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Featured Business: Full Health Medical
Name: Paul Mc Carthy, CEO and founder
It’s difficult at first glance to see the connection between a small farm and life-saving software as a service (SaaS) for global markets and multinationals.
Paul Mc Carthy, who lives on a small farm in Mayo with his family, recalls how a technology that now provides people with easy-to-understand medical reports began at his kitchen table.
Paul is married to Dr Ann Shortt, who works as an A&E consultant and is also a qualified GP. From sharing her knowledge with visitors to their home – many of whom were farmers – Ann realised that there was a disconnect between the information people received from medical professionals and their interpretation of it.
At the time, Paul worked as a business specialist in Teagasc, helping farmers diversify their businesses into consumer products. He diversified his own career to establish a product, which appeals to organisations who want to put wellness firmly on their agenda.
Full Health Medical’s target market includes healthcare providers in the business of empowering their patients with better health.
These include multinationals interested in looking after their staff, private hospitals with executive health screening programmes, workplace screening, occupational health providers, large medical centres and pharmacies.
Worldwide, there are huge health problems. Evidence in Ireland and UK shows that many employers are ignoring this issue even though it directly effects their bottom line. By 2020, the number of people with chronic disease is going to increase by 40%. A small investment in health and wellness can have a 4-6:1 return on investment and reduce absenteeism.
Since Full Health Medical’s first product went to market in 2013, it has made a big difference to a lot of lives, says Paul. This is through improving the quality of information people get about their health, which can improve their health outcomes.
“We have identified a lot of people who were pre diabetic, we’ve communicated what actions to take to potentially reverse this risk.”
The next steps for Full Health Medical? Early 2015 sees it embark on its next seed funding round. Its aim is to close out a new round of circa €750,000.
Interview with Paul Mc Carthy
What was the inspiration for setting up your business?
While I was in my Teagasc role, the inspiration came from my wife who works as an A&E consultant. We would see people coming into our own home and around our kitchen table, Ann would invariably be helping them [healthwise]. I began to understand that while people had their own health care provider, they genuinely did not have any understanding of their own health. From an A&E perspective, Ann was frustrated because she knew that 80% of heart attacks, strokes and other serious illnesses could be prevented, but that people were arriving at A&E too late to sort the problem out.
We realised that the GP had very limited time to spend with patients addressing the root causes. We realised that tools were needed to make the communication process more productive, reduce time and give a better quality service.
How did you initially fund your business?
Our initial funding came from a farm diversification grant through South West Mayo LEADER to develop the concept. From there, we developed a mini prototype. We were accepted onto a start-up accelerator programme called Endeavour, founded by Jerry Kennelly. While on that, we secured the Enterprise Ireland HPSU Competitive start fund (€50,000). Subsequently we managed to close another funding round of €400,000 on Christmas Eve 2012. There was a substantial investment on our own part as well.
Have you diversified your offering from your original focus or set up other businesses?
No, the investment has gone into developing the product. Originally and still, very much at the product core is the interpretation of results. It has expanded to help decrease healthcare provider costs whilst giving people the same convenience as when they shop online. You can book your appointment, pay for services and get your information back online. This offers a more streamlined experience for the patient or employee, and paper is removed from the process.
What have been the highlights to date?
Last year, we were one of a small number of companies selected to be part of the National Health Innovation Hub. We were also winners of the Connected Health Award at the National Healthcare Conference. Awards aside, the fact that our product was used for 95% of public health screening programmes, in partnership with their providers, was a massive endorsement. State bodies regularly issue tenders for programmes for their employees. Full Health would have been at the centre of winning many of those tenders. The fact that leading multinationals, such as Hewlett Packard, are so impressed with our product is an indication of its global potential.
What’s the bravest step you’ve made in relation to your business?
In the middle of a recession, I gave up a permanent state job after fifteen years as a Business and IT Specialist with Teagasc in Agriculture to completely change direction into a start-up in healthcare.
