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Top 10 tips for building a successful digital health startup

Written by Dr Victoria Betton, Chief Innovation Officer at Mindwave.

At Mindwave, we’ve recently run a series of webinars in which we have shared our insights as to how to identify the right tech partner for your startup, and more importantly, how you can best work with your tech partner to avoid pitfalls and manage obstacles along the way. 

Maybe you want to build a digital health startup but you lack the relevant technical expertise to get started? You may have already built your startup but need the specialist expertise or additional capacity to extend your team to achieve your business goals. Or as a tech company, you may be new to health tech and need assistance with user research and advice about how you ensure your technology meets NHS standards.

Our top tips for working with a technology partner

Whether it be a short term relationship or a more substantial partnership, here are our ten top tips for making it a success:

  1. Take your time – don’t go with the first potential partner you come across. Speak to different companies so you can compare their approaches and their costs. Consider your roadmap and what support you will want at each stage of development so you can check they meet your current and future needs.
  2. Freelancer or company – There are pros and cons to both and this should be factored into your final decision. A freelancer may be less costly and are likely to be nimble, whereas a company is more likely to have a wider range of skill sets and the work can be spread amongst a team so there is no single point of failure.
  3. Starting small – as a startup, it’s likely that you are strapped for cash and you want to make what you’ve got go as far as possible. Find a tech partner who is happy to keep it lean and do the minimum to get you to the next step on your roadmap. If they turn up with three project managers to your introductory meeting that may be a warning sign.
  4. Flexibility – find a company who can flex with you depending on where you are at on your roadmap and are happy to dial back the work when you don’t need it and dial it back up when you do.
  5. Investors – if you are seeking investment then be aware that investors, such as venture capitalists have varying attitudes towards startups bringing in external capability. Be clear about the benefits and the risks and be prepared to explain them to potential investors.
  6. Intellectual property – make sure you work with a company who respects your intellectual property and contract with them properly to ensure you retain what is yours.
  7. Due diligence – it is important to work with a tech partner who is not only capable but also stable. Check them out on Companies House for accounting and other information. Ask to speak to the company’s other clients so you can get the measure of how they work and check out their products so you can assess the quality of what they deliver.
  8. Firm foundations – once you’ve chosen a tech partner, put in place firm foundations by agreeing how you will work together and setting up systems for collaborative working (for example, an sharing open document system). Review them regularly together and don’t be afraid to change them if they are not working.
  9. Build trust – a successful relationship is built on good communication and building trust. You need to like the people you are working with. Make sure you keep in touch, chat regularly, go out for drinks, and do whatever it takes to build a strong relationship.
  10. Openness – building health technology isn’t straightforward and things are bound to go wrong from time to time. Find a tech partner who is prepared to be open with you when things aren’t going to plan and who will be proactive in working with you to get things back on track.

Finally, make sure you start with the future in mind – it may be that you are bringing in a tech partner for a short period of time to augment your team. But if you are bringing them in to deliver all the tech, be aware that you may come to a point where you want to build your own in-house team. Find a company who will be happy to help you transition when the time comes and assist you in making the change to in-house.

A bit about Mindwave.

Mindwave is a spin-out from Maudsley’s NIHR Biomedical Research Centre. As an experienced digital health company with our own products and services, we help startups fill the gaps in their knowledge, skills and expertise. 

To discuss how Mindwave can support you with your health tech needs, contact us today to start the conversation.

Victoria Betton is chief innovation officer at Mindwave Ventures