Recently had the chance to interview Spencer Evan Toom, founder of STD Risk Calculator, a mobile app that helps you to determine the chance that you picked up a sexually-transmitted infection (STI). It is very easy to use. Basically, you begin by answering some simple questions about yourself, your sex partner and the specific details of your sexual encounter. Once the App has all the details, it spits out a highly detailed report that shows your chances of getting an STI and/or STD.
Spencer Evan Toom is a 20-year-old entrepreneur and software engineer from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
1. Please provide us with your biography.
Spencer : We are two young software programmers in our early 20s out of Vancouver, BC who have set up a small company for developing applications. We both have experience mostly in the development of traditional web Apps but we’re making a jump into mobile development with this venture.
2. Tell us about your background and role in the company.
Spencer : We are both primarily self-taught, but I have a degree in Computing Science as well. I am mostly responsible for the decision to work on applications related to sexual health. This is partly because I have another degree where I studied this topic extensively and it is of interest to me. But also I believe there is a market for them.
3. What are your main features/service?
Spencer : Our first product is a website (and web-app) with accompanying Android and iOS Apps that all perform the same purpose. Basically, the product (STD Risk Calculator) gives you a highly accurate and personalized risk assessment for STIs (sexually-transmitted infections) based on a totally automated and research-informed analysis of the details of your sexual encounter. So if you had a one night stand, you enter in the details and it gives you exact figures that estimate your chances of the most common sexually-transmitted infections!
4. What makes your website different from other websites competing in your industry?
Spencer : Nobody else has a product even remotely like this. There are products that give you vague metrics for your risk of infection (e.g. low versus high) and even then they do not take into account all of the relevant factors in risk assessment. We do this and we do it for not one (like most other tools) but all the major sexually-transmitted infections. It’s truly the best product on the market in that sense.
5. Tell us more about your website/firm’s success story?
Spencer : Well, not much success to report yet. Our Android apps are just coming to market and the iOS apps are in the pipeline. The website has had a great response as we have begun marketing it and folks are using the STD Risk Calculator every day!
6. What are some of the myths in your field?
Spencer : Nobody seems to have a clue what their risk of infection is. Sexually-transmitted infections vary widely in their infectiousness and how likely you are to get one depends on all sorts of factors. There are many myths about ways to prevent infection and there are misconceptions about what the risks actually are. Perfect opportunity for an App!
7. How do you develop your skills in this continuously changing environment?
Spencer : We are utilizing open-source tools that enable us to develop simultaneously for different markets (Android, iOS and Blackberry) without too much code re-writing. This is essential for a 2-person operation where resources are very limited.
8. What do you see as the future of the industry?
Spencer : I think that the industry is wide open and the market for the types of Apps we are producing is absolutely huge. With time and money we can improve the reliability and depth of our applications but continuing to develop the scientific algorithms that do the magic behind our risk assessment software.
9. What will be the challenges; do you anticipate any drastic changes?
Spencer : There are many challenges. Risk assessment is really a theoretical venture and it is hard to account for all the nuances that might change outcomes. Developing Apps for mobile platforms is sort of crazy as the environment and markets are changing all the time. We are trying to stay up-to-date!
10. Where do you see your company/website in the next 5 years?
Spencer : Hopefully, we’ll still be innovating and in addition to our flagship product, we’ll be working on other similar products that we can springboard into if we are successful.