Business journey: Jeremy Wosner
After his father was diagnosed with a pancreatic tumour, Jeremy Wosner began searching the web for more information about the condition. But rather than finding fact-checked, digestible medical information, he was met with pages of adverts and jargon, offering no clarity or assurance when he needed it most.
Understanding the importance of accessible, factual medical information, Jeremy set to work building a platform that offered just that. In 2017 he launched Doctorpedia, a user-friendly platform that offers accurate information straight from the doctors at the forefront of the healthcare profession.
Today Doctorpedia brings together healthcare, tech and media to offer quality content to audiences at any stage of their health and wellness journey. Here, Jeremy reveals more.
Tell us a bit about Doctorpedia…
Doctorpedia is the world’s largest network of more than 2,000 medical websites. It launched in 2017 and provides a safe and user-friendly platform to share health resources between patients, doctors and healthcare organisations. The business was built on the belief that every person should have access to leading doctors – anytime, anywhere.
What is Doctorpedia’s USP?
With offer doctors the publishing tools to share content with their patients and the public. Every Doctorpedia condition site is curated and approved by leading generalist and specialist doctors. Users can trust the content and resources because they can see the credentials of the doctors who are providing it. Doctorpedia offers quality, transparency, relevance and control for every healthcare consumer at each stage of their health and wellness journey.
The reason for setting up the platform is a very personal one. Would you mind telling us more?
My father had a cancerous tumour on his pancreas and there was a time when they were still establishing what kind of cancer it was. In that period, we were researching online for answers and it was a very scary and confusing time. I really wanted to understand everything I could about pancreas tumours, but a lot of the websites were advert-driven experiences or were filled with technical jargon. It didn’t feel like much thought had gone into the patient experience.
I also felt that there was expertise I wasn’t getting access to – that’s when I had the idea for Doctorpedia. Since that moment, I have worked tirelessly to build a resource that provides instant access to authoritative doctors in a much more methodical, easy to understand, succinct way using visual education tools and resources.
Your career has included managing an organic farm and consulting in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). How did these past experiences help you in developing Doctorpedia?
Throughout my career, I’ve learnt that customer service is everything. At every company I've been involved with, we developed a close relationship with our customer base and that was the key to our success.
The people who want home delivery of organic produce really appreciated the mission and the vision of the company. It was critical to have a relationship with them and we made sure our customers were happy.
On the technical side of the business - and in my CSR and SEO consulting work - learning how to grow our customer base using online tools was a game changer. The combination of online and offline channels has been very helpful for Doctorpedia.
How would you describe your steps in getting the platform from idea to market? Did you need to recruit expertise?
We are at the intersection of healthcare, technology, and media, so we needed to bring on board experts in each of those different areas. I think that is one of our biggest strengths today. We work together with doctors in prominent positions at top health institutions, we closely engage with Google, and we have a broad range of experts in other fields who have helped us get to where we are today.
How did you initially fund the product?
In terms of initial funding, I told someone about Doctorpedia who I had previously worked with and he agreed to invest right away. That kept us going for the first two years. He was the perfect hands-on angel investor, who was also happy to help with information decisions and introductions.
Did the Doctorpedia concept change during your development period?
I would say it did. The more we looked at the market, the more we understood that having a transparent and credible brand is key to our success. That mission resonated and made the most sense based on my personal experiences.
There were plenty of credible websites that were pushing hospitals or funded solely by drug companies. We realised that to differentiate ourselves we had to let go of the idea that it would be a purely ad-driven experience and figure out a business model where the revenue wasn’t dependent on this.
We aren’t against having any ads, but we do insist on focusing 100% on the patient and delivering a relevant, intuitive experience.
What were the biggest challenges early on and how did you overcome them?
One of our main challenges early on was we wanted to have top-quality videos with high production value. After calling a video company for a quote, I quickly figured out that the amount of money needed to produce high quality videos was not going to be a scalable business model. After many years, we have solved that problem and we are doing hundreds of videos every single month, with consistency being key.
When you launched, how was the platform received?
The platform was launched based on the understanding that while it would take time for people to learn our value, they would then become loyal fans of Doctorpedia, which has happened.
We also partnered with a company early on, which was able to give us feedback on our website from patient groups. There is no one-size-fit-all with our audiences, and that extra effort set our platform apart.
Have you continued to source funding and if so, how has this been achieved?
We have raised just under $4m in total, which has been sourced from a few groups – some angel investors, doctors, and crowdfunding investors. Each has helped us to get to the next level.
The doctors have tremendous experience and expertise, so we give them editorial and content production responsibilities. They also have great networks of fellow doctors, patients, and health industry contacts.
All the different investors who have come onboard have been incredible and have gone above and beyond with what we thought they would contribute. They have also provided great insight into our marketing strategies.
Tell us something unexpected about you or your business.
I once took an office in the same building as Hollywood producer Jeffrey Katzenberg in the hopes that one day I might meet him in the elevator and give him an actual ‘elevator pitch’. After about two months, it happened and there we were in the elevator together. Unfortunately, the reality of the elevator pitch was nothing like how I had played it out in my head. The first problem was that there was only about 15 seconds to the ground floor and the second problem was that, when I said ‘Hi Jeff’, he looked up at me with such an intense look that I was completely overwhelmed. I did, however, manage to get a follow-up meeting with his content team lead.
What are you most proud of in creating Doctorpedia?
I am most proud of our shared vision – we are tackling a global problem of misinformation. We have received so much helpful feedback over the years from the team, doctors and industry experts that has allowed us to build on the initial vision. I'm also proud of the fact that we have maintained that fluidity to allow various individuals to make updates and enhance the vision while still staying focused on our goal of providing trustworthy information. We have a really diverse team dynamic and everyone can contribute, no matter their position or involvement in the company.
But perhaps the most rewarding part of my experience with Doctorpedia is when I hear from people who have used it to improve their health. The whole company was started when my father had a health issue and we were frustrated that we weren't able to find anything online. Recently, my father-in-law had a health issue of his own too, and I was able to send him relevant information with access to the top neurologists in this area.
How has the COVID pandemic affected Doctorpedia?
It has been a very mixed experience. One of our tech advisors and investors was one of the first people to go into a coma due to COVID-19. Thankfully he survived but we were worried for many weeks.
On the other hand, every person on the planet has been looking for trustworthy health information. The issue of misinformation has come into focus, especially with the COVID vaccine. More so than ever, people are appreciating the value of a platform like Doctorpedia.
We have all now gone through this shared experience and, as a result, there has been a huge increase in engagement with health information and a global appreciation for doctors. We are thrilled to have become a trustworthy resource for people to find accurate and up-to-date information from real doctors.
What are your short- and long-term plans for the platform?
Our main goal for 2021 is to grow our doctor community and broaden the scope of conditions and topics we cover with our websites. We also want to engage users on our platform and build on our success in bringing more doctors on board.
What three pieces of advice would you give someone looking to start a business?
1. Realise that starting a business is a lot tougher than people think. I think that the entrepreneurial lifestyle is glamourised and the amount of hours that go into launching your own company is astronomical. Perhaps further down the line there can be a work-life balance, but in the first few years there won't be much balance if you want to compete and make the best product possible. It's important that you understand the implications that this will have on your family members.
2. Having a multi-disciplinary approach is critical. Find experts in each area. Some things on the surface may seem very simple but every discipline requires expertise.
3. Sometimes the most difficult phone calls are the most important ones. We all have a comfort level and it is easy to stay within this, but pushing yourself to call people you may think won't take your call is important. Always look for opportunities to connect – go to events and reach out to people online, even if the chances of success are low. Connecting with the right people can add huge value to your business.