20 Mar GLOWDX – BLAINE DOYLE
GlowDX was established in 2015, and embarked upon a research and development program to develop an accessible diagnostic platform for developing countries.
Blaine Doyle, cofounder and CEO, shares his experience about crossing the pond between Europe and LATAM.
What makes LATAM a great opportunity for a European startup?
It all started some years ago when Yensi Flores, from Tegucigalpa, Honduras, was awarded a scholarship for pursuing an MSc degree in Molecular Biology with Bio innovation in University College Cork, Ireland. Yensi and I met in this master’s degree. Over coffee, talking about LATAM Healthcare, laboratory testing & infectious tropical diseases, we both felt personally passionate about improving access to better health services in emerging markets, starting with LATAM. We shared a common interest on how health issues were so different between Honduras and Ireland, with some apparently easy tasks such as testing blood samples, diagnosing infectious diseases etc….Before starting our startup I took a trip to Honduras that was a life changing experience!
We realized that molecular diagnostic companies failed to develop products with proper product-market fit for the emerging markets. This is mainly because Europe and the USA are the dominant healthcare markets, hence commercial efforts and developments were focused there. In LATAM, it is difficult to get molecular diagnostics outside the capital or main cities, a problem we saw as a business opportunity and an untapped market. Our goal is to democratize access to health using innovative business models and developing tailored systems for the emerging markets
What are the main challenges startups are facing when expanding to LATAM/Europe?
Doing business in LATAM is different culturally to Europe, arriving as a European it’s important to gain an understanding of business etiquette and customs, adjusting your planning as necessary. ! Incorporating your local company/subsidiary, product registrations with the relevant authorities requires planning for both unforeseen expenses and timelines when beginning operations in the LATAM market.
As with any Public Healthcare service in the world, public procurement processes require specific expertise to understand the how tenders are issued, how to plan for success and how to maintain government relationships. It is important to understand when working on healthcare innovations and disrupting current models is a challenge, as much investment is needed in initial phases.
In our case, we need to work with Governments to push specific healthcare agendas, it is important to follow the programs that international organizations like PAHO (Pan American Health Organization) are doing to work with countries throughout the region to improve and protect people’s health.
Price sensitivity is a challenge because healthcare laboratory prices spike due to the costs charged by distributors so to cut down those costs and be very competitive we avoid intermediaries and sell directly to clients. Rodrigo Cervantes, our Commercial Director leads our commercial operations and efforts in that direction. He brings years of essential commercial experience from medical companies like Abbott, Baxter and Leica. My advice, find a “Rodrigo”.
Key learnings/recommendations for startups planning to enter the LATAM market.
• To be in contact with the local Enterprise Ireland representative, Irish embassy and Irish-Mexican Chamber of Commerce on the ground proved to a right approach. They helped us to reach the local business community, introduced us as part of their trade network and supported us when hiringe local staff. Therefore, my recommendation would be to contact the commercial service or trade offices your home country has in the LATAM country you plan to export goods and services.
• In all things business have a buffer! When planning or creating your business plans add 20% to your money and timing forecasts!
• Educate yourself in corporate law and get a good accountant! There are many tax laws, rules etc. that you are not aware and someone has to take care of that complicated tax. Understanding many basic concepts really saved us a lot of money and time; follow your gut feeling on this. If in doubt, I can’t recommend Santistevan & Duclaud Abogados enough, specifically for companies entering Mexico!
For me, my purpose is in delivering tailored healthcare innovations to LATAM. When finding one’s purpose I always think of a Kofi Annan quote:“To live is to choose. But to choose well, you must know who you are and what you stand for, where you want to go and why you want to get there.” I can tell you without any doubts, I can answer each of these questions because everyday we push towards our goal with more certainty that the last. Before starting the company, Yensi put to me one condition; that I spend time in Honduras in the healthcare systems. I observed, engaged and absorbed my surroundings, and this has been my fuel and motivation since! I think this “Why” is the most imporant. In my case, I am sure I could not go back to a corporate job as “I have adopted LATAM or LATAM has adopted me to democratize access to healthcare in the emerging markets”.