5 Steps to Make the Most of DigitalHealth Hackathons

Hack-a-thons have been a bit of a big deal for a while in the tech community and especially when it comes to mobile. Whether it’s creating apps, leveraging new ways of looking at data or building on an existing API they epitomise a concentrated burst of innovative activity.

And now? They’re happening in healthcare.

Whether you call them hackdays, hack-a-thons, code-a-thons or whatever I think it’s pretty clear that they’re becoming an intrinsic part of the digital health movement. We’ve got problems to solve and there’s a growing, diverse community that wants to come together to solve them. Today’s guide is a primer about how to make the most of a hack-a-thon no matter what your background is small, large, medics, non-medics, developers or non-developers. We all have something to contribute so let’s get started!

1. Research

Be true to yourself. The number of hack-a-thons in healthcare are growing and you won’t have the time and energy to pursue them all. You need to maximise your opportunities so spend time researching the different types of events and their objectives. Some events are highly technically orientated whilst others are more focused on building diverse teams and communities rather than focusing on the development itself.

Others are diverse but are targeted at using a specific piece of kit, developing a specific product (e.g. an app) or  addressing a specific disease/clinical problem. Try to choose something that really rings true with your personal views that you can be passionate about. Trust me, on the day people will see it and it’ll make a big difference.

2. Be Open-Minded

The beauty of hack-a-thon is the diversity of people there. You don’t need to be able to code or have a healthcare background to get something out of it.

– If you’re a patient then you know more than anyone what it’s like to be through the healthcare system. It’s all for you after all!

– If you’re a doctor then you’re probably going to end up using one of these apps so you can guide developers about how to create useful, user-friendly and clinically effective products.

– If you’re part of hospital management then your input is invaluable about how to create products and solutions that can realistically fit into hospital infrastructure and budgets. You can pinpoint economically important problems and solutions.

– If you’re an investor or serial entrepreneur then you’ll have a keen eye for commercially viable opportunities. You could guide so many teams when thinking about how to solve problems and to build them so that they’re scalable.

– And of course where would we be without the developers. You’re the lifeblood that makes this whole thing tick!

There are literally so many great people who can contribute to a hack-a-thon so don’t let your background hold you back. It’s the BEST thing about you.

3. Network, Network, Network

At some point you’re going to form teams. You might even have come to an event as a team (hopefully not!).

But you see all the people I’ve listed above? You need to talk and listen to all the people that DON’T as well as do share your background. It’s that diversity of discussion that will generate the most innovative and effective ideas. Try to work with new people wherever possible. It won’t just create better outcomes but it will improve your teamwork, communication and leadership skills.

And who knows? You might just meet your next co-founder or two…

4. Share

The whole point of a hack-a-thon is pushing the boundaries of what we think is possible by bringing together different ideas, perspectives and expertise to solve some of the greatest healthcare problems. If the solution already existed then we wouldn’t be having an event would we? So no matter how abstract or impossible an idea sounds in your head it’s probably far more realistic than you think so put it out there!

Now no-one is telling you to give away the IP to ideas you might already have but sharing new ideas and perspectives, especially within your team, are key to the success of a hack-a-thon. Sharing your existing ideas with people from a diverse range of backgrounds can open up opportunities you might never have considered.

All ideas matter. All ideas count. So share!

5. Follow-Up

This is possibly the most important piece of advice I can give. You’ve had a great event, met some great people and generated some viable solutions. Make sure, to exchange contact details with everyone you meet and to follow-up a couple of days after an event. When it’s all said and done a hack-a-thon is a social event and even though you might not have created a barn-storming product you should have connected with people from a range of backgrounds that you could potentially work with in the future.

As I always say. Technology becomes obsolete. The true value comes from people coming together in teams with a shared goal.

Keep the momentum going after an event. You never know where it’ll take you.

Have Fun!

So that’s a whistle-stop tour of how to make the most of a hack-a-thon. I’m sure some fantastic digital health startups will be born out of these events in the months and years to come and I also hope we’ll solve some of the current challenges facing patients and doctors today.

One last thing, don’t try to boil the ocean. Enjoy the process, make some new friends and, above all, have fun!

If you enjoyed this article make sure to ReTweet it and if you have any comments you can Tweet me – @Saif_Abed

Dr Saif F Abed
Founding Partner
AbedGraham Healthcare Strategies Ltd

The 7Ss of Digital Health Startup Success

Setting up a start-up is easier today than it’s ever been before.

