Health Entrepreneurs, Don’t Miss This One Step

By Dr. Behrooz Behbod

So many times I see mission-driven and ambitious Entrepreneurs with seemingly great startup ideas and business models, get stuck when it comes to gaining investment. I’m not just referring to your typical investors, but also with the investment of time and resources by the health sector.

Last week, I was invited to be the opening speaker at the Public Health Innovator Accelerator in New York City, organised by Firefly Innovations at the City University of New York. I felt honoured to teach a group of inspirational Innovators and Entrepreneurs looking to create a healthier, happier world through their ventures. Over the next 10 weeks, they’ll be developing their startups through a series of classes and mentoring sessions. I’ll also be meeting with a few of them one-to-one as a core consultant.

One thing stood out, which I wanted to share with you too.

I listen to many pitches, read pitch decks, and often read lengthy slides not getting to the point. You may be looking to improve mental health for example. However, which aspect of mental health?

  • Do you want to make sure everyone stays healthy and never gets sick (primary prevention)?
  • Or do you want to offer a product or service that identifies people with mental disorders earlier, so they may receive the treatment they need (secondary prevention)?
  • Alternatively, do you have a new digital health tool that treats people with known disease (tertiary prevention)?
  • Or perhaps you’ve seen problems with medical error and have developed a solution to reduce harm (quaternary prevention).

Then comes the question, what specific outcome are you tackling? For example, with mental health, is it anxiety, depression, addiction, loneliness, or suicide? Or are you going upstream to tackle the risk factors, or better yet, the underlying wider social, environmental, or lifestyle determinants of health?

Once you’ve answered these, precisely what is the problem with the status quo? How do you want to help through your innovative solution?

Whenever I work with Entrepreneurs, I first dig deeper to understand why this is important to them. However, what many don’t pay enough attention to is asking whether the problem also matters to their target audience. Are they aware of the problem you’re hoping to solve? Will anyone actually pay?

Let’s go back to my question: are you 100% clear on the specific problem you’re solving?

To help gain clarity and truly provide an informed answer, you’ll need to do a full needs assessment and stakeholder consultation. However, I often see Entrepreneurs bringing together stakeholders, and pitching them their startup solution. While you’ll want to eventually gain feedback on your idea, this phase is your opportunity to gather answers to your outstanding questions. Primarily, you’ll want to hear what problems your target audience are feeling, in their own words. Ask them what their ideal future would look like if their problem was gone. Then gain their views on potential solutions. Once they feel heard, that’s when you can co-create your solution.

This is simply the first, but perhaps the most important step in overcoming the challenges you’ll face with securing investment and gaining adoption.

If you’d like to self-assess, diagnose, treat, and better yet, prevent issues facing your health startup or business, you’ll want to make sure you cover all the steps of something I like to call Startup Therapy. I cover them all in a free 50-min masterclass, available on demand on www.entrepreneurs.doctor.

Dr. Behrooz Behbod, a.k.a. “The Entrepreneur’s Doctor”, is a Board of Advisor at SPRYT( a Fountech Venture portfolio company). He is a Harvard & Oxford trained public health / preventive medicine physician with 20+ years of international experience.

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