Challenging traditional mindsets in healthtech, insurtech, and in business
Ambroise Couissin, 33, sees himself as a coder, first and foremost. The CEO and founder of startup Mazecare, a provider of customized healthtech and insurtech solutions, spends half his working hours doing coding work. The rest of his time, he splits between managing and guiding his teams, client service, hiring, project management, and other operational work.
Ask him about his growth strategy, revenue targets, business plans, industry traction he has achieved, or even KPIs, and he shrugs: “I really have no idea on these things. We just focus on doing the best we can. I know this seems like a very naive way of doing business, but we see the numbers going up.”
A ‘simple’ business philosophy
It all doesn’t sound very strategic, and maybe that’s why his business remains bootstrapped, despite the promising growth he can show to any would-be investor. In slightly over a year, Ambroise has built a team of 20 full-time engineers across four countries in Asia, with commensurate business to keep them occupied. Mazecare’s customers are primarily hospitals, insurance companies, and medical groups in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Indonesia.
If you look past his ostensibly ‘unpolished’ approach to growing a company, and examine his business values, you will in fact see that what Ambroise holds dear to heart is what any good service provider would demonstrate; what any successful entrepreneur will acknowledge as critical to brand building and growth.
For example, Ambroise believes in relationships and in building trust. His business referrals are from a network of agent relationships whose trust he has earned from more than 10 years of working as engineer and subsequently as CTO at various fintech startups.
“They (our agents) would just recommend Mazecare everywhere and get a commission for it,” Ambroise enthuses. “And they are not afraid because we tend to deliver quality products. Even if you get commissions, it’s quite hard to recommend a product you don’t believe in. If it is a good product, the commission becomes just a bonus.”
To Ambroise, quality means listening to customers and giving them products suited to their needs. The way he ensures this is by putting the engineers who design products in front of their customers.
He says: “We do not detach engineers from customers. We don’t hire pure project managers to understand product requirements and then relay them to design teams. That’s not how we operate. Our engineers need to completely understand what’s going on in their customers’ heads, and that’s why they interact with them at least twice every week. User experience is one of Mazecare’s biggest advantages.”
Ambroise says that Mazecare’s model of serving clients gives them a competitive advantage because it allows them to customize products and user interfaces to a higher degree than most of his competitors. A lot of the customization is on the front end and not on the back end as is the case with many other implementations by other vendors, according to him. He explains: “As we use clean codes, our backend APIs don’t really have to change, we can just lift and shift them to different infrastructures and to suit different applications. It’s mostly the user interface that needs to be adapted. And that’s what the end-user sees and cares about.”
This also allows Mazecare to offer solutions at highly cost-competitive rates. “Our main value proposition is to destroy the cost of operations on the medical and health insurance side, which is good for everybody. When insurance costs go down, it eventually contributes to lower medical costs to the patient also.”
Old school thinking
One frustration for Ambroise however is that the health and insurance industries are not the most progressive in adopting new technologies. Ambroise attributes this to culture and mindsets. “There’s never any problem with implementation or justification for a solution,” he says. “A lot of doctors, especially the older generation are comfortable doing things the way they have always been doing. You’ll be surprised to hear that many are still using pen and paper for medical records. How then are patients going to get accurate, up-to-date medical reports on-demand?”
Another resistance that Ambroise often faces is from IT departments. “IT can be unwilling to change because they see adopting new technologies in which they are not trained for, as a threat to their jobs. Often the users themselves are willing to adopt a new solution because they see the benefits of the new features we can give them, that improve their operational efficiencies. It takes a progressive CTO or CIO to move things.”
When it comes to third party administrators (TPAs) — companies that provide services such as claims processing or employee benefits management — he reveals that practices are very ‘archaic’, with some still using Excel spreadsheets. Ambroise believes that Mazecare could have a transformative impact on these companies: “We have a lot of experience in these areas — we can build products to help TPAs issue policies very easily or do claims. Doing claim education is very hard. And we managed to do it automatically, algorithmically, based on the product builder. There’s not a lot of people who can do this. It’s very rare.”
Attitudes towards the cloud
Ambroise also cites resistance to adopting the cloud as another challenge. “There’s a big problem in many industries, and especially in the insurance and medical sectors, where they think that the cloud is less secure, whereas it is much more secure,” Ambroise explains.
He adds: “They think, because they have their own private infrastructure, that what they have is isolated. But it’s not. It’s possible for anyone within the internal network — employees, consultants etc. to affect security. Your website and email systems are also not isolated and potential vulnerability points.
“On the other hand, the cloud has much better built-in application and network security, database encryption and auto-evaluation of potential security issues — if a potential security issue arises, you would be notified immediately. But if you are on your own, you might not even know that you are being hacked and then you might not have the best resources to quickly mitigate it. Cloud service providers also have the best engineers in the world, with the best security practices. The service level agreements from many of the cloud service providers also assures better security and a much higher level of availability.”
Ambroise also touches on other advantages of moving to the cloud: “Cloud service providers like Alibaba Cloud offer autoscaling, where based on demand, you can scale up or down your utilization of the machines and get charged according to that. For these reasons, the cloud is winning practically everywhere.”
Ambroise considers himself to be somewhat cloud-agnostic. This has definite advantages for business, he says: “It could be any cloud. We work with all major vendors, and it could be private cloud as well. Many institutions prefer to have the databases, as well as the processing and the servers on their end, and ask us to deploy within their infrastructure. Many of our competitors cannot do this.”
Like any good CEO, Ambroise understands the value of recruiting capable talent. In fact, it is what has allowed him to expand his business without being bogged down by micromanaging staff.
“We hire people who are very self-disciplined and self-managed. We want them to tell us what the right thing to do is, not the other way round.
Recently however, he has been bogged down with recruiting people. “For an entire week all I did was to interview people, literally 10 a day for an entire week. And I could not code at all.”
Ambroise has absolutely no problems with demoting himself as well. “You know I’d really like to hire a CEO, so that I can go back to a CTO role,” he muses.