Update, March 2018: the free, public version of InsightMedi as featured in this article is not available anymore. The blog post remains live for historic archiving purposes. Nevertheless the ideas, goals, and overall vision remain the same.
Of all the articles I read on regular basis all over the Internet, the kind of publications of which I never get bored are the ones focused on successful company teams and their stories.
At InsightMedi, we cannot claim the kind of success that makes it through to the big news outlets, but we do have an amazing story behind our team. It’s the type of story that should be shared, if not by anyone else, by ourselves. I’m taking care of that just now, so if you want to get to know us a little better, read on.
In case you don’t know about our company, InsightMedi is a photo-sharing platform where healthcare professionals come together and engage in interesting conversations around medical images. We want to achieve many things with our apps, but the intention behind this post is to focus more on the team and less on the product.
The man behind the idea
InsightMedi is the brainchild of Gonzalo Mora, an Orthopedic Surgeon from Pamplona, Spain. The idea turned into a real project early in 2013.
This decision would plant the seed of a future company that none of us saw coming.
To any Startup, commitment is King
After a couple of conversations with Gonzalo, Luis and I were excited to be a part of the project and wanted to start developing the mobile app for iOS. We decided to leave another personal project we had on the side and commit our remaining free time (we both had full-time jobs) to building InsightMedi.
We started planning and designing on April 2013. We focused a lot on Instagram’s design and looked for inspiration and examples of good practices in every major app we loved. We didn’t have (and still don’t have) a designer on the team so we were trying to focus on stability and leave our dreams of UI/UX for later.
InsightMedi was launched on September 2013 under the name of InstaMedi (little known fact) and was presented at the Medicine 2.0 World Congress, on September 23, 2013. It was available from start in three different languages and it had a ton of features under its belt. I guess (I know) we were not so Lean back then.
On May 2014 I left my job and started working full time on the project followed by Luis — in August that same year — who left his position as a developer at IBM. We entered the Madrid-based accelerator TopSeeds Lab and officially started our journey to entrepreneurship in the Spanish chapter of our lives.
I’d say that leaving your “steady” job to join a startup takes a whole new meaning when you’re a foreigner, and your capacity to stay in the new country depends on you having a job. Some people thought we were crazy at the time, but I like to think that’s our definition of commitment.
Our fourth co-founder
Gabriel Pizá, an Orthopedic Surgeon from Mallorca, Spain, joined early in 2014 to complete the co-founding team.
Gabriel and Gonzalo have been friends and colleagues from more than 20 years. His experience has proven to be a key factor in the development of the product and curation of our network’s content.
Gabriel works as a Pediatric Orthopedic Surgeon at University Hospital Son Espases — in Palma de Mallorca — since 1999. He left his Private Practice, in 2014, to devote all of his available time to InsightMedi.
Today, Luis — our Chief Technology Officer — spends most of his time working in three main aspects of our platform: the Backend, the iOS app, and the Android app.
Even though he began as an iOS developer he now admits to enjoy more the flexibility of the Android platform (I think most of all he hates Xcode’s Storyboard system).
Nevertheless, he’s very good at both so everyone is happy at InsightMedi.
From head to paper to software
The process of creating something usually follows a similar path in every discipline. For us, it’d typically go from our heads to a piece of paper, then to the computer, and finally to the devices.
Our process usually follows the path: from head to paper to software, but in the world we live in there is also a little of: from crash to panic to software.
Regarding our apps functionality, we’re definitely not right every time but when a new feature works, and people like it, we feel everything has purpose and meaning.
What about our brand?
Today, I’m focusing my time and energy in tasks far away from major development operations. I still spend a few hours a month on Xcode, but we understood soon enough (I hope) that a mature team has to focus on all aspects of building a company if the goal is to improve the chances of watching your project grow and last in time.
A big part of my job these days is to drive adoption of the product, find the key value aspects of InsightMedi for our audience, and work on different angles of our branding.
I’ve learned to enjoy wearing different hats that were not initially natural to me. I’m always inspired by the stories of others and I try to learn as much as possible from their experiences while building our own. I particularly like Tony Hsieh’s approach to building culture and George Carlin’s approach to building your own opinion.
An extra set of eyes
When you think of it, developing software in general is not crazy hard but there are plenty of occasions where an extra set of eyes (plus brains, ideas, experiences, tricks, baggage, prejudice, fears, etc.) are needed in order to solve a difficult problem.
Luis and I have worked together in a wide range of projects for more than 10 years. We met back in 2004 when he was a software developer for the Computer Chemistry Lab at the Venezuelan Institute for Scientific Research (IVIC), and I was doing the same thing for the Computer Physics Lab. We collaborated a lot back then because of joint projects our bosses led.
