Digital HealthHealth StartupsHow to Balance a Medical Career and Build a Digital Health Startup at the Same Time

Nova Nova3 years ago12 min

In recent times, digital health innovation has become a priority for the NHS and health institutions worldwide. According to mHealth, the global digital health industry is predicted to be worth $58.8 billion by 2020 with the likes of VR, AI and the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) expected to be commonplace in the future.

It is undeniable that digital health innovation is happening, however there is the feeling that is it developing at a slower pace than sectors such as FinTech and EdTech. A prominent cause of this is that healthcare professionals are often too preoccupied with their clinical work to solve problems through digital health innovation.

We have worked with several clinicians who have launched successful digital health startups, so we thought it would be a good idea share some insights about how it is possible to be successful in both.

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Don’t quit your job…at least not yet

You haven’t put in several years of training and studying to become a medical professional only to quit your job at the drop of a hat.  Sacrificing everything to pursue your dream of becoming the Zuckerburg of the digital health world may sound glamorous but this is not something we advise. Roughly 90% of all startups fail and there is a multitude of factors you must consider in order to give your digital health startup the best chance of succeeding against the odds.

At the beginning of your startup’s life cycle we recommend you continue working as a medical professional. Being intimately involved in a medical environment allows you to be at the forefront of the problems you wish to solve. Staying in this professional environment also allows you to utilise your colleagues, patients and extended work network as a user panel to help validate your early startup ideas.

At Nova, we ask our founders to continue working for at least the first 12 months of their startup journey and only work with us for as little as one day per week. This offers the best of both worlds for founders such as Stuart Clark, physiotherapist and founder of Flexi.

“Staying in my role within the NHS whilst developing Flexi has allowed me, with Nova’s support, to build an early solution and start testing it with users without compromising my career. I imagine the day will come when I’ll have the choice to make when and whether I want to move into the startup full time, or employ someone to grow this for me, having both options available really works for me.”

Build an experienced team and support network

The transition from being a medical professional to becoming an entrepreneur can often seem daunting, especially for those who do not have any prior knowledge of business. Things like hiring a team, managing finances, marketing and tech product development can understandably stop potential founders from pursuing their digital health startup ideas. Thankfully, at Nova we have in-house developers, designers, financiers and marketeers to help you every step of the way. And guess what? All of their services are available to you for free as part of our mentorship programme!

When building a team, you should start by identifying the areas where you can add the most value to your startup; often this will be the specific domain knowledge and understanding of the problem area. Then you should work out where you need support and look to build a team in those areas. Trying to do everything on your own, at the same time as managing a demanding job, dramatically increases the chance of failure. Lumii cofounder, and cardiologist, Dr. Ahmed Farag explains his experience of getting an experienced team in place early on:

“Working with an experienced team from the outset, who have different angles of the product covered, not just software but marketing, legal, product owners and other support has been fantastic for us. This is a massive thing for us founders, we are doctors at the end of the day, we are very good at what we do, and we’re very good at coming up with ideas and following them up, but we also needed this other side, that Nova have provided, to compliment what we do and give it a more professional touch.”

Make sure your mentors are flexible

When you are balancing a demanding job and growing a startup, time flexibility is essential. Rigid mentorship models simply do not work. Whether it is last minute meetings or urgent deadlines, we understand that the startup community is very susceptible to change.

This is why at Nova we have embraced a culture of flexibility. We will often have calls on a founder’s break in between surgery and be exchanging Google Hangouts messages while the founder is on the ward. We even offer hot desking work spaces for our founders at our Liverpool HQ!

Being able to ask and receive instant feedback in a time that suits the lifestyle of our founders is important when maintaining momentum for their startups.  For Stuart Clark from Flexi, this means spending time each week in our office, as well as embracing the open communications throughout the week with his startup team at Nova:

“Having the option to spend time each week in the office, and having the ability to drop someone a quick message whenever needed helps a great deal. There is always someone online who can answer my questions, or someone who has the skills and experience needed to support from their previous work in this sector. Now I have all of my questions answered really quickly.”

Set out structured goals and measure your progress

When getting your startup off the ground alongside a demanding job, there is no denying that time is your most valuable asset. It is important to ensure that time spent on your startup is focused on achieving maximum value in the shortest amount of time possible.

Without the correct processes in place it is easy to get side tracked or feel lost about what to do. It is possible to balance a successful medical career and simultaneously build a digital health startup and taking on board the above tips will make your life a whole lot easier. If you incorporate these tips, along with techniques such as the lean canvas and design sprints, you could be launching your very own digital health startup before you know it.

Are you working on or considering starting a digital health startup? Take the first steps by applying for our free mentorship programme here.

This article was sponsored by Nova

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Nova is a UK -based tech ‘cofoundery’, launched in 2014. It partners with entrepreneurs to turn great ideas into successful, scalable tech startups, in sectors including healthtech, fintech, education tech and eGaming. Nova has launched over 50 tech startups in the past 5 years and its startup success rate is six times higher than the industry average.

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