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Dr Asif Qasim, an Interventional Cardiologist based in London, launched MedShr in September 2015 from the Founders Factory Accelerator. It allows medical professionals to share and discuss clinical cases to improve patient care on a secure, encrypted platform. Here he takes the time to offer his advice and share his experiences, as MedShr reaches 200,000 in 180 countries.
Congratulations on the very successful launch of MedShr. Can you tell us about MedShr, and how you came up with the idea for it?
I’ve been involved with online medical education for over 10 years, initially with a web platform for cardiologists. The idea for MedShr came from there – with the very clear aim that we enable doctors to use their smartphone in a compliant way to share cases.
I pitched MedShr as a concept – pre-product and pre-investment – at Founders’ Forum in London in June 2014. The incredible response from there encouraged me to bootstrap building the app, start a funding round, and move from concept to reality.
MedShr is global and multi-specialty with users verified as doctors or registered healthcare professionals. I think we have developed an environment that is highly professional with some great interactions.
And congratulations on your recent win in Facebook Start’s “Social Good App of the Year” Award. Can you tell us a bit more about this, such as how it evolved, and the impact it’s had on MedShr?
Facebook developed FB Start to help mobile startups grow by providing tools, services, partner benefits, and mentorship. We were accepted into the program early in 2016, and from there invited to apply for the App of the Year Awards. We were delighted when we found out that MedShr had been awarded Social Good App of the Year 2016. This was recognition for great work both by the MedShr team and by our members who have created so much on the platform.
Once you saw the need for MedShr, what initial steps did you take to get started with it?
I used the cardiology web platform I had to test in other specialties and then did a lot of work on product-market fit and workshops with doctors to understand what really matters.
The answer we came to was case discussion – it’s the basic mechanism for learning through med school and all stages of a doctor’s career.
What were the main challenges that you faced in these early stages of development?
Firstly developing the product – translating the vision into a super-smart app, and secondly going to market and getting initial traction.
How did you go about securing your funding for MedShr?
Like many companies we benefited from private investors who get tax breaks under SEIS and EIS.
What would be your tips or hints for entrepreneurs trying to secure funding?
Have a clear message about your product and why it is important and different. You then have to show the opportunity and why it is a business not just a good idea.
And what is your advice on generating interest in, and subsequently users of, a platform such as MedShr?
It is important to use every channel you have – face to face, personal networks, email, social media, offline marketing, PR. Have a clear message and call to action and whenever possible A:B test your message to see what is most effective. And use that approach for all channels – including face to face. Don’t be fooled into thinking that there is an easy win through a single partner or one sales route.
And do you have any more general advice for budding entrepreneurs?
Research and test your good ideas in areas where you have domain expertise. Take on the challenge, be persistent, flexible and committed.
What has been the biggest challenges that you have faced with developing MedShr?
There is a lot to do, and moving at pace on all fronts is a challenge.
And what is your advice for tackling them, with the powers of hindsight?
The really important thing is to remember that you are trying to develop a business, so don’t get fixated on product just because developing an audience or market is difficult. Tech startups fail because of a lack of users or revenue – and that happens even when the idea or product are really good.
Where to do you see the future of MedShr in, say, the next 5 years?
We aim to develop MedShr into the largest doctors’ network in the world, and intend to introduce language localization by 2018 to make MedShr a truly global community where doctors from all backgrounds can easily interact with one another. Eventually we’d like to engage in more partnerships with universities and specialty training colleges to incorporate MedShr into formal learning and help bring medical education into the 21st century and the digital world.
And lastly, something commonly wrestled with in healthtech start-ups developed by doctors is finding a balance between clinical and entrepreneurial activities. What are your views on this?
I’m still in clinical practice and love the cardiology work that I do. I am fortunate to have developed some flexibility over the last couple of years. For young doctors this is a tough call, but in general my advice would be to keep practicing at least until you have some autonomy.