Occupation: Founder & CEO of DocPons Inc.
Favorite Read: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Recent Read: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
2012′s Ultimate Goal: Revolutionizing Healthcare in America
Quote Governing Your Mission: “Every spirit that inhabits a human body can have access to affordable care with DocPons Coupons”
Twitter handle: @docponsceo
We continue my Behind the Click series with a remarkable start-up founder. Meet Susan Nicholas, MD MBA of the high tech start-up DocPons Inc. It is fitting that I add Susan to the profile series of colleagues particularly at this time given that she is beautifully blending healthcare and technology; and of course healthcare is at the top of our minds given the debate regarding President Obama’s healthcare agenda. The Supreme Court decision will affect us all and depending which way the chips fall, start-ups such as DocPons may have greater and greater relevancy. DocPons offers an online platform for purchasing quality outpatient healthcare services in America. Read on to learn about how Susan began this endeavor. No doubt, her story and outlook will inspire you!
LDC: So, Susan, tell our readers where you attended college and obtained your MD/MBA.
SN: I attended college in my hometown of Morgantown, WV. I obtained a bachelors in Biology from West Virginia University. I earned my MD degree from the University of Iowa and my MBA from Goizueta Business School at Emory University in Atlanta. My post graduate medical training was toward a career in Cardiothoracic Surgery where I did a clinical fellowship in Cardiothoracic Surgery at Stanford University. I did my MBA with a concentration in private equity finance.
LDC: What led to your interest in pursuing this particular educational route?
SN: As a young girl, I had always thought that I wanted to be a doctor so going to medical school was second nature. I went to business school more than a decade later during my career transition from practicing Cardiothoracic Surgery to becoming an entrepreneur.
LDC: So obviously you are applying it well to your start up. What gave you the idea to create this venture?
SN: I got the idea to start DocPons™ while co-instructing a physician entrepreneur event in Atlanta in late January 2011. A healthcare provider in the audience spoke anecdotally about placing an offer on Groupon® that generated both revenues for his business and recurrent patient volume during the most recent economic recession. I thought at that time “Now what would I call my company that created revenue and patient volume for all types of healthcare providers” that was both targeted and sensitive to the unique nature of the healthcare industry. I came up with the name DocPons, a play in Doctor Coupons. I purchased the domain name the following day and was incorporated two weeks later.
LDC: How is it funded?
SN: To date, the company has been funded by friends and family, essentially “bootstrapped”. However, I have been promoting the company around the country and the world over the past several months. DocPons was featured as one of the nine most innovative start-up healthcare companies in the world at the Doctor 2.0 conference in Paris, France in June of 2011. In addition, DocPons is a member company of both the Start-up America initiative and Start-up Health in NYC. Most recently, DocPons was featured in Silicon Valley at the Women 2.0 Pitch Competition in February 2012 and won the prize for the “Product Most Likely to Change the World”. Despite the early recognition and accomplishments of DocPons, raising the next financing round has proved challenging. The playing field is not level when it comes to women led start-ups receiving venture funding. At the end of the day, I hope DocPons changes this antiquated paradigm once and for all.
LDC: What suggestions do you have for other women of color looking to fund start ups, by the way?
SN: Though every individual path is unique, I would suggest applying for everything that you think you can even remotely quality for. Casting a broad net is essential. There are several women-only initiatives addressing the inequalities women entrepreneurs and CEO’s face. These resources are a good start. At the very least, women led initiatives can level the field when gender is the issue. Racial bias, however can be yet another obstacle that many investors and potential partners have to overcome. Attitude changes, like paradigm shifts take time. I would suggest pushing through the glass ceiling inch by inch, never giving up and always believing in yourself.
LDC: During the funding process and overall journey, have you encountered any situations that you have felt were race/gender based that were negative? If so, how did you overcome them?
SN: Of course. However, when I feel that gender or race has played a role in a decision that was not in my favor, I recognize it and move forward. Dwelling to long on gender and racial bias issues is draining and at times downright depressing. I manage to get up the next day and start anew. I cannot dwell there. I just think that somewhere out there the perfect investor and strategic partners are waiting for me. I just keep it moving, as they say.