Flexibility, Focus and Feedback: An Interview with Girish Kumar, OKKO Health

Girish Interview - OKKO Health

“Hi guys, this is Girish. I’m the CTO of OKKO Health, a startup based in Bristol. We’ve created home-monitoring apps for measuring vision that’s used to monitor eye health. We know that there is a big problem around long waiting times for eye appointments so we created an app where people can take an eye test remotely, saving hospitals time and money.”

OKKO Health is enabling eye doctors to cut down their appointment times and catch patient issues early, but who is your client? The hospitals or the individuals?

For B2B2C Digital Health – clients are both the doctors and the patients. Patients can use the app as part of their diagnostics and their monitoring. Because of increased waiting times and pressures on the NHS, a large proportion of hospitals are now inclined to offer their patients a remote monitoring solution. Hospitals can use the app to encourage the shortening of appointment times. As a company, we’re therefore B2BC.

How has being both a B2B and B2BC company affected your pricing model?

We’re still early on in our pricing journey. Because we’re in the healthcare industry, deciding our pricing model is a big challenge. Like any startup, it’s important that we get it right, but because every one of our clients has their own variables, such as hospital resources and budgets, we are currently pricing ourselves on a client-by-client basis.

We’ve had an incredibly long process of getting the correct certifications, and going through intense procurement with each hospital system. Throughout that time, we’ve been able to learn how much each eye appointment or eye test costs each hospital and the particular value proposition to them. This also varies by disease and we will target our pricing accordingly.

My advice to any founder in a similar situation is to make sure that your first customers are really loving your product. It’s through their insights and feedback that you’ll be able to find the value proposition and then the pricing model that works.

You mentioned that you’re still very early-stage. Can you tell me about your product journey so far?

It all comes back to Stephanie, our CEO, who was working as an eye specialist herself before launching OKKO Health back in 2015. She worked as an NHS optician for a while and did her PhD research on eye disease and early diagnosis. She clearly understood the problem that eye practitioners were facing – long patient waiting times and pressures to continually cut costs.

She understood from the offset that nailing the technology was everything. It had to be bulletproof in order to be certified and trusted by healthcare professionals. We were always measuring our technology against the ‘gold standard’ eye charts and we worked with a lot of different eye groups and societies to get it right.

So for us, data science led the way. We’re still figuring out the commercial side.

We realized that we were never going to get the technology right straight away. We wanted to prove to the world that doing an eye test on your phone works – even if the technology we used to get there was a little clumsy at first. Once our idea was validated, we spent time polishing up the technology and trying out different platforms.

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Did you hire a technical team in house to build the first prototype?

In the beginning, we hired a mid-level engineer. We had a brilliant graduate games engineer, straight out of university. As a company, we’re very people-led. We wanted to bring someone in house and nurture them through the process of building the company from scratch.

We could have done the same thing through an agency. However, because the technology was so uncertain at the very beginning, we needed someone who would be comfortable with ultimate flexibility – being able to change direction many times and start from scratch if necessary. So it made sense to have someone fresh out of university with us whilst we figured that stuff out.

Let’s talk about finding that first paying customer.

Stephanie’s professional network of eye practitioners was invaluable in finding our first paying customers and keeping that feedback loop open, whilst we worked on different iterations of the product.

Her ten years of experience in the optical industry gave us a huge amount of credibility when approaching hospitals and private practices.

But not every founder is fortunate enough to come from a profession of perfect future clients. What can they do?

You don’t have to be from the right networks to find the right networks! You can find your perfect future clients everywhere – in Facebook groups, Linkedin groups, Slack communities, Meetups. Immerse yourself in them, provide them with value and ask questions constantly. When you discover your ideal client, ensure to work hard to get their attention and listen meaningfully to their problems so that you can pitch your solution accordingly – don’t assume that the first iteration of your tech and your value proposition will be what they want to buy, or have the ability to buy from their specified budgets – listen hard and be flexible!

What has been the biggest thing that you’ve learnt in the process of building your product?

Don’t over-engineer everything! Not every problem requires a full-engineering solution. In the beginning, don’t be afraid to be slightly ‘hacky’. There are lots of low-code or no-code tools out there that can help you pull together the first iteration of your product to start getting validation.

This is particularly true when your clients vary so much. For us, we were completely at the mercy of varying hospital requirements which meant that we were constantly changing our product. If we’d hard coded from the start it would have been a nightmare. Be flexible and be thrifty if you have to be. You’re a founder after all!

Key takeaways:

  • The key to a good pricing model is finding good feedback. Build something your customers love and be open to their thoughts on the subject.
  • Network, network, network. Use existing communities and online groups to build awareness, particularly if you don’t have industry connections
  • Keep your product lean in the early stages. If you over-engineer your code early on, you’ll waste time and make it harder to adapt further down the road.
  • Want more founder insights? Check out our report – Building a Successful Digital Product: 11 Founders Share Their Secrets for Success.

Flexibility, Focus and Feedback: An Interview with Girish Kumar, OKKO Health

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