After graduating from UBI in 2017, Thibault Jacquemart worked a year before returning to get his Advanced Master in Innovation and Strategic Management at Solvay Brussels School. While there, he and a few classmates took part in a business competition called Data4Good hosted by Emergent, in which they won the Best Strategy Award. Through this experience and others, Thibault began developing his idea for a health-tech startup to specialise in patient care. His teammate, Alexandra Bendicakova, showed interest in his startup project, had experience in the health care industry, and worked so hard that she cofounded the project.
Lilo Health is their health-tech startup that specialises in building the best patient journeys. The original business idea came from researching the gaps in the healthcare industry and looking for a problem to solve. They noticed difficulties with the patient journey. For example, a patient goes to the doctor, receives a serious diagnosis, feels immediately overwhelmed, and then misses out on much of the information presented them. For the patient, the diagnosis means new rules and a new life which can be difficult to navigate. Lilo Health provides both physical and emotional support for these patients, onboarding their support team of family and friends, and giving all involved a platform to find and share information.
Several things inspired and motivated Thibault to turn his university experience into a real business plan. One was that he found the healthcare industry fascinating because it has a direct impact on people’s lives. Building a business in healthcare also provided a satisfying and intellectual challenge. The entrepreneurial experience allowed him a certain freedom and the chance to promote a product with a purpose. While the technical innovation is new, the business model is the true innovation. The test will be to make it attractive enough to interest venture capitalists.
Although the Covid pandemic did create delays, Thibault felt he couldn’t give up; his only option was to continue. The quarantine had a broader impact because it prevented him from going out with friends or family to relieve stress. Being a solo founder would have been more difficult, but working as partners allowed the two cofounders to lift each other when they got down, feeding off the positive energy of the other.
Thibault points out that starting a business isn’t easy. You usually end up working twice as much, and you have much more responsibility. While you are your own boss and can make decisions with no approval, you have to deal with the consequences. So, being your own boss has its advantages and disadvantages. Sometimes you have to learn the hard way, so make sure you learn from your mistakes.
Thibault has learned many things through his entrepreneurial experience and offers a few pieces of advice. He suggests finding a problem to solve and then designing the solution, thinking for the long-term. Make sure to have a partner, or partners, with a knowledge in the field and with whom you are well aligned, understanding that the relationship between founders becomes very important over time. Ideally, the partners have the skills to cover the product design, product development, and the sales, marketing, and financing. Once you have a good product and processes, negotiate decent conditions on your first investment and don’t give away equity in your company too early on. Don’t outsource work because you can’t ensure quality. And, while your project can become consuming, being too close to the product can be dangerous if it blurs your vision for the company.
Thibault leaves a few final thoughts for the current UBI students. First, they should learn about things that are going on in the world now, and about things that will be happening in the next few years. This will give them ideas for the future, whether it be for further education or for their professional life. Although Thibault doesn’t feel he excels at personal branding, he recognizes how important it is to get out there and develop your network. Later on, your network allows you to get your product in front of the people who want it. He can’t stress enough the importance of getting to know their teachers because their teachers are the beginning of their professional network. Often, people want to help, so they should keep in contact with people because they might need them to introduce them to the right people. All connections should be made with the sincere purpose of building friendships and establishing trust because warm connections are so valuable. Students should start now to develop their network.