“We won” said Andi on the phone, her voice was full of excitement and joy.
That night on 26th October, Andrea, the Head of Marketing at InSimu represented the company at the regional Central European Startup Awards competition and they were announced the best newcomer this year.
The team was listening to her voice breathlessly in Budapest and Debrecen, everyone was all eyes and ears in the two offices even though it was already very late.
That was a 3-year long journey of 4 friends with an idea until that moment, when they won a major startup award.
A journey full of ups and downs but a journey which forged a team out of a group of people — a team capable of overachieving, successfully raising VC money and winning awards on national and international levels.
It all started in Debrecen, a Hungarian city of universities, where Gabor Toth, a medical doctor was more and more absorbed by the problem that students have a limited opportunity to practice their clinical skills. After all, he was once a student himself who had spent long hours in dusty medical classrooms studying theory, which was radically different from fighting for lives in the emergency room.
This concerned him a lot and he decided to do something about it. Soon he was lucky enough to have a chance to participate in Microsoft’s , “Imagine Cup” where a team was formed later to become InSimu, consisting of 4 founders: Gabor, Janos, Tamas and Andi.
The Contest’s worldwide finals took place in the USA, Seattle where “the team” won the 3rd prize in the World Citizenship category (contest for the best new software to address social issues) with 5,000 USD and recognition for their hard work.
A real startup is not a real startup without bootstrapping !?
Almost a year after the competition ended the 4 founders decided to bootstrap. At first, they used their own resources to fund the company, most of them had full-time jobs at that time so they always met after finishing work.
Janos was working at a well-known medtech company and it was his and Tamas’s passion and enthusiasm that helped develop the application during those long evenings and weekends they spent together while adding new features and testing bugs.
In those days all the pizza places in the city knew their office address because of the late night deliveries which happened so often.
Despite all the challenges the team progressed and progressed fast.
The initial goal of the team was to achieve product-market fit before looking for VC money.
The 4 founders decided that once they have a product which people will use, they will look for for a reliable partner who would invest into their team and so they found it.
How to start scaling…
On a sunny summer day, the 4 founders and the investors signed the investment contract in the office of their VC, Hiventures.
The team struggled for several months and prepared a bunch of term sheets, business plans, and analytical documents beforehand. The guys were literally exhausted.
Their sleepless nights were fueled by intrinsic motivation, enthusiasm, and liters of coffee.
It was a second major victory for InSimu and that was the moment when things started to become even more exciting..
Their investor warned the team that not every member will be able to scale, a 4 people team and a 20 people team are quite different and require totally different skills, skills they had to develop.
The IT team grew the quickest and 3 more developers joined the board. Janos, the Head of IT, knew some of them before starting InSimu, while others were recommended.
Tamas became the Head of Product and as a true innovator, he had to project his vision of the product to the rest of the team.
Andrea got 2 people joining marketing right away and another person got employed in her team a little bit later.
Gabor, the team leader, became officially the CEO of InSimu and hired several people for administration and started a new department — customer support.
With great investment, comes great responsibility
This phrase was coined by Uncle Ben, from Spiderman. Although the story is based on a comic book, it does have a lot in common with InSimu.
The new team, consisting of 25 members besides its own ambition was also powered by the investor’s ambition, read “money” and it had to prove fast that medical students want to practice medical diagnosis with an app.
The official launch was in January and the application started to add users, students were interested in the new application which looked like a game but was much more than that.
“InSimu Patient is one of the few means available to med students to test themselves whilst still having fun” says Eniola Aina, a medical student from western Nigeria.
The user base grew quickly as a result of many good product decisions such as the introduction of daily challenges, where “users have to solve a mysterious medical case in the course of a day”, adding up more medical specializations, increasing the number of medical cases with uncommon diseases.
In the first 9 months, they reached more than 30.000 enthusiastic InSimu Patient users around the world.
Parallel to this success, the team started consultations with its partners about starting a new investment round in order to penetrate new markets and bring the joy of clinical diagnosis of virtual patients to more medical students.
This did not come unnoticed by the Central European Startup Awards, an organization bringing together the best ideas and best minds in 5 regions, 45 countries in Europe, Asia, and Africa to celebrate entrepreneurial spirit and startups ecosystems.
InSimu was nominated and soon enough, in the fall of 2018, it received two national awards as Best Newcomer and Best Social Impact Startup and was invited to attend the Grand Finale in Warsaw, Poland.
Taking part in the Grand Finale, the InSimu team became the winner of “the Best Newcomer” title.
You might think this is the end but the real story just begins here. To be continued …