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Adel Malik is the CEO and co-founder of Clearstep. In his role, he coordinates collaboration with Clearstep clients, product teams, healthcare professionals, investors and other stakeholders to ensure that Clearstep is at the forefront of innovation in patient care. Adeel was one of the founders of Clearstep to revolutionize the way patients can find and access the right treatment, while enabling healthcare organizations to make better use of advanced digital technologies.
Under Adil’s leadership, Clearstep has collaborated with some of the world’s leading medical institutions. He participated in Chicago’s 50 Startups to Watch program in 2020 and was one of the first members of UnitedHealthcare. In 2020, Crain’s named Chicago Business Adele as one of 20 companies in Chicago.
Prior to the establishment of Clearstep in 2018, Adele worked as a strategy and analysis consultant for Accenture. He has worked with major health institutions in areas such as pharmaceuticals, medical devices, health systems and retail. Prior to joining Accenture, he worked for three years as a research scientist in neuroimmunology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
In an exclusive interview with the AsiaTechDaily, Adele says…
Every founder of a company will tell you that mistakes are made along the way, but if the right balance cannot be found between building a vision for a product/founder and shaping and informing the market, a real market landing can be delayed or prevented.
The global expansion of the health sector, originating in the United States, is difficult because there is no single, planned system. Every country in the world has one, so it’s not apple to apple.
Every day I stay motivated, I keep our common mission in mind and I realize that all the small tasks we have to perform serve a high purpose. There are many gaps in health care and there are huge opportunities to improve people’s lives through our work.
Read on to find out more about Adil Malik and his journey.
Tell me about your personal experiences and what motivated you to work for your company.
Adele Malik: Prior to the joint establishment of Clearstep in 2018, I was a strategy and analysis consultant at Accenture. I have worked with large medical institutions in the pharmaceutical, medical device, healthcare and retail sectors. Before joining Accenture, I worked for three years as a neuroimmunology researcher at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. I co-founded Clearstep with the aim of revolutionising the way patients can find and access the right treatment, while enabling healthcare organisations to make better use of advanced digital technologies.
What is your current main product and can you give a product sales history?
Adele Malik: Clearstep navigation technology makes it easy to find the best and most suitable treatments. Clearstep with an accuracy up to 95%+ corresponds to the description of the user’s symptoms at the desired supply point(s). Users can see all possible treatment options ranked by comfort and price and can book them online. Payers and service providers use Clearstep to ensure that their patients have easy access to appropriate care in their complex ecosystems. In March, Clearstep launched a COVID 19 screening device with which people can be screened for symptoms and choose the right treatment. This year alone, the screen has been used by millions of people through Clearstep partners and has helped hundreds of thousands of people.
How much money have you raised so far? When was the last financing cycle?
Adele Malik: We raised ~1.3 million dollars in a pre-plantation cycle that we completed in the spring of 2020.
What are the internal decision-making processes that determined the start of fundraising and what logistics are involved? And how many investors did you meet, how did you get to know these investors and which channels worked best for you?
Adele Malik: We knew we needed capital to expand our team, invest in products and technologies and build a commercial and business infrastructure. We have determined the amount of capital we need based on expected revenues and operating costs for the next 18 months. We have negotiated with over a hundred venture capitalists, using our personal networks, acceleration networks, cold ranges and other start-ups in our network. After all, we have been successful in raising funds such as TPP, OCA, Newark VP and Techstars.
What are the main challenges and obstacles in the fundraising process? If you had to start over, what else would you do?
Adele Malik: Our biggest problems were (1) that as explorers we had to study the basics of fundraising and (2) that when we started the first fundraising, we had a growth of users but the beginning of commercial progress. In a B2B health technology company, many venture capitalists wanted to see more commercial appeal before betting. By attracting our flagship customers, it has become much easier to raise money because we have demonstrated the desire of medical organisations to purchase digital navigation technology. If we were to do it again, I think we would make an effort to develop relations with the investors more quickly.
What are the milestones for the next cycle? And what are your goals for the future?
