In October 2018, we started The HS. Health-Tech Podcast. The goal was to connect everyone in healthtech from around the world and to spread the best insights from our own learning and from successful entrepreneurs. Through 2019 it grew rapidly. We saw almost 20% week-on-week growth, and listeners went from solely in the UK to 84 different countries.
Here are 5 things I've learned from hosting:
1. Healthtech is a broad church...
Even looking at the top 10 episodes, you'll see how broad healthtech can be - and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There is no single technology or business model in our sector and there is a huge range of people and organisations involved in the ecosystem - from big corporates (Philips, #39), to startups (Mojo, #40), IPO'd companies (Dexcom, #36), venture builders (Flagship Pioneering, #35), seasoned entrepreneurs (Mir Imran, #24) as well as clinicians (Dr. Hugh Harvey, #55), healthcare providers and so many more. The tech is varied, the clinical applications are varied and it’s a tough sector to master. But it’s undoubtedly exciting.
2. Healthtech is global and we can see hotspots
One of the coolest things about watching the podcast grow has been seeing where people are listening from. We use Anchor.fm to host the podcast (a Y-Combinator grad acquired by Spotify). It's free, simple to use and the analytics are great. We can go pretty granular on listener location and we've identified some interesting clusters, which tend to map to startup/technology hubs around the world.
3. Podcast guests are winning
Some people question the ROI of appearing on a podcast. I've been a guest on a few and it’s fair to say it's been mixed. If you're tight on time I read some good advice on Twitter a few weeks ago - the summary was: ask about listener figures and audience demographics, check out previous episodes/guests for calibre and if you’re the one invited on, don’t do a briefing call. After reading that thread, I implemented the latter and saved myself (and my guests) from an extra 15-30 minute call.
I’m glad to say that on our podcast, so many of our guests have felt tangible ROI. I do feel a responsibility to add value to guests that have given up their time to come on the show, so, as we’re sector-specific and our listener-base is tight to the healthtech ecosystem, I try to extract as much relevant info as possible to demonstrate value to the investors and potential partners and customers listening. And it seems to be working. Two of our recent guests sent me these awesome messages last month:
"James, I would like to thank you. Thank you for the podcast. People are listening to it and reaching out - a couple of angel investors this week and <big-corporate>’s Digital Mergers and Acquisitions Team based in the US. They actually took notes and were discussing multiple aspects of the business. I will introduce you."
Don't underestimate a podcast appearance!
So we’re helping, but also picking winners too. Aside from the later-stage companies like Dexcom (Episode 36) that are already winning, the likes of earlier-stage Mojo (Episode 40) and Feebris (Episode 4) both raised seed rounds of £1M+. And Echo (Episode 14) was bought by McKesson who own Lloyds Pharmacy. Watch this space for other amazing guest achievements...
4. I keep saying the same things
Having interviewed >50 healthtech leaders and entrepreneurs, I see patterns. There are certain behaviours and decisions that lead to the success of a healthtech company and there are certain truths about the sector that multiple people highlight. Not everyone will agree with all of them, but you know when a guest hits one because I’m on it straight away to spotlight it for all the listeners. Here are a few of examples (I’ll do another post on these and put some more context around them. Some of them overlap slightly):
- To spark a new idea or to solve a problem, get out of your bubble. Talk to people who have a completely different set of skills to you. If you’re in healthcare, get out and speak to someone in computer science or engineering. Or learn it. You won’t truly redesign something for the better if you only have conversations with people from your discipline.
- If you want to build a business to solve a problem, become an expert in that problem and be obsessed with it. Immerse yourself in it and truly understand everything about it. Understand everything about everyone that problem touches. And love talking to customers.
- Rarely are there incredibly ambitious founders who want to truly redesign (or dare I say ‘disrupt’) something in healthtech. Those that try must have thick skin. There is a lot of resistance to change.
- There is too much variability across healthcare providers to assume any startup will scale based on solving a problem at one site.
- Healthtech investors tend to come from either life sciences or tech. The former want evidence and the latter want a quick exit. There are very few 'native' digital health / healthtech investors that ‘get’ the space. It’s hardest for startups at seed stage.
There are more patterns, but listen to a couple of episodes and you’ll hear how often they come up.
5. A podcast is a great way to stay connected
Comments on socials, direct messages, slack and emails - there are loads of ways that I’ve had feedback on the podcast from listeners. Interviewing a new person in healthtech each week keeps my finger on the pulse and keeps our network expanding. I could not recommend it more for anyone to build an ecosystem around the problem they’re solving.
In 2020, we’re moving to 2 episodes per week. The demand is there for another episode, but also a shorter one. I’ll play around with the format but the extra one will start by being a short, sharp, Sunday evening inspirational episode with some bonus guest content, recommendations for books, events, articles, answering questions and comments that have come in and any valuable info for the coming week in healthtech.
If you want to connect in person, we host a monthly HS. Health-Tech Talks event (it’s like a free, live podcast with Q&A) and the next one is 28th January 2020 at The Health Foundry - just search HS. Health-Tech Talks on eventbrite.