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SFX: Ambulance siren
Narrator: Access to healthcare is one of Africa’s biggest challenges. The World Health Organization’s recommended doctor to patient ratio is 1:600, but Nigeria falls short with 1:2,753 as revealed by its federal government in March 2020 at the onset of the pandemic. From this, one thing is sure: Nigeria is a far cry from having decent healthcare.
With these statistics come a string of casualties. For Ifeanyi Ossai, a Nigeria and US-based entrepreneur, his aunt died on her way to a distant hospital following a protracted allergic reaction, a death that could have been avoided if she had received medical attention sooner.
SFX: Sombre sound
This sad event would soon inspire Ifeanyi to build four functional medical clinics in Delta state, Nigeria, a place he grew up. Enter WeCare in 2017. to provide superior medical care to underserved areas to reduce or eliminate preventable deaths.
Narrator: On this episode of Built in Africa, we examine how a Nigerian-founded healthcare business, WeCare evolved into a full-blown telemedicine healthtech startup, CribMD.
Narrator: Although it was a well-thought-out idea, Ifeanyi soon discovered that many patients went home without getting the healthcare they sought; with the problem of accessibility solved, the challenge of demand surfaced.
Ifeanyi Ossai: Our physical clinics could not accommodate most of the customers we get on any given day. On any given day, we could only see about 10% of the customers that come to our doorsteps”
Narrator: That’s Ifeanyi Ossai, CEO and Chairman, WeCare and co-founder, CribMD.
In a bid to solve the demand problem, WeCare planned to open 300 clinics in sub-Saharan Africa. But in 2020, it became clear that the demand for healthcare would always exceed supply.
Ifeanyi Ossai: That is when we came to the realisation that we need to solve healthcare in Africa another way.”
Narrator: So, in WeCare’s third year of operation, Ifeanyi sourced out the best brains he could get, to help him salvage the leftovers of his passion for affordable and accessible healthcare. He found two.
In June 2020, Ifeanyi co-founded CribMD with Ngiri Michael, an experienced software engineer who serves as Chief Technology Officer (CTO); and Lorna Mae Johnson, a nurse and midwife running some medical clinics in Los Angeles, serving as Chief Financial Officer (CFO).
Narrator: So, here’s exactly how CribMD works.
Ifeanyi Ossai: Instead of you coming to our physical clinics, we can deliver the doctor to your home at your comfort and convenience So, our goal is to democratise health care by delivering quality, affordable, and accessible healthcare to you wherever you are in Africa.”
Narrator: … and how the business makes money?
Ifeanyi Ossai: CribMD makes money by charging monthly subscriptions. So, we charge you a very small amount of money so that you can access our healthcare on-demand.”
Narrator: Through the mobile app and website, users can have access to doctor home calls, telemedicine, prescription delivery, and many other features that don’t require them to visit a hospital by subscribing to CribMD’s different plans.
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Michael Ngiri: We have different plans, the Basic, Pro, and the Family plan and then we also have different plans for corporate organisations as well.”
Narrator: That’s Michael Ngiri, CribMD’s CTO.
CribMD runs on a relatively cheap pay-as-you-go subscription model. Based on different pricing structures, all packages vary in the number of doctor home calls, and telemedicine schedules a customer has access to.
The monthly Basic, Pro, and Family plans cost ₦3,000($7.87), ₦5,000($13.11), and ₦19,000($49.84) respectively. Beyond consultancy, the plans also cover diagnosis, prescriptions, and lab tests.
Michael explains how this works.
Michael Ngiri: The Basic is just for a limited number of consultations in a month. You have one video call and one doctor house call. The Pro plan is unlimited, you can have as many doctor house calls and as many telemedicine sessions as you want. The family plan is much like a Pro plan for every member of your family. You can add up to 10 family members the corporate plan has the Classic and Executive plans. The classic is just for a single person. It’s more like insurance that covers only the individual beneficiary. While the Executive plan is the one that covers the recipient of the insurance and his/her family members, at least 10 family members.”
Narrator: Apparently, with this structure in place, there’s hardly any limitation in reach and capacity. Ifeanyi says CribMD services are available in every state in Nigeria. He also boasts of 5,000 registered doctors on the platform, most of which have bought into the vision since the days of WeCare.
For an activity as delicate as health, doing due diligence on doctors before onboarding them is imperative. Michael describes this process.
Michael Ngiri: As a doctor, you register on the platform and submit all the necessary details, including your certificate, certificate of annual practice, your registration with the Nigeria Medical and Dental Council. With all these, we now verify your credentials with the Nigeria Medical and Dental Council to see whether they check out. You have to be somebody that has worked somewhere before, maybe a hospital or a clinic. We use all this information to know that you’re really a doctor.
Narrator: The startup’s current challenges are only signs that many people are willing to use the services. The platform initially experienced service downtimes as it struggled to deal with the high demand.
Currently running in beta, the platform serves 1000 unique subscribers with over 20,000 still on the waitlist. Ifeanyi confirms that once scaling the platform is completed, those on the waitlist will be accommodated. With this in place, the goal is to reach 100,000 subscribers.
Riding on the trust gained through WeCare, CribMD’s customer base has been growing through referrals. Because of the seeming unpopularity of telemedicine in Nigeria, CribMD is doubling up on sensitising the public on its services and is also in the process of introducing easy to access health tips on its platforms.
On funding fronts, CribMD seems to be attracting investors’ interest even as an early-stage startup. Michael explains the funding journey so far while Ifeanyi gives insight on future funding plans.
Michael Ngiri: We mostly started CribMD with funds from WeCare… at the moment, our current revenue rate is like $20,000 in a month the point we are now is we are trying to break even our profit rate is like 50% profit margin.
Ifeanyi Ossai: CribMD is venture-funded from investors in the United States. We are still in stealth with some of our investors. Our next investment round which we are looking to close in the next month or two.
Narrator: Earlier in February 2021, CribMD was enlisted as one of five startups in the 2021 Winter Batch cohort on Sputnik ATX, an Austin-based VC Fund and Accelerator. From this, it bagged a $100,000 investment.
Meanwhile, the startup is in the process of a $1 million seed funding round before the end of 2021.
Ossai expresses confidence in his team and the calibre of advisors available at the startup’s disposal. That goes without mentioning the three years of industry experience. And this, he believes, is strong enough to make the business outlive its competitors. Alongside CribMD, WeCare will keep running its existing structures and will not build more.
Thank you for listening to Built In Africa.
This script was adapted by Kolawole Oluwanifemi and edited by Muyiwa Matuluko
Research and interview by Kolawole Oluwanifemi
Sound design by Oghenekaro Obrutu
This is a production of Techpoint Africa
I am Emmanuel Paul
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