Top 5 Lessons Learned From Building a Health Tech Company
By: Maggie Bergeron, BSc, MSc(PT), Co-Founder and CEO of Embodia
By: Maggie Bergeron, BSc, MSc(PT), Co-Founder and CEO of Embodia
Hello! My name is Maggie Bergeron and I'm a physiotherapist and the co-founder and CEO of Embodia, which is on a mission to transform the way healthcare is delivered by empowering clinicians with the tools, technology, and education to deliver data-driven care and empower clinics and content creators to maximize their success.
Outside of work, I’m a swimmer, rock climber, and backcountry camper.
Over the 6.5 years of building Embodia, I‘ve come to realize that many of the lessons I’ve learned building a business have been similar to what I’ve learned in the woods.
Just like hiking, starting a business is a process that requires planning, passion, and a deep understanding of the terrain.
Here Are The Top 5 Lessons That I’ve Learned So Far
1. Slow and Steady Wins the Race.
When I was climbing Kilimanjaro, my Tanzanian guides kept telling us enthusiastic Canadian hikers ‘Mizungo. Pole. Pole.’ – meaning ‘White girl. Slowly. Slowly.’
Our guides were trying to help us acclimatize to the escalating altitude slowly and safely, giving our bodies enough time to adjust to the thinning oxygen. On the first 2 days, we didn’t listen, but by day 3 we were slowly following in their footsteps.
Similarly, when my co-founder and I started Embodia we were moving as quickly as we could to get our software and service out on the market.
However, as we started to test Embodia with a group of you, practitioners, we realized that healthcare and technology are different atmospheres, and practitioners, like our Tanzanian guides, knew the right speed to move forward.
2. Fail Fast. Fail Often.
In life, in business, in clinical practice, and in backcountry navigation - there will be times that you don’t get it right the first time and that’s ok.
On a backcountry hike in Newfoundland, I learned this lesson the hard way. A self-taught, amateur navigator, I set out on the long-range traverse with a friend – neither of us with any experience on a backcountry route that has no trails at all. This 5-day hike would take us up a gorge, across the traverse and finally over the Gross Morne mountain.
Amazingly, we passed the qualifying test that gave us access to the hike. So, we set off to the trailhead which is nestled in between the high gorges, accessible only by boat. To the confusion of many of the tourists on board our boat, my friend and I hopped off with gear on our back and animal hats on our heads, determined to orient ourselves through the woods of Newfoundland.
Our biggest mistake was not understanding how different the Newfoundland woods are from the Ontario woods where we trained.
A compass is only as good as the person who holds it.
The same applies in business.
Understanding our terrain, or our market, was crucial to the development and growth of Embodia. Our initial business model required physiotherapists to charge their patients for the use of Embodia.
Our hypothesis: patients will be more likely to do their home program if they’ve invested in it.
Lesson: At the time, not all physiotherapists want to charge their patients additional fees and therefore, our model failed.
We spent several months trying out this first model, often lost and unable to navigate the complexities of this approach. But when we re-evaluated the terrain, we made a decision to change our model and pivoted to a subscription fee for practitioners – Embodia was out of the woods and starting to grow.
3. Team Is Everything.
On that hike in Newfoundland, my friend and I quickly realized that we needed another teammate – either someone who had experience with backcountry map and compass navigation or a GPS. Bringing a GPS was an option and maybe, if we hadn’t been so ambitious in wanting to do the full hike ourselves without technology or help, we wouldn’t have ended up on the wrong side of the gorge.
Building a team that shares a cohesive vision, has passion, and who have complementary skill sets has been critical for meeting the challenges of building a business.
As a boxer, Mike Tyson says:
“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.”
So much about Embodia's ability to get back up after being figuratively punched in the face comes from our teamwork and support for each other.
4. Don’t Bail On The Trail (And If You Do, Get Up!)
In the above picture, I had quite literally fallen into a pile of mud on a rainy backcountry hike and am cracking up laughing.
I have taken less literal falls while backcountry, and in life, that were not so easy to get up from and not funny in the least. But! You can't keep moving forwards if you don't get up!
Sometimes it just takes longer to shake off some falls.
Having big, hairy, audacious goals (BHAGs) is important but learning how to create a framework for achieving these goals, taking them one step at a time, and sticking with it has been crucial.
It is easy to get taken off course by shiny objects and end up in big, muddy pits that absorb our time, resources, and energy and ultimately don’t contribute to our goals.
While building Embodia, it has been important to find our path and stick with it no matter how challenging the terrain becomes or what else gets thrown our way.
5. Death Stink and Leaky Water Bottles.
This picture was taken backcountry winter camping in northern Quebec, Canada - our water was frozen, I was frozen, and our food had a definite odor. It should not have been ignored!
Death stink - That slight but noticeable sense that something’s definitely not right. Don’t ignore it, it only gets worse.
We, as physiotherapists, take so many courses and are constantly seeking new knowledge in order to improve patient care. But, if we aren’t able to transfer this knowledge to our patients efficiently and effectively, then this knowledge becomes obsolete.
Just like pouring water into a leaky bottle, a significant amount of the knowledge we transfer to our patients is often lost due to our outdated methods of communication.
Currently, we don’t know what our patients do when they leave the clinic, and we know that our clinical sessions are just the tip of the iceberg. If our patients don’t understand or follow our instructions, chances are our efforts in the clinic will have minimal effect on improving their condition.
I believe that technology can bridge this gap by changing the way that we communicate and follow-up with our patients. By giving patients convenient access to their physiotherapy programs from their practitioner rather than Dr. Google, and the opportunity to track how much they’ve done, we can become even more powerful allies in their recovery.
Physiotherapists are well-positioned to become critical contributors to the healthcare revolution.
The future of healthcare includes the seamless integration of technology to improve outcomes, reduce workload, increase engagement, and put the 'care' back into healthcare. We can make tremendous improvements in our abilities to form therapeutic relationships by integrating digital health in our clinical practices.
Building the technology and proving that it can improve patient outcomes is the first step. The process of incorporating it successfully into our practices in a way that both complements our treatment and improves our workflow is a much larger mountain to climb. I’m excited to be a part of this journey with you and I look forward to all of the challenges that we will face along the way.
This potential future for our profession is how I’ve kept my passion for physiotherapy. I’m on a mission to bring innovation and technology to the profession that I love because I believe whether it’s physiotherapy or camping I should leave everything a little bit better than I found it.
PT, Co-Founder & CEO of Embodia