Health tech startups need more ‘Doctors’ as angel investors: exploring the case for Pakistan

Health tech startups need more angel investors than venture capitalists and that highlights the need for a more active role of the doctor community in the tech space. In case of economies like Pakistan where health tech startups are trending, doctors need to play a significant role.

The problem with most startups is that they are either developed by people who really feel health is a great business, or by patients who suffered and are aware of the tech-startup world or by those who feel copying trends is just as normal.

Some problem solvers do engage the doctors but in a limited capacity and they cant be blamed for it. The doctor community is also not actively participating as advisors, strategy experts and or angel investors to support the doers. They have ideas, in some case capital too and can ensure intervention planning for the health tech startups but a limited engagement may not be enough.

We cant ignore that the models of some of the apps are great and they genuinely may want to solve the problem of finding the right doctor and maintaining record and getting an appointment but then that’s not enough. What we really need now is the involvement of doctors themselves and a larger set of interventions to solve the crisis of health providers and managers.

In the rest of the world doctors are gradually becoming angel investors in early-stage medical start-ups. Investing in health tech is the next new thing for doctors.

Here is an interesting story of two groups who showed up courage and made it possible, FundRx in New York and angelMD in Seattle.

They are building connection between physicians who have cash to spare with medical startups in need for funding.

AngelMD’s IPO to companies closed a round with financial support from “those who know healthcare the most.” FundRx is backed by two medical doctors who have an experience of running well known companies. Zeshan Muhammedi, the fund’s co-founder adds “At the end of the day you need to address user involved because it’s their problem you are trying to resolve.”

AngelMD presents business and finance training for all those doctors who haven’t worked in industry but still would like to invest. Are doctors really aware about how to invest in young companies? To assess health start-ups physicians with a background in investing or managing company operations are an asset for the ecosystem. Possibly even better than technology investors, who may not be responsive to many complications and degrees in the health sector.

It’s not obvious whether you can coach practitioners to be first-class angel investors; it could go either way.

It seems doubtful that doctors would put in funds to empower latest technologies that show potential and traction but pose a threat to some part of their job or sharing of authority to a nurse or a patient. In case of Pakistan we must not forget that tech startups find it hard to gather data because most doctors are either not in the tax net or are still managing transactions through cash. They usually are not too comfortable sharing the business insight and there could be multiple reasons for that. While this article is not about exploring those reasons it does want to highlight the need for these conversations.

As Halle Tecco, co-founder of the venture firm Rock Health demonstrated, technology start-ups in other areas frequently get angel investment from senior executives in their field, who previously made their capital through exits but there are few winning acquisitions and IPOs in digital health and that is a challenge itself.

He adds, physicians lean to be bothered a lot about human health and that makes them just the right experts for health startups. For doctors, startups offer a chance to transform the status quo in medicine and a potential supply of income (albeit, a risky one).

Another health strategy advisor Choy, who has chosen to advise startups as a substitute for equity says that, doctors may fancy building and creating initiatives but their day jobs don’t permit for that and so exploring the advisory stream can add alot to their life.

A developing country like Pakistan where health sector needs a lot of improvement, doctors being angel investors and strategy advisors could make the heart startups more sustainable. We can’t ignore that some of the doctors in Pakistan also have side businesses, family businesses and investment capital however they just have not been active in the tech space. ( This may just be an assumption for a mass market. )

We have some interesting examples of individuals like Dr Amjad Saquib (head of Akhuwat a social enterprise), Dr Kamran Shams (heading Punjab Education Endowment Fund), Dr Zakiuddin ( head of OPEN Karachi and strategy advisor for multiple health research and business initiatives) and Dr Izhar Hashmi ( head of PWTD an endowment fund for disability ). The list doesn’t end here as the number of doctors with business backgrounds may itself be a great case study for the tech startups and market research firms.

In that case we can only quote examples of the west where the venture capital is more structured and share how they are producing solutions validated by the stakeholders themselves.

This also means that our dialogues cant ignore that many of the local doctors ( specially those who understand public health and have first hand information of the system ) maybe the real asset of a health tech startup.

While Pakistan explores the stream of angel investment and venture capital, problem solvers don’t have to wait for an ideal time to engage the right stakeholders! As doctors in the rest of the world get more involved in the health-tech market, pushing some great case studies and involving them in the startup ecosystem may change things for the better.

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