Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
I’m Jure Pučko and I’m the co-founder and CEO of Doctrina - a global educational platform for healthcare professionals (HCPs). We are reaching over 1M HCPs with knowledge about RX and OTC medicines and medical devices, disease awareness, and other health-related topics, using our video platform. Our clients are pharma companies who want to get their messages to HCPs.
With our technology and team efforts, we helped over 60 companies worldwide to grow since 2013.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I and my cofounder Tomaz were both working in the pharma industry and we're always wondering if there is a more efficient way to educate HCPs besides the traditional way - sending sales representatives to visit doctors and pharmacies.
Don’t make predictions, put yourself out there.
We knew that there has to be a more efficient way. We were coworkers in the same company, already attending webinars on different subjects and decided to test the business model in the pharma industry. At first, we were testing on our local market in Slovenia and got really good feedback in under 3 months. We soon expanded to 2 new countries where it showed they have the same problems and the same solution worked.
We got an angel investment of 50K early from a local drug wholesaler Salus d.d. who embraced our idea from the start - not only with money but also with opening doors and advocating.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
In the beginning, we were outsourcing (we hired an external web development company to develop the platform for us, by our specifications) our platform, which cost us around $30K. This way we were able to start testing and building the business within 2 months. We got a working platform without having to employ a single developer which turned out to be a very good approach.
We knew we wanted a platform similar to Youtube as this would impact the learning curve for our users. We wanted to be very clean and easy to use for users. But on the other hand, we knew that we would need a lot of specific analytical data for our clients. The biggest challenge was to present that data in an easy to understand format/graph/table. There was also a big challenge with creating rules for permissions for different types of users/groups within our database and email automation where each group had to get a specific email on a specific day/action. We went from simple/MVP to more complex solution slowly, trying to not overdevelop (a lot).
There were some solutions but looked complex and lacked a clean and simple design. Additionally, they lacked a business model that would consider all sides equivalently, without having to trade-off value either for users or clients.
Having development outsourced definitely brings some restrictions – things take more time (you can’t just talk to the guy sitting in the next room and explain what you would like to have/test. It is a process and includes at least 2-3 people and a pipeline/calendar of the outsourced company) and you experiment less as every experiment comes with an invoice. How was dealing with a company to develop an idea of your own? If you had to do it again, will you do it in the same way?
There are not many regrets, I'd probably do hiring in a more professional way and not counting on my gut feeling when interviewing & hiring abroad. When you hire your first 5 people it’s usually from your personal extended network and you sort of know those people. When hiring abroad it’s people selling their story to you and it’s always the best version of themselves.
Building a platform by yourself always takes more time and money than you planned. With outsourcing, it turned out it was easier to plan both costs and launch dates.
Describe the process of launching the business.
We already have good contacts with pharma companies so it was easy to reach them but still not easy to sell. We had a new idea and pharma was not the first to jump on the digital marketing train as it is known as a traditional industry.
It took us some time to convince them to test our product. We tried a lot of things but the most effective was offering some free pilot campaigns at the beginning. That kicked off the content creation and consequently, users started to engage very fast. It took us 1 month to finish the pilot (which included only a small part of the total database), the results were very good and we got our first customers from that pilot batch of clients. After that, it was a bit easier to sell having more and more traction but still hard work. We had (and still have) great sales team who still do amazing work every month
We actually implemented different marketing approaches in the beginning - from F2F onboarding to cold calling and participating at interesting events, etc. Emailing has always been an important tool for us and since the start, we knew we had to be relevant with our messaging as well as not to frequent so users don't see us as spam. We still follow the same strategy when it comes to email.
For the materials - it's about balance when it comes to the amount of content and the key is relevance. Yes, we also asked our users what they wish to follow, what they find interesting. Co-creation is a big part of our culture and we collaborate with our users regarding content creation all the time.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
We started with free pilots. That’s how we got first content for our users and how we solved the chicken and egg problem. Our clients got to see how Doctrina works and our users got access to content relevant to them. Importantly, in a super user-friendly and accessible format.
After that, we started to create some content on our own (without having any sponsors) to balance the supply and demand on content. It’s crucial that we have a well-balanced flow of content for our users. Too much content might discourage our users to engage. On the other hand, if users have a list to pick from that is too short, the platform might seem boring or unattractive.
Personally, I'm a firm believer in searching the work-life balance. I think a good work-life balance is good for your good for you, your family as well as your work. I see a parallel here (regarding the amount of content offered). If there is too much or too little of it, then the balance is broken. Our users can get bored and our clients can see the platform as unattractive.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Doctrina currently delivers short and focused e-learning videos about RX and OTC medicines and medical devices as well as independent courses, all coordinated by the latest research and case studies.
By using technology and a multichannel marketing approach, Doctrina has helped over 60 companies worldwide to grow since 2013 (examples: MSD, Novartis, Abbvie, etc.).
Content development is coordinated with the latest research and case studies as well as curated by health professionals, scientists, and professors. We work closely with local Medical Associations to accredit our courses with CPD/CME points for professional development (license renewals).
Doctrina has an average view rate of more than 50%. Almost 92% of all our users say that they would recommend our platform to their colleagues.
So, for the future we see Doctrina evolving globally. We wish to focus on reaching and educating target audiences about the latest information and best practices to raise awareness about certain medicines usage. We are planning to achieve this by developing more comprehensive learning modules were novelties in one area of medical practice (example: Diabetes) are distributed through a sequence of courses, all produced in our signature format. We named this new service Doctrina Academy.
Our wish is to make Doctrina Academy a number 1 source for e-learning on RX and OTC medicines as well as medical devices and disease awareness. We believe our bite-sized, easily accessible and user-friendly online courses can really make a difference and help doctors navigate from volume-based to value-based courses.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I think outsourcing the platform was a good idea which enabled us to start and test fast.
We were very lucky to get amazing people on board as first employees who believed in our vision and were as dedicated to success as were we. The first few hires were made in sales and later we got amazing people to help us in marketing and growth. We got lucky to get an investment fast which helped us to expand quite quickly.
We had a harsh learning curve on opening a business in a different country, leading the team and keeping the energy and vision as strong as in our home country. We did not succeed as planned but it helped us with our pivot to selling globally, from home country with a smaller team. Everything happens for a reason and so did this I guess.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We use everything that the internet offers :)
- Active Campaign
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
- Predictable Revenue
- Platform Revolution
- Sapiens, Homo Deus and 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Noah Harari
- Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think
- Biology of Belief by Bruce Lipman
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Test as much as possible, ask as much as possible, don’t make predictions, put yourself out there (visit events, dinners, networking…)
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Currently, we are focusing on content creation. All of our content is written for HCPs which means we are looking for people who understand medical language and terms and can help us create valuable and professional content for our users.
We always have space for awesome sales ninjas with access to pharma companies on a regional or global level, who can help us expand and reach our vision.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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