Dr Bipin Patel explains how crisis turned to opportunity for ElectronRx, his Cambridge-based healthtech business.
Dr Bipin Patel founded digital medicine startup, ElectronRx, in 2017. But the onset of the coronavirus forced him to adjust the direction of his business as well as re-assess ways of working. Eagle Labs asked him to share his story.
Can you tell us about your business?
BP: ElectronRx has a long-term mission to revolutionise healthcare by creating digital therapies. As part of that development process we have created products in the areas of cardio-respiratory monitoring, pain management and employee wellbeing.
How did the onset of coronavirus affect you?
BP: It’s been challenging and, to be honest, it was quite frightening for me as a founder. We needed to deliver on milestones for investors but Covid-19 made that virtually impossible. Medical trials that were critical to product development had to be put on hold and would be delayed when lockdown lifted. We could easily have shut down at that point.
Did you have to furlough any staff?
BP: That was a consideration but I was driven by a need to keep the team together. I promised I would look after them and I kept to that. In fact, they were all happy and super motivated to continue.
Did you need to change the direction of your business – to pivot?
BP: While it became clear that some of the products under development would be stalled, other opportunities arose. A blue chip company that was looking to develop technology to help in the treatment of Covid-19 was introduced to us and we explored how the underlying technology of our FoneDx monitoring platform could be applied to this new treatment area.
Did lockdown slow the partnership process down?
BP: Quite the opposite! I found that we were able to work more efficiently. It was easier to schedule calls and everyone had more time available without the need to travel or attend events.
So, did this pivot take the product in a significantly new direction?
BP: Yes. The technology we had designed was for use on mobile phones. That changed, with the tech being deployed into its own hardware. The NHS and GPs will use these devices to help in the monitoring of vital signs in A&E and early detection of infection.
Did any other opportunities arise because of Covid-19?
BP: We have built new relationships with two other businesses around software and marketing, which will create opportunities in different market segments. Both of these are linked to the changes brought on by coronavirus and the need for the business to adapt.
Has the pandemic changed the market for you?
BP: To some degree, it has transformed it. Our technology enables remote monitoring and reduces the need for patient contact with the medical profession. Coronavirus changed attitudes towards telemedicine and all forms of remote monitoring and diagnosis – and it happened overnight.
Have any products that were under development become unviable?
BP: We’ve left two things behind as a result of everything that has gone in over the last nine weeks. What became clear is that we have core business competencies: we have technology that is, in effect, formed from sub-units. As circumstances have changed, we have adapted those constituent parts to meet new opportunities. Our mission is still clearly defined but we have probably adjusted our direction of travel by 20 or 30 degrees along the way.
What is your investment and funding situation?
BP: At the start of the crisis, I could see our runway reducing rapidly while our routes to growth were being closed off. I had to look six or nine months down the line and see how I could direct the company to ensure that value had been created by that time. And that meant doing something immediately. By recognising the new opportunities, and adapting to make the most of them, we are coming through this difficult time well. We’ve taken on new staff and I would say that, as a team and a business, we’re stronger than ever.