In a couple of hours you could have yourself a web-domain, website, business e-mail address and an App Store account. If you’re tech savvy you could put together an app over a weekend and you’re ready to meet your customers.

If you’ve made something that people actually want then with a bit of social media know-how and some strategic use of your free first set of Google Adwords you might even get customers rolling in during that same weekend.


Then the hard work starts. You’ve started to realise your own potential. What if this could actually start becoming, y’know, a business?

But a start-up isn’t a large, multi-national organisation. They’re different beasts. It’s like in medicine – You don’t treat children like small adults! They have their own unique physiology and problems that we need to look out for and manage. Basically, few of the principles that consultants use for big business translate smoothly for start-ups. Despite all that, sometimes you find something that works and for me, and the digital health start-ups I advise, that’s McKinsey’s 7S Model based on the best selling book ‘In Search of Excellence’ by Peters and Waterman. Let’s dive into it!

1. Strategy

Whether you’ve got a business model or plan and whether you’ve just drawn it out on a napkin or its a spreadsheet you need to be constantly going back to it and asking yourself – What am I trying to achieve? What’s my goal? What makes me competitive and how do I keep it that way? Who are my customers and what are they saying?

In the fast paced world of digital healthcare you’ve got to realise that you’re creating value beyond just having an app or big data platform. It’s how you reach and talk to your customers whether they’re doctors or patients or otherwise that gives you your competitive advantage. How are you reaching out to the innovators and early adopters who are going to be your startup’s champions?

2. Structure

I’ve been there. A team of two trying to do everything, learning every skill under the sun but before we knew it our operations were growing and we needed to have a structure in place. At first it came about out of necessity but we understood that the way we structured our growing team was an essential part of our strategy to deliver value.

So ask yourself – Do I need formal project teams? Who’s responsible for what? e.g. customer relationships, accounts etc Is there a strict hierarchy or are things more free-form? How do you make sure everyone is talking to each other? Are we all on the same page? How do we make sure everyone is sharing great ideas as well as possible problems early?

There’s no right answer but the sooner you start thinking about it the sooner you’ll come up with something that works for your business.

3. Systems

It might sound too soon but eventually there’s going to be an end-game. Whether that’s becoming a huge, international mega corporation or selling up you need to be prepared. Have a system in place for managing and tracking customer databases, marketing and especially your financial accounts. Even consider starting to audit yourselves. I get all my start-ups to put together a file system ready for due diligence to happen at any time. Who knows when a venture capitalist might come knocking?

So those are the ‘Hard Elements’ of the 7S Model

Now Come the really hard Parts…

4. Staff

People are everything and don’t you forget it. I talk to a lot of investors and I hear it every time – ‘I’d rather invest in an A Team with a B Product rather than a B Team with an A Product. In symbols —> A+B > B+A

So start thinking from now. What skills do I have? What skills do I need? Where can I get them? At this point my startups start throwing their arms up in the air saying, ‘Errr Saif, I can’t afford to employ anyone…’, but you don’t have to!

When you’re starting out you’d be surprised a thet range of people in your personal network with great skills who’ll help you get on your feet. When you start getting some revenue there are great people out there who want to work with startups to get operational experience and where better than the frontlines of a startup! Other options include putting together an advisory board and thinking laterally for example there are incredibly skilled moms at home looking for part time work (accountants, marketers, designers, developers etc).

5. Skills

Of course you can’t employ every skill you need but you also don’t need every skill under the sun. Take a minute to think. What are the one or two things that you and your team want to be really good at? How can you enhance those skills? Courses, conferences, training programs? For example, I know an app developer who prides himself on understanding what works for patients’ because of his own personal experiences. Has he stopped there? No! He goes to patient groups seminars and conferences and makes sure he really understands his customers.

Now that’s a competitive advantage. What’s yours?

6. Style

Styles matter. Styles change. When you’re a startup it’s easy to sit in a loft with open spaces and have a great time growing your passion into a business. You’re all friends. You care and you share. On the other hand you might be super-competitive and your current environment might be super intense and that’s what you all thrive on to get your best work done.

Your environment represents you as a leader and entrepreneur. It’s central to what your startup will become. How are you going to keep that going when you have 10, 50 or 100 employees? It might come naturally to you but what about the other members of your team who are going to be representing you and leading new and junior employees?

