I gave a talk in 2016 on the challenges and opportunities for the ‘digital entrepreneur’. This is a founder focused on digital medicine a.k.a. digital health, mHealth, eHealth, or telemedicine. I started with examples from the US and ended with how they can be adapted for India.



The key take-aways were:

  • Biology and software together can be far more powerful than either alone.
  • Software will capture an increasing share of the ‘treatment’ pie, especially in the developed world. This is because behavioral and lifestyle diseases are increasingly prevalent in North America and Europe.
  • Selling ‘digital medicine’ requires the ability to navigate the complex world of healthcare, from doctors and nurses to hospitals and insurance providers.
  • Sensors, mobile phones, and intelligent algorithms will drive the success of digital health startups.

Digital Entrepreneur: Biotech + Software for Health

Customer development, in particular, is tricky in digital medicine. On one hand, founders must be ready with software demos and trial licenses. On the other hand, the biological component of their products may still be under R&D or clinical trials.

Entrepreneurial Marketing

The digital entrepreneur focused on healthcare must innovate not only on the technical front but on the marketing one as well. Gone are the days of decade-long clinical trials. Instead, founders can get through the regulatory route faster by leveraging artificial intelligence, big data, IoT, and other technologies.

Marketing in particular is a ripe area for disruption. Instead of pitching digital health products to doctors, hospitals, or insurance companies, entrepreneurs can directly market them to the consumer. Fitbit, Apple’s smart watch, and smartphone apps are examples of such B2C mHealth products amenable to entrepreneurial marketing innovation. Electronic health records are emerging as the next battlefield in healthcare – with data privacy and security at the center of the debate. Patients want complete control of their health data whereas insurance companies and software startups want to tap it for analytics and insights.