Bleeding edge: HealthTech founders share their insights from the forefront of the industry

Welcome to Antler's circles series, where we bring industry leaders, founders, and experts working in the same  sector together to problem solve, share emerging trends and technologies. Through this series, Antler will provide unparalleled access to closed room discussions around the challenges and opportunities experienced by those innovating at the forefront of the industry.




The investor backing the world's most driven founders, from day zero to greatness. Enabling thousands of founders every year to launch and scale companies that move the world forward.

There are many startup advisors and investors (yes, I'm one of them) who often give advice to founders. The best advice is often not from advisors, but from other founders who are going through similar journeys. That's why at Antler, we have initiated founder circles, where founders in the same industry meet to discuss challenges and find solutions together.

We recently invited the founders of the healthtech companies in our portfolio to come together with a few, external  operators. While everything that was said during our founder circle stays among the founders, we got the permission to publish a few great pieces of advice that were shared.

'Find the doctors who wear an Apple watch'

Building personal relationships with customers and partners is key in the health tech industry. Many shared how  personal relationships and warm introductions make all the difference when it comes to setting up partnerships and  landing big customers. Identify the right individuals at the big organizations. During our discussion, Sabina Wizander, CSO at KRY/Livi said, "Find the doctors who wear an Apple Watch," suggesting those who do are  forward-looking and innovative individuals in an otherwise conservative industry.

The feel-good story dominates the financial story

Focus on your story when pitching investors, said Adam Kirell, founder and CEO of Antler portfolio company Within Health. Sell the dream where you want to be in a few years from now. Don't limit yourself to the product and  technology you have today. Sell the vision, avoid buzzwords and try to get to a yes or a no as quickly as possible. If  an investor is not the right fit for you, move on to the next one. Avoid spending time with investors who are just there to learn about the industry and don't have the right experience to do health tech investments.

Separate your founder 'hat' and your marketing 'hat'

Lisa Kenelly, CMO at Fishbrain and former VP marketing at the period tracking app Clue shared that as a founder, it's easy to focus on your big, bold vision and where you will be in the future. However, when creating copy for your ads, writing blog posts to describe your product and more, it's important to put your marketing hat on. Focus on how you're solving the pain points for your customers and write it down in simple words. Be very concrete in your communications to potential customers and sell the big dream to investors.

Get to know your early 'super users'

Find ways to connect with your early users. Tanveer Singh, founder of Antler portfolio company Sova Health shared how they've set-up WhatsApp groups where they have 80% daily active users, 26 exchanged messages per day and almost no churn. "We're in an app our audience already uses multiple times a day", said Tanveer Singh. Other great channels to build a community among your early users could be launching a Facebook group or on Discord. In the early days, meet the users where they exist already instead of trying to get them to use yet another app. Once you have your early users, get to know them really well. What media do they consume, how do they solve their problems today, what  competitors are they using? It will help you in selecting the right channels and communications for your digital marketing and to find more, similar user profiles as you scale.

Borrow brand equity from a partner to grow faster

Building trust and credibility in the healthcare industry is hard, especially for early-stage startups. Building  partnerships with organizations that your potential customers already know and trust is a great way to give your startups credibility. One of the founders shared how they successfully ran webinars with a trusted supplier and how  the supplier invited their existing customers. It was a great way to gain credibility and get sales leads at the same time. Offer to host events with others (and do the necessary background work for it) and co-create content with others. Once you have your first customers onboard, get them to introduce you to their friends in the industry.

Use your personal story and motivation in your marketing

Many founders have a very personal story on what sparked them to start a company. Was it something you or your family experienced? Use that story in your own marketing and let your audience know what drives and motivates you. Jenny-Ann  Ax:son-Johnsson is the founder and CEO of Antler portfolio company Tilly. Tilly provides personalised fertility support and empowers people to own their fertility journey. The two founders of Tilly have both been through long  journeys with their own fertility and are now openly sharing their stories. "People can identify with you and it  builds trust", said Jenny-Ann Ax:son-Johnsson. While people may not trust a super early startup, they will trust you  as founders.

Let advisors pay to become your advisor

Invest time to find relevant medical and digital health advisors for your startup. The health industry is very dependent on relationships and networks. Your advisors will help you get in front of the right people, and they can  add credibility to your young brand. Adam Kirell, founder and CEO of Within Health recommends founders to convince the  advisors to invest in your company with a smaller angel ticket. When your advisors are onboard as shareholders, your  incentives are aligned and they have a big potential upside in supporting you.

