Robust ThemeDec 09, 2019 2020-04-08 7:40
Alumni Chats: Zara Lord, Founder, uPaged
From launching a product, to generating revenue, raising capital and successfully receiving $400,000 from the Boosting Female Founder grant - we caught up with Zara Lord to discuss her many achievements after Tech Ready Women.
Zara, can you tell us what is the problem your startup is solving?
I’m a registered nurse who has always held full time permanent employment, but throughout my career I have picked up additional on demand work via nursing agencies to supplement my income.
Nursing agencies are middle man recruiters who employ a pool of nurses and distribute them to hospitals on a shift-by-shift basis to meet contingent workforce needs. These nurses are anonymous ‘ring-ins’, their skills are not known and they can’t be utilised effectively to facilitate safe patient care.
Nursing agencies have a financial incentive to place anyone in a shift. As a result, they skimp on vetting and are known to place poorly qualified nurses in roles and to move them around between hospitals chasing higher revenue. In exchange for this low quality service, hospitals are charged exorbitant fees upwards of a 40% commission (but as high as 104% commission) forcing them to restrict their use of agency staff.
The combination of understaffing and underperforming nurses has been proven to negatively affect patient outcomes, as well as staff morale, burnout and retention.
Nurses want a flexible work option that values them, hospitals want to meet budgets and everyone wants good outcomes for patients. Nursing agencies have failed to deliver value… and so I created uPaged.
Why are you so passionate about solving this particular problem?
My nursing background is diverse, from nursing in remote Australia and Africa, to large tertiary referral hospitals and in one of the largest intensive care units in the southern hemisphere.
My colleagues have a diverse range of clinical skills and experiences as well, but this unique value is not appreciated or utilised in the current landscape.
On demand nurses are always going to be required to meet the ebbs and flows in patient and staff numbers, but the current process with nursing agencies has little regard for hospital, nurse and patient needs. Hospitals are forced to spend millions of dollars every year on agency commission to meet time critical needs to maintain standard of care and prevent regular nurses from burning out.
Agency usage is grossly underreported in the public sector and the research I have come across reports that expenditure on agency commissions is approximately $570m nationally. This is a conservative estimate so the figure could be as high as $1.4bn. This is money that could be better spent on the needs of patients and the regular workforce rather than in the pockets of middleman recruiters.
How did you come across Tech Ready Women?
A friend told me about the Tech Ready Women program and I applied via a City of Sydney pitch competition. I was delighted to have been one of three selected finalists.
Before you came across Tech Ready Women what were your biggest challenges and what made you join the program and community?
Before I started with Tech Ready Women I had so many questions about how to survey my target audience, validating my idea, building user stories, user experience design, managing the tech development process, financial modelling and finding the right people to ask about all of these things.
The program taught me that there is a whole community of people out there willing to support people with an idea. Running a startup can be lonely and confusing. Sitting at home, working on your idea on your days off, unsure of whether you are solving the idea in the right way or if this is even the right idea to be focusing on at that point in time. The program teaches you all of the basics you need to know about getting a tech startup off the ground, but most importantly it grows your network to a community of enablers who care about what you are doing and are willing to help. It’s a beautiful thing.
What did you learn through the program that you have been able to apply in your business?
I have found marketing a challenging area to work around. The channels are diverse and it is confusing to know which one to pursue. A lot of money can be wasted trying to find the right channels. The marketing session in TRW was extremely valuable for me to be able to critically analyse all of the channels. As well as using the tools provided in the course to determine which would be our key channels to pursue.
What about the connections you made as a result of taking part in the TRW program?
One of the things that blew me away in the TRW program was the ratio of mentors to founders. It various from 1:1 to 1:4. I was imagining sitting in a class with a teacher up the front. It was nothing like this. Instead, there was an industry expert leading the session with mentors sitting at each table with the founders. This was awesome, and great for the mentors too as they often picked up work with an exchange of business cards.
I found this a great way to connect with the expertise you need rather than cold calling for a service. I found copywriters, advisors, developers, other founders and designers in the TRW course and grew my LinkedIn network with a supportive community who are only a message away.
What have been your achievements post program?
Since graduating from the TRW program, uPaged was accepted into further advanced programs such as: HCF Slingshot, ANSHealth Bright program, Investible Games. We have also transitioned several customers from free pilot to paying customers and we now have over 2500 nurses registered to the platform. The platform is in its second iteration, informed by the learnings gathered from 18 months in the market. We received glowing feedback from our hospitals about the ease of use, control and choice over their workforce and the obvious cost saving. We are now pivoting the platform to provide a more enterprise level solution for some of Australia's largest private healthcare companies and have our Seed round underway. We also have been a recipient of a $400K Boosting Female Founder grant.
If you were to explain TRW to a friend how would you explain the benefits you receive from attending?
- A community of startup founders and mentors who all want to see you succeed in your venture
- A great program that provides all of the fundamentals to get a tech startup off the ground
- Mentorship from a highly experienced community
TRW have a well laid out program - it is very clear for someone to follow online, or in the face-to-face workshops. It is tailored to work around those still holding a full time job or working around family needs (as so many startup founders have to do, especially before their company generates revenue) because of its evening classes and online program.
Most importantly it gives founders access to the community that the Tech Ready team and mentors have spent a career developing. As a startup founder this is invaluable to have a community of experts to tap in to, to help solve your startup challenges.
The community and support has meant that no matter the challenge or question, I was always treated with respect. It can be intimidating as a “woman with an idea”, pre proof of concept, to reach the right people to help solve the problem, but the TRW community has been a huge help to do just this.
Do you have an idea that you want to take to launch? Applications for our next cohort are open until 5 April. Apply now on https://www.techreadywomen.academy/femalefounderprogram