When I say "succeed" I mean that in the loosest sense possible, it certainly doesn't mean "to make millions", as my experience with Written Medicine simply doesn't stretch that far.
I mean it in the sense of getting your endeavour beyond the "interesting project" phase to the "fledgling business" phase. The contents of this article formulate a few lessons that I have picked up over the past few months, while commercially launching Written Medicine.
This bit is hard, really hard.... If you're anything like me, your skills lie in solving technical problems or analysing situations. This transition involves none of that. It is, quite simply, a leap into the uncertain and the unknown.
First and foremost, stop offering your innovation for free. This sounds obvious but I personally found it incredibly difficult to do. I was terrified that an untried novelty of a service would get a shrug if we asked for money and I didn't want to lose any prospective customers. The truth is, we didn't have customers, therefore, we had nothing to lose and all to gain. People are used to paying for something of value. If that's what you're offering, be brave.
The lesson: ask for money and ask for it early.
Don't let your prospective customers dictate without buy in. This will lead to a huge amount of time/money/effort wasted on a "customer" that doesn't end up buying.
The lesson: Get some commitment (and this doesn't have to be money) then take the plunge.
Pricing. Again, difficult but only as hard as you make it. If you can peg your price to the market price; great. For most innovations, it isn't that straightforward.... Let me give you an example. How do you think they decided to price Nike shoes? Someone picked a number and they saw how many people bought the shoes. Of course, this is overly simplified, but you get the idea.
The lesson: I wish I had one.
Get used to making decisions in the absence of certainty. I am a pharmacist, to pharmacists the world is very black and white, you either can or you can't. Then I did a PhD. To an academic, all yes/no questions are answered with "it depends". For both of these, you use data and information to answer the question. With innovation transitioning to entrepreneurship, you will never have a "complete dataset", "best practice" or "guidelines". You'll have "gut feelings", "opinions" and "educated guesses", and these are what built business empires so go with the flow and do your best to deal with the ramifications of your decisions. What you should never do is wait. I cannot remember an instance when it was better to wait, always do something, whatever that thing is.
The lesson: Making decisions is by far and away the most difficult thing about entrepreneurship in general.
Get used to being shown the door. You'll need thick skin in healthcare, but be extra ready with healthcare tech.
Get used to waiting for people. They're busy, they survived this long without you and your innovation. Chances are, you rank lower than picking their nose in their list of priorities.
The lesson: manage your expectations when it comes to other people.
Don't tell people what you want to say, tell them what they want or need to hear. This one is tricky, you either learn with experience or you don't learn at all but the difference means life or death for your company.
Having said all of that, if you believe in your innovation, push through the difficult days when it's not fun anymore, just be there long enough, you'll get there eventually!
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