Shuhan - He is not your typical doctor. At 25, he founded a scientific equipment company called Conduct Science, which posted a revenue of over $3 million (Dh11.02 million) last year.
“We are currently developing scientific tools with over 500 partners, and aim to become a public company in the next 5 to 10 years,” said He, who’s 32 years old now.
On a normal day, you could catch the young doctor doing the rounds at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, where he works as an emergency physician.
The Illinois native told Gulf News about what attracted him to entrepreneurship and the decisions that led him to the helm of a million dollar company.
“My first goal was to improve an issue that I had personal experience with in the field of science. As a scientist myself, I spent plenty of hours trying to perfect the equipment and tools I was working with,” He said.
One of He’s motivations to start Conduct Science was to provide a platform where scientists could purchase the tools that aid them in research.
The startup, which has plans to grow by 50 per cent every year, was once a program at the Harvard Innovation Lab, where hundreds of other scientist-entrepreneurs reside. Shuhan He is part of a growing movement of scientists around the world that are embracing entrepreneurship.
“It's becoming ever more popular for scientists to have a voice in this sort of difference,” says He.
My first goal was to improve an issue that I had personal experience with in the field of science
Since its launch in 2012, the company has successfully published a wide range of scientific research. Conduct Science’s moment in the sun came when one of its studies found a place in the highly popular UK-based science magazine, Nature. He regards that as one of the company’s “proudest moments”.
While his scientific acumen may have contributed to the birth of Conduct Science, being an entrepreneur has been a completely different ball game. The startup head recounts a few business practices that set him up for early success.
Find a new area
He decided to enter the niche domain of scientific equipment because manufacturing medical equipment – everything from MRI scanners to pacemakers - requires high-level clearance from the US drugs regulator.
“I think it's one of the last areas that haven’t really been touched by tech. Think about it: how many innovations go into food delivery, or digital health, or social media? Why not innovate in the process of science itself?”
Set revenue goals
It’s really important to set revenue goals as a proxy to value customers, He said. “Just do the math, and break it down,” he added. For example, a $1 million (Dh3.67 million) revenue target would translate to $20,000 (Dh73,460) a week or $3,800 (Dh13958) a day, excluding weekends – if that is the goal, then the next question that arises is “How many units of product do you need to deliver?”
If the customer realises more in value than what they paid for, then “you have a winning business … if not, you will struggle,” said He.
Focus on customer experience
For He, the primary driver of growth in a business is customer satisfaction. According to American Express, 60 percent of customers are keen on paying more for a better experience. “You should always place customer satisfaction above your own revenue,” said He, who engages with customers every day.
Of customers are keen on paying more for a better experience
“If there is any way I can see that a product could be enhanced, I will certainly talk to the relevant team and share my ideas with them,” he added.
Have a remote team
He believes that there are several benefits to keeping a remote team instead of a traditional office. With workers scattered around the globe, the entrepreneur will not just save on costly office space, but also be able to keep the business open 24/7. “It also means you can choose the best talent from anywhere,” insisted He.
But, he is not the only entrepreneur with that view. A survey conducted at the Global Leadership Summit in London found that leaders expected half of their workforce to be working remotely by 2020.
Of global workforce likely to be working remotely by 2020
Make products easy to find
For entrepreneurs interested in the e-commerce space, more customers can be gained by making products easily searchable. While most online businesses practice search engine optimisation (SEO) techniques and backlinks – links from one website to a page on another website – He is more in favour of enabling product search on the basis of a stock-keeping unit – a bar code used to identify and track a product – “since many users will already be hyper-aware of the products they are looking for”.
‘Bootstrapping’ or use your own money
This is the practice of building a company from the ground up with nothing but personal savings and He has taken it up wholeheartedly. “Bootstrapping allowed me to focus on growing the business without any investors breathing down my neck, waiting for returns. Also, it prevented me from shooting for the stars too soon.”
Bootstrapping allowed me to focus on growing the business without any investors breathing down my neck, waiting for returns
Most companies that are funded externally are required to have short-term targets, but Conduct Science doesn’t have that problem. For instance, the startup first readied for its entry into the virtual reality market in 2017, but developed its product two years later. This strategy has helped the company slowly grow its revenue without having to overspend on quickly expanding the business.
“I reflect on how far I have taken the business with its own revenue, and this vision gives me the motivation to pick things up again,” he added.
Hitting the gym has worked time and again for He. Several surveys show that exercise has a positive effect on motivation and concentration levels at work. “I truly believe that physical exercise is great for brainpower. Particularly, exercise is shown to improve mental health, which is essential for being a dedicated entrepreneur,” said He, who has also participated in many marathons.
“I like to go to the gym on a daily basis to shake off the cobwebs and get myself prepared to face the day as an entrepreneur,” he said.
According to He, experience in the field is important, but not essential. At the same time, being a scientist and an academic emergency medicine physician has allowed him to understand the tools he comes across at work, implying that getting into a similar business field can have its benefits.
To succeed as an entrepreneur, you need to do detailed research, be informed of the field you want to enter, start small, be patient and find something unique.