In the past five years, Melissa Morris has grown Lantum from working with one GP practice to over 40 GP Federations, raising over £5.3M of investment in the process. Here, she shares her experience and advice on how entrepreneurs can best engage with investors.
“I came up with the idea for Lantum (previously Network Locum) in 2012 whilst working for NHS London. I had seen first-hand how many millions of pounds were spent on organising staff for shifts, and decided that I wanted to fix the problem. Rather than tackling a small piece of it, I am attempting to solve the whole issue end-to-end.
“Lantum hasn’t just gone about automating the processes adopted by agencies – this would only serve to lessen the problem and delay solving it. We are tackling the root cause by creating a better rostering platform that reduces the need to use costly agencies in the first place.
“We have also developed tools for the clinicians which enable them to better manage their shift work and match the demand patterns. The end-to-end tool has been five years in the making.
From one general practice to 40 GP Federations
“It started off with one general practice, where I matched them with two or three locums to try and get some traction. Once we had initial users and validation of market need, I raised some money from Angel Investors. I asked anybody and everybody if they knew people who wanted to invest money. I also pitched at events targeted at those who have an interest in investing in start-ups. This first round of funding was used to employ one developer to build the product properly, and one sales person to help get more users on the platform.
“After we saw some initial growth, I sought additional investments to employ more tech people and make the product even better. We partnered with Tower Hamlets early on to get feedback on the product’s development.
“They advised that it would be more useful if they could build their own staff bank within our system to manage the doctors that they already knew and trusted. So we built that for them, and at that point the business really took off.
Attracting venture capital
“This was during a time when lots of GP practices were joining together to form Federations. Tower Hamlets spoke publicly about how they were one of the first to do so. Lantum was often used as a case study in how to take a Federation digital to streamline efficiencies. Fast forward to now, and we are used across 40 Federations. We listened to our customers’ needs and because of that, a new business model was created. That’s when we were able to attract venture capital (VC) money because we demonstrated fast growth.
“We attracted Piton Capital, Europe’s leading marketplace investor. They provided lots of advice on how to improve the product. In 2016, we raised £5.3M in order to make two acquisitions to grow the user base of our marketplace, and improve functionality in the product.
Understand your network
“In terms of attracting VC money, it’s important to remember that VCs typically only go through warm introductions. Therefore, it is vital to understand your network, and who within it is connected to VCs for a referral, as they don’t take cold emails as seriously.
“It’s all about connections – try and take as many opportunities as you can to speak at events and meet new people, even if it doesn’t feel directly relevant, because you never know who will be there to refer you in the future.
“I had done a pitch at my prior employer, McKinsey & Company, talking to younger people about what it’s like to start a business. As it turned out, someone in the audience went to work for Piton Capital and the introduction was later formed.
A balancing act
“One of the biggest challenges I have is balancing funding with keeping the business running at full speed. Funding takes a long time – about six months to raise – so if you are a CEO as well as in charge of raising capital, it can be a necessary evil. It can also cause a bit of a bottleneck with decision-making, as I’m not as actively involved as I would like, but in the long term it will provide positive gains.
Always listen to your end users
“My final piece of advice is that you can’t raise money if you don’t have a great product that people want. Listen to your users about what they want and how you can help improve their need. If you are deaf to your users, you won’t grow quickly – which in turn will have a direct effect on raising capital.”
If you are a health tech start-up or SME seeking commercial advice or expertise, contact your local Academic Health Science Network (AHSN) to find out the types of support you can access.