Four ways working as an A&E doctor helped me raise VC

After many years of studying and training at medical school, I became a doctor in 2014.

Providing care to patients is undoubtedly a career I love and one that has taken me to the frontlines of the NHS; working in a busy London A&E department, alongside brilliant colleagues. But six years ago, I made the decision to hang up my stethoscope as a full-time occupation and launch a healthtech start-up. 

I anticipated that this new career path would be a leap into the unknown. But I am fortunate that my career working in the NHS has given me a lot of skills that have helped me in my role as Co-Founder and CEO of Patchwork Health

Perhaps surprisingly, I’ve found the skills I developed as a doctor have helped me considerably with raising Venture Capital to support our company's growth. Having raised our fourth round of funding last year - a £20 million Series B round - I wanted to share the four key lessons that have helped me most, in the hope that they might support other founders about to embark on their own fundraising journeys.  

1. Communicating with confidence 

As a clinician, communication is extremely important. You need to be able to gain a patient’s trust quickly, help people understand what’s happening in moments of acute stress, and sometimes deliver really difficult news to patients or their relatives. From observing colleagues doing this throughout my medical career, over time I learnt how to strike the right tone and deliver key messages with confidence and in a way that fostered trust.

This experience proved invaluable when it came to founding and growing Patchwork. So, to those looking to raise VC for the first time, I cannot emphasise enough the importance of developing your communication skills. Being able to approach investors, develop a business relationship with them, respond to challenging questions and deliver pitch presentations successfully are crucial elements to the fundraising process, without which raising VC would be significantly more challenging. Becoming confident in these key areas of course comes with practice - for example, doing mock pitch presentations to my colleagues was essential and provided reassurance when it came to preparing for the real thing.

2. Keeping on your toes 

As I’m sure any clinician reading this will know, working on NHS wards certainly keeps you on your toes. No two shifts are the same; doctors, and all healthcare workers, have to deal with a continual flow of patients with different sorts of symptoms and conditions. This dynamic, fast-paced environment was extremely useful preparation for the challenging, yet rewarding, process of raising VC as a first time founder. 

Those new to VC pitching must also prepare themselves to adapt to a host of new challenges. VCs all have different processes and priorities, meaning each pitch experience will be unique. Try to adopt as flexible a mindset and attitude as possible - you never know what will come your way. It is crucial to get used to changing environments and to try not let a left-field question or unexpected request phase you.

3. Persevering in the face of challenges

Like all of my colleagues in medicine, when I qualified as a doctor, I swore the Hippocratic Oath and promised to work my hardest to help deliver the best outcomes for patients. This commitment to prioritising results stood me in good stead for my future career as a founder. 

My advice to new founders is that perseverance is a non-negotiable trait needed for success. Keeping going despite difficulties will enable you to tackle the long (and sometimes stressful) process that comes with raising Venture Capital. Every founder will certainly get a lot of ‘no’s’ when fundraising, but by maintaining a strong work ethic and commitment to doing your very best, you can keep your eyes on the horizon and achieve the best outcomes for your company and customers.

4. Dealing with imposter syndrome 

In anyone’s medical career, after many years as a trainee medic, the next day you’re a fully qualified doctor. This can be an extremely daunting transition and, during those early years, there’s a huge amount of learning on the job and leaning on peers as you navigate fresh challenges and changing circumstances. 

When it came to being a first time founder and building an understanding of the unknown world of term sheets, pitch decks and angel investors, I had to put trust in my ability to adapt and learn quickly. As someone who is no stranger to imposter syndrome, I’d encourage other founders who are familiar with the feeling to lean into it, rather than push it away. Learn to take advantage of these feelings of discomfort, as this is when you are learning the most and are the most receptive to new ways of doing things. 

If there’s one thing I’ve taken away from this experience, it’s that we should think of changing careers not as starting from scratch, but rather the chance to apply the skills we learnt in our previous careers  to better inform the work we do now. I hope that my advice is useful to all those beginning on the fundraising journey.