Healthcare: Innovators needed, Apply within

Health-tech, Fin-tech, and Edu-tech are being touted as the next frontiers where million-dollar valuations will be created and Africa’s development springboarded.

Nonetheless, there’s still a long way to go.

Our realities say problems abound and these are called wicked problems. Hard to solve problems that get tougher with zero to little government assistance coming at the back of the next AI/ML computer revolution.

How do we solve a 1:5100 doctors to patients ratio when 50% of my colleagues (Finished college 2017) are in Canada or preparing to leave for Canada?

Or How do we optimize about 5000 pharmacies to cater to a population of 200Million People?

Health is particularly harder as Healthcare innovation in Nigeria has not up till recently met with realities on the ground that is, meeting customer expectations or as they want it met.

We have exceptional founders are tackling Healthcare problems, having worked as an early employee and product manager in one of those, real insights, brilliant thought processes, and execution are ongoing.

Some of these startups include myPharmacy, mPharma, Doctora, Lifebank, Lifestores, Wellahealth, Innocul8. They are solving real issues using innovative business approaches and (to-be)profitable business models.

However, Nigeria needs more. Nigeria needs you and honestly, time is running out.
Are you passionate about health? Passionate about playing the long game? Excited for the future.

Failed government projects like the $650M Abuja medical city, Immunisation programs, largely the NHIS have shown that it is up to the innovators in the Private sector to solve these issues.

We can only solve our problems by developing business models peculiar to ourselves, armed with a good understanding of our people, how they think, how they pay for products and services.

I’ll touch on some few points as guides for healthcare innovators.

Apple Hypothesis: Ipod
Developing Hypothesis: Apple
Credits: Bullet.

As a Founder, it’s generally a better choice to pursue about 3 problems in your niche (especially Health) simultaneously and as hard as you can.

This might not be a popular opinion, but I will give three reasons why this might be true.

– First, You want to learn as much as you can in the shortest time possible.

– Secondly, You don’t want to run out of cash while solving the wrong problem, wrong might mean bad business model/wrong problem/non-monetizable problem.

– Thirdly, The Nigeria market has a low ceiling, operating just a business model might not give outsized returns for investors. A lot of our veteran entrepreneurs did similarly, picked a niche [FMCG, Agriculture] and provided vertical solutions at a different point of the value chain. (Dangote Cement mines limestone, manufactures cement, built distribution channels, employed agents e.t.c)

When you figure out the highest value Job to be Done(JTBD), drop the others and maniacally focus on the One.

For the business model, as a guide (This is the first of a series, so watch out for next posts explaining these in details)

  • Pursue solutions in different verticals simultaneously: There’s a place for focus and there’s a place for iterating over different problems.

Reasons companies should choose this, Nigeria’s problems are fundamental and largely structural, so solutions/structures are needed to provide and add extra value for your company, an example of Vertical integration in Fintech are agent banking, USSD solutions, easy-to-use mobile Apps, in a bid to reach different customers at different points.

For healthcare innovators in Nigeria, vertical integration would include strengthening the supply chain, reducing patient’s costs, capturing upstream or downstream profits, or creating new/faster distribution channels.

  • Equity and Grant: Creating value needs funding, in Healthcare you can’t capture all the value you create in financial terms, therefore a non-for-profit arm is vital to both provide solutions for customers without the need for immediate returns and to keep the lights on.
  • Build relationship/Collaboration: It takes a village to raise a child, leveraging relationships and collaboration is needed especially in complicated sectors like Healthcare
  • Don’t be overleveraged: As much as you apply leverage, don’t be overleveraged. Own your physical locations/community
  • For Business to Customer products: Understand your customer acquisition cost and channels, grow organically then spend on Ads, use influencer marketing. You need to also worry about Lock-in (Owning your customers/making them return), invest in great copy and email marketing. Apply Network effect, as simple as a telegram group would kick this off).
  • For Business to Business startups: The nature of B2B necessitates longer sales time, high barrier to entry but easier to achieve lock-in, and expand to B2C when/if you control the last mile of the value chain.

For some reason, I couldn’t find much on D2C 3brands in Nigeria  (maybe I’ll start a D2C brand and share learnings)…I’ll blog on this in 6months.

I’d love to hear your comments and criticism, reach me on twitter

7 thoughts on “Healthcare: Innovators needed, Apply within

  1. Hey, Jerry! Enjoyed reading this.
    I like the approach to pursue 3 problems then pursue the one with the highest value JTBD.
    I wasn’t sure at first, but can see how lessons from that come back to help the innovator be able to provide vertical solutions at different parts of the value chain do not works… Especially when there’s a bit of focus because like you said, Nigeria’s problems are largely structural and one could burn out trying to spread his/herself out thin.

    All in all, great post. Looking forward to the next read!

  2. Well x-rayed J. We will need more of this to remind us of the need for relentless efforts if we must measure up to at least solving 10% of our healthcare inadequacies.

  3. In reality, we have a more complex problem than we care to imagine. A lovely and thorough read. We need to start building structures or leveraging existing structures. More importantly, we need health practitioners to start taking up more political posts too and then creating a symbiotic relationship with the innovators.

  4. Nice one Jeremiah!! Definitely sharing this. I think I can’t understand why people aren’t invested into health-tech yet but time won’t allow me go into details. I’ll love to read in details, the challenges you’ve faced in this industry.

    Can’t wait for the next post!!

  5. Oh very nice post wasn’t sure where you were heading at first until you made the statement on the ratio of health workers to the patients, even the number of pharmacies to 200 million people… breaking that barrier needs more work..

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