Kimon has been in the sector for the last 20 years. Prior to his healthcare career, he was the Chief Strategic Officer at Tanox and Director of Strategic Development at St Luke’s/Texas Heart Institute. He has also held Professor positions in many accredited universities and has published over 100 papers. Kimon was in academia for a long time, and was trained as a bio-organic chemist. “I’m a scientist by training and I think like a scientist.” This experience led him to never look at where the money would go in businesses. “If you sort out a good problem and that has a good outcome and that is ultimately helping people, the money will come and sometimes it surprises you that it will come” he explains.
Kimon began his career by taking a job that he loved and started as a chemist. He became an entrepreneur at 45, when he left academia and started his first company. After stints with two biotech companies, he soon went into health services trying to use technology to advance healthcare solutions. Recently, he launched three new ventures out of Athens; Merlin LifeSciences, Early Bird Pharma and Femtech Health, with the later focusing on women’s health.
“Greeks are very skilled at actually doing projects, but really understanding what the product and the market is, especially in North America is generally very difficult”. According to Kimon, it is crucial for Greek entrepreneurs to educate their teams on the business aspects. “You can have a great team but if you don’t really include them or educate them on the business, you will be stuck with a team that is always going to be looked at as project developers and just ancillary to the business.” Kim insists that a team needs to be included in the business entirely, they must understand what they are actually offering and the market they operate in, and realize how they can benefit and their contributions to the whole business from the ground up, beyond being skilled technicians. This remains a challenge for the Greek entrepreneurial ecosystem in part because of the young culture too. “We need to make some of these hard workers, some of these kids realize how theybenefit the business, so that they start to see that they’ve built something that someone else values.” he adds.
Kimon first started applying telehealth back in 2004, in Texas. His team was able to capture reimbursements remotely, as an already established regulation allowed companies to get paid for telehealth, if they went into a rural setting. According to the serial entrepreneur, COVID-19 accelerated that 1998 regulation as people could not go to the offices anymore. “The horse is out of the barn right now and I think it’s going to be extremely difficult to go back. It would be as if you brought back branch banking, even in Greece – most people do electronic banking now and not going to the branch. It will be like that with healthcare pretty soon”. he explains.
Going forward, Kimon advises entrepreneurs to make absolutely sure that their business model fits in with the traditional payment system of their government. Entrepreneurs must make sure to look at the regulatory framework and laws and find out how to get paid before they start their first service. “If you don’t look at it and make sure that it fits in and you can get paid, you’re going to lose because no one’s going to be paying cash right now. Remote monitoring is here to stay, and you can get paid for it, if you actually do it right.” says the health tech expert. “This year is going to be a dry year with respect to corporate contracts, so it’s the perfect time for you to be able to understand the payment system and develop the platforms for getting paid as a healthcare service” he adds.
“When I formed Livongo, I was the CEO and focused on building the business with getting clients, the payments system, and the technology. Quite truthfully I knew that after building and getting it started, getting clients, and getting paid that I had to have someone who could scale it up better than I could.” Kimon insists that if one has a scientific background, it is a great foundation and helps them structure things better. “When I’m thinking of developing a company, I’m thinking about laying down the scientific foundation so that it becomes scientifically credible.” The serial entrepreneur shares that in healthcare, one must have a credible foundation and it has to be scientifically sound as this is not something one can go back and fix later. “For me the transition has been easy. I am a scientist and I put myself in the CEO position to create and build the fundamentals that will be long lasting. I have been told sometimes to become the CSO and I didn’t want to, but in some cases, it was probably alright but only after the business was going to ensure that the business remained solid in science and technology I think that a scientist or an engineer can learn to regulate the business part” he explains.
When Kimon started his latest company, FemTec Health he chose to begin with the brand. According to him, it is very difficult to be able to offer a Health Service that has the rigor that people will trust and at the same time looks like a brand that is going to be part of their everyday lives. And this challenge is one of the reasons why he went into women’s health. “In Greece, it’s not the guy who drives any decision in the household, it’s always the woman. If we’re going to change anything, there is nothing better than being able to understand the continuity of care in the lifestyle of a woman” he explains, while adding that he aims to create a brand that has health services and products that really speak across all consumers.
“If I said to most employers that this is an important component of well-being and I can prove it on the medical side, they would say get out of here” says the entrepreneur, who claims that with his new company, he is trying something a little bit different in terms of brand, compared to what he has been following in the past. “I think that in the women’s area, they are more thoughtful and really think about things in terms of when they adopt something and so I think we have an opportunity here”.
“Next year is going to be a tough year” says Kimon while wrapping up. “Covid has set back the sales cycle to large employers and health plans and is going to prevent people from selling to employers and consultants and so it’s going to be a tougher road at least in the beginning” he explains, while adding that he will be pounding doors virtually next year.