You might be patient centered now but how are you going to make sure everyone else is too?

7. Shared Values

By now you can see that all these Ss come together to crystallise your vision around a set of values that you want your startup to embody and deliver. Often these come from the personal experiences, dreams and ambitions of founders. They’re an intrinsic part of the personality of every startup. You need to turn those thoughts and feelings into actions. Whether it’s creating an EHR system with the slickest, most user-friendly experience or an app that empowers patients’ to manage their chronic conditions you need to have a vision and a mission that everything else is centered around.

Call it a value proposition. Whatever it is though make sure everyone around you knows it, understands it and makes it central to their work. It goes a long to help you sell and even get funding and investment. Every action you take centers around your core values.

Act Big, Be Big

None of this needs to happen in order. It’s not a formula and by itself it’s only a model like any other. Running and growing a startup is exciting and chaotic at the best of times and there’s nothing like it. Every now and then though it helps to take a page out of the big boy’s books and use it for yourself. Use the 7S model to take your thoughts and feelings, as a founder, and inspire those around you to turn your plans and ambitions into a successful reality.

Are You a growing #DigitalHealth Startup or Investor? If you’ve enjoyed my article be sure to Share and ReTweet it! Reach me @Saif_Abed

Dr Saif F Abed
Foundering Partner
AbedGraham Healthcare Strategies Ltd

How to turn Healthcare BigData into BigKnowledge in 3 Simple Steps

What even is BigData anymore? I mean the phrase has been over promoted, overpriced and over tweeted.

Yet, I keep using it. You keep using it. We all use it!

A recent, brilliant article by John de Goes declared that ‘Big Data is Dead. What’s next?‘ To me the answer was blindingly obvious because it’s, in many ways, common sense. It harks back to one of my earlier articles where I explored how we define digital health

What’s the purpose of the Quantified Self movement? What’s the purpose of digital technology in healthcare?

To me medicine and healthcare are and always will be about humans. About the covenant of trust and respect that is the Doctor-Patient relationship. Technology can empower both sides to be more transparent, responsible and accountable than ever before.

We need to give ‘BigData’ meaning and that’s exactly the challenge I’m trying to tackle. Without further remonstrations, wish me luck and let’s begin!

1. Data —> Information —> Knowledge

The wanton collection of data is, by itself, one of the most dangerous acts of 21st century technology. It’s awe inspiring and overwhelming at the same time. We collect because we can. Do we know why we’re collecting it? Do we know what it even means? Who’s going to use it? Does it actually change anything?

When I was practicing medicine I remember one of my professors stating the reasonably obvious, ‘It’s not about testing because we can. It’s about doing the right test when it’s needed.’

That statement is as true today as it ever has been. Healthcare professionals deal with mountains of data on a daily basis and they don’t need more volume. They need to collect data that can have impact, that can inform, insight and effect decision making and management. And by the way, that’s the same for patients as well as doctors.

Next time, you start creating an algorithm or platform for collecting data just take a second to think – ‘Will this data turn into information and knowledge?’

2. Start Listening

It’s one thing to guess about what will and won’t be useful but it’s still a guess and not a fact.

You’re hypothesising. What we need to be doing is talking to each other. For one, as a business you’ll end up creating something that actually helps your end-users and as doctor or patient you’ll have a chance to share your concerns about data collection with someone who could actually solve your problems!

Beyond that are the issues of integration and use. How are you going to make something that a doctor or patient can practically use if you have no idea what their daily lives are like? Do you know that in hospitals doctors still wheel around a computer on wheels (C.O.Ws) whilst doing rounds? What about nurses who have to constantly monitor patients on wards. Are you optimising ‘bigdata’ for them too? Not everyone’s carrying a smartphone or an iPad so what then?

When it comes to patients, well, little widgets are great but people have lives! How many USBs are lost in washing machines every year? What happens to skin patches when people have a shower?

These might sound like mundane and boring questions but they’re reality! How can you collect the right data in the most user friendly way possible? Listening helps.

3. Humans not Robots

I urge you. In fact no, I implore and beseech you  if you remember nothing else remember this.

Medicine and healthcare are about humans. It’s about trust and empathy as much as it is about MRI scans, blood tests and surgery. You might be thinking, ‘What’s this go to do with big data?’.

