The social impact of raising finance

Talking Medicines is a ‘data tech for good’ company. Our vision is to capture the digital voice of the patient, in turn driving more effective medicines so the pharmaceutical industry can understand why, what and how medicines are being taken in the real world. Now is the right time because the force of change has started across the industry, with companies looking to improve the outcomes of their medicines as they face new competition from faster to market drugs and the reimbursement system that pays them is favouring effective drugs. This wave of change is propelled further by patients themselves, the patient voice growing louder as people become more empowered digitally, ask questions and research treatment solutions themselves online.

Talking Medicines sells patient insights data to pharmaceutical companies so that they can improve the way that they are able to benchmark their medicines and target marketing to the people who matter : the patients.

We are already selling our insights and our view is that we will have become successful when our customers benchmark us as the global gold standard data feed for the patient voice. Commercial success is critical for the team and our investor base but we also believe that we will be successful through the way that we do business. We have social impact targets and strong ethics in the way that we achieve our results. We measure our impact in helping patients and healthcare consumers take control of their medicines through our tool Medsmart®. We collect data insight from patients and in return help them manage their own medicines with free digital tools such as reminders, allergy checks and educational videos. Success comes from driving more effective medicines through our data and the tools we deploy for patients. With 70% of people taking a medicine at any time and 50% not taking medicines correctly, there is huge room for improvement.

Raising finance as an entrepreneur has been a tough part of the journey. I applaud the support system in Scotland which nurtures young, growing businesses and I was delighted to become part of Unlocking Ambition. This is the programme originated by the First Minister and delivered through Scottish Enterprise, in which entrepreneurs receive intensive wrap-around support from a dedicated team to help support and scale their businesses, while having the opportunity to develop their own skills. Each entrepreneur on the Unlocking Ambition programme also receives a significant grant award at the outset of the programme, with the opportunity to apply for further grant funding.

There may be more access to funding in London, but too often you hear stories about lack of support and giving a lot of shares away at an early stage in return for seed funding. We are very fortunate to have Scottish Enterprise as part of our unique Scottish support system to help us build up our value as well as accessing equity finance from for example the Scottish Investment Bank providing match funding.

The Unlocking Ambition Scheme was undoubtedly an important part of the last raise for Talking Medicines , with an emphasis on social impact. Having the opportunity to mix with Social Enterprises opened up opportunities for us to consider how companies like ours could access funds for driving social good as part of their mission.

Talking Medicines raised £622,000 earlier this year, taking the total raised in three seed fund rounds to well over £1M. The company now has 19 mainly private investors – two of which are institutions. Raising finance is a tough part of running and growing the business. When social impact was mentioned, my first thought was that supporting people to take their medicines is something we do, but impact investments are only for social enterprises. In fact our social impact – helping people take control of their medicines – can be supported through investment by the venture arms of social enterprise funds. By being accepted for Social Investment Scotland Venture funding, the Scottish Investment Bank was able to match fund against it. It was a game changer for us.

When it comes to female entrepreneurship, I believe that you need to face every challenge in your own right whether you are male or female. Access to finance is hard whether you are female or not. The key thing for women is lack of confidence. With Elizabeth Fairley as a fellow co -founder, we are rather unusual with two females, and along with Scott Crae as our third founder, we have found our own route which values diversity & has created a strong top team.

Raising finance over the past 12 months has made us a far stronger, mission-led business and we appreciate the support of those around us, including Scottish Enterprise, WES and Unlocking Ambition.

Jo Halliday is the founder of Talking Medicines and a WES Ambassador.

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