Paul Sonnier: Founder of LinkedIn’s 17,000-member Digital Health group

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Christina Hernandez Sherwood, eMed Editor, MedCity News

As head of digital health strategy for the consulting firm Popper & Company, Paul Sonnier helps entrepreneurs develop and commercialize their products. He’s also a mentor for the accelerator Blueprint Health and founder of the Digital Health group on LinkedIn, which boasts nearly 17,000 members.

Sonnier shared his tips for digital health entrepreneurs on networking, strategizing, and focusing on the future.

Make time for online networking – With time constraints and financial limitations, it’s impossible for entrepreneurs to attend every event and conference in their field. Luckily, Sonnier said, the digital revolution is helping entrepreneurs bridge the gap with reputable, credible online networks focused on digital health. Life science and digital health entrepreneurs should seek out digital networks with unbiased information and resources to complement those in-person opportunities, he said. “The resources are out there,” Sonnier added.

Target the payer – As digital health entrepreneurs develop their business plans, Sonnier said, one of the first questions they should ask is: Which market – whether it’s consumer, health care providers or other payers – am I targeting? Sometimes the person who pays for the product or service isn’t the user, Sonnier said. For instance, he added, physicians pay for the doctor finding service ZocDoc, but patients are the users. Every case is unique, Sonnier said, so entrepreneurs should figure out early where their businesses fit.

Start with web resources – It can be tough for entrepreneurs to sift through complex issues like intellectual property and regulatory frameworks, Sonnier said. And startups don’t always have the funds available to hire someone to handle these complicated issues. But a good starting place is the web, he said, where entrepreneurs can find great articles on these and other important topics. Sonnier shares many such articles with his LinkedIn group.

Look to the future – As the digital health world continues to evolve, Sonnier said, consumers are becoming more aware of the industry – and what they can do to impact it. He compared the situation to the organic food movement, where consumers helped create an entirely new marketplace. Savvy entrepreneurs should already be able to see the potential for consumers catalyzing the digital health space, Sonnier said, and creating even more opportunities for entrepreneurs.

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