Kickstarting My Entrepreneurial Journey at HBS

Startup Bootcamp is one of the most sought-after Short Intensive Programs at HBS. Eni Dervishi shares her experience.

Eni Dervishi, Contributor

Tell us more about your background and what inspired you to participate in Startup Bootcamp.  

Before HBS, I worked in a venture capital fund called Alter Global that invests in startups across emerging markets, from South and Southeast Asia to East Africa, South Africa,  MENA and Latin America. At Alter,  I worked closely with our portfolio founders to help scale their ventures.  Being surrounded by all these talented and successful entrepreneurs, I could not help but become interested in entrepreneurship. I came to HBS with the goal of starting a startup during the two school years, so Startup Bootcamp was a program I definitely wanted to be a part of. 

What is the problem that you are trying to solve?

I am trying to increase access to high quality healthcare and in particular diagnostics and second opinions to patients in emerging markets. 

What is your solution?

My teammates and I are building a telehealth cross-border platform to connect patients with top vetted doctors abroad, so they do not need to travel for hours and days in order to seek a second opinion for their diagnosis. 

What was the inspiration behind your idea?

I grew up in a small town in Albania, where in order to see the best specialists you would need to wait for weeks and sometimes months and on top of that you would need to travel for three hours to get to the capital. Moreover, some of the best doctors who are trained in the country move abroad, leading to a shortage of specialists and thus less options for high quality care in the country. I was pre-med in college and did a minor in Global Health studies alongside with taking many courses in development economics, where it became very clear to me the huge gap of resources that exists based on which part of the world you live in. Being so privileged to be at HBS, I feel that there is a real opportunity to help narrow that gap in healthcare, especially in a time when our world has become so technologically connected.

Who is the team behind your startup?

There were four of us participating in Startup Bootcamp and now three of the initial team members will be taking this project forward. My two other teammates are Somani Patnaik and Maggie Murphy. Patnaik was born in India and worked as an engineer at Oracle and later on as a manager for Alexa at Amazon. Murphy was a product manager for a telehealth platform in Texas and before that, she worked in healthcare consulting projects at PwC. As part of Startup Bootcamp, we also had Nikki Philip join us, who brought global health experience, having worked at a community clinic in Kenya, at Partners in Health as well as most recently at the NFL. 

Describe your experience during startup bootcamp. What surprised you? What did you enjoy most? What was the most challenging?

Startup Bootcamp was a strong propeller for our idea, as it gave us a structured and safe environment to test out our assumptions and build our initial business plan. We had incredible mentorship from Martin Sinozich and Christina Wallace, the two bootcamp leaders, throughout the program. Additionally, we had a dedicated advisor as well as other advisors along the way with experience in the industry who helped us better refine and test our idea. I really enjoyed having the time to work with my team. We all got along very well and are very passionate about the problem we are trying to solve. 

The most challenging part was getting to speak to customers on the other side of the world as well as to diaspora doctors in the span of two weeks. Our HBS classmates were incredibly helpful in connecting us to people from their home countries. I was so positively surprised by the power of the HBS network and the helpfulness and support of our classmates. Beyond that, we had to be very scrappy and send a ton of cold emails and LinkedIn messages to reach our potential customers and doctors. Ultimately, we managed to have 20 customer and doctor interviews in a matter of two weeks. The program culminated with a pitch to a panel of judges, who gave us really helpful feedback and we are lucky to count some of them as our mentors going forward. 

What’s next?

We will be participating in the New Venture Competition and some of us will apply to the Rock Summer Fellows to work on the idea full-time over the summer. We are also getting ready to apply for a couple of grants so that we can start a beta test. 

Eni Dervishi is a first year HBS student and a proud member of Section H. She grew up in Albania and initially came to the US to study Economics and Global Health with a citation in French at Harvard College. Eni has experience in healthcare and economic consulting at Analysis Group as well as in venture capital at Alter Global. She also interned at the European Parliament and the Albanian Ministry of Tourism and Urban Development. Eni is very passionate about entrepreneurship, healthcare, emerging markets as well as innovation that spans the public and private sectors.