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Global Thinking for Digital Health and MedTech

I’m getting ever more excited by the new businesses that I’m seeing in the healthcare sector. Whilst the introduction of new drugs largely remains with established companies, there’s a proliferation of new technology and software, promoted by some really smart entrepreneurs, that will bring real benefits to all of us.

The most visible are physical devices, which have acquired a class label of MedTech. There’s already a vast number of patient-centric apps, covering everything from lifestyle improvement to self-management of medical care. And behind the scenes, there are new apps and software tools for professional use in hospitals and care homes – classed as “Digital Health” – destined to really improve patient outcomes and healthcare sector efficiency. Efficiency is really important, as ever-increasing demands on healthcare both push up costs and create issues of logistical availability.

We’re working on some great healthcare-related projects at ICC, one helping to expand international markets for a very smart UK business and another searching for the best global sector investment opportunities for a wealth fund, so I’m seeing a lot of these developments at first hand.

One thing that’s clear is how critical it is for MedTech and Digital Health app companies to plan for global dominance in their fields as early as possible. Healthcare and wellbeing are universal concerns, and these new products and service are needed in every country of the world.

Postponing or neglecting that is very risky. There’s the usual chance of finding that entrepreneurs in other markets have developed near-identical products – quite possibly having spotted the opportunity here first. Patents and copyrights aren’t enough, especially with software – the route to conquering international markets is getting there first and establishing one’s brand.

Additionally, there are often several different ways of achieving the same improvement in health outcome, and delay risks overseas markets adopting an alternative. And, if those foreign alternatives are more internationally agile, they may enter and start to dominate the domestic market. Even if the competition is not as good, that could easily destroy the local business. It’s therefore essential that entrepreneurs and investors ensure that their business plans aim for the earliest possible international expansion.

It’s sad for me to find young, gifted and enthusiastic entrepreneurs with great health care startups who aren’t thinking that way. The usual reasons are cited – it’s distracting and diversionary, we need to get established first, we don’t have the funding – but those can all be overcome.

Admittedly, initial trials and test marketing can take much longer than with other business propositions, perhaps especially where those require getting buy-in from the UK NHS. But maybe it’s quicker elsewhere.

Products and software might need adapting to other markets – but, until you study them, you won’t know, and there’s therefore the risk that, whilst what’s needed could have been achieved easily at an early stage in development, doing it later becomes difficult and costly.

So, whilst it’s easy to say that it can’t be afforded, the question is whether startups – especially those in the healthcare sectors – can afford not to start planning their international expansion from Day One. And it needn’t be either costly or disruptive. International Corporate Creations can help!

Whilst in some areas of politics, globalisation may be becoming a dirty word, in the world of MedTech and Digital Health it’s essential thinking.

By Oliver Dowson

Over the last 40 years, I’ve built companies in many countries from the ground up. I have created, managed and sold businesses in UK, USA, Canada, Australia, Brazil, India, China, Germany, Czech Republic and Spain. I have travelled extensively in over 120 countries, spending an average of 8 months a year over the last 20 years away from my home base.
In my early business life, I successfully created 7 new businesses in different sectors in the UK for overseas owners. I moved on to invent and build one of the world's first energy and environmental management consultancies – long before Global Warming became a headline issue. Over the following 30 years, I grew that company, EnTech, into a true international business by opening 11 offices in 9 countries - and along the way, set up many more international companies for others.

I’m fortunate and proud that EnTech became the international energy management company of choice for Fortune 100 multinationals, selling services directly to GE, GM, HSBC, Citi, Honeywell and many others. Working closely with them gave me invaluable insights both into how multinationals work and the different business cultures in countries around the world. In April 2014, I sold EnTech to EnerNOC, becoming a Vice President and overseeing a seamless M&A transition over the next 18 months.

In all my business activities I’ve also used my languages and programming/software development expertise.
I am also now a Business Angel, investing in companies with international ambitions where I can provide mentoring and support from my practical experience, especially those headed up by women and minorities.

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