Events

How to pandemic-proof your startup: A conversation with healthcare entrepreneurs

It would be among the understatements of the year to say that COVID-19 has thrown a curve ball to the healthcare community. And it goes double for startups.

Adapting to remote work, addressing new levels of security/protective measures and growing a sustainable young company in the age of Zoom are just a few of the new challenges with which healthcare startups are now faced.

Last week Cedar co-founder and CEO Florian Otto joined Medly Pharmacy co-founder and CMO Chirag Kulkarni and Eden Health Inc. co-founder and CEO Matt Cambridge for a discussion on how to address these issues and more by "pandemic proofing" your startup, moderated by Business Insider Healthcare Editor Lydia Ramsey Pflanzer.

Throughout the wide-ranging session, the panelists discussed the challenges and opportunities of working remotely, raising capital, appealing to prospective employees and fostering the healthiest possible workplace culture during COVID-19.

What’s keeping startup leaders up at night

All three leaders’ viewpoints converged on the need to look after the health and wellbeing of their teams while attending to growth, even though forecasting as a startup can be challenging. “Maybe the one thing that stands out during this time is that in a startup you can never really plan for the next five years,” said Florian Otto. “It makes no sense because things change too fast. But in these times, it’s more important to stay flexible and nimble and to balance that with desires of team members to have some planning.”

Chirag Kulkarni agreed. “We ask what’s a scalable way to ensure people are staying happy and healthy and what we’ve done from the get-go is rely on the senior leadership teams to strategize with their respective managers and team members around what’s going to work best for their org,” he said. “And I think the key is just implementing these protocols within the pharmacies themselves to make sure people are staying healthy and health is really at the foremost, but we’re also able to serve our customers during these challenging times.”

Maintaining team connections and attracting top candidates in a remote work environment

The panelists agreed that in addition to the immediate task of moving to nearly entirely remote operations, the pandemic has made attracting prospects more challenging as they continue to grow. “When everyone is remote and very few people are in the office, what’s most important is to keep the differentiator of what makes Cedar very attractive to top candidates,” Otto said. “I think if companies stay remote for very long, it’s much tougher to explain to candidates what’s special about Cedar. So I think it’s extremely important to double down on that and that’s probably one of the things where I’m not too worried yet. But if this goes for a very long time, I think we need to focus on that.”

Matt Cambridge added that during this period the company’s mission becomes that much more important. “We have a very strong emphasis on our values as well and those come out in the interview process in every conversation,” he said. “We’ve recruited candidates from companies who really felt that was dissonant. I just think for people who are building organizations at this time, be honest with yourself what your mission is and if you do believe that this mission is impactful and connected to the moment, I think you’ll find a lot of success recruiting. It’s just not going to be possible for Google or Facebook to really have that in the same way.”

Fundraising during COVID-19 and beyond

All three panelists had a different fundraising experience in 2020, with Kulkarni and Cambridge doing most of their fundraising before the pandemic and Cedar doing much of it in the thick of it. And although there is a lot of economic certainty at the moment, all remained bullish on the future. “I think what happened during COVID-19 is more money became available for good companies because a lot of industries are not investable anymore,” Otto said. “So I think right now, for the companies that benefit from COVID-19, it’s a much better time to raise money than pre-COVID.”

To listen to the panelists discuss the role of leadership during the pandemic, fundraising specifics and their predictions about where the pandemic is pushing healthcare technology, watch the full replay here.

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Tags: Innovation, Florian Otto, Health Tech