María Jesús Salido Rojo
Startup Contributor

Entrepreneurs Don’t Wait for Opportunities, They Create Them

By María Jesús Salido Rojo | Tue, 08/04/2020 - 13:30

I believe there is an excess of analysis of today's global crisis. We are all making a great intellectual effort to read the signals, analyze trends, and try to anticipate the near future. However, I am not sure that the socio-economic logic applied in much of the world in the 21st century is sufficient to understand the dimension of change that we are experiencing.

What I am sure of, is that time is up! It is time to really innovate and move away from marketing about innovation; to pursue excellence and not entirely base our improvement on quality plans; and, to start a business honestly.

That's right, I’m speaking from that entrepreneurial essence and from the complex, hard, intense and transcendent context in which we are living today.

Entrepreneurship is more than just a career option. It means being willing to face your own limits: intellectual, cognitive, emotional. It means willingness to risk your money, prestige and even tension in your closest relationships. It means learning to live with uncertainty, relativizing success and failure, giving your body and soul to a project and not taking it too personally at the same time, so that it doesn't kill you. Entrepreneurship is like living great love. Fascinating, savage and dangerous.

With that said, I believe entrepreneurs share a common drive that makes their destiny inevitable. It makes them rebel against unresolved problems, or get excited about a vision for a better world, or the importance of leaving their mark on their world, or the vital satisfaction of creating, transforming, improving something on their path.

If you have that drive, it's inevitable; sooner or later, with or without success, you'll try to become an entrepreneur and realize there are a lot of ways to go about it. Thanks to you and all those crazy people who push their passions through complex labyrinths, this world is going to move forward and become a better place.

Seven years ago, my school friend Victor created an app that enabled him to better control his newly diagnosed diabetes. He did not understand why the management of such a shocking chronic condition in his daily life in the 21st century depended upon a doctor's paper records and face-to-face visits. Or that the doctor had to analyze his data in just 20 minutes (analog, and we are talking about 2013), and finally adjust the treatment until the next visit, a few months later. During that time, Victor remained alone, insecure about his day-to-day life, unable to manage changes in his diet, afraid of nighttime hypoglycemia, among other problems.

At that time, we already had mobile technology, and digital data could be converted into real-time processed knowledge. However, more than 400 million people with diabetes worldwide continued to be poorly controlled and lived a rigid and insecure life.

The app's first digital-market publication generated a giant, unexpected and strong demand. We asked the community itself to help us universalize the system, and help more people around the world gain access to the app. Our generous and grateful users continue to share their thoughts about adding features and enhancing features. That same year, we received the award for the best health app from WSA, a UNESCO-linked organization. Since then, we have won numerous awards and recognition worldwide as one of the most complete, rigorous and effective products for diabetes self-management and tele-assistance.

We had and continue to have great user support, but the business model of digital health was still not clear and this made access to capital challenging, particularly in those early years. At the time, an investor from one of Latin America's best VCs told me: Be careful not to measure yourself by so many awards and recognitions. You need other indicators if you want to turn your app into a company. Who pays? Why? For what? How much? Prizes can be a fake friend and a distorting factor.

It was obvious but it revealed at the same time that quality is necessary but not enough. And although you're offering a solution to a problem, that might not be enough either. You must therefore ensure that the actors in the ecosystem are aligned; that your product or service is also aligned; and knowing what value it contributes to each of the actors, and how economic flows are generated between them and you.

Mexico ranks first among OECD countries in the prevalence of diabetes with more than 15 percent of the population (OECD, 2017) suffering this affliction. This has made all public and private actors aware of the importance of controlling diabetes, as well as the issue it poses for public healthcare and finances. The 2019-2024 National Development Plan talks about designing and implementing articulated public policies aimed at preventing, controlling and reducing chronic non-communicable diseases (CNCDs), mainly diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and cancer, throughout the life cycle.

Therefore, we continue to grow in this context thanks to good support from European public financing and the trust of ALLVP, which allowed us to open operations in Mexico and start consolidating the business. 

Health process innovation was geared toward a clear tendency to offer better quality care at a more sustainable cost. Technology facilitated these processes of virtual consultation, mobile applications, data analytics, interconnected medical devices, electronic files, artificial intelligence, along with agents such as healthcare providers, payers, the pharmaceutical industry, users and patients who identified opportunities and developed new proposals.

Then COVID-19 arrived and the world had to stop. People were confined to their homes, mobility become a risk and the economy shrank.

In this context, and after some weeks of shock, health systems above any other sector had to adapt quickly to the new situation; they had to accelerate those trends, apply all available knowledge and technology, turning years into days.

Each of those days in our company seemed like years. However, we've never been so clear about our purpose and the reason for our existence. One of the lessons from this crisis is that health is not a collateral factor, it is a structural element; it is not just another service, it is a nuclear component of our society.

The world economy right now, and hence the way of life as we know it, depends on how we manage this health crisis. We are talking about collective health and not individual health. We are talking about universal health as a fundamental strategic condition for the country upon which all other human activities depend.

If you're on the path of entrepreneurship then look at innovating, contributing and doing so with both rigor and excellence. We are on the road toward the 21st century, now being cleared by force majeure.

Photo by:   María Jesús Salido