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Δευτέρα, 10 Απριλίου 2017

Among Doctors: Μedicine is a team sport

By Letta Kalamara

Among Doctors is a funded, early-stage, digital health startup. The company vision is to change the way doctors consult, share knowledge and network with each other. Elena Barla co-Founder & CEO at AmongDoctors speaks to Thedayaftergr about Among Doctors and what they plan as next step.

What is your business idea about?

The idea is based on a common, yet often disregarded notion, that “Medicine is a team sport”. There is no way that a single doctor knows everything. This is why having a trusted peers network, improves significantly access to scientific knowledge, clinical guidance and career development opportunities. This is why doctors seek and value an opinion from a colleague they can trust. Networking among physicians though is broken: doctors use limited off-line networks, costly medical conferences and/or exposed social media in order to network, share knowledge and exchange opinions. Among Doctors solves this, by providing a revolutionary global networking and collaboration platform, exclusive only to licensed physicians, which helps them connect and work with reliable colleagues of all specialties, across the globe, in a secure & relevant way. Through Among Doctors, physicians join an exclusive quality community of thoroughly verified colleagues, where they can grow their professional network and referral base across countries and specialties, exchange a second colleague opinion on difficult medical cases and showcase their work, increasing their reputation within an expert community.

What about your business plan? 

We have already launched our platform in public beta, as a web application, offering a complete networking & collaboration solution. We have also recently launched a new feature called Among Doctors Jobs, helping doctors connect with international health institutions, accessing global career opportunities. Our next step is to launch a mobile application and enrich the platform with further services for doctors. We have managed to make Among Doctors a quality brand for global physicians networking. So far we have 3,000 registered doctors on our platform, with an average month-on-month growth rate of almost 40% since our platform launch in November 2015. Industry-wise, we have managed to establish important partnerships with local and international medical societies and associations, as well as with Microsoft Innovation Center Greece which offer us incubation, expert advice, plus cloud & software services. Team-wise, we have formed a winning team of international expert professionals, attracting senior and remarkable talents internationally. What we plan as next steps is to grow further our team, in order to develop further our business and product, improving our services to doctors and institutions.

What does Among Doctors network include?

As mentioned, we have already 3,000 physicians which come from 60 countries (mainly Europe & Latin America) and 40+ medical specialties. It was agreed since day 1 when we launched our platform, that we will open it gradually, but fast, to multiple countries, since the concept of the platform is based on international networking. It is very interesting to see doctors from every corner of the earth to register and wanting to get in touch with their colleagues across the globe. So far, our doctors base grows fast and we have seen a great support and engagement within the physicians community, inspiring to continue improving our service. We have also started pilotically inviting health institutions (eg. hospitals, clinics, trusts) that are looking to hire doctors, to post their Job Offers on our platform. This is based on the compelling need to either find the right physician or the physician to find the right job. According to WHO, doctors demand is growing faster than doctors supply internationally, resulting in physicians global shortage, which in consequence results in physicians burn-out & poor healthcare. We are helping both ends on this.

Our market goal is to reach 40K users within a year’s time and fully expand within certain European countries, especially in the South & Northern Europe. This will take a fortified team and resources, that we are planning to achieve through our next funding. Institutions-wise we want to focus on the European market for now.

What is your funding?

We have been funded by angel investors with pre-seed money, in order to create, launch and achieve an early traction in the market. We were happy to see that doctors were learning about us, not only through our marketing efforts, but also through word of mouth (their colleagues) which highlights the need. Through our next funding (seed-stage) we plan to invest in team and platform/business growth, as mentioned before.

When do you foresee your next step and will Greece remain your main market? 

We plan to be able to reach this in a couple of years time. Regarding Greece, we want to keep our technical team/operations here, but we want to have presence in other European cities that will play a catalyst role in our growth too.

What is your message for those who want to make business like you but they do not dare? 

There are a lot of aspects that one needs to examine before jumping in to the entrepreneurial boat. Team capacity & capabilities, validity of the idea, competition, business model, funding/bootstrapping your effort until you fundraise and so on. But the most important aspect, the one thing that you need to measure before doing so, is how much you really want this. How compelling this idea is for you, to the point that you can’t let it go. We often hear this & people think it is a bit of cliché, some catchy line from a TV commercial. Actually, it’s the most powerful ingredient for your success, since only your true & unsettling passion for what you do, will get you going. Many startups (including myself) have started up with limited or no knowledge of how difficult this could be, how many obstacles you would face down the road, how rarely you would rest, sleep or see your friends, family &  beloved ones, because you would simply need to work 14 hours per day including weekends & holidays, or how many times you would experience rejection or would see your bank account scratching the bottom, knowing your company’s runway is running out. What keeps entrepreneurs going, is their unsettling, compelling passion about their idea & how your product will impact people’s lives. Personally, there is no other journey more rewarding, more fulfilling & more exciting than this.

What difficulties did you find in your effort? What do you want to achieve?  

The most important difficulty concerned the nature of our platform, which is a professional social network. This type of startup represents a ‘chicken & egg problem’, since when it is firstly launched, the network is empty and in order for users to be interested, you need a network with registered users, so there was a circular issue here. In order to overcome this, we had a specific plan, attracting at first early adopters that would share the same passion for what our solution would bring to their professional lives, bringing onboard their friends and circles of networks too (word of mouth). It was not an easy task, but thanks to our great team and early adopters, we managed to exceed this phase successfully. With a strong solution, team and fast growing network in place, our vision is to become a global top destination for doctors to network, share knowledge & collaborate in order to help each other become better doctors and ultimately, help improve patient treatment across the globe.

Among Doctors in WEBIT Festival

We are honored and excited to be selected among the 100 startups pitching at this year’s Webit Festival. Webit Festival is one of the most important European events for technology startups; thousands of attendees from corporate, startups, press and investors are participating, in order to highlight, discuss, present and showcase what Europe has to offer in terms of technological startup advancements in various fields, such as Health, Smart Cities, Energy etc. Every year 100 startups are selected to participate at Founders Games, a pitching contest in front of a jury and the audience, as well as to exhibit their services at dedicated Expo Tables. Webit Festival will take place this year, on the 25th-26th of April in Sofia, Bulgaria.