The upside down startup

5 Steps to kickstart your business

So here’s how it usually goes for a startup business:

Someone has a great idea…. 

…The people with the great idea decide to take the plunge, and take their great idea to the next stage. They invest in a proof of concept or MVP (things are now starting to get exciting)…

…Enthusiasm builds as their idea starts to become a reality. They start to build a team around them and set their sights on launching their product. 

With their team in place, they refine their product, and get ready for the big launch. They are now finally going to realise their dream!

You probably know how the story goes from here. While this may be the start of a fantastic success story for some, for the vast majority it’s the beginning of the end. So why do most UK startups fail? This happens all too often because they end up with the wrong product-to-market fit, an alternative approach could help avoid such failure.

I met Nick Sprigg in 2015 and together we created MyPulse, a telehealth platform. I often describe MyPulse as an upside down startup due to the approach that we took. Soon after starting MyPulse we effectively rewrote our business plan with a pivot from B2C to B2B at its core. This meant a whole new mindset and a completely different way of doing things, enabling us to punch way above our weight. Looking back, I think this upside down approach can be summarised as having the following 5 key elements: 

1.   Start with experience

Most startups begin small and lack experience. After getting investment they then draw in experienced people. We turned this on its head and went for top talent early on. We couldn’t afford the big salaries but we were prepared to offer equity. We got great consultants on board by capturing their enthusiasm and quite literally making them part of our business. We ended up with a team that was more mature than our business and who were 100% committed and aligned with our goals. An added benefit was that experienced people bring extensive networks. Being able to tap into those networks enabled us to punch way above our weight from very early on.

2.   Get to lots of customers, fast

We initially set out to launch with a B2C proposition, but soon realised that being data driven was at the core of our proposition. Volume is key to data driven success and for us the fastest and lowest risk way to access volume was through B2B. Understanding the needs of a million users is much more challenging than understanding the needs of one client. I guess the trick is to choose a client with an intricate understanding of their own one million customers.

3. Don’t build legacy

With B2B the focus should be on satisfying your clients’ needs. While that sounds obvious, it’s easy to think you have all the answers and over-develop your product before you’ve even signed a contract. For most startups the original great idea comes from the founder. This carries danger if you are making big product decisions considering only yourself as a typical end user. Sure, your prospective clients may want to sell to people like you, but it’s likely their clientbase will be more diverse. A B2B approach forces you to understand your clients’ needs. Once you have done this with a number of clients, you can work backwards to identify the common threads and begin to build generically. Don’t fall into the trap of building a legacy business before you’ve even had the chance to get off the ground.

4. Don’t just think big, act big

The switch from B2C to B2B led to a complete change in our mindset and we started acting bigger, putting ourselves in front of some pretty huge organisations. Three years ago, for example, we met with 2 of the biggest insurance companies in the world. Looking back you might say this was brave given that we didn’t have a heavily specified product to sell, but I firmly believe this can make you more attractive. When someone outlines exactly what they are looking for, you are able to say ‘Yes, we can build something that will work for you…’

5. Behave like a grown up

Being a startup is all about being agile, innovative, energetic and while we demonstrated all of those traits in abundance, we never neglected the fundamentals. It doesn’t make for thrilling network dinner conversation, it certainly isn’t sexy, but without good governance, processes and practices you are going to fall at the first hurdle. You need to be able to demonstrate that all the grown-up stuff has been taken care of before your big prospect will have a proper conversation with you. This was a priority for us from day one, so we secured our own in-house legal counsel. We cleared potential blocks, enabling us to get down to the business we wanted to discuss.

Dr Raj Kohli developed his great idea when he co-founded MyPulse in 2015. In the UK, they are about to launch a video doctor service with one the country’s biggest and most trusted health brands, making affordable healthcare accessible to anyone with a smartphone or laptop. Internationally, they have partnerships in the Caribbean and the Middle East as they follow their ambition to provide the best quality healthcare everywhere. 

MyPulse is developing partnerships with governments to evolve existing healthcare infrastructure, by offering a digital front door using primary care – a need greatly amplified by COVID-19.