We all get sick sometimes right? No one likes getting sick because for one, you are sick, but also there is the part of money. If you are lucky and you have good medical cover, being sick isn’t much of a hustle. But for most Kenyans, getting sick is not kind to your pockets. Personally, I rarely get sick, but when I do, I just run to the chemist for a quick fix because I can afford it and I hate lines. Sometimes, I just walk into a clinic and get treated. There is however, one clinical instance that really stuck in my mind and I believe will better inform this story.
So I happened to catch a cold in my first week interning at a company. Instead of going to my regular chemist, I decided to take advantage of the medical cover I received from the company for the period I would intern there. I walked to the clinic with my runny nose and waited my turn until I was called in. Instantly, something felt off. The doctor looked different, to be more precise, he looked defeated. I decided to attribute that to fatigue and went on explaining the flurry of my symptoms. Once that was done, we sat in awkward silence until he broke it by asking what I do. Easy, well not really?
I told him what I do, what I’d like my future to be like and as I went on, he just looked depressed. I had to ask why. Well simple. He was bored and stuck. He told me that his life is sad and hard (way more than I needed for a flu consult but I had to commit to the conversation). To summarize, it went more like me giving him solutions to break the monotony “Take classes, go to another company/hospital, start a business, quit and runaway” His answers were in the line of “No time for classes, they pay me well, I can’t manage a business and still work, I have responsibilities”
I left that consult depressed and stuck because I wasn’t able to offer a solution. I’m good at solutions but this one beat me. I vowed never to go back, too much emotional trauma but I think I can go back now, because I think Seven Seas Technologies have a solution to bring him out of his rut (if he is still in one).
Seven Seas has been involved in healthcare for quite some time now in partnership with General Electric Healthcare and the Government of Kenya, they went around and upgraded 98 hospitals across the 47 countries, and this experience gave them a view of what actually ails our health care system, something that is similar across East African countries and beyond.
There is a deficit of 10,000 healthcare workers every year as our population grows
They identified 5 key areas or rather priorities that need fixing or solving in order to have a working healthcare system that will benefit majority of the public. In identifying these areas, they calling upon innovators with experience in the healthcare industry to come through to their labs and work on their ideas and solutions.
First priority is innovating around Human Resources. It is no secret that we are severely understaffed in the healthcare industry with the chairman of Kenya Health Federation, Dr Amit Thakker saying that there is a deficit of 10,000 healthcare workers every year as our population grows. The supply chain in the healthcare industry is also another avenue that needs innovation. “If the chain from the port to the village is made efficient, then costs will go down,” he said.
Healthcare financing is also a topic of concern that they wanted to highlight, especially the idea of coming up with healthcare financing models that can be inclusive of everyone while still offering quality healthcare. All these they believe can be achieved by leveraging two key things, Digital Technology and Private Public Partnership. Healthcare can be made efficient by the introduction and use of digital technology, powered and supported by PPP, among other solutions they can create.
So how does Seven Seas Technologies come into this, more specifically how will they offer a ‘solution’ or a ‘way out’ for my doctor from before? Well SST CEO Mike Macharia put it very simply.
“We have many innovators who are not given the opportunity and SST wants to help give the opportunity through SST Afya Labs.”
SST have a lot to offer innovators in this field. He said that they can offer strategic partnership opportunities, IP and patent protection, helping brand development, capital, mentorship and networks among other things that a budding entrepreneur may need.
The program entails identification, incubation then assistance in commercialization of product.
They are offering two Labs. The first one is called Kabla which means before in Kiswahili. Now Kabla is for pre-entrepreneurs and budding founders. These should be mid-career healthcare professionals (like my doctor over there) who have at least 5 years of experience in the sector. The reason for this is that they need someone inside the system who already knows what is not going so well, and in a way give them a voice and business opportunity. They will receive a co-working space, daily support, income continuity by offering a small stipend and a launch team among other things. It is a 3 month program that entails idealization, validation, and consolidation then demo day.
The second lab is called Takeoff. This is especially suited for existing startups who can use Seven Seas Technologies technical know how, expertise and experience in business strategy. They will go through a number of programs in order to tailor-make their product to suit the current needs and to provide solutions with the appropriate and strategic networks and resources that SST will provide.
So if Mike Macharia approached my very depressed doctor, he would tell him a few things that are necessary for him to create something successful. One, start with an unmet need. He advises to find out consumer insights and then big ideas will follow. Next he should concentrate on a way to get consumers on board, sales will come later. Third thing will be to dream big. You see that idea you have that seems way ahead of your time or too big to actually come true, well that is what Mr. Macharia wants to hear. Finally, he will close off saying that there is no need to invent, but there is the need to innovate and work together to solve gigantic healthcare problems.
Will my doctor make it, well I don’t know. He seems to have all the necessary experience, but I don’t know if he has the spirit of entrepreneurship. Can it be taught?
If you are interested to enrol or find out more about their innovation labs, check out their website. Deadline for application is on June 19th