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  • Writer's pictureAlice Appleton

Four Lessons from a founder in the midst of it all

Transitioning from the world of medicine to founding a health tech startup has been filled with lessons, and truth be told, its been more challenging than I’d ever imagined.  As we navigate the entrepreneur world we are still learning to follow our own advice. We are on the hunt for more advice and would love to hear your thoughts on your biggest learning points on the founder journey!


1. Market Validation Goes Beyond Surveys

In the very early days of Clera – or what was at that time, Appdate Medical, I assumed that understanding the market was as simple as crafting a well-structured questionnaire and asking potential users if they would use our product. We gathered a plethora of surveys from NHS colleagues, who eagerly clicked ‘yes, I would use this’, which made us think we had our market nailed. However, reality hit hard as we discovered that market validation extends far beyond a simple yes or no response.


True validation involves engaging with potential users, understanding their pain points, and gaining insights into their behaviours and preferences. It's about observing, listening, and adapting our product based on real-world feedback.

Another sad reality is that even if every potential user can see unlimited value in your product, if it doesn’t hit the requirements of the ‘decision makers’ (i.e. the ones controlling the purse strings), you’ll never see a single customer. Market validation involves pinpointing the right people to be talking to, persistently engaging with them, and trying to understand their perspective and what they require to justify the financial commitment.


2. Assumptions make an ass out of U & mptions

In our journey through market validation, we learned a valuable lesson about assumptions—they're not to be underestimated. Initially, as doctors-turned-founders, we assumed that our medical expertise had covered everything necessary for our product. We thought we had a clear picture of what hospitals and care homes would want, viewing market validation as a mere formality to support our product plans with stats. Unfortunately, this approach led to early decisions based solely on assumptions. The key takeaway for us was realizing that there's always more to discover about the complexities of the problem we're working to solve.


3. Your Product Is Not Your Baby

As our health technology product started taking shape, I found myself becoming increasingly sensitive to criticism. The product felt like my baby, and any negative feedback felt like a personal attack. This emotional investment, while natural, can hinder progress.


A crucial lesson learned is the importance of separating yourself from your product. While it's essential to believe in your vision, it's equally vital to seek out and embrace constructive criticism. Early validation and feedback are crucial to avoiding attachment to non-viable ideas. It's a delicate balance – staying passionate while remaining open to change.


But here's a quick note from personal experience: don't let a one off piece of negative feedback knock you off your feet and make you feel like it's game over. You can't please everyone, and finding a balanced perspective is the healthier approach. There were times when we got caught up in taking every criticism to heart, forgetting to acknowledge the countless positive feedback we've received. It's essential to take everything with a grain of salt and, at the same time, trust your instincts. It might sound contradictory, but life's all about finding balance!


4. Embrace the Unpredictability of Connections

In the business world, people are busy, and rejection is part of the game. Contacts that seemed like golden opportunities can suddenly go silent, leading to dead ends. However, the most unexpected connections can turn out to be invaluable. Your address book is one of your most valuable assets.


One of the biggest surprises has been the importance of every meeting. Contacts that seemed less promising led to unexpected opportunities, either through valuable introductions or providing the exact advice needed at a critical decision point. Never underestimate the potential of any connection, as the most unassuming meetings can hold the key to unforeseen breakthroughs.


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