Machine Learning to Improve the Detection of Skin Ailments for the Masses

Meet Harsh Shah, an ENTR alum and entrepreneur who applies his expertise in engineering and business to improving healthcare. After earning his Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue in 2013, Harsh went on to work for big automakers including General Motors, Tesla and Volvo. Exposure to Python, VBA and MATLAB sparked his love for programming, which led him to enroll in a Machine Learning program at Cornell University. There, he learned about object detection, which is a computer vision technique that allows us to identify and locate objects in images or videos,  and decided to apply this to healthcare and make an impact on society.  

Photograph: Harsh Shah

Harsh moved to Canada shortly after finishing his program at Cornell. He quickly discovered the Canadian population of 3.6 million was severely lacking with only 200 dermatologists, thus leading to a 3 month waiting list. Harsh recognized that people needed a faster way to diagnose skin ailments, especially given that most are visible to the naked eye. His solution was a smartphone app, which would use the camera and object detection to diagnose the ailment. At the time, there were only a handful of companies serving dermatologists and these used high-end cameras and powerful computing systems to perform this type of function.  

Given that existing diagnostic tools were not accessible to patients, Harsh created Skin CheckUp (, an app that allows for the early detection of skin conditions in the comfort of one’s home and free of charge. After the app proposes a preliminary diagnosis, patients have the option of exploring treatment through either telemedicine or in-clinic consultations. It also has a feature called ‘Skin Tracker’, which monitors the severity of the condition over time. The venture generates revenues through subscriptions and commissions based on referrals to dermatologists. 

Harsh states that early detection through the app helps patients expedite treatment leading to faster relief. He designed the entire platform himself, using machine learning models from Apple’s architecture and relying on Harvard University’s HAM database and other sources. He worked with a doctor from the University of Toronto on his prototype but would like to expand his company further by gathering more expert feedback from physicians to enhance the accuracy and reliability of the diagnosis results.  

The app is in the process of obtaining regulatory approval. Harsh is also exploring marketing strategies to expand his reach. The company is currently in the pre-seed stage, and he is working to get access to an accelerator program or angel investors to obtain funding necessary to move the venture forward. 

Harsh is a strong proponent of Purdue’s Certificate in Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program. He was inspired by Steve Jobs, which motivated him to enroll in ENTR 20000. He reports that instructor Mike Cassidy has been highly influential in his entrepreneurial journey. Mike’s approach to financial modeling was pivotal to Harsh understanding the type of business model he wants for his app, what he needs from investors, and what revenue and profit might look like. He also credits Mike for teaching him the importance of having an exit strategy in place and knowing how to assess where a venture stands relative to its competition.  

Harsh adds that the ENTR program taught him how to put together an effective pitch and appealing website, both of which are critical in marketing. He learned about intellectual property and patents through the ENTR program, which turned out to be extremely useful as he developed his app. His experience dealing with people from diverse backgrounds as part of ENTR course projects also helps him work with people from all walks of life. The combination of these factors has made Harsh more confident in approaching investors. 

Harsh recommends that more Boilermakers capitalize on the exciting opportunities provided through the Certificate in Entrepreneurship and Innovation. He suggests that even today’s social media influencers can benefit from learning about entrepreneurship. He advises students to join with an open mind and make the most of the experience. Encountering hurdles and roadblocks in the process of working through team projects will make them more resilient. He also advises students to approach ENTR instructors for advice.