How to make your personal network work for you
For healthcare entrepreneurs to validate their product, they need to gain access to hospitals and care centers. For George X. Zeng, co-founder and CEO of the remote monitoring and telehealth platform AirCare, that access came through embedded relationships within his team members' personal networks. Zeng, for instance, leveraged contacts he made through Wharton's business program.
To ensure team members were accessing the full breadth of their networks, Zeng said, AirCare hired marketers out of Asia to cull LinkedIn, alumni lists, and other web databases to find potential contacts. This allowed the company to focus on existing relationships, he said, rather than creating new ones. "In order to obtain unusually good results, you have to do unusual things in unusual ways," Zeng said. "At the end of the day, we're entrepreneurs. It's important to be entrepreneurial, to find hacks."
Here are other entrepreneurial insights from Zeng:
Hire on a contract basis first -- It's tough to determine whether a potential team member is a good fit for the company through an interview or a few conversations, Zeng said. So the AirCare team instituted a policy in which every potential employee is first brought on as a contractor before being hired full time, he said. The contractor is paid to work on a side project, Zeng said, while the team considers his or her long-term potential. "After a month or so, we asses the situation," he said. "We found that to be a very good way to find out if someone is a good fit for the startup."
Never sacrifice quality -- "If you don't assemble the right group of people," Zeng said, "it's harder to do everything else." It took a year to assemble AirCare's founding team, he said. But the time was well spent, Zeng said, because without the right people a company could end up building the wrong product. "Building for the right team is really important," he said.
Raise money to accelerate growth -- The AirCare team is working for equity only, Zeng said. "We want a larger piece of our own equity pie," he said. The company has received small investments, such as funding from the DreamIt Health accelerator and grants, Zeng said, but has yet to raise a large round. The team has decided to wait to do that until they need the funds to accelerate the growth of the business.
Photo by Sylvie Bouchard