A doctor's journey and the serendipity of co-founder discovery at Antler Residency

A country of over 1.4 billion people and something as crucial as the medical emergency response system still remains unsolved. The numbers quantify the magnitude and gravity of this problem - over 50% of the ambulances do not arrive even after 60 minutes, 90% of ambulances do not have the basic equipment and 97% have no trained personnel. But here is the most staggering number of them all - over 50% of all deaths in India are preventable. While ambulances are a part of the problem, they are not the solution. The missing piece in creating a robust medical emergency response system is a solid digital infrastructure layer.

antler-india

Antler India

Guardians is building India’s first full-stack medical emergency response platform with a paramedic-first approach. Most emergency cases are clouded with uncertainties around active decision-making. This results in a delayed response to the patient. Guardians ensures that paramedics act as first responders (<10 minutes response time) and provide primary care to the patient while the EMS (Emergency Management System) technology deploys an ambulance to the location. This trifecta of on-ground medical support networks through paramedics, a real-time emergency management system, and last-mile integration with hospitals will create a highly superior and scalable medical response solution.

At Antler India, we are excited to back founders who show the promise of leveraging technology to unlock value at an incredible scale, particularly in high-impact areas such as Healthcare and Wellness. We are thrilled to lead Guardians’ pre-seed funding round and back Dr. Karan Raj Jaggi (an orthopaedic surgeon with over 10 years of medical and digital health experience), Shubham Jain (a full stack developer with experience in building tech platforms at scale), and Vedant Jain (an operations specialist across e-commerce and logistics) in their journey. Having followed their trajectory at the Residency, we see in them a team that is strongly equipped to execute this complex infrastructure that digitises medical emergency response, an effort that is bound to create a very high impact at a massive scale.

Below is a candid account of Dr. Karan’s (CEO, Guardians) experience finding his co-founders - Shubham and Vedant at the Residency and kickstarting the journey of Guardians as a team.

Background

I belong to a family of doctors, currently the third generation in my family. Growing up, medicine was all around me and I loved every minute of it. The stethoscopes, the white coats, the organized madness of the emergency room, and the hustle and bustle of the OT had captured my heart from a very tender age. I was fortunate enough to train at some of the best hospitals in India and the UK, and my under-grad, post-grad, and super-speciality training blitzed past before I knew it.

I came back to India and set up my practice focussing on regenerative orthopaedics i.e. joint preservation techniques that allowed patients additional treatment options besides the run-of-the-mill joint replacement surgeries. I slowly started carving out a niche for myself, becoming one of New Delhi’s highest volume surgeons using growth factor concentrates for joint pathologies. Life had started to settle - I got married to my college sweetheart, my patients loved me and my AI (Artificial Intelligence) projects were going well, all while maintaining a decent work-life balance.

By most metrics, I seemed to be doing okay, yet I was unable to shake off the constant feeling that something was missing. It took me a long time to figure it out, but it finally dawned on me that I was yearning for high impact and high scale. A medical practice typically falls under the high impact and low scale space, and I realized that there were certain inherent limitations in the scalability of such a model. Countless YouTube interviews, several books, and hundreds of conversations later, I was convinced that the only way for me to achieve my “Ikigai” was by starting up and building in the high impact and high scale space.

Antler India Residency Application and Selection

Fast forward to May 2022. By now I had spent about a year trying to launch a startup whilst continuing my day job(s). And I had experienced most of the lows of the typical early entrepreneurial journey - starting with the ill-founded belief that I don’t need a co-founder (“I can do everything on my own”, I couldn’t!), struggling to find co-founders who shared the same passion and belief, to finally finding wonderful, smart people only to realize that they wanted to pull in slightly different directions.

It was during this time that I chanced upon a LinkedIn post announcing applications for the first cohort of the Antler India Residency (AIR) program and it “had me at hello” (big Jerry Maguire fan!). Their approach of “Engineered Serendipity” i.e. finding exceptionally gifted, motivated, and ambitious folks and putting them in a common room to watch the magic unfold seemed like the perfect solution. From nebulous confusing lands, I now had a clear target and objective: I had to get in!

