to improve our diagnostic assessment software so that physiotherapists can secure an even greater understanding of their patient’s treatment needs.

Looking ahead, we are adding lots of new functionality and features to our existing tools, and to roll out entirely new ones in the not-too-distant future.

Finally, we are looking forward to working with employers to support the new generation of WFH professionals. We’re already supporting several major companies to carry out remote desk assessments with our new VIDA tool, and it’s incredibly rewarding to see how it’s helping their employees create happier, healthier working environments. We hope that, by continuing to advance our mission to democratise access to AI technology in musculoskeletal healthcare, we can build a better WFH future for everyone!