Recently, we talked to the founders of digital health companies and found out what motivates them and helps them overcome obstacles.
After all, as our friend Karl said, if I wake up with the thought that I need to finish this working day as soon as possible, then this work is not for me.
Indeed, most startup founders don’t follow more money, but interest and passion. And in the health industry, this is especially pronounced due to the high moral aspect in the form of helping people who really need it.
Therefore, the first two questions that we asked were related to the reason for being a startup founder and the choice of the health industry.
Why did you decide to become a startup founder?
“Sometimes it happens that I seem to be immersed in the daily routine and work becomes not the main plot of my life. I lose meaning, then interest, and eventually productivity”, said one of our partners, who came to the conclusion that only real challenges seem to awaken him and bring him back to life.
Remember childhood? When every day was something new, because there was so much we didn’t know yet. Our marketer said that they remember the surprise of the existence of IR-port/Bluetooth on the old phone. And he feels a similar way only when the company takes on the scaling of a product with a very complex but interesting product/market fit.
Because after the first accelerators passed, the creation of an MVP and the search for investors further, it may seem that the further development of the product is not as driving as its initial development. Well, unless, of course, you free your head from thinking over the future of the company, but are engaged in routine, then it may be so.
We ourselves, working with the Swedish company Allbry and taking over the development and UX / UI of the scalable platform for ourselves, helped with product ideas. You could say, ideas from our side were even essential things.
Thanks to this, a lot of workloads flew off the shoulders of our friends, and the process of finding customers and partners became easier. Therefore, the implementation of challenges only accelerated.
Because when a startup has a small team and little time, then the development process on one shoulder will have a bad effect on monitoring the market and thinking through the company’s development.
Haris, CTO and Co-founder of Allbry just told us an important story: as the son of a doctor and a penal colony employee, he was raised to always help others. So when CEO Cem approached him with the idea of building a platform for student health, it wasn’t hard for Haris to join.
By the way, here you can see the statistical results of the answers to this question. And, as we can see, the love for challenges and the lifestyle of a startup founder is a regularity. But the moral aspect closely echoes the next question.
Why did you decide to connect your life with the health industry?
And here the experience of founders is closely related to a real desire to help people. The thing is that when we give something, we experience greater satisfaction than when we receive something.
This was confirmed in the study by Laurie Santos, professor of psychology at Yale University. We all actually get inner satisfaction from acts of altruism, and the health industry gives a wide scope for feeling happy.
One of our employees even said that they work in digital health because of a dream that fewer people get sick. They are inspired by the fact that they can help people live better because nothing in life is more important than health.
Speaking of founders, Alexandra Assouad, CEO & Co-Founder at Mind-Easy, shared her reasons with us: “Access to healthcare was a problem for me and my co-founders. It was a very personal frustration that drove us to build our own solution. We made it our life’s mission to optimize human adaptability and make cultural competence a minimum standard in mental health care”.
In other words, in some cases, our own negative experience and the desire to correct it for other people play a role. Other times, we just love doing things that make us happier. The survey confirms this.
But what does not make us happy is the barriers. Although in some cases we enjoy them too because this is a challenge 🙂
What barriers have you seen (or are you seeing now) for your startup?
We let Haris, CTO and Co-founder of Allbry, speak again here: “I would argue that having a secure, GDPR-friendly platform can be a barrier initially. However, this was only at the beginning.
Now that’s integration. Many customers have very different decisions about how they can integrate with our product, so often we have to create edge cases solutions that will work with a very small number of customers.
However, all of the things mentioned aren’t really barriers, they’re part of an agile way of working and just tackling the problems and building a good scalable solution that everyone can eventually use. Because sooner or later we will have everything we need, and even more!”
Matthew Bradley, Entrepreneur & Associate Director at Tech Canal, noted that the barriers for him were the challenge to hire a good product team quickly, searching for a co-founder of a startup, and the lack of people resources.
And in the statistics, we saw similar answers. Let’s uncover them.
The first barrier is related to the fact that everyone needs human resources and time. After all, in order to achieve success and a product/market fit, you need to be very flexible and iterate a lot. Therefore, the question arises of human capital and how to find it faster.
Putting together a team from scratch is simply expensive. And it’s not just about the prices for each individual developer, UX designer, and project manager. The problem is that you will have to spend time searching for each specialist individually, making sure of their experience, and still someone will be missed during development.
After all, you won’t be able to assemble the entire team in one day, a week, or even a month. Most likely, you will have to start the development with those who are already on the team, but at the same time harass the rest and slow down development due to the lack of a full set of the team.
Secondly, with a small team, you will definitely make an MVP, but when you have to scale it up in the face of risks that big competitors can steal your idea, you will have to remember “the firstly” again.
And thirdly, often the idea is not enough, and some of the investors may not like the MVP. From experience, we say that usually investors are interested in these points:
– whether the product can be scaled;
– whether there are first sales of the product;
– the experience of the founders (or reasons why they can do it).
And what skills helped the founders to overcome all the barriers?
What skills do you think a health entrepreneur needs most?
Peter Yaron, BioMorphik Co-Founder, noted that the founder should be able to find niches and pain points in the market and establish connections with investors, which is key because it seems like people who receive funding are more often well-connected rather than have a useful or innovative product or idea.
Georgi Urumov, Co-Founder & CTO at Mentalyc, shared with us: any kind of successful entrepreneur requires a good understanding of your user base, their needs, problems, and even daily life. A health entrepreneur needs to have those and a lot of compassion. I believe that we do what we do more out of a wish to help rather than because of an ambition to be successful businessmen.
And a frequent guest in our articles and one of our most beloved partners, Haris, said that you would need insight into the industry, which is indeed such an important thing. As for us, CEO Cem was a counselor before and he knew what was missing in the schools, he knew the industry language and how the processes were handled. Without this type of insight, it’s impossible to know what you are actually building.
Georgi’s opinion reflects the already mentioned moral aspect, Peter noted important product and communication skills, and Haris highlighted deep knowledge of the industry. But there are other things noted in the survey as well. Well, let’s take a last look at our statistics.
In the first place, we have probably the most difficult soft skill of all mentioned — systems thinking.
To take everything into account, understand all the patterns and keep in mind all possible strategic steps seems to be a fairly simple thing in theory. But in practice, founders master this skill with great diligence and strong luck for at least a year, because it is a shift of thinking.
In second place is the well-known team management.
We have all heard about it the most, but in practice, this skill can be difficult due to:
1. Bad communication and wrong approach to an individual: you need to be a good psychologist and understand the person’s motivation in order to give them what they need from work (except money :)).
2. Incorrect system of control and construction of sprints: understanding which KPIs and in what time frame should be met and building a culture of “something we can learn during this sprint”. By the way, we ourselves always use this practice in our team when working with partners.
And the third most popular skill is the ability not to give up.
For some, it may seem the most romanticized. But experienced entrepreneurs often fall into a pit of despair after a very serious setback.
And at the same time, because of their great experience, they know how to deal with it and stop themselves.
Experienced entrepreneurs advise doing a simple analysis of the situation:
1. What exactly happened?
2. Is there something that urgently needs to be done to solve the problems?
3. What should be the steps for the coming weeks and months?
4. Is there enough money for the further development of the startup?
5. What did I learn after that and how can this be applied in future plans?
These are simply the most popular must-have skills. In reality, many others are needed that are reflected in the survey results above.