It’s got everything to do with it. As technology gets more sophisticated in its ability to collect data and detect patterns then teams of healthcare professionals who use it will have greater responsibility than ever before to interpret and manage the delivery of this data as information and knowledge for their patients. Patients’ will be empowered to ask more questions and search for answers but when they’re receiving this raw data it might be so new that no-one has the right answers.

Be considerate. Think about how your technology is going to change and, hopefully, enhance the doctor-patient relationship as well as create new anxieties. How can you make this process easier practically and emotionally?

It Ain’t Easy

I’ll be honest. I haven’t said anything that’s going to revolutionise the role of BigData in healthcare. All I wanted to do is give it a reality check and bring a bit of humanity to it. Big Data is going to change the game and that’s inevitable but maybe if we start thinking about Big Knowledge instead from now we can make that positive effect start sooner.

If you enjoyed my article please Share, Retweet & Comment! @Saif_Abed

Dr Saif F Abed
Founding Partner
AbedGraham Healthcare Strategies Ltd

The 5 Laws of Innovation Adoption for Health Startups

It should be pretty simple really shouldn’t it? I mean you’ve got a great product, it makes sense, it works, the feedback you’ve received has been great but you’re sitting by your desk perplexed. 

Where are they?

The droves of customers?

Why aren’t they beating a path to my door?

Anyone who’s ever tried to bring their idea to market will have had to deal with the harsh reality of adoption. It’s one thing to hear positive comments about the virtues of your prototype but quite another to have the mass market embrace you. Now this is a subject which is constantly studied in the world of business academia often best exemplified by Geoffrey Moore’s ‘Crossing the Chasm’ (1991) but before that came Roger’s elegant masterpiece ‘The Diffusion of Innovations’ in 1962 and that’s what I want to share with you today. In fact I want to share 5 simple ‘laws’ which I think every startup should be mindful of and use. So without further ado let’s begin!

1. Relative Advantage

I mean this should be the easiest part shouldn’t it? Especially when it comes to digital technology and apps in healthcare. I mean it’s mobile, fast, effective and relatively inexpensive.

Words aren’t good enough though.

In my recent blog discussing venture capital I strongly emphasised getting frontline data to demonstrate the strength of your assertions and I repeat it here. Your mhealth app or device might clearly offer unparalleled advantages compared to the incumbent technologies and systems but perceptions and familiarity are difficult foes to overcome so wherever possible gather evidence to tangibly demonstrate the clinical and cost advantages of your invention.

Quite simply you can’t deny the facts especially when they save money AND lives.

2. Compatibility

One thing that I believe is extremely ironic about digital technology and the language that follows it is that we have an obsession with causing ‘disruption’ and ‘destruction’. Now that’s all well and good and I support it and all other Schumpeterian talk but let’s get real for a second. 

These aren’t the friendliest sounding words. The reality is that your idea and invention needs to be remarkably easy to use and should fit into the workflow and lives of its users be they doctors or patients. Now, peoples’ habits and daily routines might inevitably change especially if your product is effective but that shouldn’t be your opening gambit. Beyond that though, your concept should fit with the thoughts and values of its users and that couldn’t be simpler in healthcare.

We’re here to empower patients to improve their health and to work with doctors to prevent, detect and manage health, wellbeing and disease. Get that message across.

3. Complexity

Or you can call it simplicity. You may love talking about algorithms but not everyone else does. Take your idea and distil it into its fundamental function. What’s the problem that it’s going to solve? Does it make sense? Quite simply is it intuitive? Will a doctor or patient or any other healthcare stakeholder see it and just get it?

With the advent of smartphones we’re all getting far more tech savvy which is a great advantage for would be technology ‘disrupters’ but don’t assume that’s the case for everyone so try and make sure people can either get your product or that it’ll be as straightforward as possible to learn to use.

4. Trialability

Changing age old habits are hard. Hospital wards have run the way they run for such a long time, doctors’ rotas are still managed the same way as they were 20 years ago and we practice medicine using even older methodologies.

Despite, all that you’re standing here in my office telling me I should be doing things differently? Or perhaps I am a busy professional and you’re telling me to spend my hard earned cash to use an app or sensor to share my vitals with my doctor? Hmmm not sure about that…

Now getting a chance to trial a new piece of technology for free won’t necessarily ensure that everyone will use it but at the very least it gives people an opportunity to experiment and provide feedback and at best it can create a viral effect with positive word of mouth spreading and subsequent adoption so just consider it…that’s all I’m saying.

