8 Tips for “Second Career” Healthcare Entrepreneurs, Part 1

Instant access to patient recordsSo you’re thinking about becoming an entrepreneur after a career in healthcare, but don’t know quite where to begin?  Here are the first 4 of 8 solid tips to get you on your way – but first, a bit of context-setting…

You’re not alone!  According to a survey done by Monster.com and Millennial Branding, 45% of 50-69 year olds label themselves “entrepreneurial” (versus only 32% of 18-29 year olds).  That statistic might seem quite surprising, especially in the middle of a startup boom here in Silicon Valley, where they all seem to be run by the second group.  Apparently second-career entrepreneurs have a greater appetite for risk, as well as deeper resources to draw from, than the younger set.

Specifically relating to those who have had a career in health, couple the above with changing attitudes toward the medical profession: a survey by Physicians Foundation reported that more than 65% of doctors feel negatively about their profession, amongst the mountains of paperwork and bureaucracy and the need to practice medicine “defensively”, plus feeling like they are having to “process” patients instead of treat them.  It’s understandable that you might start to dream about starting a new venture.  If so, start by…
–    Getting the lay of the land.
If you have never been an entrepreneur before (and even if you have, but not lately), start by educating yourself on what the entrepreneurial landscape looks like now.  There are so many books and online resources available, so just start reading, learning and asking questions.  Steve Blank, considered to the be the “father of the Lean Startup movement” has some great online resources to get you going.
–    Making sure you have the most critical element – Passion.
Similar to when you started medical school, passion is SO critical to success because you are embarking on a challenging journey – plenty of long days, long nights and roadblocks around each turn.  Passion will be required to help you get back up in the morning and keep slogging away – and it will also make it a lot easier to convince co-founders and investors to join you. Be ready to Fail, Learn, Iterate (repeat repeat repeat).
–    Asking yourself what kind of “pain” you are relieving with your idea (and do customers agree?)  
Pain in this context is not necessarily literal – it’s a metaphor for “solving a real problem”.  You may have your scribble on the back of a napkin or a rough, taped-together prototype that you feel fondly toward – but frankly speaking, are you the only one?  You will need to look at your business concept with a very critical eye and ensure that it is solving a problem so big and so important that it’s “more of a pain reliever than a vitamin pill”, as we say in the startup world.  Aim to impact at least a million people with your idea and you’ll be on the right track.  (And of course, you’ll need to PROVE that customers want and need what you’re creating).  And don’t be too caught up with being in “stealth mode” (that’s very old school).  It’s better to talk about your idea with others so you can start to test its viability.
–    Exploring the competitive landscape.
If your concept IS relieving significant “pain”, chances are that others have already started to solve the problem with their own solutions.  Dig around, and dig hard – and when you do find substitutes for your solution, be honest with yourself – is their solution better?  And if not, are your distinguishing features enough to sustain a competitive advantage?  These words are not meant to discourage but to push you to eventually offer the world something really critical, and really great. (After all, there is no shortage of problems to solve in today’s world!)  The more unique and defensible your solution is, the better.

In the next installment of this article, we’ll cover four more tips for sending you on a solid path to fulfilling your entrepreneurial dream.  Meanwhile, good luck with your first steps!

Click here for Part 2 of this article.

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

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