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I've Consulted eHealth Startups for 20+ Years.

Here Are My Top 5 Growth Tips.

As advisor and consultant to European e-health startups, I see so many aspiring entrepreneurs popping up everyday. Most fail.

After over 20 years in the industry, I’ve failed too - many times in fact. But, I've also helped build multi-million dollar businesses. As you may imagine, 20+ years' worth of failures and successes have taught me a thing or two about startups – lessons that I am happy to share with you.

But, before I give you my list of compressed, easily digestible tips everyone seems to love these days, I want to emphasise at the very start the most important one:

What startups need more than anything else is collaboration.

With that established, here are my top five tips for growing your startup:

1. Find a way to make your competitors irrelevant: Create the 'Blue Ocean'

This is based on clearly defining your unique selling point (USP) and – here comes a buzzword – creating the “blue ocean”.

Blue Ocean strategy is a theory coined by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne (it is a book too – look it up). It pretty much boils down to creating a leap in value between you and the competitors so that any comparison is irrelevant.

A great example of Blue Ocean strategy is Nespresso. Quality products and good marketing have long differentiated Nespresso in the world of coffee, but the brand took it even further with the introduction of Nespresso capsules and machines to give customers a coffee shop experience at home or office. That is how Nespresso created its own subcategory on the coffee market where they have no competitors.

The Blue Ocean strategy is also used in e-Health. Swedish company FRISQ implemented it by simply flipping the traditional doctor-patient dynamic. FRISQ allows patients to be actively involved in all parts of their medical treatment by monitoring their own medication consumption, and health records – a role that traditionally belonged to medical professionals. Their solution also allows the patient to share data via medical IOT devices to enable feedback from the healthcare provider. That is how FRISQ created their blue ocean and first mover advantage.

Read and learn:
- Blue ocean strategy, by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne
- Funky business forever, by Kjell Nordstroem and Jonas Ridderstrale
- The patient will see you now, by Eric Topol

2. You can’t do everything by yourself; Embrace outsourcing and other types of collaboration

As I said, collaboration is the key to staying in the game these days. The reason is simple: development and competition move incredibly fast. If you get stuck doing peripheral work, you will fall behind your competitors before you even knew you had any.

Another reason for collaboration is that, sooner or later, a solution gets so complex that it is better to be an absolute expert in your core business than to try to grasp everything at the expense of specialisation.

To have in mind: As a startup, you might find it challenging to collaborate with big companies. You might feel that big companies are slow and inflexible. On the other hand, partnering with big companies can grant you access to great resources and funding, and make you a part of a stable structure. It’s a tough trade off, but one you should be aware of.

3. Create a development plan

3.1 Roadmap
Focus on your core business and USP when creating a roadmap for your development.

A roadmap helps everyone involved, including customers, to understand the specific customer needs your product answers and exactly how it does so.

A roadmap is also extremely useful to your development team and project manager(s) as part of their development and implementation planning.

There are lots of tools that can help you create a roadmap. A simple and effective one is ProductPlan.

3.2 Development Partner
While choosing the right development partner is a topic in and of itself, choosing the collaboration model is easier. My experience suggests that Dedicated Team model works best if you are looking at a medium to long-term development strategy because:

- You own the developers’ time
- You can manage the team, so they are essentially a part of your in-house development team
- You have more control over your cost and scalability

Important: Protect your IP
If you choose to outsource your development, make sure to protect your IP! I have seen too many startups make the big mistake of neglecting this. So, when drafting the agreement with your development partner, make sure you include a clause stating that you own the IP.

4. Engage with your prospective and existing customers regularly. Let their feedback guide you.

4.1 Step out of your office
Use social media, but don’t get stuck in your office.

Meeting people face-to-face is much more powerful that limited online interactions. To be diligent about this, join a hub or a community - this can do wonders for your business!

4.2 Nurture relationships
When interacting with customers, don’t just turn to them when you have something to sell. Turn to them to learn about their needs. Listening is an underestimated skill that can make far more deals than any fancy powerpoint.

I was recently asked by a startup incubator in Stockholm called STING, to be a guest speaker and share my experience with distributed development. Reps of about 15 startups from all over Europe were in the audience listening to me.

Instead of talking at them for an hour, I decided to interact with them; I asked them questions and gave them a chance to explain what were their needs and challenges that I could address.

During that event alone I got four serious leads, not because I’m excellent in giving speeches (believe me, I’m not), but because I simply listened and addressed their specific needs.

5. Spend time with investors from day one

Somewhere along the way most startups need to raise capital to be able to grow and develop both the product and the company. Marketing is also very costly.

In your annual activity plan, make sure you have activities with your investors as well as the potential investors. Keeping them in the loop will increase trust, so when it is time to raise (more) money, they will feel more confident and willing to back your business.

Another good idea is to view your potential investors as long-term customers so you can apply key account management (KAM) practices.

...

I’ve only scratched the surface with these five bullets, but hopefully this can inspire you to dig deeper into each field and get better prepared for what’s out there. Good luck!


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