By Jacob Baynham
When Kristi Zuhlke was a marketing and entrepreneurship student at Xavier, she couldn’t wait until graduation to start her own business. So she didn’t. During her sophomore year, she and two classmates pooled their resources, business knowledge and free time and opened FliX, a video rental store on campus. It was Xavier’s first student-owned and operated business. Two years later, she walked into a job at Procter & Gamble with a belief in herself and some leeway to innovate within the brands she was assigned. After a few years, though, her entrepreneurial spirit grew restless.
“I was starting to really get the itch to start my own business,” she says, “and I knew the timing was right.”
So Zuhlke consulted the notebook of business ideas she began keeping at Xavier and found the one she felt most passionate about: a phone app that helps detect signs of melanoma. It’s a personal passion for Zuhlke, whose husband fought the cancer. “He’ll never be in the clear,” says Zuhlke. She tried to keep track of his moles but quickly realized she could use some help. “I can’t remember where I put my keys let alone if his mole had changed from a month ago,” she says. Zuhlke talked to a programmer at MIT, and together they created Mole Detective, an app that analyzes photographs of moles to detect the symptoms of melanoma.
Users pinpoint the location of their mole on an anatomical diagram. Then they measure and photograph the mole with their phone’s camera. The app analyzes the picture and delivers its verdict. Whatever the conclusion, users are encouraged to schedule regular checkups, and the app lists nearby dermatologists. The app, which sells for $4.99, has received positive reviews from dermatologists, and from Shape and Glamour magazines. But it’s the testimonials of people who have used the app to detect problems early that mean the most to Zuhlke. “That’s been the rewarding part of this,” she says. “I’d really like to continue to develop tools that help people monitor their health.”