We got a minimum viable product out…. what did we learn?

The summer sun has brought the heat and I’m feeling it. The extra weight I put on over exam period aids in my overheating as I walk down the road and sit on the tube. It’s been roughly a year since I and Shubz have been working on it and learning the framework Django as we go along. At the time I didn’t really feel like I learned much or made much progression. One victory is shortly lived with another hurdle coming round the corner.

As I sat in the financial tech office in Mayfair explaining my source code on the big screen, I realized that I have learned and developed a platform for GP courses. OK it’s a small platform but from nothing, we got clients putting their courses on a useable platform that we coded, and people using it. How things got us there? We had very little money to invest and little to no connections. Here are some key areas that I thought worked in our favor:

 

Screen Shot 2017-05-29 at 14.17.52.png
lean startup method

 

Working relationship 

I met Shubz online. Although he went to Imperial I had never bumped into him. However, when we got chatting we did have friends in common so our worlds were not completely alien. He wanted to get something off the ground and I wanted to apply the code that I was learning to something practical. We spitballed ideas (most crazy) and he came up with the idea of developing a web app for GP courses. He had no coding experience and I hadn’t ever coded in a Django platform. However, we were willing to give it a go. We met purely for having the same desire to create something. We get on very well and I’m sure that we would be very good friends if our lives weren’t so busy. However, I was working in A and E and studying an MSc in physics and engineering in medicine at UCL full time so my timetable was full. He was working as a clinical advisor for a tech startup, pulling shifts in the urgent care center, and he is also expecting a baby. Becuase of this, the meet ups we have are mainly about our project. Someone like Peter Thiel would say this is bad. He would never invest in something where the two founders met because they both wanted to create something. He values a long lasting friendship before the creation of a product. However, I think this has maintained our output. It also acted as a filter. There was no obligation to keep meeting up if it wasn’t working out. However, if I started a project with a close friend, and it turned out that he was extremely lazy, I then run the risk of ruining an established friendship if I had to explain to him that I’m dropping him from the project because he was no good. On the flip side of Peter Thiel, Penn and Teller attribute their success to liking and getting on with each other, but having a professional relationship. And they’ve been performing together in TV shows and live stages all over the world since the 70s.

Taking the jump

Neither of us had done this before. We literally sat down and started watching online videos whilst in coffee shops. Every now and then both of us would take turns in advocating giving it up. When one of us faltered, the other one would say no, let’s press on. As a result, Shubz developed the skill of front end with HTML and CSS. I developed the backend data structures and Python logic behind the views. We needed help every now and then. Sami Triki was a complete life saver. Without him, we wouldn’t have got the web app running on the server. Taking the jump didn’t mean that we aced everything, but it meant that we got stuck in and just kept pushing. When we got to a stage where we could host courses and where users could search we started calling up providers and offering our services. I think there was a bit of overconfident delusion but not too much. A bit was healthy. If we were completely rational we wouldn’t have even tried. We wouldn’t have been able to do it if we hadn’t put our day jobs on the back burner.

Working within our means 

We were careful not to try and do something that was impossible. We have some general vision but a lot of our decisions have been made based on what we have obtained at the time. I have met many a clinician who spent their time obsessing over the details of the general platform before they had even made a step towards creating something. These people never ended up making anything. Once I learned how to code search algorithms we started thinking about how to apply it. Once Shubz got his head around CSS he started thinking of ways to redesign the front end. There are other skill sets that we are developing on the coding front. Once we are confident at we can utilize them we will start thinking of ways of trying to exploit them on our platform. This doesn’t mean we’re completely aimless, we expanded our coding skills in the area that we wanted to exploit, however, we started thinking about the details once we understood the technicalities.

So where are we now? The clinical experience, learning to code, extra degrees in physics and engineering, and building the platform hasn’t just resulted in reduced wages in our day jobs compared to others who stayed full time. Shubz is now a clinical lead in Ada health, two days of my week are now spent writing code for a financial tech firm in Mayfair London (This is very new, will add more details on this in later posts), we now get invited to talk at multiple conferences, and Guys Hospital London has contacted us to help them manage to create a platform, as we understand the code technicalities of creating one and we have clinical experience. The world is changing fast, and the pre-defined career paths simply haven’t adapted quickly enough. If you’ve got the stomach, skills, work ethic, I recommend that you take the jump. See and feel things that you’ve never done before. Face complete uncertainty. Experience the response of people who are so in the box when thinking they simply don’t try and understand what you’re trying to do. I remember my self-doubt kicking in 2 years ago when I was telling everyone I know to invest in bitcoin. Only two people did. Was I crazy? I started to worry, had I thrown away thousands? It is now a 6 fold return on my investment. Go back 4 years and I remember thinking that I must have completely misunderstood the math I learned at my math modeling summer school. I came back excited, proposing to the senior clinicians in my hospital and multiple junior doctors that we should really look into big data. They replied flatly that I just didn’t understand. I remember sending out messages to most of the doctors I know asking if they would be interested in an analytics company that processed multiple variables to find hidden patterns. The response was overwhelmingly negative. I remember thinking, was I wasting my year-off learning computer programming and reading the math behind machine learning? Now with the explosion of big data and companies like Google DeepMind I realized that healthcare, like many other areas, has many people who just want to do their job, not task risks, and not even think about the box, let alone think outside it. One of the hardest things I learned about taking the jump was that senior authorities in medicine do not understand the new possibilities of tech in health. And once you take that jump, you leave the petty politics behind and start talking with other clinicians who have taken the jump. Even if I fail in the next two years I wouldn’t change a thing. 90% of the conversations I have with these people is about new ideas, concepts, and how to create working solutions to them. The amazing clinicians that have come out of the woodwork in the last 3 years have been nothing short of a life-changing experience. I feel so lucky to have met them. Not all of them have taken the jump. I now get the pleasure of clinicians who have decided to stay in practice but see the bigger picture. I went from being mildly depressing and moaning about my situation to being excited about the world and it’s possibilities. The people I converse with have been majorly responsible for this and I have to thank them.

Great Minds Discuss Ideas; Average Minds Discuss Events; Small Minds Discuss People

Eleanor Roosevelt

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s