Tap into the expert network
I find that healthcare experts are happy to connect others in a network where they can. For the Start-up Program, I helped to build an active group of 70 thought leaders and healthcare innovators in the fertility, pregnancy and neonatology domain from across Europe. This group now includes the association of midwives in Germany, heads of neonatology across Europe, gynecologists, but also vitally important people such as board members of hospitals and procurement officers.
We would update the network regularly on what each team has achieved, adding a request from each start-up related to a key business goal, such as: “Help us to connect to commercial clinical microbiologists to validate the workflow and business drivers of sepsis diagnosis” or “Help us to find an expert in neonatal intensive care in the EU to help us understand how they are reimbursed.”Each time we sent one out, I’d get calls and emails the next day from different contacts saying they’d like to help or that they know someone the start-ups should talk to. It’s an awesome moment.
Double-check your main customer
The ecosystem can also help teams to make sure they know who their main customers are, because it might not always be hospitals or clinicians. As Alberto Prado – Head of Philips HealthWorks – mentioned in his blog describing four ways to avoid failing at the first hurdle: “It’s vital that start-ups understand how they fit into the connected healthcare system they are targeting whilst ensuring scalability to other markets. This can mean working out the difference between who uses the innovation, who benefits from it, who pays for it, how much they pay and why.”
One of the companies in our Start-up Program, Noscendo, is developing a way to test for the infection microbe causing sepsis, which is a condition that affects millions of people each year. Many patients sadly die, while others are left severely disabled. A test that enables hospitals to detect and treat sepsis early would not only potentially save lives, but also save costs for entire healthcare systems. That means that health insurers might eventually be an even bigger supporter and customer of this solution than hospitals.
So to my point earlier, the end user isn’t always the main decision maker either.
Another start-up I worked with, called YO Sperm test, has developed a home test kit for men to determine their fertility potential and advertised it in a manly way: “check your swimmers!” Despite already being on the market with their FDA-approved solution, sales were not what they had anticipated. During the program, the team interviewed a large number of couples who wanted to get pregnant and they found out that when it comes to buying sperm tests, women are actually the key decision makers. They are in the process of changing their messaging and look and feel to become more female and couple-friendly. Already they are experiencing an increase in online conversion and sales rates.
Make the network your long-term partner
One thing I learned from working with start-ups across a range of industries is that everyone in the ecosystem wants to innovate, but we each struggle for different reasons. Large companies can find it challenging to be agile and have to deal with legacy; start-ups may lack powerful connections or resources and risk running out of money too soon; healthcare professionals rarely have extra time beyond their most important job: caring for patients.
I strongly believe that we learn best when we place ourselves on the same level as each other. Sharing ideas and ambitions means together you push through the obstacles much faster. It’s what drives me to find new ways to connect start-ups to the ecosystem beyond our Start-up Program too. Even though Breakthrough Day is over, my work continues; I’m in continuous conversations with Philips departments, hospitals, investors and the start-ups to define and build new collaboration models that would create new value for all. If we want to disrupt healthcare, there is no way one company can do it by themselves. We need to search, together, for new collaborative solutions.