Today marks the beginning of another year where we’re presented with an opportunity to redefine healthcare for millions of Africans, leveraging medication management as a point of access.
This is the first of many letters you’ll be receiving on the first day of each year. Every January, I’ll be writing to you to highlight some of the important things we’ve done and what we’re looking to achieve in the new year.
These letters will highlight the experiments that failed & those that succeeded, hoping that we have more of the latter than the former. Regardless of the outcome, these letters will show you how we’ll continuously be intentional with our efforts at Famasi, even in things that present as luck.
Faruq and I set out to build Famasi, to prove to ourselves that we were worthy of the roles we wanted to get from our respective 9-5's; a simple conversation of how we can become X by leveraging our different roles led us to defining the problem that birthed Famasi. We founded Famasi because we believed that access, convenience, and support would help to improve the pharmaceutical experience and thus provide better healthcare. We were convinced we could do this due to our different backgrounds and multiple personal experiences with the problem.
In the past 326 days, I went from being wary about if our idea was a tall dream, to sleepless nights filled with fear of backlash from “being out there”, to genuine happiness from satisfying early customers; to experiencing real-life woes of dealing with logistics; then to juggling building a non-conventional service with talking to potential investors that would help us grow, and finally to exploring partnerships that would help us deliver on our promise.
“When people do not know what they don’t know, then they don’t know what they are missing.”
The goal is to ensure that people with recurrent medication needs continue to adhere to their regimens and get the expected health outcomes, while we handle the hassle of ensuring they never run out of their medications. We do this by taking a very personalised approach to manage their medication needs. We strive to reduce the incidences of emergencies and health deterioration that arise from non-compliance and non-adherence to chronic and lifestyle medications.
We are proud of what we have achieved in the past 11months and we hope that going forward, we are able to deliver more of this to people who have recurrent medication needs.
It may seem that we have come far already but this is just the beginning of a lifetime. Famasi embodies the effort, commitment, ability, and trust of millions of individuals who need this service individually or for a loved one and the hundreds of supporters who believe in our dream, decided to take a bet on us, and offer us cheers to make the long nights less scary.
Our first angel investor, Ore - who has been pivotal to our success, reached out right after we launched for early access. He believed in Famasi even before we realised what we were up to. We decided to take some learnings and bootstrapped for 6months. Two of our special friends supported us with their personal funds and we just knew we had to do it right.
We started out solely for chronic medications but we quickly realised that we were leaving out a larger population of people who do not have chronic illnesses but still needed medications on a recurrent basis; hence, we switched up to broadly cater to recurrent medication needs.
While we were convinced that a personalised approach was the way to better outcomes, we underestimated the forces we were going against. We have found ourselves in a space where we have to combat personal, religious or moral sentiments to deliver a semblance of proper healthcare to people.
After 6 months of figuring out the basics, which include website revamps, Airtable iterations, packaging overhauls, and multiple service redesigns, we got our first angel check and the harder work began. At this point, we assumed we had some stability and with the help of another key component of our story, we designed our first pitch deck; then began our fundraising journey.
“In a startup, it never stops.”
The days have been long and the nights longer but here are a few highlights from 2021:
When we launched in February, we had a little over 100 people on our waitlist before closing it to start our pilot with a fraction of the people on the list. We asked a lot of questions in a bid to understand how people interact with pharmacies and what needs to be better.
Our pilot (Alpha testing) ended up with over 100 customers who took a bet on us to help manage medications for them or their loved ones. We’ve since done more than 2x of this, delivering to 8 states in Nigeria, for about 10 health conditions (plans).
We’re intentional about building a relationship with our customers & figuring out when they need their medications, who it’s for, what it’s for & when they need to see a Doctor. We know that medications don’t happen in isolation & we’ve learnt from our customers what they need beyond doorstep delivery of medications.
Having spoken to all of our customers personally, I have learnt that while Convenience, Access & Support achieves what Famasi set out to do, the biggest gap in healthcare is personalisation. Health systems are designed to think in terms of diseases & patients but Famasi is built to think in terms of people, needs & plans. And that’s why we build plans, not sell medications.
Someone recently described what we’ve built so far as an ecosystem, and I think that’s a fair description of what we have. An ecosystem, focused on delivering medications to our customers before they need them.
To achieve what we set out to do, we’re humble enough to realise the problem is bigger than us and we intend to work with partners who share some of our values and are dedicated to improving the lives of everyday people.
Our greatest third-party need is Logistics and we spent a huge part of 2021 figuring out that layer as it impacts distribution heavily. We worked with more than 10 logistics partners throughout the year and as of today, we have chosen 3 who will help us to reach the doorstep of all our customers across 36 states of the country.
As of October, we had access to a little over 2500 SKUs. By the end of the year, with access to more suppliers, wholesalers & manufacturers, we now have over 7000 SKUs under our belt. We’re able to offer generic & branded medicines including some rare ones. I’m very proud of this and it’s a testament to how amazing we are.
There’s a long list of partnerships outside of these two & some of them are in the process of nearing completion. We truly believe that building the future of healthcare requires a collaborative approach and we’ll keep working on partnerships that make sense to us.
Faruq and I collaboratively run the company. I am the subject matter expert by virtue of my experience in the pharmaceutical space while Faruq handles Product & Growth. While we started Famasi as a side project, it quickly became an idea worth quitting our 9-5 for. So, we did.
Our recent wins have been enabled by additions to our Operations team, as well as Kayode - who helped us build our initial landing page pro bono - joining as our CTO. We’re extremely lucky to work with teammates that help us run Famasi with end-to-end customer satisfaction as our goal.
Our internal model allows team members to own their tasks, explore innovative and non-conventional ways to deliver on the job. An interesting bit that’s often glossed over when talking about the team is that none of the team members has ever held their current roles anywhere. This means our 2021 success was by a team of not just people with technical skills but the desire to succeed even in unfamiliar territories.
Until November 9, we leveraged no-code tools for pretty much everything at Famasi. This helped us to stay nimble and stay focused on delivering value. Our multiple service redesign often came with learning a new tool or experimenting with another. While we’ve since outgrown these tools, the culture of experimentation and delivering value is something that I hope we never outgrow.
Our current Beta testing has helped us to understand how to think of building a digitally-enabled consumer product. The learnings in these past 2 months have been steep and I look forward to showing you what we have in plans for 2022.
Being Bold in 2022
2021 was a foundational year for us and our goal for 2022 is to consolidate those wins by being bolder with our experiments.
Our 2021 was focused on designing the service back end of Famasi; 2022 will be towards building a better Product that makes it easier for customers to interact with Famasi. One of the most important questions we’ve been asked is “How do you scale a personalised healthcare service?”
The truth is, we don’t know. But we have some very bold ideas on how to make it happen and 2022 is the year we figure out which of them is the right answer, if at all we have it. We might not know how yet, we know it can be done.
And we will do it.
Let’s be bold.
Co-Founder/CEO, Famasi Africa