Day in the Life Interview: Dr Sai Lakshmi, Echo
This week we were lucky enough to hear from Dr Sai Lakshmi, CEO of Echo, a London based health tech startup that offers a free service that delivers medicine to your door, making managing your prescriptions easier than ever. Echo has seen rapid growth and was recently named as one of the 33 UK’s Most Promising Tech Companies to join Tech City UK’s Upscale programme!
- First can you tell us a bit about your job? What does your company do?
Echo is an app for ordering and managing repeat prescriptions from a smartphone, and it helps to improve medication possession and adherence using original, patent-pending technology.
Enabling our users to order the medication they need and have it delivered directly to their door at no additional cost, Echo saves time and effort for people with long-term health conditions, as well as GPs and the NHS.
Echo’s bespoke reminder service also tells users when to take their medication and how to take it in line with their doctor’s recommendations. We further remind our users when to re-order their medication so that they don’t have to worry about running out.
Echo ultimately aims to get more people taking their prescription medication in the way they’re meant to, and our team is dedicated to enhancing the health and quality of life of people living with chronic conditions.
- What brought you to this area?
I’ve had an on-off battle with asthma management all my life.
About ten years ago, I went through a period where I really struggled to manage my asthma responsibly, and my health suffered as a result.
I met my co-founder, Stephen Bourke, in summer 2014, and we found that we shared the same grievances with the systems currently in place for managing repeat prescriptions in the UK.
From autumn 2015, Stephen and I built Echo up from an idea into a fully functioning app, using the skills we had both developed working in senior roles for Apple and Lloyds Pharmacy.
We now both use Echo to order and manage our medication, and we want Echo to improve everyone’s experience of repeat medication management.
- What time does your day start, and what does your typical workday schedule look like?
Echo workdays begin at 9am and finish at 6pm.
My working day is largely split between recruiting new members to the Echo team and working with Echo’s senior team leaders to ensure that everything is running as efficiently as possible from development and operations all the way through to front-facing customer services.
As Echo’s acting CFO, I’m responsible for keeping a tight reign on Echo’s finances, so I also spend a lot of time meeting with investors and building Echo’s profile.
In the coming months, my workdays at Echo will increasingly be spent working with Echo’s technical team to develop the app further and make our app available to a wider range of users.
- What kind of projects are you currently working on?
Right now, we’re working on Android to increase access and availability for new customers. We’re also developing the existing feature-set of our iOS app so that we can provide more advanced tools for even better medication management.
- What do you consider the greatest achievement in your work to date?
I’m most proud of what Echo has done, and continues to do, in getting people healthier.
Our reminder services improve rates of medicine compliance (the likelihood of people taking their medication as directed by their doctor) and medicine possession (the likelihood of people having their medicine to hand in order to avoid missing doses).
Echo also helps to reduce medicine waste in the UK by encouraging users to only order the medication they need when they need it (i.e. before they run out of medicine or if they lose their medicine). This puts a limit on medicine stockpiling and reduces the chances of medication being left to waste away in medicine cabinets at home.
The team at Echo believes in the NHS and we’re proud of our ability to find a simple and sustainable way of saving healthcare costs.
- What is the one app you could not live without?
I would say my favourite app, aside from Echo, is Spotify.
I love that Spotify’s interface is so user-friendly and that it gives you the control to create and manage your own individualised playlists. Just as Spotify allows users to have a world-class selection of music at their fingertips, I want Echo to allow users to have more immediate access to their authorised medication.
Accessibility and transparency are two major issues affecting prescription medication services in the UK, and I believe that the Echo app helps to tackle these issues by bringing the process of ordering medicine into the twenty-first century.
- What’s the best thing about working at your company?
Building a start-up from scratch comes with a lot of challenges that are unique to the start-up sector, but these challenges often turn out to be the very best things about working at Echo.
Every single member of the Echo team performs at top capacity every day in order to keep our users happy, and above all, safe. It’s this constant challenge that brings us all together and makes us such a close-knit group.
We believe that everyone involved in our company, whether an employee or a customer, deserves to be treated with care, compassion, and respect, and we apply this ethos to everything that we do.
- Where is the after work hangout?
The Defector’s Weld in Shepherd’s Bush serves as Echo’s Friday night hangout. We all appreciate a good pint to help us unwind after a week of hard work!
We’re currently looking into setting up an Echo sports team, which will most likely focus on football, seeing as that’s the most popular sport among our team members.
- Who is your professional role model?
As the CEO of a health app that is bringing healthcare services into the twenty-first century, I look up to the likes of Elon Musk and Sir Richard Branson.
Both of these entrepreneurs have proven that challenging the norms of the business world and using technology to disrupt existing services is good for users and companies alike.
- What makes London a good city for technology and startups?
London is full to the brim with diverse, world-class talent. The fact that the capital attracts people from around the world means that we get to choose from the very best minds.
The Echo team is internationally diverse, and the company benefits from the expertise of professionals who have worked in Europe, Africa and Asia. We not only appreciate diversity; we celebrate it!
- Which tech trends are you most excited about?
Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are two tech-trends that I have watched very closely this past year, though my hunch is AR will prove to be more popular.
- What are the top 3 qualities you look for in an employee?
To join the team of exceptionally talented individuals already at Echo, new employees will definitely need to be self-motivated, willing to push themselves beyond their existing capabilities, and culturally aware. Anyone with an inflated ego need not apply.
- What advice would you give your younger self when starting out?
I’d tell myself to have more confidence to walk the untrodden path. It’s only in recent years that the notion of a ‘disruptive’ business has been recognised as a positive force within the circles of commercial enterprise. I’d also simply nudge myself to get things moving faster and tell myself not to wait around for other people to see the potential of my ideas before progressing with them.
- If you could do anything differently what would it be?
The only thing I’d do differently would have been to start building Echo earlier.
- And finally, what is the one piece of advice you would give to an entrepreneur starting out?
As Nike’s slogan says … JUST DO IT.