How I ended up running a health tech startup

Annie Backman is CMedO and co-founder of Care to Translate

It’s funny how you suddenly find yourself in a place you never imagined you would be. I have always liked learning new things, something that has given me a lot of random skills and university credits in a diversity of fields. Nevertheless, I do have a medical degree half a PhD, and the road could have been very straight forward after that.

But for me, the path has never been straight. I’ve never felt the certainty of knowing where I’m heading, which hasn’t always been pleasant, however it inevitably gives me more room for surprises in my life. And here I find myself, running a tech startup!

I’m not a native English speaker (or writer), but bear with me, I hope I’ll get the message through anyway. A year ago when I first met Linus, the CEO and original founder of Care to Translate, I was searching. I was looking for a context where my skills, my background and my objectives could be part of doing something meaningful. Linus’ vision with Care to Translate really appealed to me both in that I had a relevant background in medicine and language, but mainly in his ambition to make the world a better place.

Becoming a part of the team

After meeting with Linus and Martin, as well as with Felix (an economics student who helped us a lot in the beginning), a few times I felt like a natural part of the team. Together we prepared a pitch for Venture Cup, a competition for business ideas in an early stage, and we reached the Regional finals! This experience, as well as constantly reevaluating the formulations in the pitch, defining the core of the product and our vision, really welded us together as a team.

martin schalling, annie backman and linus kullänger of care to translate

During this time we also began the work to make the biggest update of the app so far, a work that was going to take 6 months. I got thrown in to the challenge of translating almost 500 phrases to as many languages as possible for as little money as possible. At this stage we hardly had any money, definitely no income and none of us could get payed for our work. For me, it was a legitimate choice, but convincing others to help out with their time and language skills for almost no money was sometimes harder.

On this note I would like to take the opportunity to thank all our supporters and everyone who has helped us getting started! Finding myself in this team of passionate people was really motivating. Most of all it was inspiring to see how Linus wanted to grow his idea into something larger, even though being the CEO of a company was maybe not what he had dreamt about attending medical school.

Building a company

During the first period I worked almost exclusively with managing all the translations and translators, and I learned a lot about translating. But as fall was approaching we got accepted to a startup accelerator called Sting, and I had to be a bigger part in forming the “real” company. This was something completely new for me, and I think both Linus and I learned a huge amount during the months to come.

We started recruitment processes to build a team, had a lot of different thoughts on how to finance our project and went to numerous workshops and seminars about any topic you can or cannot imagine relating to building a company. Even though a lot of the things are quite obvious and just common sense, I really learned a lot. I think it’s easy to get caught up in the details of the product which makes you miss the bigger picture.

linus kullänger and maja magnusson of care to translate

The process of building a company more or less from scratch was all very new to me. Eventually getting Maja, COO of Care to Translate, onboard was really good, bringing some structure and experience into the work. For me, the hardest transition was to actually start representing a product and a business case. For me it has always been about giving exposed and vulnerable patients a better chance of getting good healthcare. But at the same time I have a belief that doing it in the form of an economically sustainable company gives it a bigger chance of reaching broader and helping more individuals, compared to running it as a non-profit organization.

However, with this comes the world where money talks. It is a delicate balance to operate in the world of investors and business people, selling a product to get revenue, just to be able to grow this to the size I know it deserves, still proclaiming your vision of social impact. But if it’s one thing I’ve learnt, it is that even though it’s hard, it is really possible to combine the two. But I think I will never be entitled to call myself a sales person…

Making use of my diverse skills

One positive thing with being a bit indecisive in one’s career choices is that it makes you quite broad in you skills, which is pretty convenient in an early startup. During the evolution of our startup into a more fulblown company, I’ve had to take a variety of different roles. I’ve even had some use of my handyman skills when moving into our own office! Managing the translations is now mainly done by our Translation Manager, Agnes, and my days are now filled with other tasks. I still find it hard not to interfere, since I really have a big interest for different languages and how tricky words and expressions can be handled when translated. I also find some of the more monotonous work quite satisfying, like editing audio and uploading new phrases and files into the app. But since I have a lot of other things on my plate, I try to cut down on all the translation parts that doesn’t need my medical expertise (or at least that’s what they tell me I should…).

My main task is to lead our product development process and to communicate with our developers, as well as keeping track of what to prioritize in the next version. It is a lot of testing and checking new features, trying to avoid bugs. Our communication is transparent throughout the company so that the entire team knows what is happening and how the application will evolve, and we always keep the bigger picture in mind looking into future possibilities.

team care to translate sitting around a desk working

Furthermore, I am responsible for looking into what it would take for us to get our applications certified with a CE marking, which is pretty time consuming. This would really confirm the high quality of the app, a certification that not even giants like Google Translate have.

We have also recently started to actively deepen our understandings of the users’ experience of the app. The app was built based on our own experiences from working in healthcare combined with all the feedback we’ve gotten from individual users over time, and I am really proud of what it is today. But we do know that we always can do better, and we are now trying to gather a broader knowledge of our users’ opinions. We are eager to learn more about what you like or dislike about our product and always welcome your feedback. We’ll do our best to develop in the right direction!

One year has passed and the future is ahead

Anyway, one year has passed since I started this startup journey. And it has definitely been a journey for me personally, just as much as it has been for Care to Translate. Time flies in a different way, and many times I have said that the past year feels like one month and five years at the same time. I am so happy that I took a leap of faith and changed careers. This has given me a whole new field of knowledge and experience, and looking forward, I can only learn more.

Seeing our product develop and getting better and better, and seeing the team behind it grow is really motivating, but the most rewarding part is seeing the number of users growing, knowing that more and more vulnerable patients actually do receive better healthcare now.

If you want to help us helping patients; use the app and give us your feedback, that’s what actually makes a difference!