Since then, we’ve done all kind of software-related work for different companies/institutions and we gladly continue to do so for InsightMedi today.
Having someone else to go to for a second opinion is something that not only doctors find extremely valuable.
We love the idea of finding ourselves in a constant pursue of craftsmanship. We know our own limitations better than anyone, but we don’t allow that to stop our quest for excellence.
The product is part of ourselves and we make our best effort to give shape to the ideas coming from the team and our users.
Moving to Baltimore!
On January 2015, we all flew to Baltimore to participate in DreamIt’s Acceleration Program. This move would be the first step in our strategy to open our offices in the US.
Working with prestigious Institutions, such as Johns Hopkins University, The Abell Foundation, and BioHealth Innovation has given us a great insight into the healthcare ecosystem in the United States. It is our privilege to be able to have them as partners, and investors in our company.
Jordan Lynn is the latest team member to come on board as our Operations and Marketing Manager. After meeting her in Baltimore, we knew she was the right person to help us shape our message and help us grow.
Jordan believes in what InsightMedi is doing, her background in healthcare comes extremely handy, and her can-do attitude fits right in with the core values of the rest of the team.
Thinking (and the time it takes)
Every company is unique. Even those that look alike are pretty different. What seems to be common among all is the fact that our ability to make decisions will significantly affect our chances of finding success or failure.
Back in the days when I was a full-time developer, answering the question: “What do you do at your company?” was extremely easy. Nowadays, I have to be creative to avoid answering “I sit and think a lot”. That’s not an answer to give to everyone.
Ideas are to be shared and discussed
One of the greatest things about working with others is that you can engage in interesting conversations around the things you’re really passionate about. Other people’s perspective provides a lot of value when you surround yourself with smart and motivated individuals.
Even thought we can’t always be on the same page on every subject, at InsightMedi we’ve learned that when everyone has what’s best for the company at heart, the results of discussing ideas are always positive.
We’re never afraid of someone stealing our ideas. I believe that if they can hear about it from you, implement it, and ship it faster, you’re definitely following a wrong approach.
Beware of our screens!
People walking around the office are usually tempted to look at other people’s big screens, so it’s not uncommon to have someone looking at our monitors several times a day.
The problem in our case is that we don’t usually have pretty things to show for regular folks. Our audience finds value in medical images and some times they can be too hard to watch.
I still recall on the early days of development when Luis and I avoided using real medical images at all cost. When the time came to start testing with the real deal, we were shocked!
Today is a lot easier but there are still some times when something new comes up and it shakes every bone in my body. Oh, the things I’ve seen!
InsightMedi for Android
Android was one of our most anticipated product launches back in December 2014. We were focused only on iOS for more than a year while we learned many valuable things about our product and our users.
InsightMedi for Android came second to the party, but when it was time to work on it, we were more knowledgeable and understood better what we wanted to accomplish.
Attention to detail
Every instruction counts, every interaction, every singularity of a given platform. Nothing goes out without testing and even though Luis and I are not physicians we’re the heaviest users of InsightMedi.
We take pride in what we do and we want to deliver something great to the world. Pride, on the other hand, is not a great companion of the “ship fast and break things” motto. A balance is required, and to find it is difficult.
The job description
At InsightMedi, titles and job descriptions are little more than a required formality. We all step up to the plate when it’s needed and we do our best to live up to the challenge every time.
The notion of a job description at this stage is meaningless and myself, as the current CEO of the company, make my best effort to lead by example.
A typical day in my life at InsightMedi (like I have another life) will include fundraising efforts, meeting with potential clients, sending tons of emails, working on financial projections, planning marketing campaigns, and some iOS development among many others.
Perhaps the only sentence required in the job description should be “You’ll need to be able to hustle and ask for help, my friend”.
InsightMedi is a global platform with thousands of users from more than 80 countries. The idea was conceived with an international scope in mind and we like to think that has to do with our own background as a team.
Unless you’re a seasoned entrepreneur, you’ll realize soon after starting that your chances of succeeding in your new venture are really low, and that your team is almost certainly underprepared. You’ll most likely be too technical or not technical enough. Perhaps you’ll be too old or too inexperienced. You’ll probably find yourself learning everything again, and some times even feel like your enterprise is more than you can chew.
If you ever feel that way, I honestly hope you have around you a team like the one I’ve found at InsightMedi. A group of adventurous people who just had to go look for something crazy to do against all the odds in the world.
Thanks for reading,
Bonus: Friendship as a core value
Diego is the photographer responsible for most of this amazing set. He’s the one capturing what we do around the office, but what’s more important to us is the fact that he’s been a friend for over 15 years.
We stay close and share many of the stories that have brought us here. Friendship is serious business for us and a big part of our core values.