Interview: Ieva Soblickaite, MEDIGO

Ieva Soblickaite believes everyone should have access to healthcare on their terms, even if it means travelling to another country. Here, she discusses how MEDIGO is seeking to make healthcare more transparent and empower patients to take charge of their healthcare decisions

What’s your background in the industry?
I am from Lithuania where I completed high school and my Bachelor studies in Economics. I then completed a Marketing and CEMS International Management Master’s degree at ESADE Business School, Barcelona, and HEC Paris.
I started my career at Vistaprint’s European headquarters in Barcelona, the largest online printing company in the world, where I specialised in optimising the online user experience. This field of business, otherwise known as product management, has since become my area of expertise, passion and day-to-day activity.
After Vistaprint, I moved to Berlin, Germany, to try working at a startup. I worked at a company called Wimdu, a well-known European competitor to Airbnb, funded by Rocket Internet. I gained a lot of knowledge and experience at Wimdu and met Ugur Samut, who would later become co-founder and CEO of MEDIGO.  

What led you to co-found MEDIGO; can you provide some context?
When I moved to Berlin, I met Christophe Maire, one of the most famous angel investors in the city. This acquaintance would later lead us to work together on MEDIGO, with Christophe being the main seed investor. Christophe introduced me to Pawel Cebula, who is the third co-founder of MEDIGO.

Pawel came up with the idea behind the company. During a trip to China, he had a toothache and needed a root canal. Unfortunately, he couldn’t find a doctor that could speak English. Through the experience, he saw a gap in the industry and shared the idea with myself and Ugur.
I liked the idea immediately. Being from Lithuania, I knew about people from the UK and Scandinavia travelling to Lithuania for dental treatments. The fact that there wasn’t a modern global platform out there to find the information needed about clinics and hospitals abroad and to efficiently book a treatment with them was a clear indication of a market opportunity. Ugur and I already had experience building international marketplaces and I was excited to give the idea a go and build something from scratch. Having my own company had also been my goal since I was in secondary school.

Can you discuss the aspects of your role you enjoy most and why?
At MEDIGO I am both a chief product officer (CPO) and co-founder and I find both roles equally exciting and interesting.
As a CPO, I define the strategy of our online presence and user flow, and work with my product team to implement it, along with IT and in collaboration with other departments. It is work that requires creative thinking, business acumen, technical understanding, communication and project management skills. There are loads of best practices and tools that product managers use and you also have to be ahead of the curve of the latest innovation and tech developments. I am great at multitasking, so this role is perfect for me.
As a co-founder, I define the overall company strategy and its implementation together with the other two co-founders. We have quarterly board meetings with our investors where we catch up on the company development and discuss the way forward. Team management is also a crucial task as a co-founder. Creating an environment where every employee can best use their skills and contribute to the success of the company is an ongoing challenge I enjoy solving.  

What do you find most interesting about medical travel?
Because product management involves a lot of user psychology, I like to analyse the motivations behind why people decide to travel abroad for medical treatment. These include the nature of national healthcare systems, the cost and quality of medical services in each country, the travelling habits of the users, and changing policies, amongst other factors.
I like to stay on top of global policy developments, for example, the American Health Care Act (Trumpcare) in the US and Brexit’s effect on the medical coverage as they impact the medical tourism directly.

I like to analyse the motivations behind why people decide to travel abroad for medical treatment. These include the nature of national healthcare systems, the cost and quality of medical services in each country, the travelling habits of the users, and changing policies

What motivates and inspires you in your day-to-day work?
I find it extremely rewarding when I see people coming to work motivated and see them happy working at MEDIGO. Positive customer reviews are also inspiring, as is reaching a milestone.  

Outside of work, what are your main interests?
I sing jazz, travel a lot and like to cook. I also read professional articles and go to startup meetups from time to time. I am interested in new startup ideas and constantly think of what else I would like to do in addition to my role at MEDIGO.

In your own words, why is MEDIGO’s work so important?
We believe that everyone should have access to healthcare on their terms, even if it means they have to travel to another country. At MEDIGO, we want to provide patients with tools to take charge of their healthcare decisions. This means that sometimes we have to push hospitals and clinics to provide information they are not used to sharing, such as information about pricing or their quality standards.
Healthcare is still a rather non-transparent and ambiguous industry. As Dr Marty Makary, one of our advisors and surgeon at Johns Hopkins hospital, put it, sometimes patients know more about buying a refrigerator than about going for a life-changing surgery. We are trying to change that, at least the areas we can influence within our business.

What is your proudest career moment to date?
Securing funding for MEDIGO from Accel – one of the top venture capital funds in the world.

On both a personal and professional level, what are some of your key goals for the next five to 10 years?
As a founder, my personal and professional goals are one and the same: I would like to see MEDIGO expand and cover new markets and procedures and incorporate technologies like machine learning, AI or even more striking ones that will surely be invented soon into our user flow.

If you could have dinner with anyone from history, who would it be?
It’s a very tough question, but if I would have to choose only one person, it would be Martin Luther King Jr. I think we could use some of his wisdom and incredible motivational power in certain current events.