In this edition, we speak to Shirien Elamawy, Founder and CEO of HealthHop - a health tourism platform that makes it easier to book medical procedures and associated logistics overseas.
Tell us about your company.
Shirien: Our goal is to provide patients with the highest level of confidence, convenience and affordability when they’re seeking medical care outside of their home country by only working with fully-licensed clinics and hospitals in safe areas. We’re committed to providing the highest quality of customer service and support from beginning of their health journey until aftercare.
Our site is designed to make the medical tourism process smoother, more efficient, and cost-effective. Patients can book an all-inclusive package which includes their procedure, 5 star hotel accommodation, and transportation to and from the airport, hotel and clinic for an affordable price. We can even help them book site-seeing excursions before or after their medical care if they want to combine their trip with a mini-vacation! HealthHop wide selection of medical providers in all specialties. Patients and medical providers can directly communicate together via HealthHop's medical portal and even schedule online telehealth consultations.
What made you become an entrepreneur?
Shirien: I worked as Head of Growth Marketing and Demand Generation for startups in Silicon Valley for my whole career. I became very accustomed to knowing how to grow a company from the bare minimum to 4x-5x growth YoY. After Covid 19, I became a digital nomad - leading my teams from various places around the world. It was great! I could site-see during the day and do my work in the evenings because of the time difference. Eventually, I settled on staying the majority of my time in Istanbul, Turkey - one of my favorite places in the world.
I basically lived out of hotels. And every hotel I stayed in, every single morning had BUSES of people would be shuttled in and out of the hotel to their medical clinics to do procedures like hair transplants, dental work, plastic surgery or weight loss procedures. It was amazing. So I decided to look into doing my own small elective procedure, surely there was a reason people kept coming to this country for their medical needs - and the prices were incredibly shockingly more affordable than anything I could have done in the States. I contacted many clinics; half of them didn't get back to me, most of the ones that did respond were not able to answer my medical questions in English - they were more concerned about pushing a quick sale and getting their payment than actually addressing my medical needs.
I finally settled on one, the one who was fastest and best at answering my questions. When I got to the clinic, I realized I had been dealing with a 3rd party agent (basically a freelancer) the whole time. They were the "middle-man" between me and the actual medical clinic. Not sure if they actually had formal medical training to answer the questions I originally asked, and if they were asking the doctor on my behalf and getting back to me, that was a huge violation of my privacy! I decided I wanted to re-ask the medical staff at the clinic itself. No one spoke English. Not the nurses, there were no interpreters, nothing. I decided to cancel my elective procedure.
It was a good thing I was already in the country - I didn't have to fly hundreds or thousands of miles away to get my care only for the experience to be awful and untrustworthy. But I saw the problems and opportunities in the market as soon as this happened. And that is when HealthHop was born. To be perfectly fair, there are thousands of amazing reputable clinics that provide amazing care from beginning to end in Turkey, I just happened to go to the wrong website where I was working with a third-party agent who set up their profile as if they worked for the hospital they would then route me to. It was God's way of telling me, I was meant to solve this problem - and instead of growing other people's tech startups 4 & 5x year over year - I could easily just do it for myself.
What is the most challenging part of running your own startup?
Shirien: The most challenging aspect of running a startup is doing almost every role of a company by yourself; all things all at the same time. Figuring out how to prioritize for best results based on your current resources is always a challenge - everything seems important and necessary, but you have to figure out which is the MOST necessary at the immediate time.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced when looking for funding?
Shirien: It's a chicken and the egg scenario - most VCs want to see some sort of traction and growth before putting up seed or pre-seed funding. But the company can't get growth without the funding. I'm confident in my numbers and projections. I just need initial seed funding to get the growth I know is possible. The CAC is known in the industry, the normal channels of patient acquisition are also known. I just need the marketing budget and I will show you the growth.
What is the most rewarding aspect of entrepreneurship?
Shirien: No one will work harder than the owner of a start-up. There is no red tape or anyone to slow you down. There is no corporate politics to deal with. And the sense of accomplishment as your dream becomes a reality is something only entrepreneurs will understand.
Learn more about the company on their website: www.healthhop.com.