Olive O’Connor brought her own expertise and personal experience with patient care to VOOM 2016, with her product the MediStori. The MediStori is a paper-based personal health organiser that comes complete with daily medication diaries & individual personal health records.
This year thousands more businesses in the Ireland and the UK will follow in the footsteps of entrepreneurs like Olive in the hope of coming face to face with Sir Richard Branson and competing for a prize pot worth €1,000,000.
Contestants will see themselves pitching their business ideas in front of a panel of leading industry minds, all of which are on the hunt for the next industry-shattering business. Contestants will be split between two entry formats, Start-Up and Grow. As the names suggest Start-Up is aimed at businesses who are bursting to get that game-changing idea off the ground, while Grow will help some lucky businesses up their game to disrupt their respective industries.
To celebrate the upcoming launch of VOOM 2017, Virgin Media Business chatted to Olive about the birth of MediStori, paper versus digital and all things patient care. Olive also had some invaluable advice for this year’s VOOM entrants.
Did it surprise you that there was a gap in the market for a product like this that seems quite straight forward?
With most people, when I show the MediStori to them the first thing that comes out of their mouth is: “How did this not exist already?” That was my problem, I couldn’t find something like this out there when I needed it. I found lots of different booklets for this, that and the other but nothing that had everything together. A lot of the stuff was focused on the child or the older person, there was nothing that focused on your whole life from when you were a child right up until now. When I looked at all these records or organisers there was nothing that combined medication with all those records. There are pill boxes for pills but lots of people take medication that isn’t in pill form like inhalers for example. There was no tool out there that could keep all your medication information together on one page. The MediStori also serves as a tool for nurses and paramedics who would need to know what medication a person could be on.
Did you find a lack of connectivity in the health service inspired the creation of your product?
One of my pet peeves was having to relay my medical history or my family’s medical history over and over again, from start to finish. What’s more, there’s only information available about what happens at the GP or the hospital, if there’s an incident that happens in the home, or a family member has unusual symptoms over a period of time, you need a place to record that too. These records should start in the house first. There’s only one common denominator between all the health professionals that you might encounter and that’s you, the patient.
Are you a one-woman operation?
I’m a one-woman person with a baby in my belly, so I’m more loving because I’ve got two hearts beating inside me. We just got an investment of €80,000 from Dragon’s Den and that’s going to give me a great opportunity to grow the team. It has been mainly me doing most things with the business. I also speak at international conferences around the world talking about, not just the product, but also simple changes that we can do to make health systems better. I’m qualified in the area is well, with a qualification from Stanford University and I hold two fellowships one with ISQua and one with Canterbury University. So, I’m qualified in my area but I know it’s important never to complicate things. It’s all about simplifying processes and talking to people and finding out what it is that they want.
Will the MediStori solution evolve into the digital realm?
We’re looking to partner with a massive US company. They have a technology solution that serves 2 million patients and professionals. In the next 6 months, we hope to build the software version of the solution. There are a lot of opportunities out there. We just have to be very careful about who we partner with. People can jump on the bandwagon very quickly, but ethics is what it all comes down to for me. They have to have the right reasons for doing it…I can find out within the first 10 minutes of talking to someone whether they will or they won’t fit.
Data is another issue. It’s of course important to any future solution and we need connected data in the health industry, but it’s very important to me that data is only used in the patient’s best interest. I would draw a line there about anyone looking to share the data for other purposes.
How did you find the pitching process at VOOM?
I was always used to having PowerPoint in my presentations as an aid. So, to not have those safeguards around me was a learning curve. It was also daunting that there was a lot to say in a very short space of time. I only had a limited time to speak, but the judges also only had a limited time to ask questions so it was important that I put in as much as I could about the product into the few minutes to make sure they got the picture.
When I didn’t get through, I reminded myself to learn from the bad and the good. “Where did I go wrong?” “Where could I have improved” “Where did I go right and how can I make sure I do that again?” Also, it’s important to remember that sometimes it’s not to do with you, the competition is just that high that they have to pick the best pitchers at the time. But it certainly didn’t put me off pitching as I went on to do Dragon’s Den.
What would you differently if you did VOOM again?
I talked a lot about what I had done to get where I was. I didn’t talk enough about where I was going. That’s what the investors really wanted to know and about— your potential…I talked a lot about the past…I didn’t talk enough about the ideas for the future and the partnerships on the horizon. My learning from that is to really nail down what the vision is. I brought that experience forward to Dragon’s Den.
I went into VOOM and I was contestant number 2,000 and something and I moved into the top ten in the growth category in the space of two weeks. Out of that 10, I was the number one Irish company…It was phenomenal to be seen by such a huge audience in a very short space of time and I was delighted to meet my crowdfunding target during this time as well.
What business advice would you pass on to someone who starting their own business?
When you’re a start-up you have to figure out ways to do things yourself because it’s cheaper. But when you get to a certain point, you also have to know when it’s time to hand it over and outsource, so you can use your own skillset more effectively. A lot of people want the ownership, but they won’t succeed if they’re always trying to do everything. Richard Branson is my icon, he always teaches that you need to realise how important your employees are. The lesson is to make sure your staff are trained better than you are…that’s my ethos too. I love Richard, he’s my hero from when I was 17 doing Business in the Leaving Cert. I did a big piece on him and the stigma he faced being young and being in business. He’s one of the reason’s I was so excited about VOOM.
Unleash Your #VOOM
Whether you’ve got a business idea in your head, heart or hard-drive, it’s time to unleash it. It’s your chance to pitch a business idea to Richard Branson and win a share of €1.2 million in prizes to make your business #VOOM. We’re accepting entries for the competition now. Find out more and enter your pitch here.