Adele Malik: We look forward to further growth and achieving our sales targets. We look forward to showing how our customers are successful and hope to extend and expand existing contracts. Our main goal is to continue to build a comprehensive ROI story to show how Clearstep is revolutionizing healthcare. Our main goal is to get closer to our mission, so that people have easier access to the most useful and clear next steps in patient care. So far we know from the data that users appreciate the Clearstep experience and benefit greatly from our solution. However, we have great potential to create an even more useful and intuitive experience and offer our customers even more value. Before we raise additional capital, we strive to develop users in a concrete way, to make our customers successful and to take important steps in generating revenue.
How did you attract users and what strategy did you use to grow your business from start to finish?
Adele Malik: As a B2B2C company we work hand in hand with our clients’ marketing teams to effectively and efficiently promote our services to their patients. The general public tends to rely more on health information for their doctors and insurers than on technology companies and start-ups. For example, we use existing loyalty channels to promote Clearstep as a new way for members of the patient/customer network to find and use healthcare services. At the same time, this approach enables us to approach people in their daily lives in order to better orient ourselves in the medical field and to create great value for our business partners.
That most starters are usually wrong about marketing?
Adele Malik: Effective marketing is a strategic approach to a customer audience. Starters may see it as an attractive marketing opportunity that sounds exciting, but may not make sense for their company or their customers. We always define our marketing activities in terms of how the end result will contribute to higher sales and the achievement of our business objectives. Another mistake startups make is that they carry out the marketing activities independently. With the right approach, all campaigns and tactics to increase brand awareness must work together and complement each other.
How would you like to develop your activities worldwide?
Adele Malik: We are currently focusing on the United States, but we have a representative office in Hong Kong that works with one of the largest insurers in the world.
What are the most common mistakes companies make in their global expansion?
Adele Malik: The global expansion of the health sector, originating in the United States, is difficult because there is no single, planned system. Every country in the world has one, so it’s not apple to apple.
How do you manage the Kovid 19 flash situation to ensure the survival of your company?
Adele Malik: Technology and healthcare companies continue to look for ways to respond to the pandemic as effectively as possible. As a medical navigation company, we knew we had to act responsibly and quickly once COVID-19 had broken through in the United States, so that users could use our services if symptoms occurred. Clearstep COVID-19 offers providers and payers a platform that enables interested patients to screen for symptoms and work with content derived from clinical triage protocols and the latest CDC guidelines. Our triage endpoints (i.e. the locations to which we send users) are fully customizable to direct patients to healthcare resources, ambulances, telemedicine services and test sites in each of our partners’ ecosystems. We created this rumor and in nine days we fully integrated it into the seventeen hospital system, showing how Clearstep can respond quickly and accurately to new health problems.
But even before KOVID-19 we saw how difficult and confusing it was to navigate through the network. In recent years we have built Clearstep to make the internet a trusted place for our healthcare. We saw the need for a simple solution that would lead users to the right place at the right time. Kovid-19 has certainly accelerated the industry’s willingness to apply technologies such as ours.
What are the most common mistakes founders make when starting a business?
Adele Malik: Every founder of a company will tell you that mistakes are made along the way, but if the right balance cannot be found between building a vision for a product/founder and shaping and informing the market, a real market landing can be delayed or prevented.
What is the best advice you have ever received? And what advice can you give to someone who wants to do similar things with you or go in a similar direction?
Adele Malik: The CEO of one of the largest health insurers in the world once advised me to focus on the Clearstep team and surround myself with the best people. As a start-up company at an early stage it is one of the most important (and difficult) tasks to make sure the right people are doing the right job.
What are the three most popular books or movies (series) that changed your life and why?
The first three books: Sapiens, On the Road and the Great Gatsby – they all gave a great vision of life or created the motivation for the adventure.
How do you maintain your motivation on a daily basis?
Adele Malik: Every day I stay motivated, I keep our common mission in mind and I realize that all the small tasks we have to perform serve a high purpose. There are many gaps in health care and there are huge opportunities to improve people’s lives through our work.
Which lessons do you want to teach your (future) sons and daughters three times in life?
- Read more.
- The constant search for knowledge
- Be motivated to have an impact on the world.
Why do you want to be remembered?
Adele Malik: This will have a positive effect on the communities around me.
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