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Highlights

 

Welcome to another episode of Category Visionaries, the show that explores the future of tech with innovative B2B founders. In today’s episode, we’re speaking with Dr. Thomas Oakley, CEO of Feedback plc, a medical imaging technology company that has raised £20 million in funding.

  • Dr. Oakley’s journey from clinical practice as a radiologist in the UK NHS to leading a public medical technology company, taking on the CEO role at age 30 and driving a strategic transformation.
  • The history of Feedback plc, which started as a merger of two companies focused on radiology imaging and AI-powered image interpretation, and the challenges of being a medical device manufacturer while also trying to be an agile, lean startup.
  • The pivot from a narrow focus on radiology to a broader platform for clinical collaboration and decision-making, embodied in the flagship product Bleepa, which Dr. Oakley describes as a “clinical-grade version of WhatsApp” for secure, patient-specific communication.
  • The impact of Bleepa in the NHS, demonstrating a 70% reduction in patient wait times without needing additional clinical staff, by enabling multidisciplinary discussions and management plans across primary and secondary care settings.
  • The experience of leading a turnaround as a public company, balancing the need to resuscitate the business with the regulatory and shareholder communication challenges of being listed on the London Stock Exchange.
  • The competitive advantage of being a certified medical device for image display, which allows Feedback to integrate IT infrastructure and enable collaboration in ways that larger competitors and smaller startups cannot easily replicate.
  • The impressive growth trajectory, with a 74% increase in revenue and 89% increase in sales year-over-year, driven by persistence in navigating the complex and lengthy sales cycles in healthcare.
  • The international expansion through partnerships, such as the AWS-funded project to deliver AI-powered tuberculosis screening in rural India using mobile x-ray machines and cloud-based image processing.
  • The long-term vision of becoming a “digital glue” that connects siloed healthcare systems and enables the deployment of third-party technologies to a global audience, transforming the geographic constraints of care delivery.

Actionable
Takeaways

Embrace the Tension Between Agility and Regulation:

As a medical device company, Feedback must balance the desire to move quickly and iterate based on customer feedback with the need to prioritize patient safety and risk management. Dr. Oakley highlights the importance of developing a unique skill set that allows for agile development within a regulated environment.

Focus on Customer Obsession, Not Share Price:

While being a public company brings added scrutiny and pressure from shareholders, Dr. Oakley emphasizes the importance of staying focused on delivering value to customers and sitting close to their needs. By prioritizing product quality and user experience, the team can drive long-term growth and trust that the share price will follow.

Turn Constraints into Competitive Advantages:

The rigorous certification process for medical devices can be a barrier to entry, but it also creates opportunities to differentiate from both larger competitors and smaller startups. By leveraging its status as a certified platform for image display and collaboration, Feedback can tackle challenges and integrate systems in ways that others cannot.

Persist Through Complex Sales Cycles:

Selling technology into healthcare, particularly in the NHS, requires a high degree of persistence and discipline. With decision-making often involving multiple stakeholders and lengthy procurement processes, founders must be prepared to engage repeatedly and chase opportunities relentlessly to close deals.

Think Beyond Geographical Boundaries:

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of remote collaboration tools in healthcare, and Feedback seized this opportunity to enable clinicians to treat patients across vast distances. As the company expands internationally, it envisions a future where its platform can serve as a "digital glue" connecting care settings and deploying innovative technologies on a global scale.

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