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Go Big Or Go Home: A Roadmap For Building New Ventures Not all great ideas are successful and not all successful ideas are great.

By Charlie Barlow

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When, as a venture capitalist and technology entrepreneur, I incubated my telehealth company, Health at Hand, I focused on achieving the highest level of credibility from day one. This after all was healthcare, a heavily regulated sector, albeit one that was in dire need of disruption.

If flying myself halfway across the world to interview the best telehealth minds in Silicon Valley was not enough, my persistence did not stop there. There was really only one person I wanted to meet, Dr Pat Basu, the founder and Chief Medical Officer of one of the world's most successful telehealth companies, Doctor on Demand, and a former healthcare advisor to President Barack Obama. The only problem was that Dr Pat didn't want to meet me, a total unknown ex-banker from the UAE.

Not deterred by the fact Dr Pat didn't reply to numerous of my direct approaches in the preceding months (via phone, email and LinkedIn), I audaciously phoned the Doctor on Demand switchboard when in Palo Alto– and blagged myself an audience with Dr Pat by talking my way into his office. The result? After a 30-minute meeting and a coffee the following morning, Dr Pat was sufficiently impressed with the vision of Health at Hand and the tenacity of its founder, myself, to accept an advisory position on Health at Hand's board, a role which he continues to hold some 24 months later. I recently attended Dr Pat's wedding in Mexico alongside the great and good of the US healthcare sector.

Such an approach sums up the way in which Health at Hand has launched and has subsequently grown. Boasting a team which is the envy of the regional telehealth sector, Health at Hand's CMO is a graduate of Harvard University, while many of our technology team "cut their teeth' helping to build the region's first and only unicorn technology business, Careem.

I always say that our vision with Health at Hand from the outset was not to build just a company, but to build something great. This was reflected early on in the brilliant team we hired, our incredibly high clinical and non-clinical protocols, our market leading doctor accreditation standards, and our intent of building a business that truly puts the patient first, a rarity in the healthcare sector.

Earlier this year, Health at Hand became the first company to achieve a telehealth license under the Dubai Health Authority. Although there are a small number of telehealth companies elsewhere in the region, Health at Hand is the only independently owned telehealth company, which is hugely important given we have no vested interest in overprescribing drugs or conducting unnecessary diagnostic testing, practices that continue to exist in local and international markets.

Having embedded a game-changing My Health section within our app, which allows patients to upload, download and share their own medical records, Health at Hand is truly changing the face of primary healthcare, proving that video consultations can indeed be even safer than seeing a doctor face-to-face. With Health at Hand's leadership, an industry that has been slow to modernize is now slowly democratizing.

Here are my tips for aspiring technology entrepreneurs looking to do the same with their respective businesses:

  • Make sure you are solving a real problem. Not all great ideas are successful and not all successful ideas are great. But if you are solving a real problem, you have a chance to succeed.
  • Make sure your idea is well researched: assumptions are dangerous. Legislation in principle is very different to that in practice. Understand the motivation and problems that exist for ALL your shareholders- and build something that benefits them all.
  • Go straight to the top: If you are unsure about the regulatory landscape, meet with the most senior individual in the most appropriate department; be tenacious, listen hard and be prepared to be passed around before you find the right person. When it comes to hiring, aim for the moon and secure an interview with the best in the market– even if you fail, at least you'll still hit the stars.
  • Find the right investors: if you have the luxury of being able to choose who invests in your business, make sure you choose those who understand how you propose to run the business. If you are driving top-line growth and acquisition, yet your investors are looking at ROI, conflicts will arise.
  • Build to scale: soft code your technology where you can and keep your technology debt to a minimum (the perceived cost of additional engineering rework). Always have your future roadmap in mind when building new features and consider how you will cross-border from an early stage.
Related: Making The Case For Telehealth in the GCC
Charlie Barlow

Founder and CEO of Health at Hand

Charlie Barlow is founder and CEO of Health at Hand, an app-based doctor video consultation platform launched in Dubai in 2017. 

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