By Mohamed Alaa and Nesreen Ramsis
DrBridge plans to expand beyond the Egyptian market by the end of this year, either in Saudi Arabia, Nigeria or South Africa. According to Amir Barsoum, CEO and Co-Founder of the company, in an interview with Daily New Egypt, the company wants to attract investments worth $4m to cover its expansions.
The company is currently holding negotiations with a number of investment funds to increase its capital and cover the capital expenditures for its expansion plans.
Through Vezeeta platform, patients place about 10,000 doctor and radiology reservations for about 1,700 doctors, in addition to a number of radiology centres and medical laboratories. DrBridge received $4m in funding from the Science & Technology Development Fund (STDF), and a Jordanian investment fund.
What are the services offered by DrBridge?
Our main product at DrBridge is Vezeeta, which is a platform designed to help patients in Egypt deal with the health system in the private sector outside the operation room, which means everything related to the patient, from doctor visits to getting tests and scans in specialised centres and laboratories. The Vezeeta platform helps patients get doctor appointments and form a database of medical data through reports by the doctors and the laboratories the patient deals with.
How do you apply these solutions technologically?
To link our technological system with the doctors, we gave them applications to our medical platform Vezeeta, so that the doctor gets all the reservations done through the platform and feeds it with necessary data of the patient. As for the laboratories and radiology centres, they were linked to the platform’s system toallow the booking process and to provide reports of the patients so they could benefit from it later.
How were you able to provide funding for your project?
We got a total of $4m in funding from two investment funds; the Science & Technology Development Fund (STDF) in Egypt, and another investment fund in Jordan.
How do you plan to benefit from this fund?
According to our plans, we will intensify our presence in the Egyptian market in the upcoming period by investing these funds through the Vezeeta platform to increase the number of patients benefiting from the service, as well as the number of doctors and laboratories on our platform.
How many medical reservations are done through your platform, Vezeeta?
We currently make around 10,000 reservations monthly, for a number of physicians ranging between 1,500 and 1,700, while our target is to increase the number available through our platform by 1,000 physicians monthly.
What do you advise entrepreneurs to do in order to attract suitable funding to their projects?
There are three pillars in any start-up project that draw the investors’ attention: a big market, meaning that the project would serve a wide base of users, and a product that offers a creative solution to a social problem, like service products. The third pillar that draws investors’ attention before pumping any investments in start-up companies is the homogenous team in the company. As for the entrepreneur, the most important thing is not to be attracted to an investor who just pumps more money, but it is better to cooperate with investors who provide solutions and help, whether through their business relations or through the technical cadres that can provide technical consultations in the right time.
What about your expansion plans in the upcoming period?
We have ambitious plans to expand outside Egypt, but we are prioritising the Egyptian market coverage completely, especially as it is the biggest market in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Success in the Egyptian market would mean success in the rest of the region markets. We are now studying expansion in three countries in the region: Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and South Africa. And later we will expand in the Maghreb countries. We rely on attracting new investments to carry our expansion plans in the upcoming period through increasing the company’s capital in return for assets and providing shares for new shareholders in the company. As per our plan, we will do an investment tour to support our external expansions by the end of this year.
What is the volume of investments you plan to attract for your external expansions?
We plan to attract investments worth $4m to start our expansions externally.
What are your local expansion plans in governorates?
By the end of this April, we will expand in a number of governorates. According to our plan, we will expand in a new governorate every two months, [including] Alexandria, Mansoura, Port Said and Ismailia.
Is funding the most prominent obstacle in the entrepreneurship sector?
If the project of the entrepreneur offers unique solutions, funding should not be an issue. The real issue is the harmony and understanding within the team.
What would you advise entrepreneurs in order to create a strong brand name?
The product offered by the company is one of the main factors behind creating a strong brand name. Founders of start-up companies have to care for the details of creating their own brand names.
What are the public entities’ roles to support and help start-up companies?
First, the government has to put in mind that start-up companies that offer innovative solutions plan to be huge companies. So the government has to deal with them considering this side. These companies need to be offered lower taxes and facilitated procedures for establishing the company. The state also has to extensively mechanise services. On the medical sector, for example, there must be medical files for each patient.
What are the principal characteristics that should be present in a successful businessman?
A successful businessman should determine a specific goal and put an ambitious plan in order to fulfil it. He should have faith in his ideas and project in order to face the market challenges.
How do you achieve revenues?
For the service we provide, we receive fees from doctors, radiology centres and laboratories on our Vezeeta platform. On the other hand, we do not charge the patient for using our service.
How do you actually collect your financial fees?
We offer two methods to collect our fees; either the traditional way, through the collections officer, or credit cards. We are now negotiating with Fawry Banking and Payment Technology Services, in order to provide us with solutions for financial fee collections. We will be launching this service before the end of the first half of the year.