The Innovation Forum – A group focused on bridging the gaps between academia, policy, and industry – held an event at Campus to talk about the Internet of Things (IoT) and Healthcare. This is highly relevant to healthcare as devices can now collect, transfer, and analyze data previously unavailable to the sector. To talk about IoT, the Innovation Forum brought in Mischa Dohler an industry leader who is the Professor of Wireless Communications at Kings College and Co-founder and Board Member of Worldsensing. Dohler provided his views on IoT, milestones every entrepreneur will hit, the biggest problems you’ll face, and mistakes to avoid along the way.
The IoT is not a new idea, the term was coined in 1999 by Kevin Ashton in a presentation about Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) in Procter and Gamble’s supply chain. Even though many sectors, especially Healthcare could gain from the IoT it hasn’t really taken off according to Dohler.
He highlighted that even though we have the infrastructure and devices, the concept really hasn’t taken off due to a lack of demand. He went on to say that there is a huge difference between having standards, technology, or even the business model and having demand. Dohler compared the current IoT to the fixed internet in 1995.
“There was clearly a need for being connected and power point, but no body was using it. There was no demand until it kicked off and everyone started to use it.”
So how do you create demand within the Healthcare space? Get out there and talk to clients, end users, C-suite executives, and all stakeholders along the way. Its not until the CTO or CEO understands the benefits of the IoT and how to integrate it into their system that it will take off.
Dohler shared 3 distinct mile stones every entrepreneur will face when working on their own company,
1. The point of no return. You start to commit to a point that you can not go back without looking really really bad. You will have trillions of opportunities to do something else and you will hit a wall at some point and the easiest thing to do is to give up.
3.Transition from a prototype company to a product company. Currently due to 3D printing, CAD design systems, and the open source options available it is easy to create a prototype. However a prototype doesn’t let you scale. You have to push yourself out of your comfort zone, put the product out there and test it rigorously. Dohler went on to state that your product has to work for years without glitches at scale for you to succeed.
2. Transition from a product company to a market driven company. Bottom line, you need sales and marketing people. So many companies after the initial run up are full of great engineers, but you have to actually go out and sell it. Dohler suggests having a mix of 40% engineers and 60% sales and marketing. Many companies after 3-4 years still have 80% engineers and he normally doesn’t see them surviving another 2 years.
So what are the biggest problems you’ll face along the way – Cash, and Demand.
Different countries have different habits when it comes to providing seed and venture capital. Worldsensing was founded in Barcelona where Angel/Series A funding required a working product and customers willing to pay. Dohler expressed his frustration saying that the lenders were just working as a poor banks, and he didn’t see much “venture” in their investment. As you move to the UK you see many start ups receive 1million (GBP) investment with a working prototype. Heading to the U.S. Dohler’s biggest competitor for example received 10million (USD) Series A funding with a powerpoint – so he highly recommends purchasing the plane ticket to pitch in San Fransisco!
When developing new markets demand has to be created – and creating demand is very expensive. Dohler’s biggest U.S. competitor attempted to build demand and failed due to lack of capital despite having 65million (USD) in backing. So if you don’t have the cash flow behind you, you have to be a very quick number two. For example he was able to go to other cities, pitch their product as the better cheaper option while using all of the efforts of his competitor as a benchmark of what can be achieved. This allowed Worldsensing to scale up and land large contracts.
“It is now not the first movers advantage that counts, it’s the first scalable advantage”
So what did Dohler say the biggest mistakes to avoid when starting out are? First is to not hide from your end users. Go out and talk to your clients until you know their surnames and have a full understanding of their needs. Second is that the perfect condition doesn’t exist and you need to learn how to work in imperfect conditions. He compared starting a company to jumping off a cliff with no parachute and assembling a plane without instructions.
In Part II we look at a Healthcare company tackling eye disease in the world’s most challenging areas by leveraging internet connectivity and smartphones.