What’s your favourite part of being a business owner/entrepreneur?
Being able to decide on a direction and make it happen the following day. It’s exciting to be at the cutting edge and rewarding to offer a service that people really value.
How do you achieve a work-life balance?
Having young children, you have to have a work-life balance. From experience, one compliments the other. I like to keep fit and regularly run, it’s a superb way to clear the head. Stress is part and parcel of this environment and you have to deal effectively with it. While you have to take it seriously, you have to be able to draw a line under it. Sometimes things are totally outside your control in the day.
Are you inspired by any business figures or success stories?
Those I admire the most are: Steve Jobs, as his products have changed how we live and he was passionate to the point of obsession about design. My 14-year-old nephew, Tom Mc Carthy is an inspiration. He is building a prototype for clean, renewable nuclear power in the garage and has already closed his initial seed funding round. He’s already made the list of Ireland’s 20 under 20 inspirational leaders.
What tools or technologies do you use that benefit your customers or business?
For product development, we use a tool called Pivotal Tracker. Anytime we capture an idea that could bring value, this is our repository. It supports the iterative and agile nature of product development.
Do you feel you know what your customers really want? How do you stay updated with this information?
We’re pretty hands-on with our customers; we endeavour to always meet them face to face and build relationships with them. We invest a lot in that. Over these couple of weeks we’re meeting all customers and taking note of what they would like to see in the future product. Customer needs have been central to our product development. We believe in building strong relationships with them as partners to develop a win-win scenario. The product continues to be largely shaped by their input and feedback.
What has been the biggest challenge your business has faced?
The default is inertia and more of the same. Change is hard for companies. This really hits you in the beginning when you are trying to get customers to take a risk on your ability to deliver. Thankfully, now we have lots of customers and case studies and that’s what you need. Healthcare is known for its long sales cycles and that has a knock on in terms of getting traction and cashflow for the product.
What part of running a business comes to you naturally?
The customer relationship side: dealing with customers, dealing with support queries. I’m strong on networking and building those relationships.
How did you scale/grow your business?
By putting in place key infrastructure parts. Firstly, the technology platform. Secondly, having support and account management. Thirdly, it was getting the customer to use our product for small amounts, to get familiar with it. They increase their usage of it and we win more business. On the business development side, constant networking, growing relationships with customers and attending national and international conferences
How do you get ideas to further your business?
We have an advisory board that is very broad: from medical to business to globally successful entrepreneurs. They constantly challenge us. We proactively seek criticism/guidance from them. We also attend international conferences as much as possible to keep up; there’s so much happening in the industry.
What motivates you to stay running a business?
Because it’s so unlimited in terms of what’s possible, and that every day you’re doing something that makes a difference. I thrive on the diversity and constant learning. It does have its rollercoaster moments with some very tough challenges, so fundamentally it’s about knowing you are doing the right thing, and that gives you the determination to keep going.
What’s your vision for the future?
We want to become the digital health technology of choice for empowering millions of people to better health.
What’s the best business advice you’ve received?
Create value for your customers. By creating value for your customers and your end users, you’ll ultimately create value for yourself.
What would be your advice to businesses starting out?
Use starting out as an opportunity to talk to as many potential customers in as many different market segments as you think might be relevant. Properly model out those segments in relation to how your future path might look over the course of 3-5 years. The decisions suddenly look a lot easier. Make sure you are making a difference in some way to people’s lives. This is good for you and good for your business.
What’s your favourite motivational business quote?
The mantra in our office is "Think like a wise man but communicate in the language of the people." – William Butler Yeats
What, if anything, would you do differently?
I would have created a bigger list of customers and met with more of them. Like my nephew, I should have started on this project 20 years ago.
Please be aware that all of the views expressed in this Blog are purely the personal views of the authors and commentators (including those working for AIB as members of the AIB website team or in any other capacity) and are based on their personal experiences and knowledge at the time of writing.
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