After having spent close to 10 years in medical education and training, I was fairly used to (though still not comfortable!) long grilling viva sessions and expected the Antler selection process to be similar. The reality was entirely different! From start to finish, the entire process was clearly detailed, broken down into specific checkpoints, and timelines duly communicated. My interviews with the Antler India Partners (Rajiv Srivatsa and Nitin Sharma) and the Scouting Director (Rahul Seth) did not feel like interviews at all. Their ability to rapidly narrow down to critical discussion points, eliminate personal and professional biases and focus on fact rather than opinion simply blew me away. Luckily, it was not a one-sided romance and I managed to get the call to join the Residency program starting in July.

Weeks 1-2: Coming together

The Residency program kicked off with 2 weeks of in-person sessions in Bangalore. The first few days focussed on meet and greet sessions with the Antler team members and founder introductions, and to be honest they were as awkward (sometimes intimidating) as one would imagine! Imagine being in a room with 70+ exceptional folks, all coming from very diverse fields, educational backgrounds, and job experiences. But somewhere along the way, thousands of coffee conversations, structured meet-ups and hastily eaten lunches and dinners later, things began to change.

It felt like high school and college all over again, and we had all the common cliques covered (nerds, jocks, fashionistas, builders and thinkers) but with one critical difference. Rather than each clique tearing the other down, somehow over the course of 2 weeks, Antler had managed to transform a bunch of total strangers into a group that completely trusted and backed each other and was willing to go out of their way to help.

An undertaking as large as this requires a massive amount of collective effort, and between Nandini Vishwanath (Program Director) and Karan Prasad (Program team) assembling and marshalling the troops, to each of the founders blindly committing to the process, we somehow managed to squeeze pop-quiz sessions, 3 AM drunk dancing, 7 AM Cubbon park runs, 2 off-site days and several build and demo sessions into 2 weeks!

Weeks 3-12: Getting the team together and building

Back in Delhi for the next part of the program (virtual), we now started focussing on narrowing down to a specific space/problem and short-listing potential co-founders. And it was during this time that the depth of the program really shone through. We tackled one element (user research, market sizing, competitor analysis, GTM, etc) each week, with a couple of masterclass sessions at the start of the week and a team presentation each Friday. (Pro Tip: Try and get a hand on the recording for the sessions hosted by Vineet Agarwal (Investments team) on business models and market sizing and by Susmit Patodia (Capital Director) on removing biases in decision making, trust me you will not find a better curated-session anywhere else!)

In addition to the sessions led by the Antler team members, our Antler startup cooking pot rounded off with several “Founder Speak” sessions with prominent founders sharing their learnings with the cohort and “Failure Friday” sessions hosted by Nandini. And it was in this cooking pot, that the Guardians founding team was born!

For both Vedant (Xavier’s, IIM-L) and Shubham (IIT-KGP), their academic prowess needs no further introduction, but one of the main reasons for all of us to come together as a group was actually not educational qualifications or professional work experience as much as a common desire to roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty! We knew that none of the Friday presentations really mattered, yet anytime we would open up the deck, we would find the others labouring away over the details, fixing the fonts, fine-tuning the content, etc. What followed was hours of chats over Google slides (of all places!), lasting way beyond midnight, random leg-pulling, and a few minutes of work-related conversation. Essentially, we were a team, way before even we realized it ourselves! Once we decided to officially “Track out” as a team, we spent the majority of our time building out our MVP and getting some sales validation via pre-orders. One month, 16-hour workdays, hundreds of “quick connects” and 30 “daily stand-ups” later, our MVP was born!

From not knowing Vedant and Shubham 3 months back to chalking out the 5-year plan for Guardians, the Antler India Residency program has been one of the most exhilarating rides of my professional life.

Here’s hoping for many more wins along the way!

To know more about Guardians, head here.

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