While Instagram itself may be seen as a platform for cat photos, food porn and selfies, its photo-sharing foundation actually has practical uses in industry, as evidenced by the medical-based Figure1. Although it doesn’t come with a range of retro filters, the app is helping the medical community to pool its knowledge in a visual and engaging way, giving health professionals a real, living textbook detailing the symptoms of many diseases, conditions and traumas. As well as enabling health professionals to post informative images, the social nature of the app also facilitates medical discussion, education and sharing on a wide scale.
We spoke to Dr Josh Landy – co-founder and CMO of Figure1 – to find out how he juggles his role as an entrepreneur while still serving as an on-call hospital physician.
1. Where did the idea for Figure1 come from?
As a physician working in the ICU, I commonly work with other specialists to help sick patients whose conditions change quickly. Part of my daily work flow is to keep the team of specialists up to date about our shared patients. In medicine, a picture says a thousand words and can be of great benefit to patient care. Before Figure 1, many physicians collected images of interesting or representative cases on their smartphones. These images were often shared with small groups of colleagues. Recognizing the educational benefit of these images, I wanted to collect and distribute them in a privacy conscious way. This way, we are able to harness thousands of educational assets being collected by individuals each day and make them freely available.
2. Can you describe a typical working day?
I never have a typical day. Right now, I work both at Figure 1 and as a critical care specialist. The days I most enjoy starts when I’ve been on-call at the hospital overnight. I quickly make rounds, give handover to my colleagues, then drive home to shower and head in to the Figure 1 office to meet with the team. Don’t get me wrong – those days are exhausting but are undoubtedly the most fulfilling. In 24 hours I get to direct my energy towards both of my passions – what more could I ask for?
3. How do you unwind or relax when you’re not working on Figure1?
When I’m not at the Figure 1 office or the hospital, I like to cook, go for a run with my dog, or spend time with my family.
4. What’s the secret ingredient to success as an entrepreneur?
We’re still very new so it’s too early to claim to know anything for sure. We’ve built a strong team, which has really made the difference so far. We hope that’s the secret ingredient.
5. What drove you crazy when building your business?
There are a million features that we want to build into Figure 1 and that healthcare professionals have suggested to us, but we can’t do everything at once. We’re eager to have all these different features, but have to move one step at a time. This desire to ‘do it all’ is part of what makes me love being an entrepreneur, and part of what can drive me crazy.
6. What motivates you to keep going?
Watching the app grow into an educational network has been incredibly fulfilling. Being able to see people using Figure 1, engaging with one another, and expanding their medical knowledge has confirmed my belief that we’re doing something meaningful. That motivates me to keep going.
7. If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
Building a product involves making not only just a few big decisions, but also making a million little decisions. We may have gone wrong somewhere along the way, but it’s too early to tell. We’re trying to stay agile and flexible so that we can change direction if we find we’ve gone off course.
8. Where do you see your business in five years, and how will you get there?
I see Figure 1 continuing to grow and be useful to many more healthcare professionals. I see it not only helping people expand their knowledge of the medical field in which they work, but also expanding their interest and understanding of other areas of medicine. We work really hard to foster an engaging, professional and educational environment that provides this type of professional growth and that will become an even more useful tool as the years go on.
9. If you weren’t working on Figure1 right now, what would you be doing?
Figure 1 integrates some ideas I researched at Stanford about mobile technology for healthcare. That was a very fruitful time for me and many ideas came to me then. Ideally, I would love to pursue them all. So if I weren’t working on Figure 1, I would probably be moving forward with another one of those ideas.
10. Tell Springwise a secret…
Even though I’m incredibly interested in healthcare innovation and mobile technology, my favourite phone, hands down, is a vintage rotary phone I keep at the office.
11. Any final words for aspiring entrepreneurs?
A year ago, I thought I’d be one of those people that has an idea but doesn’t pursue it. I worried that I would watch as someone else came up with the same idea and ran with it. If you have an idea, find partners who have the skills to operationalize it. Trust your instincts and take risks.