Founders Talk: Junomedical

Interview with Dr. Sophie Chung, Co-Founder and CEO of Junomedical

How did you get the idea to found Junomedical?

I had this idea for quite some time. It was always mind-blowing for me that there are patients out there who do not have access to the right health care. The first time I was confronted with that was when I visited Cambodia. I saw that there were many patients who actually needed access to a doctor but could not have it because either there was no doctor, or if there was one, they would not trust this person. During my studies in the US, I realized that this is not a third-world problem, it is a global issue that many people face. There are patients everywhere in the world who are struggling to find the right doctor, the right hospital, the right care. This is how I developed the idea of leveraging the global health care potential and making it accessible for patients worldwide.

Where did your founding team meet?

My co-founder Gero and I met randomly a couple of years ago at a wine tasting. At that time, I was still working for Zocdoc in New York and he was working for Drivy in Germany. What I remembered well from that encounter was his dedication to customer service. We agreed from the very first second that offering an amazing customer experience is key to any success for a company. We talked for hours about how challenging, but at the same time how rewarding it is, if you can get to a point where you are offering an amazing customer experience. We did not talk about starting a company together or anything of the sort. Two years later, I was looking for a co-founder and our paths crossed again here in Berlin. We then decided to start Junomedical together.

What did you do before?

I am a medical doctor by training. I graduated in Vienna and I did my research fellowships in the US. After that, I joined McKinsey and Company and worked there for four and a half years in the health care field. Then, I led the health care strategy sector at Zocdoc in New York, where I was for two and a half years, and then I came back to Berlin to start Junomedical.

How do you collaborate with Project A Ventures?

Project A is one of our investors, so they give us financial support. At the same time, because of Project A being operational by nature, there is a lot of knowledge-sharing between Project A and Junomedical, especially when it comes to business intelligence and technology. This is where we get the greatest benefit out of this relationship.

What is Junomedical’s business model?

We are completely free for the patient, no hidden fees, and we make money with the hospitals. So the hospitals pay us for the marketing and facilitation services that we offer to them.

Junomedical app

What sets you apart from other medical marketplaces?

There are several things that we do differently. Number one is the topic of quality. We are very strict in terms of how we select the hospitals and doctors that we work with. We look at international accreditations, check whether doctors are board certified, screen public reviews and press, plus we take qualitative criteria such as expert opinions into account. If the preliminary assessment is positive, we start visiting the doctors and the hospitals to build up a trust-worthy relationship. Furthermore, we look at the research that is being performed at a particular place and how good they are at serving and treating international patients: Do they speak English and have an English website? Do they offer translation services? How fast are they in turn-around times? All that goes into a scoring system. In the end, we only approach the ones who live up to our high standards.

The second thing is the patient orientation. Our highest company value is patients first, us second, me last. We do not primarily think about how we can make the most money out of this market. Our primary thought is how can we serve the patient best. And in doing so, hopefully we will build an amazing business.

And thirdly, we are a very data-driven company. We make decisions based on data as much as we can. The bigger we get and the more patients we have, the more data we can generate in terms of experience data and outcome data. It is going to be very valuable if we can use this data to help other patients. In the long run, this is going to be a huge differentiator between us and many competitors out there.

What do you like most about your daily business?

That we are actually helping patients to get healthier. We talk to patients every day. We follow up with them, we get very nice emails from our patients and this is what keeps us going. We are located here in Berlin, but we speak to patients from all over the world.

What are the biggest challenges in the initial stage of founding a business?

There are a lot of challenges. Number one, turning your idea into something that is tangible, into a real product. You will not be able to realize your big idea overnight. You have to slowly build on it and very carefully craft your roadmap or your master plan. And often there is no clear right or wrong.

The second most crucial challenge is funding. You have to have patience yourself but the same holds true for your investors: They need to believe in your vision and that it will actually work out.

And number three: people. Especially in the early days, you have to gather people around you who are as mission-driven as you are, who believe in a big vision. People will not work with you for the money because as an early-stage start-up, you do not have the money. So all you can offer is the product, your vision, the commitment and belief you have in it.

Your company culture and the people you work with will be reflected in the product.

Check out Junomedical’s website at Junomedical is one of our digital health investments. If you are interested in the reasoning behind our new investment theme, keep on reading here!