Founder Origin Story Matt Shields

Matt’s journey from the Space Science to Healthcare

ORIGIN STORY – Matt Shields

The concept of “supply” can be examined in several ways – but at its core, it connects a product/service with a recipient in a timely fashion. For Pentalym founder Matt Shields, this balancing act has always been a lifelong obsession – initially as a CSIRO project engineer overseeing the lifecycle of millions of telescope components for the launch (and ongoing maintenance) of Australia’s ASKAP radio telescope project in 2012.

But it was his own personal experience that helped him learn the real importance of supply chain technology. You might even say it’s a subject close to his heart.

Under Attack

Engineers love tools. For Matt, he spent many years tinkering with state-of-the-art tools at the CSIRO’s cutting edge – from soldering irons and circuit boards to the innovative hardware tracking tools that he pioneered for ASKAP. Outside the lab, Matt was also familiar with the tools of an elite athlete – for his bike or other outdoor pursuits. But it was while out running one innocent winter morning at precisely 7am in 2016, that he suddenly needed a tool he’d never given any thought to in all his 40 years. A tool that would mean the difference between life and death.

They call it a ‘widow maker’ heart attack – medically known as an ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI). Essentially, it’s the worst kind of heart attack you can have, where a major artery of the heart is completely blocked. On that day, Matt’s heart experienced a sudden STEMI event – and the chances of survival were slim. You see, it becomes a race against time, as many of the billions of purpose-built cardiac muscle cells within the human heart start to irreversibly die off. That’s millions of cells every second.

The cruel irony for Matt was that while he had mastered the art of supply chains on one of the most complex projects in Australian engineering history, it was a breakdown in the vital supply chain within his body that threatened to end him. Yet, he was lucky. It took 112 minutes, but the blockage was removed. All thanks to the help of his medical team and the availability of the right ‘stent’ – a tool that treats blocked coronary arteries. A tool that saves lives.

Hearts and Minds

As you’d expect, this life-and-death experience dramatically reshaped Matt’s thinking. In particular, one thing played on his mind during his recovery. You see, engineers are not big fans of the concept of “luck”. For people like Matt Shields, it’s all about having the right system in place – built to mitigate any issues that might arise.

After seeing first-hand just how important connecting the right tools with the situation was, he committed to use his engineering skills to save more lives. In particular, he wanted to take “luck” out of the equation for healthcare professionals – by making the supply chain process more efficient.

Time is a key component to any supply chain, and it had defined Matt’s professional and sporting life up until that point. But for 112 long minutes, he was at the mercy of a system that needed the right equipment to be on hand for the right patient. He knew his case was not isolated – in fact, Cardiovascular Disease is the leading cause of death in the world. Not simply top 10. It breaks the tape. The leader. And he could do something about it.

Feeling that he had been given a second chance at life, he sought about giving his original supply chain hardware tracking model a second life too. By swapping the solar system for the healthcare system, he adapted the technology from a single bespoke project to millions of manufacturers and healthcare locations across the planet. The aim was to provide a real-time snapshot of not just the range of lifesaving stents, but any number of vital medical equipment.

Using the expertise and technology on hand at CSIRO, Matt secured funding and created the software that became the “MyLM” app. As a 24/7 inventory tracker, it made managing all aspects of medical supply chains much easier, but most importantly it made it much faster to connect critical equipment with the people who need it. Saving lives, by reducing time and reducing luck.

The Next Stage

For Matt Shields, finding a new lease of life for his supply chain technology paralleled his own journey – as he sought to recover from his “broken heart” by returning to his adventuring ways. He trekked New Zealand’s rugged Southern Alps, as well as competing in one of the world’s toughest bike stage races – every new milestone not only rebuilding his confidence but also helping him to spread the word about heart health.

Finding a hospital group to trial the software was an exciting achievement – much like completing the first stage in a bold new adventure race. Standing on top of the ‘summit’, it was now possible to see the road ahead. A road that creates better patient outcomes through better systems.

And more exciting still is the next ‘stage’ of this journey – as Matt steps away from the CSIRO to take his app to new areas as a genuine startup venture. Rebranded as “Pentalym”, Matt and his team are bringing supply chain technology to all new sectors.

On reflecting on the evolution of Pentalym to date, what started simply as a tool to provide the “ones and zeros” of hardware tracking, along the way has become so much more. You might say that it has mirrored Matt’s own life-changing experience – an app, which like him, now has a stronger heart. Ready to make a difference to as many areas as possible, across the planet and beyond!

So people say what we've done is a paradigm shift. What happened by chance is we put two very different industries together and came up with revolutionary way of doing something new!

Matt Shields, Founder and CEO, Tracksoft