Healthtracka, a Nigeria-based healthtech startup decentralised laboratory testing in Africa by providing at-home tests and digital results, has announced joining the Techstars Toronto Accelerator programme.
The three-month-long scheme will provide direct mentorship, funding, and access to a global network for the platform. The five-month-old startup will be joining 11 other startups in this cohort.
Last week, we díd a feature on the startup. We discussed the inspiration behind the idea, starting and scaling in the ecosystem as a first-time female founder, foraying into the southwestern city of Ibadan, and much more.
In a follow-up conversation with the founder, Ìfẹolùwà Dare-Johnson, she discusses what a place in the Techstars Toronto means for Healthtracka, how she gauged the timing for applying to an accelerator and plans following the startup’s time at the program.
How does it feel to get into Techstars Toronto?
We feel very validated. The problem we have set out to solve, poor access to laboratory tests, is one that we've always known to be worth solving. Seeing a global accelerator like Techstars also identifying with us and backing us is exciting. It gives us a lot more motivation to make things work.
Healthtracka is five months old; why apply to an accelerator?
For early-stage startups, and especially for a first-time founder like myself, there comes a time when you just want to ensure that you're building the right way. Why go through the mistakes those ahead of you made when you can learn from them? Accelerator programmes are opportunities to refine your ideas and processes through the right lenses.
Would you recommend this move to other founders, and why?
Oh, yes, absolutely. I will recommend that every founder joins a global accelerator for the sake of themselves and their companies. Entrepreneurship can be a lonely excruciating journey, especially at the early stage, and being a part of a great accelerator programme is extremely valuable. Accelerators like Techstars are curated specifically to equip founders as they build and grow their early-stage startup companies.
What was the attraction to Techstars?
Their reputation over the years. And as they say, Techstars is like the Havard of the ecosystem. They've backed early-stage companies that have gone on to become Unicorns, so we recognised that they have íntegrity. And of course, Techstars Toronto because I have spoken to Sunil, and I see how passionate he is about helping early-stage startups get to the next level. It is an opportunity to work with and learn from outstanding mentors and leverage their experience, skills, and network to create a platform where all Africans have access to at-home lab testing.
What's next after the Techstars programme?
One of our key goals involves doubling our customer base, and we expect that from a numbers perspective, we can increase the number of tests carried out and our customer acquisition. We also hope that we have increased access to global opportunities and stakeholders, given the reputation of Techstars, which we're looking to ride on to make bigger moves.
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Can we expect Healthtracka’s expansion into the Canadian market?
At this point, there's nothing out of the picture; we can think globally. If we decide to expand into Canada, Techstars has the resources to ensure that we have all the support that we need. There's a part of Techstars that is called Mentor Madness; it's basically back-to-back meetings with great mentors. There's just a lot in store for us following our time in the accelerator, and this is opening our minds to possibilities.
What are your Africa expansion plans?
We're currently present in two Nigerian cities, and we're looking to expand across Nigeria and then into other African countries. The good thing about our model is that it's asset-light, so we're agile and can move fast. Beyond that, one of the things that makes us so proud is our impact. We're adding more years to people's lives by bringing the lab closer to them. Also, the fact that we're providing more jobs as we expand is something we're proud of.
Do you think that healthtech is an attractive industry for investors?
Well, fintech is booming right now in Africa. But then, my principle is to always look at the future. It's easy to say healthtech isn't getting as much investment, but a few years ago, when eCommerce seemed to be getting all the funding, some people were insightful enough to say fintech was the next big thing. And now, the truth is healthtech is the next big thing, especially in Africa, where various challenges require innovative solutions. And as these solutions are built, investors will see a lot more of these opportunities.
According to Sunil Sharma, Managing Director of Techstars Toronto, the nature of the problem that Healthtracka is looking to solve was a major attraction.
"Accessing healthcare in a timely manner is critical to protecting health. This is something that we immediately imagined as a serious problem in Africa with massive populations and crowded healthcare settings combined with gridlock traffic and low doctor-to-population ratios."
Recognising the urgency of the problem, Sharma says that the issue of delayed access to healthcare services is not faced by Africans alone, so it was necessary to bring the team onboard.
"Despite being a more developed nation, Canadians also face long delays in laboratories and clinics, which can lead to testing delays or avoidance altogether. I could only imagine that if this is a problem here, it must be even more acute in Africa. When we met Ifeoluwa and Victor, we knew immediately that this was the team to back."
Founded in 2006, Techstars is a seed accelerator that helps budding companies with human and financial resources, from mentors to funding.