Remember our “Ask the Expert” Office Hours with Lightmatter’s Head of Product Stephanie Adams? Did you submit a question? Yes? Great! Because today is the day and we’re excited to share her answers to all YOUR most pressing questions about building, launching, and scaling digital health products and services.
Meet the Expert: Lightmatter’s Head of Product Stephanie Adams
Lightmatter is a US-based agency that brands, designs, and develops software and digital products exclusively for companies in health. Drawing from years of experience building in the space, Lightmatter’s team helps companies navigate the challenges they’ll inevitably encounter on the road to shipping the product their target users actually need. Lightmatter has worked with femtech leaders like Cofertility or Upliv to build, launch, and scale their software applications.
As the Head of Product at Lightmatter, Stephanie Adams is responsible for the success of new client engagements. With more than 8 years of experience on design and development teams, she is passionate about helping the agency’s clients identify and execute the right solutions for long term business success. With a strong background in managing horizontal product teams, she ensures all projects benefit from the effective collaboration between multiple teams and stakeholders. Prior to joining Lightmatter, Stephanie worked at Google on the Content & Community and Image Search teams. She holds a B.F.A. from Ringling College of Art and Design.
Your Product Questions. Answered.
Over the past two weeks we asked you to share your product-related questions for Stephanie, and today we get to share her answers!
1. Thank you for this opportunity! We’re an endometriosis DTx startup, and retention is a big topic for us right now. What are some ways or features you recommend, that encourage retention and keep users coming back?
I have a few ideas here, but I want to start with the headline first: invest in good UX! If a user has a hard time navigating your product, or if the experience is slow, clunky, or unattractive, it’s very unlikely they’ll come back (at least not if they have a choice!)
Instead, you should be thinking about how you can surprise, delight, and exceed users’ expectations from the get-go.
To get more tactical, I’d recommend looking at what some of the most successful apps have done to improve their retention rates.
Data visualization is huge, especially in healthcare. If a user can’t easily track their progress over time, they’ll have a harder time seeing the value in the product or treatment program, and are more likely to abandon the experience or search for a different solution. With this in mind, you should be thinking about data from the earliest stages of your company: what kinds of data will be most impactful for your users (which could include patients, providers, or a mix of both); how you will capture that data; what you will then do with that data to optimize the product, the user experience, and patient outcomes.
Gamification is another thing to consider here. What features can you build in that not only surprise and delight your users, but reward and encourage the desired behaviors? I always think of Duolingo and their “streaks” here. I had a friend who faithfully logged in for his Spanish lessons for a full year because he simply refused to break his streak. And we all know someone who is obsessed with closing the rings on their Apple Watch.
And, of course, the importance of a strong brand cannot be overstated, especially as the digital health marketplace gets more and more crowded. Brand is one of the biggest competitive advantages in any industry, and a strong brand that customers are loyal to can help your company weather recessions and downturns – check out this article in Harvard Business Review for more on this topic. If you come out of the gate with a memorable brand, you’ll be one step ahead of your competition.
2. What’s the best way to present a product roadmap in an early-stage pitch deck? How much detail should I include?
As an early-stage company, less is more when it comes to presenting a product roadmap as part of your pitch.
Investors (in general) aren’t looking for a week-by-week, super-granular breakdown; they’re more interested in the broader product vision and key milestones.
That said, you must be able to speak to your reasoning for prioritizing those milestones in the order that you have, so be prepared to share data, user research, and other insights to validate the roadmap you’ve presented. There are so many unknowns in the early stages, and you want to give you and your team the freedom to pivot and iterate as needed, so don’t over promise when it comes to specific deliverables or deadlines. We’ve seen many founders live to regret that approach.
One final tip: make sure to incorporate your branding (including voice and personality), even in your roadmap. We’ve seen otherwise beautiful decks skip over this slide, and it sticks out like a sore thumb.
3. What’s the best strategy to use to prioritize products and features early on in a start up?
I can’t recommend Amplitude’s North Star Framework enough. You can read their playbook here, but the key takeaway is this: Identify your key metric or specific product goal, and pressure test every subsequent decision you make against that “north star.”
This will save you from making a lot of poor decisions, chasing down a lot of ill-advised ideas, and sinking time and money into unnecessary features or functionality. Ultimately, this framework keeps your team aligned and focused on driving toward your overarching goal.
4. Hi Stephanie! What do you think a single-founder early stage startup should be focusing on during the Pre MVP stage. I’ve been doing tons of market research, competitive analysis, and MVP planing but I don’t feel like I’m maximizing this phase of my company.
Your first priority should be to identify your market opportunity–what is your unique value proposition, and what differentiators will set your solution above similar products available? What problem will your product solve, either for the first time, or better than existing options?
Once you have a hypothesis, you need to validate it by talking to real potential users from your target demographic. Depending on how much you can invest in this process, you can accomplish this through formal focus groups, more casual user interviews, or by joining online communities where people openly talk about their struggles with the problem you’re aiming to solve. And this back and forth with your audience should not be limited to this early stage; they should be represented throughout the design and development process, preferably through a regular user testing process that allows you to ingest their feedback and iterate on it as the product moves from wireframes and prototypes to MVPs and new releases.
