DISCLAIMER: This article is compiled, without any editing, directly from answers to the questions on Twitter. Errors are unintentional and are part of the fluid nature of rapid fire Twitter conversations.
In a Red Notebook Tweetchat held on 08th February, 2021, we engaged Davis Musinguzi in a conversation about entrepreneurship, leadership and growing Rocket Health’s tele-medicine service during a global health crisis. Dr. Davis Musinguzi is a Medical Doctor and Digital Health Entrepreneur from Uganda. He is the Founder and Managing Director of The Medical Concierge Group (TMCG) that operates the Rocket Health Telemedicine service since 2012.
Rocket Health Uganda is a service of The Medical Concierge Group (TMCG) that provides an end-to-end digital health services initiated with a tele-consultation with its Doctors, cloud-based remote diagnostic monitoring, mobile money payments for recommended health services and post-care follow up.
TMCG is a Digital Health enterprise based in Uganda, Kenya and Nigeria founded in 2012. It comprises a portfolio of innovative healthcare ventures involving health call centres, mobile clinical services and healthcare enterprise software solutions. TMCG’s vision is to significantly improve health outcomes and set the benchmark of accessibility, affordability and quality health care through technology, innovation and community engagement.
In a bid to look into Dr Davis’ “Red Notebook” and understand the Rocket Health journey, we asked the following questions and he did more than just answering;
1. When and how did your entrepreneurship journey begin?
This started during my university days to earn a side income. First in sales of nutrition supplements and leading a team around that, circa 2006. Lots of fundamental skills in sales and leadership were learnt then.
That evolved to supporting the invention of a mobile phone based pinnard horn with a team of university students that won a Microsoft Imagine Cup Award in 2012.
I then got into an East African TV show competition, Inspire Africa, structured like Donald Trump’s Apprentice Show called Inspire Africa, and won $50K in startup financing from the Warid Entrepreneurship Fund to start TMCG
2. What was the inspiration behind TMCG & Rocket Health, and is the business model you have today the same as what you had when you started?
TMCG (Company Name), Rocket Health (Trademark Brand Name) incorporated in Nov 2012. The inspiration was the deep desire to fix healthcare while in medical school. To make the experience much better than what it was.
3. Healthcare provision requires the highest levels of customer management. How do you ensure your team maintains the highest standards?
Healthcare is one of the most sensitive service areas regarding customer/patient service. There are so many moving parts to a quality healthcare experience both from a patient perspective and the provider perspective. Both different in their own right.
At Rocket Health, We had to first carefully select each of our medical providers making sure they’re qualified, licensed and continuously trained. We even built custom software to just track and monitor Quality Assurance throughout the patient journey. We are constantly reviewing and optimizing at all levels to ensure patient safety, efficiency, desirable clinical outcomes, delightful interpersonal interactions and much more.
4. Tell us about your financing journey for Rocket Health, from idea to current situation. How were you able to raise the capital you needed?
Raising capital has been the longest-lasting pain of this entrepreneurial startup journey. The first of our financing was from my co-founders Dr John Mark Bwanika, Hope Fortunate, Dr Lubega William and the startup competition award.
Our initial startup cash pretty much run out in 9 months. Thereafter, we sustained the business from savings from our full time jobs , small awards here and there since we had barely hacked the initial business model.
We had to constantly tweak the business model until we started to secure early clients in a Business-To-Business (B2B) model that would make for our beachhead. We did finally manage to quit our full time jobs (w/massive pay cut) to focus on the business.
Later as we found new areas to grow into, we finally started pitching for venture capital and were very fortunate two high net worth angel investors took a bet on us and our vision in 2018. Forever thankful to Anthony Natif for being our mentor.
Rocket Health is currently raising a $1m Pre-Series A equity round to scale the Telemedicine and last mile healthcare service. Our next investor may be on your TL so please retweet and share widely.
The demand created by the #COVID19 during the lockdowns meant we had to raise a lot of cash fast to keep up. For the 1st time we took on debt financing. I realized the value of cultivating lines of credit & credit history. Kudos to investment clubs.
5. You have co-founders who have been with you from day 1, Could you share your experiences co-leading a high-growth company? What are the benefits and challenges of working with co-founders?
Having the right co-founders is probably the single most important critical success factor of a startup. Its is a blessing to have the co-founders I have. They were the smartest people in school I knew & known for their work ethic. The benefits are clear. You cant do all this startup work alone, it A LOT. There is a lot to think through and it’s important to have sounding boards you trust. Then you need company for the highs and more so the lows.
The challenges are real though when the rubber meets the road. Differences in perspective, arriving at consensus/executive decision making, pulling their weight, balancing personal lives with work, compensating for weaknesses etc.
6. The past 12 months have been challenging, especially in the medical field. How have you navigated the risks and opportunities that the current crisis has created for Rocket Health?
2020 was a blessing in disguise. It took a global pandemic for Telemedicine to truly show its value. Fortunately preparation over the last 8 years came in very handy for Rocket Health. A lot of the systems and model was perfect for this scenario.
New risks meant we had to take extra measures to protect the medical teams and patients. New opportunities meant we had scale up almost instantly at the call centre with more Doctors, more logistics infrastructure for the medical teams in the field.
More insurance companies also got on board with adding Telemedicine for their members. Now accepted include UAP OldMutual, ICEA Uganda, Liberty Uganda, Jubilee Uganda, Sanlam Uganda, Prudential Uganda. This is unprecedented anywhere in Africa.
7. Uganda has had an internet lockdown for close to a month now. How has that affected your work and how have you navigated this especially since your customer care is primarily internet based?
Fortunately, we had always built our Telemedicine service to accommodate the most basic technologies. Patients can call in toll free, choose from the IVR menu or use SMS, all independent of the internet. We also kept critical server infrastructure local. Our cloud based resources got interrupted. We couldn’t do any insurance client billing or submission, the online eShop http://rockethealth.shop could not be reached. Internet communications have since slowed down too. It’s a disruption to healthcare services.
8. Your industry is heavily regulated with lots of government and institutional oversight, which means innovation can be frustrating. What’s your experience growing TMCG in Uganda vs other countries you operate in?
Healthcare is one of the most highly regulated industries. A license is needed at every single turn. It doesnt lend well to ‘break things’, ‘fail fast’ innovation mantra. Innovation is highly evidence-based, incumbents are immovable, regulators are rigid. The healthcare value is also very fragmented. From Patients-Doctors-Hospitals-Distributors-Manufacturers-Insurers-Regulators-Donors-Governement and much more. Innovation must be thought of end-to-end for even the simplest of ideas. Resistance is high too.
How we have gone about it at TMCG is to vertically integrate our innovations as much as we can and surround ourselves with people that have mastery in health systems & its stakeholders to find alignment at each step. Every startup should.
Healthcare is very local. And as a result each country must be considered in its own right. Rapid scaling isn’t quite obvious. One is fortunate to find parts that do, but many bits require contextualization.
9. Rocket Health Uganda’s brand grows stronger each day and maintaining strong brand integrity gets harder as the organization grows. What advice do you have for maintaining a healthy, strong and reliable brand as businesses grow?
Dr. John Mark Bwanika, cofounder Rocket Health has always emphasized ‘Substance over Optics‘. The difference before-and-after Rocket Health should be as clear as night-and-day. This has fostered a culture of excellence and built trust in the brand.
Ultimately, deliver the brand promise and give customers a megaphone to share the news.