A collaboration platform for healthcare professionals
The core founding team comprises Philip Mundy (whom we have interviewed) and two other co-founders Barney and Lydia, who are doctors. Philip has an awe-inspiring track record with high growth startups. Before beginning his work on ForwardHealth, he founded Goodlord.
After being warmly welcomed into their bright and airy office in central London, we’ve begun chatting with the people who have been working there for a while. Our sincere observation was that this is a group of people who are dedicated to the core problem. But, maybe even more important than that was to witness their flexibility in coming up with new products/solutions around the core problem they care about: Bettering communication and collaboration for healthcare professionals.
In the founder interview with Philip, we had an engaging conversation about their growth journey, culture, investment, tech tools and more. We also had a chance to interview two Software Engineers from the team working on Android and iOS.
Watch the documentary
Listen to the podcast (uncut interview)
Pagers to SaaS: The value to users
The core value proposition of ForwardHealth can be symbolised as an attempt to bring healthcare communication up to date from the world of pagers to the world of software-as-a-service solutions. They provide a communications platform for healthcare professionals to use that can offer much more than B2C solutions like WhatsApp or the likes since they have the advantage of being laser-focused on their users’ needs and specific cases.
They are a team that thinks very visually. They do not rely on long projections that go up to 12 months. Rather, they have a more agile approach. “We understand the problem; that’s the only thing we know for sure. Doctors and nurses spend well over an hour a day trying to communicate,” says Philip.
Their product development process starts with spending time in the hospitals and getting a feel of the core value areas for users.
History of funding
Forward was founded with their own resources in the beginning. Their first angel round was for £400K in total. Phillip says at the end of last year (2018), they have closed one of the largest HealthTech seeds in the UK. The Venture Capital was Stride.vc.
A key point of discussion was the role of the VC is almost becoming a co-founder like a member of the team. He describes the relationship as very intimate and dialogue-rich. It seems “smart money” is gaining more and more important in the London tech scene.
What is best & worst about being a London startup?
The world is becoming a smaller place. From San Francisco to Berlin, the abundance of contacts naturally leads to conversations of comparison between different cities. Philip believes London is a fantastic place to build a startup. Among his reasons are that the city has the critical mass of talent; it is well-connected; in some sectors, it just seems to do better (especially in FinTech). London is quite advantageous in HealthTech, mainly due to the unique effect of NHS (National Health Service). It might just be one of the best places in the world to take on a healthcare challenge.
On the other hand, late night or very early morning conversations with global partners can be difficult.
One area of challenge particular to London is around funding since the type of VC conversations has their differences. When moving into some of humanity’s big challenges (food, healthcare, etc.), you need bigger economies of scale to reach great numbers. It is not as easy to show mid-term profitability in numbers as is the case with FinTech startups. So the risk appetite seems to be smaller in Europe compared to the US.
People side of growth
“You can’t invest in the people and talent function of the business soon enough,” says Philip.
When you get to the point of scale and start thinking about the people dynamics of the organisation, you are already too late. The dilemma here is that focusing on the people matters (and culture) can feel like a luxury, but it isn’t.
Emma Carroll is the Head of People & Talent at Forward. Her valued role at the company speaks to Forward’s sincerity in caring about the people side of their growth.
Their ability to deal with complexity, build products, solve problems, they all absolutely being and end with the quality of the team.
It is a team of 23 currently (going up to 26 soon). People who are potentially thinking about joining the team should know that; Forward values people giving their best work, focusing on solutions and seeing disagreements as areas of potential improvement.
Philip says their failures define almost all companies. It’s the mistakes, the experiments that teach. He defines ForwardHealth as a “fail-safe” organisation, and we absolutely love this approach.
The tech solutions (SaaS library) they depend on
They use slack because it’s very flexible. They also use Atlassian, but Philip’s suggestion is to focus on what has been transformational.
So what has been the most transformative work they have done in terms of adopting software?
Enter Data Studio by Google. It’s a flexible dashboard and reporting tool with a lot of customisation and sharing options.
Experiments are great, as long as you know what you are experimenting.
Knowing where you started, laying out the hypothesis, having a clear grasp on what you are measuring… These are key to making sure you are not just labelling guesswork as experiments but actually on a structured path towards discovering new growth areas.
Data Studio allows them to think visually, separate the signal from the noise. They have managed to tie the platform with their OKRs / KPIs and now can use it almost like a compass for the business.
They look at metrics like: Is the software used every shift, how sticky is it, what’s the user acquisition rate – all of these are up on the wall in the office, and everybody can look at these and see if they are headed in the right direction.
Philip cites two more benefits. One, for the decisions people are making daily, they can subtly take that information and shape their work to align well with the company’s overall goals. Second, VC reporting is much easier, you take a screenshot, and you are done!
Future goals & milestones
As an ambitiously growing company, Forward already has 10% of the doctors in the UK using the network.
Their goal is to have 50% of the doctors in the UK on the network soon.
They also see a responsibility to remain a sustainable organisation. However, Philip has not gone into much detail on how it is good to hear this is on their radar.
Forward Health looks like it’s on a great trajectory of growth. With talented people who do not just pay lip service but truly understand what makes a startup successful, I believe they have a good shot at modernising how communication & collaboration takes place in the healthcare sector.
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