5. Observability

If I can see it working and delivering on its promises then I’m probably going to be pretty satisfied. If it delivers well beyond my expectations then I’ll definitely be satisfied and even start developing loyalty! If the feeling is strong enough then I might just start sharing my experiences and then maybe, just maybe, we might get a viral effect.  What’s even better is if those who aren’t using your product can directly see its’ benefits. Well, I must have some of that then!

Start thinking about your product design and how it demonstrates its effects whether its’ by eliciting feedback or through a graphic display of results or whether it’s through your own work to develop new measures and metrics of effects. The more observable the positive effects then the more incentive to adopt.

A Whirlwind Tour

So that’s a brief synopsis of the infamous Roger’s Five Factors. Rogers seemed to love describing things in 5s but I think this particular set of 5 ‘laws’ as I call them I think are essential for any startup or inventor to include in their strategy from Day 1. Having an idea or invention is great and be passionate about it but adoption is the key to turning ideas into innovations and that means you need to be thinking about the long game.

Questions or Comments? Tweet me @Saif_Abed

Please Share and Retweet!

Dr Saif F Abed
Founding Partner 
AbedGraham Healthcare Strategies Ltd

Fundamentally Defining Digital Health…

This week I’d planned to write an article discussing the boom in healthcare accelerators and their impact on the digital health scene but then I was distracted rather unceremoniously by a series of debates, both on Twitter and LinkedIn, discussing the meaning of digital health and the entire movement. Considering, I’m neither shy nor retiring I quickly involved myself in this hotbed of intellectual and philosophical debate and quickly came to the conclusion that none of us have come anywhere near to defining what digital health actually is! So today I’m going to put forward the three key considerations I think we need to have when talking about this evolving area of medicine. Good luck to me!

Step 1. It’s not All About You

Take a second to think about who you are and where you fit in the grand scheme of things. This ever evolving ecosystem of technology in healthcare is everyday conjuring up new inventions and ideas. Now depending whether you’re a doctor, patient, investor, entrepreneur, regulator or any other of a myriad of individuals then this whole field will mean something different to each and every one of you. But you know what?

It doesn’t matter what you think.

Why not? I hear you cry.

Well, digital health is part of the evolution of healthcare but with any development a shared understanding is required between all of us to make sure it develops in the most effective way possible. If you’re an investor do you know what this all means for doctors? If you’re an entrepreneur do you know what this all means for patients? If you’re a patient do you know what this all means for government and regulators? We need to all start talking to each other seriously if this is going to go anywhere.

Step 2. It’s not All About the Money 

There is one phrase that I hear on a consistent basis that drives me insane. Quite frankly it makes me question the entire purpose of both the Quantified Self and Digital Health movements. This coming from a die-hard supporter of technology and social media in healthcare!

Whats this nefarious phrase I hear you ask?

Consumer Empowerment.

When did we lose sight of what healthcare is all about? Have we forgotten that what we’re trying to do every day is prevent, detect and manage  disease all the while promoting healthy living? These are our patients and we should be acting in their best interests and not allowing our judgement to be too severely clouded by the prospects of mergers and acquisitions surely?

My career is now devoted to start-up development and working with venture capitalists so I’m not naive to how the process works but it’s at least my central tenet that I work to develop health startups that will provide a service that is either demanded by doctors and patients or that I believe will empower them to improve their health and wellness. If it does so then immense financial success will come as a by-product. Or perhaps I have misjudged the ways of the world?

Step 3. What do We Want it To Do?

So we’ve all sat together with our different backgrounds and we all now understand that our over-arching strategy is to empower patients to improve their health and to facilitate doctors ability to use technology to prevent, detect and manage disease. That’s great but the devils’ in the details. What does this actually mean we need to do?

I think it’s only at this point where it really starts getting tricky. It’s all well and good making a whole range of apps and widgets that collect data in our sleep and continuously so but what’s the use of it? Does a patient or doctor even now what to do with all this new data and will it even improve clinical practice? The value chain of healthcare is littered with inefficient costly steps that we could target with technology but unless we identify them and really define why they’re ineffective then we’re really just wandering aimlessly developing inventions but not innovations. 

