“Hire aggressively and higher talented people” – Lessons from the CEO of doDOC
Learn from others’ mistakes – so the saying goes, at ‘Rise to the Challenge!’, however, we like to flip this concept and learn from talented people’s accomplishments and success stories. As the end of the year is approaching, we are concluding this inspiring interview series with the journey of doDOC, a Portuguese digital health start-up, whose CEO, Federico Cismondi told viewers about their journey to the USA and back to the EU. He also gave invaluable tips for scaling up and shared how they benefitted from EIT Health’s programmes.
„Thinking and creating together doesn't need to be a mess” – this is one of the slogans of doDOC, that points to one of the biggest challenges that arises when more than one person is working on a scientific publication. doDOC is a cloud-based editor – its clients are mainly pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies –, that allows its users to write and review scientific and regulatory documents in a collaborative way, real-time.
As Federico Cismondi, the company’s CEO recalled, the idea of doDOC arose after he experienced the limitations of writing a scientific paper: „It is a very structured documentation, boring to prepare, but it requires a lot of collaboration” – he said, adding that this was the point when he migrated from being a hardware/software engineer to becoming a document collaboration expert.
„We have come through so much studying and researching about document collaboration that at this point everybody with a leadership position within doDOC is a document collaboration expert. That is how doDOC was born” – he told Inês Matias, Business Creation Manager at EIT Health InnoStars, the host of 2021’s last episode of ‘Rise to the Challenge!’.
According to Cismondi – who was born in Argentina, studied engineering, medical physics and completed his PhD at MIT Portugal in Bioengineering –, it was really important, that when doDOC was just a project, around 2014, they used wisely their network of contacts and could thus reach important people in the industry who gave them important feedback. Networking also helped to gather a lot of interest around the then „ugly” prototype.
“I think it was the ugliest prototype ever, but it was a working prototype. With it we were able to show these companies what we wanted to do” – he recalled laughing.
After the initial success the founders of doDOC – Cismondi, Carlos Boto, and Paulo Melo – decided to move from Portugal to Boston, where they were selected into one of the accelerator programmes. Soon they started hiring people in the United States, but they were not happy with the speed and quality of development. „We were biased because we knew that in Portugal the quality of human resources was good, so we started to change the strategy and decided to move to Portugal and start hiring there. We opened our first office in Coimbra at the end of 2015, beginning of 2016.” doDOC is thus a double-nationality” – US and EU – company, which is not really usual in this field.
Cismondi, a seasoned entrepreneur now sees those first years from a different perspective and thinks that hiring fast is very important. That is what he now advises to start-ups.
„Hire aggressively and talented people. We were probably too slow to hire certain people with doDOC” – he said. “I hope it doesn’t sound cocky, but if you don’t have the money to hire, then you don’t have the company you are dreaming of. You need the money to have the company. If you can’t convince investors to get that money, it is for a reason” – he said, adding that in their case the problem was not the inability to convince investors: they asked for too little money.
After many lessons learnt doDOC was able to expand, it became part of Envision Pharma Group and focuses mainly on the French and German market, however, the UK and Eastern Europe is also on their radar because of the strong presence of pharma companies.
Cismondi praised EIT Health for supporting doDOC through various programmes: EIT Health InnoStars GoEurope, EIT Health Product-Market Fit, EIT Health GoGlobal – Start. Smart. Japan and EIT Health BridgeHead Europe.
„Thanks to EIT Health for being with us for the whole journey. We definitely appreciate all the help. I think it has been crucial at different points of our journey. It has helped us tremendously.”