Case Study: How Villgro Africa is helping Streamline Health to bridge the digital divide for rural hospitals in Africa
By Moses Waweru
Streamline Health is a Ugandan health-tech company founded by Samuel Mugisha and two other co-founders in 2017. Streamline was established to help rural hospitals in Africa transition from paper-based to electronic medical record (EMR) keeping. Paper-based records are difficult to manage and maintain. Preparing, storing, and retrieving them can be very time-consuming. They are bulky and take up much-needed space, and they are also easily susceptible to damage. The Streamline Health EMR platform is adapted to conditions in such settings, where patient numbers can be high while health workers tend to be fewer than in urban areas. Furthermore, many facilities lack computers and internet connectivity is not assured, conditions not well suited for traditional EMR platforms.
Streamline’s EMR platform tackles these challenges through different innovative approaches. 1) It integrates an early key warning system and safety prompts based on WHO clinical guidelines to help clinicians make decisions and avoid costly errors that could arise from fatigue. 2) Its innovative business model includes payment plans for the supply of hardware to facilities that don’t yet have the computers to take up their EMR. This enables facilities to comply with government requirements for all health facilities in Uganda to share data with the government for its national health management information system.
The Streamline Health team first heard about Villgro Africa in late 2019 following a call for applications targeting hardware innovations in East Africa. Though it didn’t meet the criteria for the call, the Streamline team opted to apply given the offer for a $20,000 grant and technical support. The team convinced CEO Samuel Mugisha that they had nothing to lose and he agreed to take the chance. It paid off. Though Villgro Africa makes targeted calls, incubation applications are received all year round through the website. After about three months of diligence, Streamline was included into the Villgro Africa portfolio.
Though Streamline was not offered funding, incubation services were much needed. The business was growing and faced with competing priorities. It needed capital but the team had no experience in fundraising or engaging with investors, it also needed more customers but lacked the staff, business development skills, and tools to grow its customer base. Besides, daily demands left no time for the team to plan and make future projections. Streamline was facing the same kinds of challenges faced by most startups.
The Villgro Africa incubation program is specifically designed to address the needs of early-stage enterprises in the health and life sciences sectors. It provides customized incubation services tailored to each company’s needs, as opposed to a pre-determined curriculum of topics or support areas. Villgro Africa’s support is structured around the needs expressed by the entrepreneur and, the key issues identified during the onboarding process. As Villgro Africa is also an impact investor, onboarding includes a detailed diligence process that looks into all the aspects of the business.
Following onboarding, Villgro Africa has provided the following support to help Streamline address it challenges:
- Investment advisory services to help Streamline negotiate with investors – This has helped Streamline to identify prospective investors who suit its capital needs and the stage of the business.
- Paired the company with Dr. Sylvia Shitsama, a mentor with deep health sector expertise – This provided Streamline with a customer’s perspective on their product and insights for user-centered design.
- Sales and business development training delivered by international sales consulting firm Whitten and Roy Partnership – This has strengthened Streamline’s product-market-fit and helped the company to identify more customers and close more leads.
- Weekly coaching delivered by portfolio manager Ms. Snider Mugese and access to the entire Villgro Africa investment team – This has improved planning and execution, as well as overall efficiency by providing a sounding board and accountability for the company to deliver on its goals.
The Villgro Africa program typically takes two years. However, based on a company’s traction this duration can be extended for a further year or two to ensure the business is sustainable. Most companies receive support until they have raised Series-A funding. The next phase of support to Streamline will focus on investment readiness, investor matching, and tracking of impact metrics.