“I wasn’t sure if we could do it but I wanted to try.”
Some great business ideas come together slowly and over a long period of time – and some are instant.
Ciara Clancy, CEO of medical technology company Beats Medical, remembers the exact moment that she came up with the idea for the business back in 2012.
She was 22 and working as a physiotherapist at a Dublin hospital. Her next patient, a man with Parkinson’s disease, was 20 minutes late for his appointment.
“I went out and I found him stuck, frozen at the main entrance of the hospital,” she tells us.
The man was coming in for metronome therapy, which helps sufferers control movements like walking by giving them a beat to move to.
“He would come into the clinic and was walking very well with the metronome therapy but he was going home and this was happening with every door that he went through.
“After all those years of becoming a physio and helping people to regain their mobility I felt like I was falling short and like I wasn’t doing everything I could.
“I thought, if we could take metronome therapy, which had 50 years of research behind it at this point, and pair it with some sort of technology so this person could take it home with them, that would really transform their lives.
“I wasn’t sure if we could do it but I wanted to try and that’s how Beats Medical was born.”
“When it finally worked it was pretty instant.”
Ciara spent two years developing a smartphone app that would allow her patients to benefit from the therapy outside hospital.
It was a slog but the support of her patients kept her motivated.
“One of the biggest things was that people with Parkinson’s supported us, they just had so much belief,” she says.
“They’d come into us and it wouldn’t work and they’d say ‘don’t worry, we’ll come in tomorrow’.
“Then when it finally worked it was pretty instant; you could see that you’d gotten the prescription of the beat correct and they were walking much more easily.”
Once the tech side of the app had been nailed down, Ciara found herself tasked with turning Beats Medical into a business.
“If only 20 or 30 people knew about this (product), it would have been the same impact if I had stayed working in a clinic so I knew that I needed to build a business that would be scalable,” she says.
“I decided to build a board of individuals with different levels of experience, acknowledging that I wasn’t going to get 20 years of experience overnight.”
Initially, interest in the app came not from within medical circles but from the people directly affected by neurological conditions.
“Back in 2014 when we approached hospitals, what we did didn’t look like a pill or a drug or how you treated Parkinson’s but the people with Parkinson’s who we tested with said ‘Please don’t make us wait, we want this product now and we will pay for it directly’, so we changed our model.
“We had thought that we would sell directly to hospitals straight away but in some ways the market wasn’t ready.”
“Technology enables us to access care at a fraction of the cost in a sustainable way.”
Beats Medical may have bypassed traditional medical institutions to reach patients in the beginning but it’s now a different story.
Digital therapeutics as a form of treatment has gained proper recognition in the past few years, Ciara says – and we’ll all be the ones to benefit from it.
“There are over a billion people in the world with neurological conditions – it’s an issue that we’ll all be affected by, directly or indirectly, and it’s important to be given the tools to take control.
“Technology enables us to access care at a fraction of the cost in a sustainable way and in an accessible, decentralised way.
“With healthcare systems under pressure worldwide, “innovation is becoming a ‘need-to-have’ rather than a ‘nice-to-have’ to improve care and reduce costs.”
Still in her twenties, Ciara will no doubt see and drive lots of innovation in her career.
She insists that her age has never held her back in work.
“No matter how experienced you are, you’re always going to fail at things and have setbacks in business, it’s inevitable.
“It’s how you respond to that and the kind of resilience you apply to that that matters.
“For me I draw from the bigger vision to get past the setbacks I think that would be the same at any age.”
“Work-life balance can come from absolutely loving what you do.”
There are sacrifices that come with running your own business at a time when lots of your peers are still figuring out what they’re doing with their lives, but Ciara is happy to have made them and says that to her, work-life balance means having work that’s fulfilling.
“I try to take some time out to do yoga or dancing when I can but certainly in my early twenties my friends knew if I wasn’t there on every Friday night out, why I wasn’t and they were aware of the bigger vision and how passionate I was in working towards it.
“I think work-life balance can come from absolutely loving what you do and that forming a part of your life as well.”
It’s clearly a philosophy that has served her well.
Six years into the business, Ciara has accolades including Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur and a Women’s Executive Network Future Leader title under her belt.
But despite her success, she’s not immune to self doubt. If she could share advice with her younger self, it would be to have more self belief.
“The sooner you back yourself the better,” she says.
“Looking back now, I think it would’ve been great if I had backed myself sooner and it’s the same to any entrepreneurs.
“Imposter syndrome and all this kind of stuff can exist and it can be acknowledged but really the sooner you back yourself in driving the business forward, I think the better.”
We know that Irish businesswomen are a force to be reckoned with so here at Her.ie, we’re making a fuss of the ladies who’ve made a fuss on their journey to success.
We want to celebrate the grafters and the risk-takers, those who’ve followed a passion or spotted a niche, those still forging their own path and those who are at the top of their game.
In our series Make A Fuss, we’re talking to inspiring Irish women in business about their careers, what they’ve learned along the way and where they’re going next.
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