Medicine and healthcare are still about humans and their interactions between them so are we really creating and propelling digital technology to improve these relationships or are we purely creating technology to see how smart we are at collecting data because we can?

Maybe the conclusions we’ll reach will be even more far reaching and we’ll find medicine as a whole isn’t prepared for Digital Health and the Quantified Self then we need to address a whole range of fundamentals ranging from our clinical practice models, the way we interact with our patients and even wholesale re-structuring of our medical education systems!

More Questions Than Answers

In all likelihood I haven’t made it any easier to define digital health given it’s a field that’s much bigger than one man (or woman) but I think it’s our duty to consider our fundamental beliefs and where we stand together before we can even dream of an ideal state when digital technology has a profound and sustained clinical impact. Before we get there we have to be pragmatic about where we are now and only then can we truly move forward, I hope united we’ll  be able to improve global health with technology.

Later this week normal service will resume when I’ll be discussing accelerators, apps and much more!

Got a Question or Comment? Tweet me @Saif_Abed

Dr Saif Abed
Founding Partner
AbedGraham Healthcare Strategies Ltd

5 Tips About Venture Capital for Health Entrepreneurs

Cracking the code of the venture capitalists’ vault of money is one of the enduring enigmas for about every entrepreneur at some stage of their existence. For many, the stress involved in securing funding can be completely overwhelming and many falter when they finally get some time in front of a VC. An evolving part of my work is helping to prepare start-ups for VCs as well as helping VCs to assess healthcare start-ups so today I’m going to share my top five tidbits of knowledge  for health entrepreneurs to better understand venture capitalists. So let’s get going!

1.They’re Human Too!

They might not be entrepreneurs necessarily like you but they are businesses like you. They want to minimise their risk and enhance their opportunity to make a profit. It might sound like common sense but many start-ups treat VCs as judge, jury and executioner. Always remember that they guys sitting opposite you work for a business that has bills to pay, debts to fulfill and investors to satisfy. Does what you do make their lives easier? 

2. Whose Money is it Anyway?

If you’re talking to a venture capitalist from a large firm often unless they’re senior execs then that person probably isn’t going to be investing their own cash into your company. The way VC funds work is that they’re made up of two sets of players: A. General Partners & B. Limited Partners.

It’s the limited partners who are investing the vast majority of the money and they tend to be on behalf of very sophisticated institutions in their own rights such as investment banks, funds of funds, pension plan managers and the odd ‘super-rich’ or technically speaking high net worth individual. Why’s that important? Well, because these guys are involved in dictating the terms of how and where VCs invest the fund money. There can be limitations which simply mean that VCs can’t meet your desires and that it takes considerable growth and profitability on behalf of the startup to make sure that the VCs get a healthy return since most of capital gains and profits will go to the limited partners. 

3. You Can Choose Too…

When a venture capital fund invests in you it’s in their interests to make sure you have every opportunity to grow and become extremely profitable since they now have a stake in you. They’re incentivised and will often take a position on your board.

If you’re pitching remember that these people are going to become your partners for perhaps 5-10 years and beyond and that’s a major new partner to be dealing with. You need to make sure this partnership work’s in your interests too so do your research and ask them about the resources they can commit to you whether its a network of experts, investors or office space. Make sure you know all the possible opportunities and benefits. Have they invested in healthcare before?Why now? Who have they invested in before and what happened to them? How did they help them? Do they have any links to the healthcare community? Make sure you prepare your questions.

4. Prove It.

When it comes to healthcare and by that I mean any product or service that effects the way doctors practise medicine or the way patients interact with them and their interventions then you better have some supportive data. And no I don’t mean forecasts or extrapolations or crystal ball predictions. You need some facts to support your claims but it doesn’t have to be a large scale double-blind, randomised controlled trial. Talk to some local community or hospital doctors ask them to pilot and give their honest opinions. Talk to patients and get them to do the same thing. If you get as few as ten of each to try your product or service for a sustained period of time then that’s a good place to start from and will show your commitment to reducing uncertainty for VCs.

5. Back Yourself

You’ve prepared your financials, spoken to the doctors, the patients, the payors and the providers. You’re a technical expert and you know your product inside out. You’ve got a business plan and a business model mapped out and you know you have an answer to a real problem. Well then, now it’s about finding the right guys who can work with you to make sure it becomes reality! 

