Niels Leadholm, along with Richard Purcell, is a co-founder of Medincle, a startup that distributes a biomedical spellchecker and plug-in for speech recognition software to students and healthcare professionals in the UK. Click here for a short video about Medincle.
There are almost an overwhelming number of things to learn on the exciting journey of creating a startup. Rich and I are currently junior doctors that whilst studying medicine at the University of Bristol in 2013 decided to form a company called Medincle.
Medincle is a unique biomedical spellchecker and plug-in for speech recognition software that we provide to thousands of students and healthcare professionals across the UK. Along the way we’ve learned dozens of invaluable lessons through a little bit of trial and a whole lot of error, and we wanted to share some of these with Doctorpreneurs.
Elsewhere on this website I saw that Stephanie Eltz, founder of Doctify, described working with a friend as her best advice, and I couldn’t agree more. Working together has not only made Rich and I greater friends, it has also kept us going when the times were tough.
I remember us once driving back from a meeting with our accountant, it was raining outside and we both looked at each other and just said ‘man, this is crap’. Whenever things go wrong we always look back and think, if we managed to get through that period, we can get through anything. Having each other to whinge to and get each other excited for the next step is crucial to staying enthusiastic about your project.
My other biggest piece of advice is, try to meet and chat to anyone who is like-minded and is passionate about the same things as you. We have come across people from a huge range of professional backgrounds, and virtually all of them have been friendly and keen to help, often off of their own backs. By speaking to other entrepreneurs, you will often discover that you share the same challenges, and it can be invaluable to hear how other people have overcome them.
I remember Rich and I once bemoaning the difficulty of promoting a spellchecker on social media, as it’s just not a sexy product like a smartphone. That was until we met the founders of an air conditioning company who said social media had completely revolutionised their sales, and that it was just a case of persistence!
By speaking to other entrepreneurs, you will often discover that you share the same challenges, and it can be invaluable to hear how other people have overcome them.
My main piece of advice for cost savings would be to try and pursue the ‘lean startup’ model. This is a great way to quickly put together a barebones prototype of your idea that you can start testing out and getting feedback on. This will help you stay motivated and test the viability, both technical and business, of your idea. In this way you can also iterate your product, starting small and increasing in ambition as you become more confident in your idea, and are willing to take greater financial risks. Related to this, the current tech boom has made it easier than ever to hire freelancers online and outsource work. This enables you to keep a lean company with fewer outgoings, and Rich and I have had a lot of success hiring talented people online in everything from graphic design to voice acting.
I would strongly suggest that at every stage of the project, from initial concept to after your first thousand sales, you keep your eye open for business award opportunities. There are a huge variety of these out there, and often they don’t require more than a small blurb about your business for the initial short-listing. You probably won’t win the first half-dozen you go for, but if you are able to get a few, you will feel hugely uplifted, not to mention getting the publicity or financial reward that often comes with them. Upcoming examples include the Doctorpreneurs Startup School pitching competition taking place on 5th November.
…keep your eye open for business award opportunities.
My final comment would be that having your own startup is an incredibly enjoyable journey, even if it is also a significant time commitment. As medics we rarely get the opportunity to be creative, learn skills outside of medicine, or have our own project to grow. These are all part and parcel of a start-up however, and the key elements that have kept Rich and I going despite the many challenges we have faced, and still have yet to overcome.
having your own startup is an incredibly enjoyable journey, even if it is also a significant time commitment!