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Pivot Idea: The Airbnb for Medical Tourism ?
But why doesn't it already exist...
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Got support from a lot of founders 💘
Lessons from Founders this Week
Read more fiction.
Discovery of short stories isn’t great — find authors from Hubo/Nebula award winners and look for anthologies.
Work on something you truly believe in.
Any company can become a billion dollar company if the founder is committed and ambitious.
You have to earn the right to worry about market size, TAM, or competition. 99% of entrepreneurs haven't earned that right yet. Most people can’t even capture 0.01% of a small market.
Serve customers you truly love.
Validating demand is more important than building interesting tech. Do pre-sales and build things that have been contracted.
Defense contract = long lead time
Hardware = long lead time
Don’t raise too much and let investors run the show.
Defense/space/regulated industries have strong compliance requirements.
Some customers ask for FedRAMP, which costs $500k and 18 months to get.
We work in a strange industry. Never underestimate anyone.
If you are pivoting as a technical founder, don't "explore". Just ship. Build, share, and iterate. You will learn more that way, build an audience, and figure out what you want to build through building.
For consumer social, build a product around an emergent behavior. For Snapchat, it was nudes. For Tiktok/Musically, it was girls creating lip sync dance videos.
Consumer social is only about three things: Utility, Sex, and Power.
Bottom-Up vs Top-Down
Erik Torenberg says a dichotomy to consider when ideating is top-down vs bottom-up.
In my first post, I said I wanted to explore the themes of:
Space Tech / Robotics / Manufacturing / Defense
Health / Biotech / Longevity / Neurotech
I arrived at most of the above themes from a top-down understanding of current trends. I don’t have much direct experiences in these areas.
In contrast, the areas I personally think about a lot due to my direct, bottom-up experiences are:
Fitness, exercise, physical health, biohacking
Consciousness, spirituality, mental health
Travel, mobility, nomadism
Learning, reading, productivity (why I was making Athens, a note-taking app, before this).
Airbnb for Medical Tourism
This week I put out this question on Twitter, Instagram, and group chats. I got over 30 responses within 24 hours.
Canada → Pakistan 👁️
LASIK in Canada: $4000
LASIK in Pakistan: $1500 ticket + $300 LASIK + free care from family
11 years later my vision is 6/5 :) better than 6/6
We had 10 family members who did the same. For dental, our costs were around $10,000 in Canada. In Pakistan, we got everything done under $1000.
US → Israel 🏥
Cost was about three times less in Israel than two other quotes for the same surgery in US.
US → Lebanon 🐣
My mom gets a lot of cancer screening tests done in Lebanon 2x times a year. A lot of family go back for IVF treatments because it’s like $40,000 here and not covered by insurance, and way cheaper there.
NYC → Kentucky 🐈
My friends flew from NYC to Kentucky to give their senior cat a surgery that was like 10x cheaper in Kentucky.
US → Thailand 🦷
My brother didn’t have medical insurance so he went to Thailand to get his wisdom teeth removed. Even with flight/procedure/hotel/food, it was cheaper getting it done there than here.
Ireland → Portugal 🦷
My regular dentist in Ireland was Polish and recommended I shop around in other countries. The insurance wouldn't cover it at all in Ireland anyway. I think all together, flights and all, I paid around $3,000. And I'd expect the same thing to be around $5,000 or $6,000 here.
US → Mexico 🐶
I lived right on the border in San Diego and had tons of friends and myself go to Tijuana for dental care because it was cheaper. My parents also take my dog to Tijuana for the vet because it’s cheaper.
From my conversations and some Googling, this is my basic understanding of what’s good in what countries.
Mexico or Colombia for stem cells.
Turkey for hair transplants.
S. Korea for cosmetic surgery, especially facial.
Brazil for cosmetic surgery, especially breasts and butt.
Singapore for high-quality care that isn’t as cheap as some countries but isn’t as expensive as the US.
Pretty much anywhere is fine for dental or LASIK.
Even people from countries that have “better” public medical systems than the US (Canada and UK) will still do medical tourism.
Even people with insurance in US/UK/Canada will still go to other countries to get treatment because it’s cheaper or easier.
Even including flights and lodging, it can be anywhere from 2x to 5x cheaper.
Some people wanted to do legitimate treatments that are simply not approved yet in the US or Canada, despite being well-documented and tested. It is suggested that there are political reasons for this (aka lobbying).
Stem cell therapy
Specialized cancer treatment
A lot of people who come from immigrant families said they get all their medical work done in their family’s countries. To them, it wasn’t even really “medical tourism”. It’s just a normal thing.
3 Requests for a Hypothetical Product/Service
I'd pay several thousand dollars to know that I have the best advice possible. With the constraints and incentives of our normal doctors, I don't trust them to give me all options. I would want that opinion and ability to facilitate non-standard recommendations to be run by someone that is paid for the service.
I really want a service that facilitates this: start with ratings/reviews, and then upsell full concierge with insurance.
It would be nice to be able to punch in the service and the estimated home cost and then see a variety of options in different countries for that same service including an estimate for flight and lodging since you can usually get the vacation and work done for same or less.
Why Doesn’t This Already Exist?
If the product or business doesn’t already exist, we should ask “Why not?” It must be hard to build or scale, otherwise the “Airbnb for Medical Tourism” would already exist.
I found a few companies that exist today, and a few companies that tried. It seems like they were all founded in 2016-17.
Why are the existing companies not bigger?
Why did the previous attempts not work?
What do they know that I don’t?!?
Raised $2M in 2017 and $10M in 2022.
Based in Berlin.
Raised $500k in 2017.
Based in Ukraine.
If you know anyone who works/worked at these companies, please ping them and let them know that I’d love to talk to them! (Except for Jaime, who got back to me. Thanks Jaime!)
If you or someone you know is thinking about doing medical tourism soon, let me know and I’d love to chat and see if I can help.
Lastly, I am planning to do LASIK with a friend later this year, potentially in Mexico City or Medellín. Let me know if you’d like to join us!
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Thanks to all the people who responded to my post with your experiences and thoughts on medical tourism. Thanks to all the founders for their support!
Also, I am not a doctor, and nothing in this post is medical advice.