Why healthcare startups should consider international funding
It's no secret that fundraising is one of the toughest jobs of an early-stage healthcare entrepreneur. "There's a lot of noise in healthcare," said Asif Khan, founder and CEO of Caremerge, a care coordination platform for senior living communities. "When it comes to healthcare IT and tech, not a whole lot of people understand it because it's tied to regulations."
While Caremerge had paying customers in the U.S., Khan said, investors weren't willing to fund the company due to concerns about regulations. "We decided to go outside [the U.S.]," he said, considering aging is a global issue. "We got European investors." Khan and his co-founders used their international connections to find the right investors. "When it comes to fundraising," he said, "all connections are a possibility."
Here are other entrepreneurial insights from Khan:
Don't rush team building -- As much as an early-stage healthcare startup wants to grow fast, Khan said, it's better to take the time to find the right person for the job. "If that's missing," he said, "you slow everybody down." Make sure every hire, especially for senior-level positions, Khan said, is the right fit for the company's culture. "We need to continue our growth by adding the right people," he said.
Pound the pavement to find customers -- Sometimes good, old-fashioned legwork is the best way to find early customers, Khan said. "I just walked into senior living facilities," he said. "People invited me with open arms. They said, 'Finally, somebody's thinking of these things!'" Khan said that after he described the problem and how his product would solve it, the Caremerge team was invited to talk to seniors and conduct focus groups.
Use the first customer to attract others -- Once your startup snags its first customer, Khan said, the next one is easier. Caremerge charged its first customer at a discounted rate, he said, and used the experience to build promotional materials for the startup. "We had a case study, video testimonials, and a press release," Khan said. "We extracted a lot from the first one."
Photo by Szocs Jozsef