Throughout October and November, Sunderland Software City ran a 5G and IoT accelerator programme in partnership with BAI and Sunderland City Council. Ten lucky businesses received six weeks of support, pitch training and workshops; one of which was the Northumberland-based business Floki Health.
We sat down with Fenwick Smith, chief executive of FloKi Health, to find out more about the business, the problems it is trying to solve and how he found the accelerator programme.
Can you tell us about FloKi Health?
FloKi Health tracks medical equipment to help NHS productivity. Floki Health started in 2017 with a vision to help the NHS. I already had a background in manufacturing and data, but the real turning point came in 2016when I had a back operation, for which I waited 8 months for. The operation was successful, but afterwards I thought, “the NHS really needs help”, and the vision was born.
We began by undertaking a digital journey with a local NHS Trust to understand how to improve efficiency by tracking medical devices. Our tracking has grown from Bluetooth and a simple gateway platform to having 8 methods of input, which includes LoRWAN and GPS, to select the right project for the right business case.
What problem are you trying to solve?
It is generally quite difficult to implement change in large organisations, and the NHS is no different. In addition, it is no secret that the NHS is over-stretched, and that there are various problems that all need solved as soon as possible. However, it is difficult to address one problem without having to go through the full framework, which then takes up more time and further negatively impacts workload! Therefore, our aim is to give the NHS the tools to help target one problem at a time.
We want to help the NHS prioritise and encourage innovative ways of thinking. COVID-19 did help to change the mindset of how long things take and enabled stakeholders within the NHS to challenge the norm. We are particularly looking to support three stakeholder groups:
1. Clinicians who provide frontline service and are looking for the right medical devices at the right location in the right condition.
2. Medical engineers who maintain the equipment and ensure compliance.
3. Buyers who need to source the correct in-demand equipment whilst trying to save money.
What do you think about the tech ecosystem in the North East?
Sunderland City Council has been doing some absolutely amazing work to get to a Smart City, especially in such a short time. When I came down and was walked around Sunderland, I thought, “I don't know another area that's had this level of investment in such a short period of time and that has this passion”.
I grew up in Consett and am now based in Northumberland, so Sunderland isn’t a place I would ordinarily go, but there’s a great opportunity there. In terms of the tech, the Council and BAI Communications are creating an environment for a platform that is going to help develop much-needed use cases, whilst Sunderland Software City is bringing the framework together for the region. It’s a bit like a recipe: you've got to put the right ingredients in and get the heat up and then see what happens and see whether you got a cake or a flat pancake!
What opportunities has the accelerator provided for you?
I've been blown away by this accelerator and proud to have been a part of it. It’s an incredible opportunity to share the journey with the other founders. It can be lonely to be a business founder; there are few people who truly understand the levels of dedication and sacrifice that you have. Being surrounded by founders who have empathy but can also look at your business objectively as an outsider has been extremely valuable.
What advice would you give to other emerging founders?
Find that first customer, listen to them, value what they say – ultimately those people will help your business. You can’t just have a great idea; you need other people to grow it. The right time to scale up is when it’s what the customer wants.
Thank you to Fenwick from FloKi Health for taking the time to speak to us. If you would like to find out more about FloKi Health and the fantastic things they are doing, you can check out their website here.
We are sure to have more accelerator programmes in the future, so keep your eyes peeled on our website and across our social media.