CAREER GUIDE

No more career headaches

How Markus Dahlem took advantage of a government stipend to build his migraine tracking app.
Andrew Curry is a journalist in Berlin.

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Stefan Greiner and Markus Dahlem smile while looking at a mobile phone.

Stefan Greiner and Markus Dahlem

The iPhone didn't even exist when Markus Dahlem wrote his first business plan in 2004. But the migraine researcher still thought that there might be a market for predictive algorithms that could help migraine sufferers to tame their crippling headaches.

Dahlem, a theoretical physicist by training, wound up shelving the idea. However, by 2015, his academic career had stalled.

That’s when he got a call asking whether he’d be interested in working on a migraine-tracking start-up firm. “I didn’t think about staying in academia for a split second. Nowadays, it’s a start-up that can change the world and have an impact on society,” he says. “With the advent of digital health, I felt like it was the right time to start with the app.”

He left his guest-researcher position at the Humboldt University of Berlin to co-found Newsenselab, the Berlin-based company behind the M-sense migraine-tracking app. He and his co-founders were awarded a business start-up grant to help them get off the ground. The stipend helped Dahlem to support his family while getting the app into shape. “That soft transition was needed for me as an academic,” Dahlem says. “My co-founders were 15 years younger and single, but I had my family to pay for.”

Newsenselab has since received two rounds of seed funding. Dahlem still lives in Berlin, close to his former colleagues and research network. “At the end of the day, it’s more about what you want,” Dahlem says.

Nature 567, S65 (2019)

doi: 10.1038/d41586-019-00924-1

This article is part of Nature Career Guide: Germany, an editorially independent supplement. Advertisers have no influence over the content.

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