Pando (formerly Forward Health) is an essential tool for teamwork and secure collaboration. It is designed to benefit anyone working in health and social care, working in a team, with a need to share sensitive information and images securely. You can learn about their success story from our other documentary from here.
As we all know, Covid-19 affected London’s startups in direct and indirect ways, and it has permanently changed the landscape for London’s technology businesses like the rest of the world. So we are interviewing key people of the startup ecosystem to ask them about their challenges and survival strategies in this hard time.
We hope that this interview series will be helpful and insightful for other startups in London out there. Because we believe that the most important thing is to learn from each other and be helpful to others, within this direction, you are welcomed to the sixth episode of our “How to Survive Covid-19 as a Startup?” interview series. You can reach all of them from our Covid-19 Interviews YouTube playlist. So let’s begin, fellas!
Watch the interview:
Work from home situation
Philip Mundy is a “serial founder,” and he is running Pando. We interviewed him and asked him questions. First of all, we ask him about his observations about how startups are handling work from home situations.
He says: “In a sense being part of the tech community, we are fortunate in the wider context. Most of our team work with their MacBooks. They can do that from the office, or they can do that from anywhere if they have access to decent internet. Like a lot of tech companies, we also use platforms like Slack. They do not require to be in the same room together. It is kind of in our DNA to be able to work remotely. In fact, earlier this year, we started thinking more deeply about what we call “agile work“. We thought calling it to work from home had almost a bit of a stigma to it. The suggestion is almost that you are not working; you are doing something else.
Now, we are all out of the office. I think, in some ways, we were ready for this even before it happened. However, in other ways, it is the complete decentralization of the company which has raised new challenges. Everything we have done remotely previously, we are now doing honours scale that we never experienced before. Nevertheless, we have coped relatively well.”
Uncut interview with Pando:
How Pando is handling the Covid-19 situation?
If you are new to what we do as a company, we are a clinical messaging platform. Pando is an instant messaging platform for healthcare workers, such as doctors, nurses, midwives, and pharmacists. We essentially enable them to discover each other and share information in real-time. We believe that good healthcare is built on correct communication. So we try to build the best communication platform in the world for healthcare teams. So when you think about that, we are in the space of remote collaboration almost by design.
When Covid-19 started, 150 new doctors were joining the network every day. For the last few weeks, we have seen over 1,000 new doctors are joining every day. For us, it has come to a host of challenges, not least how do we make our engineering in several infrastructures capable of supporting a four-five hundred per cent increase in engagement. We are seeing growth in every dimension of the platform but also, how do we do that? Almost overnight, we have become a 24/7 organization in a way that we had not before. Our network has grown to suggest in the 50,000 now in the UK. Before all this, we were just under 30,000. We have literally doubled as an organisation in the last 4 weeks.
How Pando is helping with the current crisis?
When we are in an extreme situation, it is a little bit like turning the contrast upon an image. The lights become noticeably light, the darks become very dark, and for a starter, what shows you are part of what you do is truly valuable. We have seen the platform being used in a small number of profoundly valuable ways. One of them is around broadcasting information. A great challenge every healthcare organisation faces is ensuring that your people have access to a single source of truth? Especially in an environment with fast-changing information. Broadcasting information has been a core use case for the platform.
There is an interesting one as well, actually, which just came from community teams last week. It is important to keep patients away from hospitals. Especially if they are at-risk groups. One of our groups of community physicians described that it is bringing an A&E to the patient rather than bringing the patient to A&E. They are using the platform for consulting with any doctors when they are with potentially at-risk patients in the community. It is a form of telehealth, but for us, it is this idea of getting the right information at the right time no matter where you are. It is about sharing information, scale, and depth and getting an expert opinion on a patient’s health from your mobile platform.
What are some new features you are working on?
“You cannot go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”
Clice Staples Lewis
We had the standard stuff like one-on-one messaging in team-based messaging, but we opened a new platform feature called “Forums” now. Forums are handy things. They are essentially public spaces that anyone in the healthcare organization can create. They can post information; they can ask questions. We are seeing hundreds of people join them. Also, our desktop app has now been launched, representing just under 10% of all our active daily users, which is fantastic. We are switching on new features like video consultation.
It has been a really challenging time for us because our teams the same size are still 30 people, but we are dealing now with a responsibility several times more than the one that those 30 people were responsible for a month ago. We have become a more international organization.
It is not new to say that an entrepreneur is optimistic. Still, some of the cause for optimism and just profound information all around how startups and countries are collaborating. There is absolutely no sense of us versus them. This is everybody together, doing what they can to beat something that threatens us all. We are having more international conversations with more healthcare services and systems. We are speaking with more health tech companies about how we can collaborate and share our expertise. It has been a remarkable time for innovation in healthcare. This is no exaggeration; there has been more innovation in healthcare in the last two weeks than has been in the last two years.
What are your observations about the reactions towards Covid-19 on UK tech startup ecosystem?
I am close with several companies in London and with my last project Goodlord. I speak with the team there quite regularly. They are taking advantage of the support from the government, which is critical to keep the economy strong. For a lot of companies and industries, this is still an atmosphere of profound uncertainty. It is exceedingly difficult to know how long this almost “hibernation state” is going to continue. I think the macro message on startups is that they are designed to be anti-fragile. They are all in a state of being pulled apart and put back together again. At least we try to be.
This should be a great advantage to smaller, more agile organizations. With small, agile teams, we can move in ways that large organizations cannot. We have never been more exposed as an organization expects to work harder, do more with less for more people. At the same time, we have never been more protected because the world’s attention is on doing health care remotely. That is what we are creating for.
We feel truly fortunate, but for startups and founders in sectors outside of the current scope, it is hard. On the one hand, startups are uniquely equipped to rip themselves apart and reconfigure to respond to this new world and see the challenges. On the other hand, the mission that we choose to solve is in all our DNA. I will be hugely optimistic for a startup versus an established organization.
I would forgive any founder thinking that the world begins and ends with the problem they are solving for, even if that is quite a niche. I have been quite polarized; my thinking towards healthcare will pretty much be solved if only we can fix “communication.” If we do that, healthcare will be just transformed. It is true to an extent, but help healthcare and health technology have just broken through in our situation. So many walls were standing in the way of progress. In the healthcare sector, genuinely, the world will not be the same in a good way, actually. Several weeks ago, the NHS essentially permitted to move faster and solve problems rather than do things in the way they had already always been before.
I am not suggesting that the world after this, especially in health care, will be flat out just fix problems. Of course not, but I think it will reset the lens we look through in terms of pragmatism around a benefit versus risk. That is only good news for certain sectors. For other sectors, it is hard to say. I would not feel confident in commenting, but there may be new sectors, which is the thing for founders and startup teams. I think it is way too dangerous, too soon to predict when we will get back to normal, but from a healthcare perspective, I think we will be more enlightened because of it.
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Each week, we will be visiting a new startup office to meet with their team & founders. Stay tuned!