Remember what happens in a given meeting isn’t necessarily a damning verdict of what you’re doing since there are so many unseen issues to deal with in the back-rooms of VC firms. Sometimes, their hands are tied because of their limited partners and they can’t help you even if they want to! There are always options maybe an accelerator’s in your destiny but more about them next week as well as part 2 of my guide to becoming a health entrepreneur…

Got a question or comment? Tweet me @Saif_Abed

Dr Saif Abed
Founding Partner
AbedGraham Healthcare Strategies Ltd

Healthcare Entrepreneur? Lessons you need to know.(Part I)

It starts with an idea…

Becoming an entrepreneur is one of the single most difficult and liberating decisions you will ever make. For me leaving a stable career as a doctor to setup my own firm was either an act of arrogance, bravery or stupidity, I can’t quite decide yet. What I do know is that the journey has already taught me so many lessons and I have met so many people who’ve shared an immense out of common sense and wisdom that I want to share some of it. Most of this isn’t rocket science but it’s worth saying and sharing!

“Well done is better than well said…”

Ben Franklins’ words are even truer today than when they were first said. There’s a huge chasm between ideas and reality and no matter how much you believe in yourself or your idea it doesn’t matter unless you do something about it.

LESSON1 – Google is your friend.

There are countless business websites out there that you can use to get you started. Startups.co.uk, NewBusiness.co.uk ,Inc.com/startup, Forbes.com/startups and Entrepreneur.com are just some of a litany of websites with great advice for the novice business mogul.

But even before you get there you should put pen to paper and write down what exactly your business or product wants to achieve. What’s the question you’re trying to answer? Who’s asking the questions? How badly do they need the answers and who else has tried? Importantly, is there anyone who can help you?

Talking’s Still Useful!

Once you’ve distilled down your ideas into a few key statements start talking. Start with friends and family who you can trust to hear you out but also to call you out. Use this initial period to constantly go back to the drawing board to define and refine your concept.

Lesson2 Define your Value Proposition & Unique Selling Points. 

Ok, so now I’ve used some jargon but effectively your value proposition is what is going to set you apart when solving a problem compared to your competitors. Why should I use your product or service? How will it satisfy my needs? What happens if it doesn’t work out or we get encounter hitches and glitches?Answering those questions is not easy because you can’t think of every customers’ possible demands and issues. You can still talk to a lot of people and that’s through the magic of social media. LinkedIn, Twitter, Digg are all sources that you can use to join discussions about the problem you’re trying to solve. 

Make or Buy?

One of the early questions is how much can you do yourself? I was lucky that I had my best friend from medical school who I formed my business with but even then the question loomed about whether we needed anymore skills? We decided to invest in our education by enrolling on business/management degrees to enhance our knowledge beyond our clinical knowledge but for one of our early tech ventures we decided to outsource the programming.


We learned that the hard way and that early experiment didn’t quite work out. On the flip side if you research the market well websites like Guru.com can provide cost-effective expertise through countless professionals who use the internet as an effective medium to reach customers. Just make sure to always do the background research. Another problem we encountered with one of our early employees was that his communication/rapport style didn’t fit with the image we were putting forward and after trying to address the issue it was clear that we wouldn’t be able to work things out. Instead of letting the problem fester and personalities to get in the way we made the decision to part ways in a polite and amicable way.

Learn to Say No!

Saying no is hard especially when your passion and a great idea gets people talking to you but when you’re small being nimble and agile is key so you shouldn’t overstretch yourself too soon. Some projects and clients can be too big so you have to think hard about what you can and can’t deliver right now.


If you promise to do a project and don’t have the resources or skills yet to deliver especially within a time frame then you risk destroying your reputation before you’ve even started. Start small and work-up. You’ll be surprised how quickly people take notice and the bigger projects will come knocking again.

So far I’ve gone over some of the initial pitfalls of becoming an entrepreneur especially when you come from a regimented medical or scientific background. In Part II I’ll discuss more of my experiences and shed some light on more specific issues that face healthcare innovators and entrepreneurs particularly the ever feared ‘Priesthood of Medicine.’!

This is a blog for everyone so please share with any and all entrepreneurs and tweet me @Saif_Abed

Dr Saif F Abed
Founding Partner
AbedGraham Healthcare Strategies Ltd