Silla Jonsdottir and World Diabetes Day

Interview with Silla Jónsdóttir
CEO of RetinaRisk

Silla Jónsdóttir, CEO, RetinaRisk 2


This year marks 100 years since the discovery of a treatment that has saved millions of lives around the world – insulin. For World Diabetes Day, we're celebrating this incredible breakthrough and the century of life-changing diabetes discoveries it inspired.

We've interviewed Female Founders member Silla Jonsdottir who is the CEO of RetinaRisk, a HealthTech company that is revolutionizing diabetic eye health. In her interview she told us more about her work and her story of becoming the CEO.


Tell us a little bit about your work at RetinaRisk

At RetinaRisk, we’re transforming the future of healthcare, starting with diabetic eye health. Today, millions of people with diabetes are going blind unnecessarily. This we want to change, as vision loss due to diabetes can be prevented in over 90% of cases with early detection and timely treatment. We’ve developed a clinically- validated software solution that accurately calculates individualized risk of sight-threatening diabetic eye disease, based on the patient’s clinical values. With this approach, we ensure that the right patient receives the right care at the right time.

The RetinaRisk app empowers people with diabetes to better understand their condition and motivates them to take the necessary steps to prevent vision loss. Our B2B solution serves doctors and other healthcare providers as a decision support tool to stratify an entire cohort and identify high-risk patients who need more intense care to prevent vision loss - instead of the current one-size-fits all approach. In essence, we’re improving clinical outcomes with personalized care, while also providing a major opportunity to eliminate inefficiencies and wasteful healthcare spending.

RetinaRisk app

Source: RetinaRisk


What inspired you to focus on diabetic eye care?

The number of people with diabetes continues to grow alarmingly around the world. The International Diabetes Federation estimates that the global diabetic population will exceed 700 million by 2045. We want to prevent this becoming an epidemic of blindness by increasing access to diabetic eye screening and making it more efficient and cost-effective. Regular eye screening has proven to be instrumental for early detection and prevention of vision loss, as was first demonstrated here in Iceland decades ago. But today’s methods alone are unsustainable.

With RetinaRisk, we offer a novel and sustainable solution that can double eye screening capacity, while improving clinical outcomes. Our approach will lead to millions of people live healthier lives and save billions of dollars in healthcare costs around the world.


Beyond eye care, what other care improvements would you like to see for diabetes patients?

We believe that algorithms and artificial intelligence for prevention and personalized medicine are the future of healthcare. We’re also witnessing the rise of digital health. Patients are becoming more knowledgeable and active participants in their wellness journey, as health data becomes increasingly available through wearables and other means. The timing for a solution like ours is perfect – a cost-saving technology that also improves clinical outcome for patients and supports healthcare providers in their decision making. With our experienced medical and management team, we’ll continue to introduce new risk calculators, as personalized risk modelling applies to all diabetes complications and other chronic diseases.



Tell us a bit about your personal journey, how did you come to be leading RetinaRisk as CEO?

I’ve always been drawn to novel technologies and the impact they can have to enrich our lives. During my 20 years at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, I was heavily involved in strategic analysis, future thinking, and innovation, which directed me towards the startup world three years ago. My grandfather had type 2 diabetes and experienced vision loss and amputation, which made a huge impact on me as a child. So, when I was approached by the founders of RetinaRisk to participate in their journey to improve the lives of people with diabetes thru personalized care based on individualized risk assessment, I didn’t need to think twice.

Since I joined RetinaRisk, we’ve put three products on the market, including our ground-breaking app, that has been downloaded by nearly a million individuals in 175 countries, and the two RetinaRisk B2B solutions that are being used by healthcare providers in five continents. Knowing that we’re helping millions of people with diabetes live healthier lives motivates me and my team constantly, as we meet the challenges of the fast-evolving healthcare world.



What is the best piece of advice you can offer to other entrepreneurs following in your footsteps?

Building a company in these demanding times is probably one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Every day there are new things to discover and new ideas to embrace but also, at times, lots of obstacles. My principal advice would be to arm yourself with lots of patience, persistence, and resilience. At the same time, I would remind everybody to enjoy the ride and savor every step of the journey. As in life, every period and stage have its own charm and challenges!

- Silla

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January 1, 2024 5:00 AM