Wired – Interview: Slush 2013 startup winners BetterDoctor and Weekdone
Originally written for Wired, find the original article here
The largest startup conference in Northern Europe is over, and from the 1,000 companies in attendance two finished in the limelight. BetterDoctor and Weekdone won the Demo Showcase and Pitching competitions respectively at Slush 2013 and pocketed €10,000 (£8,365) apiece. Both won over a jury of experienced investors after two days of Dragons’ Den-style pitch-offs.
“Two days ago I didn’t know I would be in the contest,” exclaimed BetterDoctor founder and CEO Ari Tulla (above) in an interview with Wired.co.uk immediately after winning.
His site has a simple, but noble objective: help people find a better doctor. “Almost ten years ago my wife had a health struggle and we moved to the US where the system is very different to Finland. We saw 40 doctors and it was very difficult. It became my personal vendetta to come up with a better system.
BetterDoctor works using three simple criteria: what kind of doctor do you need? How do you pay? When do you need the appointment? Crucially, it also asks all users to rate their experience afterwards and uses this as a filter in search results.
“It took about eight months to get the first demo prototype,” says Tulla, who started BetterDoctor two years ago. “We didn’t raise money, we used contractors and in the last year it has taken off.” To date it has helped over five million people find a doctor in the US and Tulla sees a model he ultimately wants to take worldwide.
“It is all about compiling big data,” he explains. “We want a search that is comprehensive. We don’t have everyone yet and there are always new practices starting that we don’t know about.”
Asked how doctors have responded to being rated, he replied: “Of course some hate it, but more are starting to tolerate it. It is not seen as something bad and as long as the process is seen as fair it is fine. We can track it, improve it and hopefully improve the experience of finding the right doctor for everyone.”
Coincidentally while BetterDoctor entered the Slush 2013 showcase demos late, it was even closer for pitch winner Weekdone.
“We weren’t originally pitching, a slot opened late last week” says Weekdone CEO Jüri Kaljundi. “Since we’re not actively fundraising [Weekdone sealed an investment round of $200,000 (£124,000) last week] we didn’t feel like we had to pitch at the panel of investors. We just tried to be honest and talk like telling a friend. I feel you can over-prepare and it comes off as artificial.”
Unlike the many glamorous dating, fitness and gaming startups at Slush, Weekdone is a wonderfully simple solution to a notoriously odious task: staff management. It takes cues from the consumer sector by employing a clean, visual user interface to tackle the convoluted emails and spreadsheets that still tend to be employed in this business sector.
Weekdone works by asking employees at the start of each week to fill in their goals, which they tick off as the week progresses. They also declare their happiness rating and can answer questions which managers pose. At the end of the week Weekdone compiles all the data into a visual dashboard, which can be automatically distributed to staff and analysed by team leaders.
“I used to manage a large IT services company and I wanted to know why people gave up on [existing solutions],” says Kaljundi. “They wanted something that did not continuously disrupt, was quick to read and quick to comprehend.”
Weekdone launched a basic beta last summer and through customer feedback only finalised the model in January. “You must get the prototype out there and see what customers are saying,” argues Kaljundi. “I’m a big fan of The Lean Startup model. You have to talk to customers and listen, but then you also have to make sure you don’t try to implement too many ideas… what you don’t implement is as important as what you do.”
Kaljundi acknowledges this makes his long-term vision for Weekdone a delicate balancing act. “We want to be a large platform for organisational structure, team building and HR management, but we must keep it simple” he explains. “I don’t have definitive answers how we will do that yet, but we’ll take it month by month and see what happens.”
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