This months’ founder spotlight is with Mridula Pore, co-founder and CEO of Peppy Health. Peppy was co-founded in 2018 by Mridula and co-founders Evan Harris and Max Landry. It’s one of the newest members of the HP family and is a holding in our EIS fund. The company provides employee healthcare benefits that give support specific to major life transitions such as menopause, fertility and parenthood. Since launch, Peppy has gained a wide client base which includes bluechips such as Vitality, Santander, BNP Paribas, Novartis and many more.
1. Why did you decide to quit the day job and become an entrepreneur?
I was immersed in the tech start up world from quite a young age. I was involved in the early days of the Cambridge University Entrepreneurship centre, and saw deep tech and biotech startups mushroom around me at MIT. But my passion is in health, and specifically, in making healthcare accessible and affordable. If you want to do something at scale in healthcare, you need to know your way around the system. That could be the system structures, the funding flows, regulation, etc. I got the chance to work with lots of fabulous people in the McKinsey healthcare practice and then at Novartis group. It was a lot of fun running and re-shaping a business. I learnt a ton, but after a few years, I knew it was time to build something from the bottom up. I threw myself into the health tech scene, met Evan and Max, and the rest, as they say, was history.
2. What was the ‘lightbulb moment’ for your current business?
We’ve had several, but one of the early ones was realising that you have to meet your customer where they are. Healthcare has always been ‘done to’ people. We don’t even call them people/ consumers/ users, we call them ‘patients’. The lightbulb moment was when we realised that the ‘user’s’ problem is not to find the right healthcare service, but addressing what is bothering them right now, today.
3. What has been your greatest learning whilst building a business?
Try. Learn. Try again. Learn. Repeat.
By far, the biggest learning has been to just get stuck in and try things out. You’ll learn most about your users, your customers and the market once you’re actually in the room, rather than looking in. Of course, do your homework and make educated guesses, but no amount of analysis is a substitute for real customer feedback and behaviour. We’ve been wrong so many times about what we think people want, or what they tell us they think they want.
4. What is the best advice you’ve received so far and who gave it to you?
The best advice I’ve had is from my parents: Always aim high and big.
5. What are you most worried about in the year ahead?
Stress, exhaustion and poor mental wellbeing is a real risk for society as a whole. 2020 has been a tough year for everyone, in whatever way it has affected them. I don’t think any organisation can afford to neglect it. We try and manage it for the Peppy team and help our clients do the same. Uncertainty is here to stay for a while, and we need to learn to live with it, as individuals and as organisations. There’s also reason to be optimistic. As we now settle into the ‘new normal’, organisations are re-building their resilience and seizing new opportunities for innovation, like never before.
6. We know that a big part of being a founder is the constant interactions with VC’s. It got us thinking.. what has been the most irritating piece of feedback you have had from a VC?
The feedback that you need more evidence — whether that’s for your user feedback, traction or something else. That’s always irritating in the moment if you’re an impatient entrepreneur (and which entrepreneur isn’t?), but you can’t take it personally. The reality is, that if you’re doing something truly innovative and want to move fast, you don’t have time for fully comprehensive evidence to emerge. You need to focus on the proof points that give you the confidence to take it to the next stage, and those look different to different people. As with any discussions, it’s about finding the right fit at the right time for both parties.