Growing a Funded Medical Startup in Singapore with Krishanthan Surendran, Co-founder & CEO of Klinify

Krishanthan, please introduce yourself…

I was born in Colombo Sri Lanka, migrated to Singapore. Ran away from the civil war there. Started primary school education here and eventually grew up here and served the national service, became a Citizen of Singapore.

Got a good understanding of the medical industry when I had to get myself treated for my back problem. Went on to do sales online where I bought and sold iphones/ipads to capitalise on the demand and market launch lag (buy from the US and sell it in Singapore).

After that I joined the apple retail team for a few months, more of a personal challenge to prove to myself that I could do sales.

Entered NUS, pursued a MSc Management degree. Got bored of school and started venturing into business at the end of year one. Well… I spent the first year partying a lot. Who doesn’t! 😉

I met my co-founder at the end of year 1 in school and we registered our business in the beginning of year 2. We figured if we or anyone else were to take us seriously, then we need a registered entity. That’s when Klinify was born.

What’s the story behind creating Klinify?

Well I was motivated to go into the medical industry after I lost my best friend to Leukaemia (konstantin tarasov). He had difficulties finding good oncologists and getting hold of his own medical data was an issue.

More importantly I knew the Doctors could have done a better job if they had been more informed of the efficacy of their treatments. I met my co-founder at the university and we started to dabble with some random ideas initially for about 6 months.

Once we were comfortable with each other’s working style, we dived into solving the problem of helping patients find the right doctors and make appointments seamlessly (zocdoc basically).

We received the Spring Yes grant (S$50K) while we were still at university and we tried to get traction for the product, but it failed miserably (it was called doctree.asia). The product was more of a vitamin than a painkiller.

We learned doctors were restive to adopting new technology (despite all the high tech based surgeries they performed) and so we spent the next 6 months trying to understand why they were so resistive to new technology.

We eventually found out that they hated a change in workflow process, and that went as far as their thought process when it came to consulting a patient. They are so used a to certain patterns of working, and this is unique for each doctor, that any change disrupts their train of thought. This was a key insight.

Once we were in JFDI, we understood customer development concepts well (lean startup principles) and went back to square 1 to identify a problem worth solving. We eventually found out that patient record management was a huge pain for most doctors.

In fact we heard this time and time again when we went around selling the first product, but we just didn’t have the right attitude, where we listened to the customers. So the problem combined with the key insight lead to the idea. So yes, there was a ‘aha’ moment but it took a long time!

My driving force is that I must contribute directly/indirectly to finding the cure for cancer. Like what vinod kholsa said “in the next 10 years, data science and software will do more for medicine than all of the biological sciences together”. I certainly choose to believe data science will cure cancer.

What does Klinify do exactly?

We solve the issue of paper based patient record management at private clinics without changing the doctors workflow.

The doctor can write, draw and use the exact templates he uses now at his practice. All on our tablet application, giving him secure access to all records anywhere anytime.

What does a typical work day look like for you?

My typical day starts at 9am with about 1 hour reading in bed. Then its off to work and emails from 10.30 till about 1pm. 1-7 pm is usually packed with meetings.

I have diner after and take a nap from about 8 to 9. Hit the gym for about an hour at 10 and then clear personal work from 12 to about 3.

How’s traction working out for you so far?

Its been great! We have 5 partner clinics who we are working closely with to provide feedback on our beta product. We have another 10 clinics waiting use our application. We have had great interest from Japan and India thus far! All this without active sales or marketing!

What is your revenue model?

We are innovating here as well. We see consumerization of health coming sooner than later, and so we are going with a per-patient, per-visit model. It ranges from S$0.20-to-$6, general physicians to interventional specialists.

We are in the midst of firming up the structure, but generally it’s based on usage patterns and data load. The idea is that it brings more value to patients than doctors, and so patients pay the premium. We collect from doctors on a monthly basis.

What challenges did you face when launching, and how did you overcome them?

Most doctors compared us to existing clinic management solutions. It took a lot of thought and careful wording to communicate our value proposition right.

They are used to so many sales people coming through their doors to sell a EMR solution, which actually is a clinic management solution more than an EMR solution. So they expect the same feature set from our solution and expect a similar price point.

Thank god we have a good understanding of the innovators dilemma and the lean startup principles by Eric Ries. I was convinced that the best way to show doctors what we were doing was different, was to give them a prototype and let them play with it.

That leads them on a personal discovery path of the value proposition of our product.

What strategies are you using to market Klinify?

Right now we are just working with referrals from doctors. The team predominantly comprises of engineers and 1 sales guy, me. We don’t plan to do any form of marketing for the next 12 months.

What are you doing to foster company culture?

We take this extremely seriously! We are really inspired by the guys over at Buffer. Joel and his team have done a fantastic job. We believe that good values eventually translate into awesome user experience for our customers.

Our values pretty much define our culture. Each of us ensure we stick to the values we have set down for klinify. It’s been absolutely fantastic!

We adopt simple things like only positivity in the office, starcraft nights, friday team lunches. Chat tools, music in the office… this all makes our work fun!

You’ve raised a round of financing. What advice can you share with entrepreneurs looking for funding?

Ask for money and you will get advice. Ask for advice and you will get money. And read The Game by Neil Strauss 😉

How does being based in Singapore impact the business?

Singapore is a great place to pilot a proof of concept. The policies are encouraging for new businesses, with plenty of money available and great IT infrastructure.

For our industry, getting the stamp of approval from senior surgeons, who are top surgeons in the region, and being backed by the Singapore government is a seal of approval of the quality of our product. Testing and feedback collection is much more easier here.

However, there is a talent shortage, especially for computer engineers. The local universities are not producing enough computer engineers and the anti foreign talent policies are not helpfully.

But we are a well connected city with neighbouring cities where there is a good supply of good computer engineers, hence there is always opportunity to mitigate talent to Singapore.

How do you see the startup and investment ecosystem developing in Singapore?

The government is doing a good job from an investment point of view to kick start the ecosystem. You can see this working, giving investors the confidence to channel their money into tech companies instead of the traditional real estate and stock investments.

What’s holding back the scene in my opinion are the educational policies, the mindset of top brass at educational institutes and the foreign talent labour policies.

They are outdated, inward thinking and directly contradict the financial stimulus measures put in place. With that said, the education and labor policies need to be addressed.

What advice would you give to a young person starting out with entrepreneurship?

Start before you are ready. Just throw yourself into the deep end of the pool or even, the open sea.

Survival instincts will equip you with the necessary skills to keep paddling forward. The world will not wait for you. You need to find the opportunities yourself.

What’s next for Klinify?

To go international! We can’t wait to launch in Japan and India! The Japanese people have just showered us with so much love!

Japanese doctors in Singapore love our product and intact have volunteered to give feedback immediately. We have enquiries daily from a medical centre’s in Japan and India!

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