61: On Freedom, Purpose and Investors
I'm currently trying to build a healthtech start-up. We'll announce the exact idea in due time, but what I can say is:
what we're trying to build is ambitious
the space is crowded, with lots of companies trying to do something similar (and more popping up every month)
Ultimately, this means that we need to move fast. And to move fast, we need money. Therefore, we've now started to talk with investors. This is a natural next step, but brings important considerations.
Autonomy as a start-up founder
One common theme among entrepreneurs is a desire for autonomy. This is certainly a big factor for me - I know how to get the best out of myself, and feel that constraints and expectations may get it the way of that.
Creating a start-up is often portrayed as the ultimate autonomous lifestyle: You are your own boss. You manage your own schedule. You do what you want.
However, it's not always that simple. If and when you bring on investors, it can change the dynamic. They have expectations for the company and, ultimately, may be paying your salary.
As one friend advised me over dinner this week:
"Be careful - your investors can end up like your new boss"
I've seen friends put themselves in difficult situations in the past. In one case, the company was really struggling to build the technology they had promised investors during the previous funding round. They were now running out of money and needing to raise further investment to try and deliver - potentially getting themselves into a really tricky position.
So maybe it's best to steer clear of raising investment?
To raise or not to raise?
The truth is, this depends on the type of company you want to build.
A few months back, I was exploring two business ideas which would have taken me on very different paths.
For business A, I had high confidence that it would start generating revenue early on, and that it could scale to a decent size. This early revenue could be fed back into the company and it could scale 'organically', without much need for outside investment. Analogous companies existed, which demonstrated how this would work. The idea wasn’t going to change the world, but it would be a nice money maker, and I could use that capital to accelerate work on future projects.
For business B, it was clear that it wasn't going to generate revenue for a while. The idea was big and had never really been done before. If it worked out, it could feasibly change the world in a big way. However, we'd need a lot of up-front capital to have a shot at making it happen.
These two companies exemplify a general trend: for bigger, novel ideas, you often (although not always) need more capital. That capital typically comes from investors, with the corresponding reduction in autonomy.
So I was presented with a choice, and it wasn't easy.
Long story short, I went with business B. I decided I didn’t want to postpone making a business I’m truly passionate about, and was ultimately more excited by the idea. It had me waking up excited.
I guess it’s too early to really say whether I picked the right route.
Given that I chose business B, and that I'm going to attempt to change the world, I'll need investors to help me get there.
To try and minimise the concerns raised above, I'm going to look for investors that align with our vision, and who can bring the most value to the company.
This won't be an easy feat, however. Getting investment is not easy, so being picky will only make it harder.
But I'm confident in our idea, our vision and our team. As a founder, I think you have to be.
So let's go 🙂
Key considerations for the use of AI in healthcare and clinical research
We published a paper this week to share our experiences of using AI in research. I think AI has a lot of potential here, but needs to be used at the right time and in the right way. In the paper, we shared our thoughts on:
when AI is helpful and when it's not
who you need in your team to do medical research with AI
how to get data and ensure it's appropriate
how to deploy the model
Hoping it’s helpful for people looking to work in this space! You can read it here.
I hope you’ve all had a great first week of 2022!
Until next week,
P.S. If you have experience of raising investment for an early stage company (healthtech or otherwise), I’d love to chat - please hit reply 🙂