It’s really important to have mentors and advisers, to be able to get that experience if you don’t have it. You’ll never know it all. I don’t believe that anyone does. There’s no blueprint for a startup. So just being able to figure it out, not make any assumptions, and not know it all, is quite a good thing. There comes an element sometimes of just backing yourself as well. You will get a lot of advice, you will get a lot of different people advising you to go in different directions.
Ultimately, you have to make the decisions for your business and when you make those decisions you’ve really got to be able to back yourself. If you’re really passionate about something, I would feel that it’s harder to wait with that in your head rather than jump now and give it a go. What’s the worst that’s going to happen? You fail and you go back to doing what you do. There isn’t a perfect time. Just go for it, see if it works, and if it works and you’re passionate about it then hopefully it will succeed. Or, you go 10 years thinking you should do something and you don’t try it and you never know.
One of the biggest challenges, Clancy says, has been to convince people to embrace digital health products.
“Beats Medical didn’t look like a pill. It didn’t look like how you treat Parkinson’s disease. We had people with Parkinson’s who this was helping who said: ‘Don’t make us wait for the HSE to cover it, we want this now.’
“So we started selling direct to customers — and now we have users in 44 countries through that selling.
“But hospitals and insurers, particularly across the States, are embracing digital health like never before in the last 12 months, which has very much started to flip our business model from a B2C to a B2B model, which is one of the reasons why we’re raising the Series A.”
She says she has been surprised by the power of B2C in helping to build sales.
“We do go to health professionals first but in countries where we don’t have a presence, what’s been very powerful is one individual, telling others, who tell the neurologist and then health professionals prescribe from there.
“The B2B allows us to have much more significant impact in a much more rapid way. In a sense it’s also much more accessible for individuals as well.
“If it’s covered by their insurer or their major hospital scheme, you can have thousands of people coming in to the same hospital group, getting on the system and off they go. It is a potentially more sustainable model for an impact business to be B2B.”
As the company grows, the pressure on Clancy grows and she wants to make sure that she continues to develop her skills as a leader and chief executive, even as a scaling business creates more and more demands on her time.
Personal mentors have included Intel vice-president Margaret Burgraff and Keelings boss Caroline Keeling.
Important too, says Clancy, is fitting in time for physical exercise which helps keep her fit for the demanding job of running the business. Surfing, hip-hop music, rock climbing and, perhaps surprisingly, breakdancing are among the hobbies she pursues during her time off.
What also helps provide sustenance is the positive feedback from customers who have used the app.
The woman who could write Christmas cards for the first time in years, for example, or the man who managed to walk from one end of Britain to the other. This, says Clancy, is the well from which she draws energy.
In its last financial year the company lost almost €220,000 but Clancy says the last two quarters have been the company’s best thus far.
“This is in line with much of the growth that we’ve been taking. The previous year we were developing products for other neurological conditions.
“With technology it’s never about standing still so it is very much about taking that next step to push the boundaries of what you can achieve — trying to push for more rather than let one thing do well.”
As for the future, Clancy just wants to make sure the business fulfils her vision of helping as many people as possible.
A trade sale or a partnership might make more sense than an IPO in achieving that vision, but nevertheless Clancy believes it’s important to build a business that has the potential to go public off its own bat.
As well as Parkinson’s, the company’s other areas of clinical focus are cerebral palsy, dyspraxia, stroke and multiple sclerosis.
“Neurological conditions are so undermanaged and they’re going to become a bigger and bigger problem ... this challenge isn’t going to change, it’s just going to get worse.
“I believe that Beats Medical will be staying in the neurological space because you could just keep going. There are multiple neurological conditions that require treatment for speech, mobility, finehand movements, etc.”
It’s a challenge that Clancy won’t walk away from until she feels satisfied she has made a difference.
“I feel like I could dedicate a lot of my life to helping people with neurological conditions. I went into that for this reason and I feel like for the future I want to play a role in making sure that happens.
“I probably won’t sit happy until I know that happens. I wouldn’t be able to walk away without making sure that the change we want to create has happened.
“I wanted this impact since I was quite young, and that’s the reason I went into business.”