In Conversation with Co-founder of Vida: Devika Wood

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Author: Wai I Ho Edited by: Jun Hon Pang

In this article, we interviewed Devika Wood, Founder and CEO of Vida, a healthcare technology platform company focusing on delivering personalized and quality care.

Devika will be a speaker at SIULondon's upcoming event on Young innovators vs. investors: What it takes to get funding and success, which takes place on 20th March 2018. She is the founder and CEO of  Vida  , an end-to-end healthcare technology platform that ensures efficiency in delivering care, and allows a scalable and smooth care delivering process. Devika has been featured on the ‘Forbes 30 under 30’ list in 2018 for healthcare and science. In this article, she shares with us her passion to innovate and disrupt in the care industry, the challenges she has faced, and her advice to aspiring entrepreneurs.

1. What motivated you to start Vida?

I started Vida just 18 months ago. During the time that I had  been a carer for my grandma , who suffered from dementia and epilepsy for 12 years,  I realised there were many pain points in the care delivering process. One of them was the lack of good quality carers to provide care. On top of that there was no technology in the industry to facilitate the process. So my mum and I were the informal carers, and we relied on writing on pieces of paper to communicate with the formal carers who were coming to our house. Most of the time, we had no idea which carer was coming to visit my grandma. At that point, when giving my grandma medication, we did not know if the carers gave her the medication or not, as there was not any communication link. This gave me the motivation to start Vida. 

2. Can you tell us about how you started founding Vida?

The main focus of Vida was looking at technology to improve communication and transparency among different carers. First of all, I realised that technology would not solve anything until we actually have the right carers with the right training and qualifications. Therefore, we have been looking towards improving the quality of carers. Since then, we have tried to come up with new training schemes and qualifications for carers, in order to train better carers to deliver more proactive care rather than reactive care. This could bridge the gap between carers and HCAs/nurses. The qualified carers would be trained to understand symptoms, and to understand how to look for information for us as a care company so we could respond quicker if there is something wrong. On the technology side, we use technology as a tool to enable carers to deliver better care. They can track all the data we have received through an app, which is integrated in our platform in-house. For example, we have a client named John, who has dementia but also Parkinson disease, and takes 14 different types of medications. John needs to get a carer as soon as possible. We would be able to connect John with a carer using our matching algorithm, where we input the information that would give us the right carer for John, who is Mark in this case. Mark would see all the medical history and illnesses of John and when he turns up, he can check in, which lets us know he has arrived. Meanwhile, he could update the medical information, which allows us to monitor John’s condition real-time. If John was feeling weak or disoriented, we would receive a notification as a red flag, then we can contact the GP practice. In the future, we would like to integrate into the GP practice, so they can see the red flag themselves. To sum it up in a few words, Vida is a huge monitoring and logistics platform. 

3. (a) Could you tell us your main challenges and how did you overcome them throughout the journey of launching Vida in 2016.

Care is one of last industries to be touched by technology, unlike in transport where you have Uber and in takeway you have Deliveroo. The care industry itself is one of the most disjointed and unregulated areas. We are finding it difficult to get people to understand the benefits of technology. The mindset of ‘I think elderly or disabled people can’t use technology’ is what we are trying to break down. We need to get to the mindset that people will use technology more, and we need technology to connect us to different healthcare providers to have fully integrated care. 

(b) As a female entrepreneur, did you face any particular challenge during the process?

Yes all the time. Being a female founder is very challenging, as there are only 1 in 5 female founders out there. Investors, who are mostly male, seem to invest less in female founders and I barely see female investors. I have pitched over 150 times and all to male investors. However, there is now a huge drive in equality. My opinion is that we should not be differentiating between female or male founders, but instead we should just think of it as ‘founders’. Be true to yourself, your vision and your business and have tenacity. 

4. What do you consider as a great team? 

A great team is about bringing different types of management skills, as we should hire people who possess complementary characteristics. For me, I have an incredibly well balanced team of CTO, CFO and care managers. We should not hire people like ourselves, we should look for the opposite of ourselves in the management style, which will complement and work well together. 

5. What would be your advice to aspiring entrepreneurs especially in terms of securing funding?

I was quite lucky that I could incubate in an investment firm, Hambro Perks, where I was employed as an entrepreneur in residence. The idea was that I come up with my own idea and they could back me up with money. When I founded Vida, I already had access to a lot of high net-worth individuals, or angel investors. So I managed to secure my first £200,000 investment through Hambro Perks. Since then, the investors have always invested in us in each round and followed through. The next step would be going to seed funding, but going to institutional investors are usually very difficult with a lot of due diligence needed. When we had our first few rounds, we did not need much due diligence because of these amazing angel investors, who invest because they love your idea. The transition from a startup to a proper organisation and raising proper funding is quite challenging to founders. The main thing I would advise entrepreneurs is that you need to have a good relationship with your own investors, and constantly try to meet new investors and people out there who are interested in your product. You should start the conversation with investors at least a year before you start to raise your series A funding, so when you get to the series A they will have seen your growth.