NHS Startup Part XIII – First Sale, Partnerships, Company Formation, Speaking Gig

As you may be able to tell from the title, a lot has happened.  One thing about having a startup is that things just move at a thousand miles per hour.  It’s easy to see why you should “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world” as Margaret Mead once said.


In the last blog post I spoke about meeting with one of the biggest IT providers in the NHS to integrate our software with theirs.  We had the meeting last week.  The company we had the meeting with was EMIS – they have 53% of market share of GP IT systems.  This was a huge meeting for us.

I took my team down to meet the clinical director of EMIS.  He was absolutely blown away by what we have achieved already and was shocked that we did it all with no outside investments.  I’ve boot strapped the whole project up to this point and own 100% of everything.  This makes it very easy for EMIS to do business with us.

I liked one thing that the clinical director said.  To paraphrase he said that most entrepreneurs raise a million pounds, get an office, run out of money, then raise more money and yet still don’t have a product.  Whereas we’ve done the opposite.  We bootstrapped the whole thing by ourselves and we have an actual product that people want!

EMIS is a giant company with many different sub divisions.  After giving a demo and explaining the implications of the product we are now organising a formal meeting with three of the relevant sub divisions of EMIS.  We’ll then be talking about integration, how we should licence the product, what conditions will be in place etc.

A deal with EMIS would be absolutely huge and would likely give us a turnover of seven figures within the next year.

All in all the meeting went like a dream!  And the icing on the cake was when the clinical director asked if he could invest his own money into our company!

Company Formation And Being Non-Technical

One thing that’s getting in the way now is that I haven’t actually formed a company.  I just wanted to concentrate on the product and make it as good as I could.  However, I’m going to have to do this very soon as not only are we having discussions with the big boys, but we also have our first sale coming up (more on this below).

I spoke a little bit about this in my previous post.  As a non-technical founder that’s dealing with software you basically have two options.  Hire a CTO or contract out the work to a firm or person.

There is a pseduo-third option which is to learn to code yourself.  I wouldn’t recommend this approach at all for a number of reasons.  The main reason is that entrepreneurs don’t live their life as if they have an infinite amount of time.  We realise that time is the most valuable asset of them all.  If you lose your money, you can always make it back.  If you lose time, you won’t ever get that time back – it’s gone!  So, you have to ask yourself what the opportunity cost is.  Would your time be better used by making a product and a profitable business, or would it be more lucrative to learn to code?

I came to a cross roads – should I continue to outsource to my developers or should I bring them on?  The scope of the company is quite far-reaching and although I wouldn’t classify it as a “software company” that deals with technical problems, but rather a “healthcare company” which deals with medical problems, I still want to leverage modern technology.

After the meeting with EMIS I was stood in the car park with my developer and my designer.  We decided right there and then that we’d co-found the company together.  I think it’s the right thing to do.  We will all have equal equity in the company.  So we have three founders.  Me, as the CEO/CMO.  A CTO who is an absolute genius and is a full stack developer and our COO/CPO who is a design genius.  We’ve known each other for a year or so now and I just love them both.

In the following week we are going to lay down the ground rules and organise vested equity so that we are all protected.  We are also going to get a shareholders and joint venture agreement where we will all agree on what we need to do for the company and what is and what is not acceptable.

Why did I do this and not contract out?  It’s a gut feeling and I really do think it’s morally the right thing to do.  Also, I think the company will get big and I’ll have to hire more developers.  I can’t assess who is not good and who is good so my CTO will be crucial in that respect.  Also by bringing the CTO on board we are now doing everything in-house and can iterate even faster.  When we get the APIs for integration with EMIS we can do all of this very quickly.

I also felt that my COO/CPO is crucial as she has been incredible so far and I don’t think I would’ve been able to get this far without her enthusiasm and creativity.

I feel privileged to be in a team with these guys.  I love that we all have domain expertise in completely different fields and that by coming together we’re a real force to be reckoned with.

First Sale

I’ve recently secured our first sale.  We are going to be in a 60,000 patient practice!  The practice is hoping to expand to 100,000 patients soon.  This is a huge deal!  They’re planning on launching our service at the end of this month / beginning of next month.

I didn’t want to charge too much for our service yet as we still haven’t built all of it.  We’ve got a new release coming out in a couple of weeks and I am sure there’s going to be a bunch of glitches and things which go wrong.  But this is an incredible opportunity to actually get paid while we develop our product and play around with a huge patient base.

The good thing about this practice in Leeds is that the GPs are on the board of the CCG and so if it’s a big success here then Leeds is for the taking.

When it came to the sale all I asked was for enough money to bring on my co-founders as full time so that we can completely focus on this project and make it as good as we can in a really short space of time.  I think in around 6 months we will have absolutely nailed product market fit.  Hopefully, by this time I will have finished my GP training and I can also work full time on the business and grow it as quickly as I can.

I am incredibly excited about this as the practice are also going to use the service in the way I had originally intended it to be used.  This may actually revolutionise the workflow of the whole practice!

Speaking Gig

Another little surprise recently is that I’ve been invited to speak to the medical students at Leeds University about entrepreneurship and how to create startups, assess ideas and execute and develop those ideas.

I’m not too sure what to say as I feel like a bit of a fraud.  I mean we’ve only just made our first sale and are by no means a massive success, but I feel very honored to have been asked nonetheless.  My girlfriend is coming along to this event, so if my talk is any good then I’ll post a video of it up!  (If it sucks then you’ll never hear about it ever again….or maybe I should post pictures instead and make it look as if it was really good….hmmmm….)


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