Maisha Meds’ Big Bang Moment: Up and up it goes
We last caught up with Maisha Meds back in May after they were one of 12 female-led startups invited to pitch at the Google Demo Day: Women’s Edition 2016. Since then we’ve heard from Jessica Vernon, the company’s Managing Director, about the continued successes of Maisha Meds and the role of the Accelerator in their journey.
Based in Kisumu, Kenya, Maisha Meds has been making waves in the field of African healthcare, having created Android-based business management tools that allow pharmacists to keep a digital inventory of their medications. Maisha Meds’ technology has helped both those in the pharmaceutical supply chain to track and analyze prescriptions and trends, as well as patients to gain vital access to medication and healthcare information.
While the company was connected to 15 pharmacies in January this year, the total number of pharmacies currently making use of their services now stands at 70. Such a rapid rate of expansion within such a small space of time not only points to a successful business strategy, but also boosts the life-saving potential of Maisha Meds’ product.
From our office in Darmstadt we called Jessica in Kisumu, to learn more about the factors contributing to Maisha Meds’ extraordinary progress:
Maisha Meds joined the Accelerator in Spring 2016 – how has our program helped your company to develop?
Our invitation to the program came at a critical junction in the development of Maisha Meds – we had already begun to generate data, but were still considering what comes next. We’ve really benefited from the access to continued support from the Accelerator, and the chance to be a part of a community of entrepreneurs working towards solving specific problems.
The support from the Accelerator has also been huge in terms of introductions to people with experience in healthcare. From suppliers in the region to pharmaceutical companies, the Accelerator has put us in touch with a great deal of contacts. Of course, our mentor at the Accelerator, Leonard Saika, the Regional Head of Business Responsibility and Market Development in Africa, has also been a great help – he’s taught us all about how pharmaceutical companies approach marketing.
This advice was especially important when it came to developing our propositions and business model. Weekly pitch sessions were also really useful, as we had the chance to gain very detailed, rigorous feedback from leaders within the Accelerator, as well as associates they’d invited from outside the company. Their suggestions helped us to think through what it is we’re trying to do here at Maisha Meds.
What kind of advice would you give to other businesses looking to promote a healthcare service in Kenya, or Africa more widely?
There are two pieces of advice that I’d recommend, above all:
1) Approach the source of the problem directly. The places that people go to in order to receive healthcare might be very different from what you would expect – you need to establish where these places are, then talk to the people there in person. That way, you’ll be able to identify why they go to these healthcare providers, before working out what their specific needs are.
2) Focus on truly understanding how incentives and funding work in this sector. Many interesting business models have failed, as factors such as how people pay and what they themselves get paid for are all too often neglected. This is a very cash-constrained market, and the need to understand these incentives is fundamental.
Your platform has seen dramatic growth in recent months – why do you think Maisha Meds has been so successful?
Our strength lies in the fact that we have been able to define a problem, identify exactly what is being done by pharmacies, and then use this information to address the challenges faced by the healthcare industry here in Africa.
In one of the many fascinating discussions we had with Leonard when we first joined the Accelerator, he explained how he makes decisions about healthcare based on limited and possibly incorrect information. This was really eye-opening for us, as we’d previously been concentrating on how we could influence pharmacies. Learning about the lack of reliable information within the healthcare sector in Africa led us to re-focus our attention towards filling this gap in knowledge.
I think that our success stems directly from our efforts to find a solution to this issue. Even in the very early stages of our business model, we were meeting with pharmacies and patients to see precisely how the system works. Talking to as many different people as possible helped us to determine how we can improve this system for both patients and pharmacies, and thus pinpoint the problems in inventory and supply chain management that need solving.
Is there anything else you’d like to add about your experiences with the Accelerator?
Just that we’d really like to thank the Accelerator! At a time when we were still thinking through what kind of services we could provide, the thoughtful feedback from experts in the field helped us to refine our goals and our approach towards leveraging data. The team at the Accelerator has been wonderful!
Thank you Maisha Meds, for taking the time to tell us about your amazing progress!
We are delighted to hear about the effect that the Accelerator has had on promising startups such as Maisha Meds, and hopeful about the impact that their success can bring to the healthcare sector in Kenya, and Africa more widely.
If you’d like to benefit from the help of the Accelerator, then why not pitch your startup to us? The next round of applications for our Accelerator program have opened now and closes on November 13th, 2017. Apply here: https://www.f6s.com/germanyspring2018