Nicole Kayode, Co-founder at Medixus
Quality patient care relies on smooth communication between healthcare professionals, and access to resources that will further their development. This is a global truth, particularly in developing countries where there is growing demand for improved health services. In this e-Interview, Nicole Kayode speaks with Alaba Ayinuola, on how Medixus is connecting health professionals of all backgrounds and levels of experience through its mobile and web platform for virtual mentors, making CPD resources and peer-to-peer discussions accessible for all. Excerpts.
Alaba: Tell us about Medixus and the role you play?
Nicole: Medixus is a mobile and web based application for healthcare workers across the African continent to collaborate on challenging patient cases. The idea is largely that through knowledge sharing and community, we can empower healthcare workers to make better clinical decisions, provide peer support and ultimately improve patient care.
I am the co-founder of Medixus, having had the idea following personal loss in the Nigerian healthcare system. My role is very broad as we are a small team so everyone does a bit of everything! The primary thing I spend my time thinking about is how to scale the business so we can drive the highest impact possible.
Alaba: What was your startup capital and how were you able to raise it?
Nicole: We started Medixus with no capital! We are still bootstrapped – we run the business out of our own pocket at the moment. Through a combination of savings, and working we make sure that the little money we do have goes as far as possible, and be as impactful as possible. We are looking to begin raising some capital now that we’ve gotten some market validation though and primarily doing this through reaching out to very early stage investors and venture capitalists all over the world, including many on the continent.
Alaba: What are the challenges, competition and how are you overcoming them?
Nicole: One of the challenges with any tech company is product market fit – does the product you have fit the markets needs? This is an ongoing process of learning and iterating! The competition is mainly the traditional communication platforms that medics use at the moment (e.g. Whatsapp and Facebook) though we hope, through our product market fit, to overcome this by building a ‘for purpose’ communication platform which makes their lives a bit easier. Primarily we do this by listening to our users, and iterating the product based on their realities.
Alaba: What is the future for Medixus and what steps are you taking in achieving them?
Nicole: We hope Medixus will scale globally one day, but first be known as a proudly African product. I truly believe that there is potential to drive massive impact through the platform in multiple ways. One of these is by supporting healthcare workers and reducing any potential sense of professional isolation (no woman is an island). Another is through empowering healthcare workers, of all cadres eventually, to make the most informed clinical decisions thus transferring the benefits directly to their patients.
To get there we are really pushing to get the word out about the platform to doctors across the continent, with a focus on Kenya initially, to get them signing up and using the platform. We hope this will give us lots of data and feedback so we can continue to improve and grow the community.
Alaba: How is your business contributing to the development of Africa’s health ecosystem?
Nicole: We know that we have a problem on the continent in terms of our doctor to patient ratio – which is two pronged: not training enough doctors and not retaining the doctors we do have. Among other reasons, medics say that lack of professional support and mentorship is one of the reasons they leave the continent to seek pastures anew. We hope through creating this pan-African medical community we can go some way to reducing this by ensuring that support and mentorship are available in real time, at the touch of a button.
We are also creating a sustainable portal for knowledge sharing – once I have learned that a particular symptom is cause to investigate a certain condition, I will have that knowledge forever. This contributes to the ‘capacity building’ of our healthcare workers that we often hear banded around in discussions about healthcare in Africa, but in such a way that centers the individuality of each healthcare worker on the platform and their unique knowledge needs.
Alaba: What is your view on the development of Africa business ecosystem?
Nicole: This is a very big question! I think this is impossible to answer well at a continent wide level as all the individual countries on the continent are at different stages in the business ecosystem development timeline – some are more advanced in certain sectors than others, some have more mature startup ecosystems than others etc. but broadly speaking, the continent is becoming an increasingly favorable environment to do business.
There are many market opportunities, but also challenges that come with the youthfulness of the ecosystems that trailblazers have to overcome. A greater emphasis on public-private partnerships seems to be flavor of the moment, and as we’ve seen more institutional investment money is flowing into the continent in the form of startup investments.
Alaba: What advice would you give potential entrepreneurs who intend to start a business or invest in Africa?
Nicole: Much the same as the advice I would give to any entrepreneur anywhere!
- Don’t be afraid to take risks.
- Don’t worry if things take much, much longer than you hoped – if you don’t have a huge amount of cash to invest upfront often it will be a longer journey.
- Don’t believe the hype of an ‘overnight success’ story – nothing happens overnight, almost always there was years of ground work behind that success.
- Do validate your market; is there a genuine need for your product? Don’t be afraid to tweak your original product based on what the market tells you!
My advice to those investing in Africa is a bit simple: don’t be scared of our continent. Most entrepreneurs here fail because of lack of capital, not because the idea wasn’t needed or well executed. We need more investors who are willing to invest in early stage businesses, who are willing to back the founders and take a risk early on rather than only talking about it.
Alaba: How does it feel to be an African entrepreneur?
Nicole: I feel very proud to be an African entrepreneur! I think entrepreneurial spirit runs in the cultural make up of many of us – particularly we Nigerians where hustle is practically a birthright! I am also aware though of my role as an African in diaspora, and what that means for our business – it is important also to bring on board the perspectives, advice and deep local know-how of those who have grown up on the continent. I feel a sense of pride at being able to contribute to the betterment of our continent and contribute to changing, or at least widening, the Western narrative around Africa which is centered on dooms and glooms.
