INNOVATORS VS COVID 19
Trying to Fix Medicine Supply Chains in the Midst of a Global Pandemic
We talked to David Chen, Co-Founder, and Co-CEO of Kapsule about affordable, authentic, and accessible medicines and here is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
David Chen: As with everyone, it’s been difficult being unable to spend my time with friends and family. Thankfully they are all happy and healthy, which is something that I believe I definitely took for granted pre-COVID-19.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Kapsule.
David Chen: My road to entrepreneurship and Kapsule has not been straightforward. I studied genetics at university and quickly realized that I didn’t have the patience or temperament to go into academia, so I decided to go into the consulting space. Meanwhile, my co-founder and childhood friend (Hannan) studied Medicine (at the same university) and then Law.
While talking about his experiences when working in some Kenyan hospitals, we realized that we had seen the same issues with medical supply chains from different angles. Myself seeing it for the business/commercial impact, and Hannan saw it from a human health perspective. We then spent almost two years investigating why medicine supply chains (particularly those in emerging markets) are broken and realized that there was an opening for a technology to solve many problems.
How does Kapsule innovate?
David Chen: We are quite a tech agnostic. We have become obsessed with understanding the problem we are trying to solve. Through learning more and more about the problem and the actors involved, it becomes clearer over time the best technologies that solve those specific issues.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
David Chen: Like most businesses, we have been financially impacted by COVID, particularly as fundraising has become more difficult over Zoom, and investors spent much of 2020 suring up their existing ventures rather than taking on new ones. On the positive side, we have learned how to significantly reduce our operating expenses. I believe this will enable us to be in stronger financial health coming out of the pandemic.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
David Chen: Thankfully, we haven’t had to make any hard choices, our team is fully committed, and we are very flexible in how we work. I can’t take credit for that, and it’s the benefit of having a great team around me working tirelessly together.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
David Chen: Two tools have been incredible for me and have delivered extreme value:
1) Calendly – a calendar management application that allows people to book meetings in your calendar directly without an annoying (and time-consuming) back and forth.
2) Otter.ai – an AI voice recognition transcription app. It allows all of my meeting notes to be captured, searchable, and verbatim. It means I can spend 100% of my time focusing on the meeting itself without needing to think about taking notes. Being a better listener has also enabled me to be a better leader and salesman.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
David Chen: None. We are now looking into grants as an alternative form of funding but haven’t received any government support to date.
Your final thoughts?
David Chen: COVID has made the world stop and think for a moment, and while it has been a tragedy for many individuals and families, it has provided growth opportunities. It is all a matter of perspective. Our resilience defines the human species, so I am confident that as a global community, we’ll overcome any future challenges, and I believe the coming decade will be defined by the startup everywhere in the world.
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