The story about Safeture

Lars’s frustration became the starting point for Safeture

Lars’s telephone rang with a strong tone. On the other line was Harriet Wallberg, Provost at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.

– We want you and eleven other medical researchers to travel to China and Hong Kong on behalf of the Swedish Medical Research Council (VR).

The purpose of the trip was to inform about ongoing medical research financed by VR at selected leading university hospitals in mainland China and Hong Kong. Lars accepted Harriet’s request and later got on a plane headed to China.

Before the departure, one of the professors had heard rumors about a strange lung infection going around in the area. To get some answers to her questions, the professor contacted the council general in Shenzhen to hear their response. They answered that they had no facts to share, leaving the medical researchers uninformed about the evolving situation.  

A few more days passed, and Lars and the team visited hospitals that all were at the epicenter of a new, emerging disease. However, no information was provided by the Chinese government or any other official from China. After a few weeks, the medical researchers flew back to Sweden, still unaware they had been in the middle of an emerging epidemic.

Upon his return to Sweden, Lars went to a birthday party to celebrate one of his grandchildren. While there, his youngest grandchild was the first to tell him the news about a deadly epidemic infection. The year was 2003, and Lars had unknowingly experienced the beginning of SARS

– How absurd, Lars thought to himself. I just got more information from my grandchild than I did as a professor of medicine visiting the central hospital inside the area of the initial spread. 

About a year after the SARS epidemic, Lars was reminded of the issues with poor access to disaster information during an emergency. This time, it was the Indian Ocean tsunami that washed over many countries in Southeast Asia. At that time, Lars was the head of the Orthopedic Department in Lund. As part of the disaster relief, he sent a group of trauma and anesthesiology doctors to Thailand to help bring home injured Swedes.

Throughout this experience, Lars was told terrifying stories by the returning doctors. The situation was chaotic, and some scenes could have been taken from a horror movie with destruction wherever you looked.

This time, Lars experienced new aspects of the same issues with poor disaster information. The most prominent ones were the lack of ability to coordinate and localize the injured as they were spread out at various hospitals. With the mobile phone carried by every tourist, there should be a possibility to communicate and locate the injured, Lars thought to himself.

A few years after the tsunami, Lars faced another terrible disaster.  What started as a warm November day in Mumbai later ended up in complete terror. But let us rewind a bit at first. It was 2008, and Lars led a conference in India on the burden of musculoskeletal conditions with over 200 orthopedic surgeons and rheumatologists. In the late night, the same day as his arrival, Lars got a phone call that changed everything in the blink of an eye.

– Have you heard the news, Lars?  

– No. What do you mean?  

– There are terrorists attacking several sites in Mumbai right now. Are you safe?  

Lars froze for a couple of seconds.  

The terrorists were attacking maternity wards, coffee shops, and hotels. Grusesome killings were made. 

– Aren’t some of the surgeons staying at the same hotel as one of the most recent attacks, Lars thought to himself.

He was right. Four people from the American Academy of orthopedic surgeons stayed at the hotel during the actual attack. Despite all odds, they were able to escape the building under fire via the cellar five hours after the start of the attack. 

They closed the conference early and the participants took a plane home, still in shock after what they all had experienced. After having had some time to reflect on what Lars had just been through, and with the two previous experiences with SARS and the Indian Ocean tsunamis in the back of his mind, Lars said to himself: “I need to start something”.

He was shocked by the significant lack of disaster information during all three events. However, Lars decided that we were not to sit around doing nothing. Instead, his frustration translated into something productive and became the starting point for Safeture. 

A technical idea was put on paper in a simple algorithm, and a patent application was submitted, and later, approved.

Turning his idea into reality would require special technical expertise. Something that he lacked himself. When talking to his son about this company idea and the need for technical skills to turn it into reality, the name Andreas Rodman, came up. Andreas was a friend of Lars’s son and a skilled engineer with lots of innovative ideas who he had turned into companies throughout the years. 

When Andreas got the request from Lars to become co-founder and CEO and to take on the challenge of building a technical solution to his idea, Andreas’ first instinct was yes, so that also became his reply. Lars’s request came at just the right point in time. Andreas had just sold his most recent company and was ready to jump on board a new adventure.  

The months ahead, Rodman spent in a basement in Lund, writing code, talking to potential customers, and developing the foundation for today’s Safeture. The start of the company was not very glamorous, perhaps, but filled with much passion and determination. In 2009, that mindset and grit resulted in the launch of Global Warning System – what today is Safeture. 

See the video with Andreas Rodman and Lars Lidgren discussing the start of Safeture.

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