We are a continent with problems, just like any other region of the world, the West included – but we are also a continent of innovation, energy, pride and beauty.
Alaba: How do you relax and what books do you read?
Nicole: I am very into yoga, and actually qualified as a yoga teacher this time last year – I find it helps you find a sense of calm and acceptance when things get tricky on and off the mat. That really helps to relax me and is probably the only form of ‘exercise’ I do!
I read a range of books, as I have gotten older I make a concerted effort to read fiction written by African authors but I also read a lot of non-fiction books about science, neuroscience & psychology since I am slightly obsessed with understanding why things are the way they are. I’m also trying to read more about the history of our continent as written by African authors – one I’m working through at the moment is called The History of the Yorubas written by a Nigerian Reverend called Samuel Johnson.
Nicole is a Nigerian-British entrepreneur with a background in medical research and a passion for using technology to improve healthcare across the continent. Having worked in start-ups most of her professional life in business and product development roles, she decided to combine her interest for technology, business and healthcare in Africa by launching Medixus.
Kindly Visit: medixus.co
Harris M: Keeping the craftsmanship alive through African fabrics
Harris M was created by Congolese entrepreneur Harris Mayoukou, Harris M. is a young fashion and accessories brand inspired by the bustling streets of Château Rouge, a colourful district of Paris. This project is above all a family story that begins with a sewing machine belonging to the great uncles of the designer in Congo. A machine that was offered to his father in the 70s and that the latter offered him in turn at the launch of the brand. Moreover, she still uses it today in the production of pieces in her Parisian workshop.
Coming from a family of artists and talented couturiers, Harris was keen to carry on this family legacy through his brand Harris M. She makes it a point of honor to take only fabrics produced in Africa in order to support the crafts and printing works still present. The brand offers accessories and casual wear mixed clothing, comfortable and quality. The founder defines the brand in 3 words: KANDA which means family in lari. Because she wanted to perpetuate one of her father’s first jobs.
Harris took her first classes in a very small workshop in Montreuil in order to keep this practice in the family and keep this precious link. Then PASSION because all the pieces are made according to the desires and the favorites. Finally ETHICAL, because it tries to ensure that small craftsmen, whether they are in France or in Africa, continue to be paid at the right price
APINAPI is reducing waste and supporting the autonomy of women
APINAPI is a social business focused on zero waste and symbolizes the meeting between France and Senegal. It all began in 2010, when Marina Gning and Jeanne-Aurélie Delaunay founded the company APINAPI in Paris, with the aim of democratizing washable diapers and natural baby products. After 10 years working in the cinema industry, they wanted to raise awareness about washable nappies and natural care products for babies.
During her travels in Senegal with her husband, Marina finds that the products she offers in France are perfectly suited for Senegal. Indeed, she sees how plastic waste litters the streets of the country, especially disposable diapers. These, which were a few years ago a “luxury product”, have become very accessible with the arrival of low-end brands.
These layers, of poor quality, give irritation and are not reliable. The family budget is reduced and women with low incomes use a single diaper for their baby all day! By offering washable diapers to her sister-in-law in Dakar, Marina sees how much easier her life is: less redness, less expense, less waste. In addition, the diapers were a great success with the friends of the young mother.
The trigger is born from there. What if these washable diapers were the solution? In 2015, she got fully into the project with her partner, her husband and Marianne Varale. The team was born, and in 2016 Marina and her husband decided to sell their apartment in France to settle in Senegal and launch ApiAfrique.
Today, ApiAfrique is a Senegalese social enterprise, which offers innovative, local and environmentally friendly solutions for the hygiene of women and babies. Its vision is to promote sustainable solutions that contribute to women’s empowerment, waste reduction, the fight against exclusion and job creation.
Meet French-Senegalese mothers after black babies
Douce mélanine Founders
N’dioba DIONGUE and Astou diongue, two French-Senegalese mothers have both had bad experiences with baby cosmetics products that contain potentially dangerous or allergenic substances. Looking for a solution, they found out that products adapted to black and mixed-race children can be counted on the fingers of one hand.
Following these bad personal experiences, they decide to react and remedy them by offering healthy products, especially for babies. This is because they are fragile. The beginnings were not simple: market research, business plan, search for formulators, etc. It took several months before they could find a lab to work with. Not being in the trade, they also had to train in formulation.
Douce mélanine was born in 2018, with the aim of offering a range of care products with 98% natural ingredients, traditionally used in Africa for baby care. The goal is to transmit care rituals with products from the African pharmacopoeia. For example, we can find touloucouna oil, with unsuspected virtues which is relaxing and is used in Africa for infant massage. A necessary return to the roots, to allow babies to enjoy all the benefits of this treatment with ancestral oils.
Then in 2020, as for many entrepreneurs, the coronavirus came knocking on the doorbell. After several questioning and restructuring, they decided to stay the course. New tests are carried out, formulas are retouched, and the adventure resumes in 2021 to never stop. Today, Douce Mélanine has made her way and has found her place in many bathrooms all over the world.
DOUCE MÉLANINE fights every day to offer mothers products with healthy compositions. Its products are formulated and manufactured by a French laboratory certified Ecocert and COSMOS. Without perfumes, tested under dermatological control and composed of ingredients from the African pharmacopoeia, babies will appreciate its care which will bring softness, hydration and relaxation.