What motivated you to start DocDoc?
The purpose behind what DocDoc is today stems from a deeply personal story about my daughter. She was born healthy but at her three-month check-up, we were told that her liver was failing, and she needed to undergo a liver transplant. When we asked the head surgeon questions on his expertise, price, or outcomes of his previous surgeries on other patients, we weren’t given straight-forward answers. But we didn’t give up. We went on a global search to find the right doctor. Through our personal network, we found one of the pioneers of live liver transplant. He had performed thousands of more transplants than the team who had initially diagnosed our daughter and had a track record of extremely high procedural outcomes. His patients weren’t just surviving, they were thriving. Surprisingly, despite significantly higher experience and better-predicted outcomes, his team charged us 60% less than what we were quoted by the initial team. It became clear to us that in healthcare, higher prices do not necessarily correlate with higher expertise. When Cole, my husband and Co-Founder of DocDoc, recovered from the ICU after donating a piece of his liver to our daughter, we knew this is what DocDoc needed to be — to empower patients to make data-informed decisions during the doctor discovery process.
The status quo in which patients find doctors based on anecdotes is not sufficient. Today, patients resort to using doctor directories based on location and photos, or ask the family doctor who may refer based on business or medical school/social contacts, or refer to Doctor Google for uncurated testimonials. This information asymmetry in healthcare between patients and medical practitioners often translates to undue stress on patients, increased healthcare costs, as well as increased treatment complication and readmission rates. We need to transform healthcare by injecting greater transparency.
While this journey has been far from easy, what drives me as an entrepreneur is the greater purpose and the opportunity to make a significant and positive impact on our society.
What are the biggest changes in the tech industry in SEA that you have seen since you began your journey as an entrepreneur?
The biggest changes I have seen are in the areas of funding, ecosystem maturity, regulations, and talent.
Driven by rising income levels, a large millennial population, and increasing mobile Internet penetration, SEA has become an attractive region for global investors. We have witnessed a rise in investor confidence in Southeast Asian startups, with many global venture capital firms setting up branch offices in the region.
Southeast Asia has also garnered interest from global tech giants who have recognised the region’s potential. These tech giants are rapidly expanding their presence in the region, thereby exerting massive competitive pressure on incumbents in several traditional industries. It will be interesting to observe how corporate incumbents react to these well-financed tech giants.
From a regulatory perspective, governments across the region have recognised technology as a competitive, strategic economic pillar and are actively engaging with the entrepreneurial and corporate communities. Proactive regulators are developing guidelines to keep up with governance structures in order to manage new businesses and their models. Many forward-thinking countries in our region have gone through one or more iterations, revamping their regulatory guidelines that aim to protect consumers while fostering innovation.
Lastly, a company is nothing without its people. Several years ago, the only viable career track was a job in big corporations. Branding mattered. Today, we are witnessing a mindset shift where more local professionals are open-minded to a lateral move into startups.
With increased access to funding, innovation-friendly regulatory frameworks, and an influx of quality talent, Southeast Asia, today, has the potential to produce truly innovative companies on a global scale — companies that create new categories of products and services and redefine consumer behaviour globally, often solving a problem we didn’t know we had — or a problem we didn’t pay attention to because we never thought there was another way.
How do you think the technology industry needs to change in SEA in order to see more female entrepreneurs gain success?
Globally, just 7% of partners in the top 100 venture firms globally are women. This leads to unconscious biases that women regularly encounter during the process of fundraising. Research shows that although women-led startups deliver higher financial returns, they garner fewer investments.
Across the world, there is a strong need for female-led VC firms. Female-led VC firms are uniquely positioned to offer a personal perspective on the businesses targeting women consumers as well as possess the ability to connect with female founders.
Start-up accelerators also play a key role in empowering women entrepreneurs by ensuring they have sufficient mentorship opportunities from women experts across industries. Moreover, accelerators can play an active role in building a community of women entrepreneurs, female-led VC firms, as well as other resources that female entrepreneurs can tap into to expand their business.
Are there any markets in SEA where you see female entrepreneurs thriving?
Entrepreneurship is a challenging path, regardless of geography. Today, it is heartening to see numerous examples of successful female entrepreneurs throughout the region, spanning from China to Indonesia.
As a whole, it seems that societies that have the most traumatic pasts and hence have built robust temperaments, tend to produce successful entrepreneurs. Hardy individuals with a ‘never give up’ mindset seem to do well and thrive in entrepreneurial environments.
What are your predictions for the next 10 years in the tech industry?
Greater connectivity — The tech industry will witness greater connectivity as measured by mobile Internet penetration as well as the sophistication of the devices on a hardware level. This is especially evident in Southeast Asia where just over a decade ago, four in five Southeast Asians had no Internet connectivity and limited access to the Internet. Today, Southeast Asians are the most engaged mobile Internet users in the world, with over 360 million Internet users in the region and 90% of them connect to the Internet primarily through their mobile phones. In the next 10 years, we will see more powerful devices in the hands of more consumers, and this will have a huge impact on the tech industry.
Interoperability of datasets — Over the next few years, in a variety of industries, we will see a massive focus on interoperability of datasets, i.e., connecting data in disparate systems to deliver increased value to end consumers and enterprise stakeholders. As an example, in healthcare, the applications that can successfully leverage the interoperability of datasets will play a massive role in increasing access and improving the quality of healthcare.
Healthcare is one of the sectors that is particularly interesting for women entrepreneurs.
Over 80% of family healthcare decisions are made by women, but women hold only 13% of the c-suite level leadership roles in healthcare organisations.
This is a clear opportunity for female entrepreneurs to step in and design products based on personal experiences that cater to the pain points of the key decision-makers.