And a quick cautionary word to founders who are solving a problem or tackling a condition they’ve encountered personally: Please, please, please, don’t assume your experience is the same as your fellow patients.
5. Generally speaking: What trends do you see in the digital health space? Have there been any noteworthy changes over the past couple of year? (e.g. pre-pandemic, during pandemic, post-pandemic) Thank you!
We get this question a lot at our agency, and it’s always a challenging one to answer. But I’ll give it a shot.
In terms of the pandemic, I don’t think the overarching trends are too surprising. Pre-pandemic, most of our healthcare interactions happened in person, at brick and mortar locations. During the pandemic, we of course saw a huge surge in telehealth innovation and utilization. While this was born out of necessity, it hasn’t been without backlash. Some of the most prominent virtual mental health startups that cropped up during this time have come under scrutiny (some bordering on scandal). Now, further away from Winter/Spring 2020, we’re seeing more companies embrace a hybrid approach to healthcare, offering telehealth visits when it makes sense, along with the opportunity to visit a provider in a physical office when needed.
What we’ve seen a lot of in the last year is a surge in virtual care companies that are leveraging familiar telehealth solutions, but niching-down to target a specific condition, healthcare need, patient community, or healthcare journey.
On the patient side, we’ve worked with companies focused on different aspects of fertility care, digestive health, menopause, mental health, dentistry, and more. They have a lot of the same needs on the technical side–patient portals, secure two-way messaging, document sharing and storage, etc., but each requires a unique approach when it comes to building their brand, thinking through user experience, and building their community. This in turn has led to digital health companies (especially d2c) realizing the importance of brand as a differentiator.
On the provider side, we’ve seen a big focus on making improvements to provider flexibility and workflows.The digital space has opened up new ways for providers to more efficiently manage their time. One example of this would be booking digital appointments that include dedicated time for making chart updates (rather than having to save all of that time-consuming admin work for the end of the day.)
6. We’re just starting out and worried we won’t be able to raise if we hire an external partner to help us build our MVP. It seems like investors worry if there’s no technical co-founder on the team. Given the work you do what is your perspective on this? How can we best respond to these investor concerns?
Not so fun fact: co-founder fallout is one of the leading causes of startup failures. And if you’re a non-technical person, it can be incredibly risky to make a major investment in an expensive early engineering hire before the foundation of your tech has been set.
Being able to raise means you have something solid to show investors, and using an external engineering team to get to your MVP faster is often the more strategic choice. Rather than committing to a full year’s salary for just one engineer, or giving up half of your company’s equity to the wrong technical co-founder, working with an agency gives you the freedom to move faster, with less risk, at a more palatable price point. That said, not all agencies are created equal; make sure that the team you go with can help you articulate and defend your technical strategy and choices. If you can do that, investors won’t get hung up on the fact that your technical leadership isn’t currently sitting in-house.
7. I’m a product manager at a SaaS startup and want to work in healthtech. Do you have any advice? What skills do I need? Are healthtech companies open to hiring people with no prior healthcare experience?
In our team’s experience, healthtech companies are usually very open to hiring talent from outside the industry, especially if they have transferable skills or experience in other highly-regulated industries.
If you’re serious about entering the space, I’d recommend joining some healthcare-focused communities to begin building your network, making connections, and learning about hot topics and trends currently unfolding. Health Tech Nerds is our team’s personal favorite; we’ve actually met a few of our more recent teammates via this group. Subscribing to newsletters in the space (like FemTech Insider!) is also a great way to stay in the loop and learn about exciting new companies that may be looking for talent. Once you get to the interview phase, it’s incredibly helpful to have a narrative around why you are now making the jump to healthcare. Why are you passionate about the industry? And what do you think you can bring to the role and the company that is unique compared to other candidates who may already be vets in the space? Don’t discount your value as a newcomer–a fresh perspective is never a bad thing, especially in a space that is so ripe for innovation.
8. I’m just starting out and would like to know if I should focus on building a product MVP or audience (or something else?) to put myself in the best position to raise a pre-seed round.
When you are first starting out, it is essential to identify your audience, so you can dig into understanding their challenges, needs, and pain points within the context of your problem space. You can accomplish this via desk research, focus groups, 1:1 interviews, and even by joining existing communities as an observer.
However, building an actual audience or community around your company prior to having a proof of concept or MVP for them to engage with and react to probably isn’t the best use of your time or investment. Instead, focus on validating your product by conducting user testing throughout the development process.
9. Do I need a developer to build my MVP?
An early-stage founder does not necessarily need to develop a working prototype. You can generally create a proof of concept in Figma that will be just as (if not more) impressive to investors, without the risk of your prototype failing during your presentation. Put together a demo script, link up your workflows, and make sure everything is pixel-perfect for those investor meetings.
Did your questions remain unanswered this time? Want to learn more about working with Lightmatter? Feel free to send an email with your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, who will be happy to help!