This August (2015), I had the extraordinary experience of being part of the Unreasonable Institute (UI). The UI is an accelerator program for early stage social ventures, operating out of Boulder Colorado. Their recipe is simple. They scour the globe to find promising social ventures, working on some of the world’s biggest challenges and bring them to Boulder, Colorado, for five weeks. Entrepreneurs get, among many other things, access to and lessons from world class mentors, a wonderful community of fellow entrepreneurs, and access to funding.
But we came away with so much more! Our Unreasonable Experience gave us the much needed opportunity to take a step back and reevaluate mDoc and ourselves. More than anything, the UI provided us with clarity- clarity about our story, clarity about how we wanted it to evolve, and clarity about ourselves. This came in many forms- from workshops on changing behaviors and rapid prototyping, to hearing the inspiring stories of a dozen fellow entrepreneurs. It came in the form of late night conversations with the Unreasonable team, to early morning hikes in some of the most stunning landscape in the world! It’s been about two and a half months since the institute ended and we came back to real life. Since then, mDoc has been bolting forward at an unbelievable pace.
So here’s what we’ve been up to since then:
One of the things that inspired us most during our time at the UI was the stellar team, and their commitment to the mission. Both of us (Rubayat Khan and I) knew the power of a small, committed team with a mission, and the importance of culture- but were both skeptical of such a thing in Bangladesh. Our time at the Institute however gave us enough reason to want to build such a team and culture.
Coming back, we spent considerable time and effort in that area, hashing out the culture we wanted to set, the values we wanted to embody, our standards for recruitment, and realigning the team (ourselves included) with our vision and purpose. We must be doing something right- I have been at mDoc since the beginning, but never have I seen such passion and shared sense of purpose.
Our biggest wins in this area include (i) our newest team member Rashedun Nabi, (Head of Marketing and Business Development), who is simply awesome and truly embodies our values and (ii) the fact that we were able to make the very hard decision of declining an extremely qualified candidate for our much needed Tech lead position, because of a lack of alignment with the company mission.
Focusing on what matters
Our time at the institute also allowed us to really take a fresh look at our situation. A thorough accounting of our successes and failures led us to identify the four critical areas we needed to fix if we were to realize our mission- aligning incentives with RMPs (our delivery channel), improving the technology platform, setting our marketing strategies, and fixing our pricing strategies.
We also realized that it was crucial that we moved much closer to our end users as we worked to optimize the design of our model. In November, we finally moved out to Kishoreganj, the city-town closest to our field sites. We now have a wonderful place to live, work and play, with modern amenities such as 3G, wifi printing, decent washrooms and a great view of rice fields and rural Bangladesh! Better yet, the food is organic, fresh and mouthwateringly delicious and the environment is peaceful, allowing plenty of time for intense work as well as much needed reflection.
So what happens when you come closer to your customers? Well, for over a year now we’ve been struggling to get customers. Our RMPs say that it’s because patients are not willing to pay for a conversation with a faceless voice in lieu of a doctor’s consultation. Our field personnel say that it was because of our price. So we went out to potential customers to test our prototype sales pitch and came away with astounding results- 34 people signed up to take our service in just one day! But more importantly, seeing the pitch in action, and the how our customers have reacted, we were able to identify further improvements- improvements that we’ve already made, and are eager to test out in a matter of days.
Other important wins during this time include a brand new website, closing a second round of funding, finalizing an awesome team of mentors, DIV, SIHI, and really digging into the rapid prototyping!
All in all, it’s difficult to believe that so much has happened in only two and a half months. But then, we have set a crazily ambitious target for ourselves- Solve rural healthcare in Bangladesh by 2020. And finally, it feels like we’re on our way to getting there.