5 Tough Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Launch Your Health Startup

Question on laptopIf you’re keeping tabs on the health startup space, you know that it’s white-hot!  Digital, SaaS, mobile, even hip new medical devices that “talk” to your iPhone.  If you’ve been doodling on the back of a napkin yourself, here are some reality check questions you should ask yourself before you take the plunge…

1 – Will your idea require FDA approval?  A Yes or a No to this question will make a big difference to your new company – if Yes, the timeline will be a lot longer than the average startup, and the hurdles are significant.  And if it’s No, are you absolutely sure?  You may want to look at 23andMe as a cautionary tale – the company originally felt that what they were offering was educational and outside the scope of FDA approvals, but the FDA thought differently.

2 – What is your Go-to-Market strategy?  If your idea is B2B, setting up pilots with hospital systems these days is not as easy as it was even a year ago.  With so many “sprout” startups in the health landscape, the big healthcare systems like Kaiser Permanente are getting overwhelmed with pilot opportunities.  If it’s B2C, the challenges in reaching consumers are different but just as challenging (and usually quite expensive).

3 – How strong and well-rounded is your team?  Often startups will be heavily weighted toward technology, bioscience or medical, and light on the business side.  Occasionally the opposite is true – someone with deep business experience wants to start a health-based company but lacks the health expertise.  How will you build your optimal team?  Remember, the team outweighs the idea every time – VCs fund teams, not ideas (because ideas change – always).

4 – How critical is the problem that you’re solving?  As I often say, “In healthcare, there is no shortage of problems to solve”.  Launching and running a successful startup is very, very hard – few make it to the goalpost.  If you’re going to put all that effort, money and time (and a bit of your soul) into your startup, shouldn’t the idea be one worth pursuing?  If it’s a pure money-making play, there are lots of easier paths to take than entrepreneurship!

5 – Who will you partner with to ensure your company’s success?  Never underestimate the power of partnerships.  Some large enterprises like SAP and IBM offer robust startup partnership programs.  Also, the right advisor or board member will “hold up the mirror” and help you see what the right steps are to success.  Going it alone is both harder and riskier.

If you’re thinking about launching a health startup, I hope I’ve started the wheels turning.  Best of luck with your new endeavor!

Hilary Weber, founder, Opportu Startup Leadership.  http://opportu.com/

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