Let your investors work for you

Finally, an advice from me: Make the most out of your investors. Ensure they introduce you to the right people. To make it easy for your investors to help you, include concrete asks in your monthly investor updates. Brianne Kimmel summarized well how to activate your investors and specifically how to write an ideal customer profile to share with investors.

This article is based on the Antler circles industry discussions led by the founders of Antler's portfolio companies, external industry leaders and investors.

If you've been inspired to build a company that addresses one of the challenges or opportunities listed above,  apply to join Antler. Antler enables and invests in exceptional people building the defining companies of tomorrow.  Learn more here.

Lisa Enckell, Partner at Antler

Subscribe to our newsletter

Get the latest news and views from Antler’s global community

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Must-read articles from Antler

Browse our collection of founder stories, industry insights and latest startup successes from Antler Australia

See articles
5 min read
The 2022 Benelux Unicorn Founder Roadmap: How to build unicorns in Benelux

As everyone anticipates the next wave of ultra-successful companies in Benelux, what does it take to get there? What do the successful founders of Benelux unicorns look like? This report is an in-depth look at the Benelux startup ecosystem and its brightest stars. And above all, it is for anyone who is helping build the next 50 unicorns in Benelux.

5 min read
The Angle: Why the long-term view is the hard but right one

The Angle is a new content series from Antler, featuring perspectives from our team members on the biggest events and trends impacting founders and early-stage investors today. Every article is that person's unique angle on a hot topic—what they see from their vantage point in one of our 25 offices around the globe—not Antler's stance. In our first edition, Jeff Becker draws lessons from the demise of FTX and turbulent tech moments in recent years. This article first appeared in Jeff's Monday Morning Meeting on Substack.

Founder Stories
5 min read
Jamie Bubb: The tech marketing venture developer connecting brands and content creators

Our new content series—"It All Starts with People"—delves into the passions, motivations, and vision of the exceptional founders we have the privilege of partnering wtih around the world. In our second spotlight, we sat down with Jamie Bubb, co-founder of Twirl, a remote content studio powered by top-quality creators that helps brands scale their content engines rapidly and cost-effectively.

5 min read
Venture investing in the downturn

We are living two simultaneous realities: the uncertainty of the current downturn and the unstoppable wave of innovation disrupting every industry. Against this backdrop, Antler's Kevin Brennan shares perspectives on assessing your position in venture capital for the rest of 2022 and into 2023. Might 2023 be the best vintage for the coming decade?

Founder Stories
5 min read
Emilia Theye: The psychologist using AI to democratize access to mental health solutions

Antler was founded on the belief that people innovating is the key to building a better future. To honor them, we are launching a new content series—”It All Starts with People”—spotlighting the exceptional founders we have the privilege of partnering with around the world. Each story is a window into their passions, motivations, and vision—the reasons they are building and the positive dent they are aiming to make on the world.

In our first spotlight, we sat down with Emilia Theye, the co-founder of clare&me—a mental health app that uses language-based AI to develop an innovative approach to virtual self-help.

5 min read
Backing founders from day zero to greatness

Today we are sharing our new brand that reflects that commitment and the reason Antler exists: to stand behind our founders from day zero and to keep backing them on their paths to greatness.

Founder Stories
5 min read
Seven ways founders can prioritize mental well-being as they build

Founders are the life force of the startup ecosystem. They give their all, betting on their seemingly “crazy” convictions and executing on abstract ideas that can potentially make our lives and work easier, faster, healthier, and better optimized.

But sometimes they do this to the detriment of their health. Being a founder means being beholden to customers, employees, and investors while balancing personal life. Often founders trade their stable, well-paying jobs to prioritize the restless inquisitivity of their mind. In the quest to answer the question “what if?”, they sometimes sacrifice their mental and physical health, only realizing the effects on their state of mind once they have impacted their ability to function as a leader. We have also seen how the mental pressure on founders can cause distress to those who depend on them for their livelihood and direction.

5 min read
A fresh take on early-stage VC: Harvard Business School publishes a case study on Antler

Harvard Business School (HBS) recently published a case study about Antler’s fresh approach to early-stage venture capital. Antler Co-Founder Fridtjof Berge shares thoughts on how the case sparks discussion about the best ways to identify and support great people anywhere on earth.