Start-up snapshot: Nigeria’s Smaart Health – a doctor in your pocket

Smaart Health is a smartphone app that uses artificial intelligence to allow Nigerians to receive accurate medical diagnosis from their phones. It then provides users with instructions on what to do next, and links them to relevant medical caregivers.

Users can also connect with doctors, both foreign and local, for medical advice and to receive prescriptions via video or voice calls from the comfort of their own home.

“We are creating a virtual primary healthcare system – providing access to universal healthcare on demand to all Nigerians,” said Smaart Health founders Uvie Ugono and Chidi Ugboaja.

1. How did you finance your start-up?

We financed the start-up totally from our own funds, and no external financing has been raised to date.

2. If you were given US$1m to invest in your company now, where would it go?

It would go primarily into marketing. However, we would also use it to build up our team of software engineers to speed up the development of the core additional features being rolled out.

Following the receipt of investment funds, we will commence aggressive paid advertising, both online (social media platforms and Google AdWords), and also off-line marketing channels such as radio, to raise awareness and increase downloads of the app. Our objective would be to achieve at least 10 million downloads within 24 months, which is very achievable, given the relevant budget.

3. What risks does your business face?

Technological antipathy is the biggest risk faced by the business. Very few Nigerians have heard of artificial intelligence, and may be slow to realise the power and importance of this new technology.  However, given time, any possible aversion will be overcome.

4. So far, what has proven to be the most successful form of marketing?

All marketing to date has been organic online marketing, with specific focus on social media platforms – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram. Twitter has proven to be the most successful channel so far.

5. Describe your most exciting entrepreneurial moment.

The most exciting moment was testing the completed and fully functioning app for the first time. It was an extremely gratifying moment to see what we’d been working on for over two years finally manifest itself into reality. It was a great affirmation of the difficult hurdles we had to cross in bringing Smaart Health to market.

6. Tell us about your biggest mistake, and what you’ve learnt from it.

We spent far too long in negotiations with our original artificial intelligence partner providers, which was the primary cause of the delay of over two years to final launch. We eventually walked away from the discussions and went with a different provider, and were able to actualise the project. In hindsight, we should have been far more decisive in making the switch, and would likely have come to market within 12 months, instead of over two years.