Catching up with Rob Julian of Digibete

Co-founder of Digibete, Rob Julian is no stranger to growing a business. With an already successful video production company under his belt, Digibete has been more of an unexpected business.

Teaming up with his partner, Maddie, they have created a new invaluable resource for people diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and their carers.

We sat down with Rob to find out more about where Digibete was heading, especially now that they are on our own accelerator programme, Elmwood LaunchPod.

Rob, tell us, what does Digibete do and how does it help health consumers?

We are an online platform producing video resources to help the Type One Diabetes community, specifically children, their families, extended families, carers, teachers etc; anyone who’s in touch with that child. And basically, we make resources to make it easier for them to manage.

It’s available online, offline, on mobiles, tablets; anywhere you want to be, everywhere you are, it’s there for you. And it’s got all the resources you need to help, as well as for your family, extended family, carers, teachers; everything you need, whoever you are. It’s a nurse in your pocket if you like.

Why did you apply for Elmwood LaunchPod and what do you hope to get from the accelerator programme?

This is specifically a health-related accelerator so it’s getting us really focused-in on the nuts and bolts of what we’re doing.

I think we’re at a moment in our business development where we’re quite young in our business, we’ve got quite a lot of ambition, but we want to get it right. There are quite a few elements that we’re working on at the moment and we’re trying to figure it all out.

What has been your biggest worry in business?

We’re a community-interest company at the moment. We have a commercial plan and we’re here to learn about the different ways we can get the business model right and make it sustainable.

Why did you start your business?

It came out of a need, really. Our son was diagnosed with Type One Diabetes when he was 20 months old, and that was really hard and tricky; we didn’t really know anything about it at the time. Running alongside that we have – a video production company.

To cut a long story short, we thought: “Why don’t we just make some essential guides?” Because there was nothing that we could relate to and use when we were in the hospital. I’m much more visual. So we thought we’d create some videos and guides that would really help.

We approached our clinic and they said it was a great idea. It’s a fantastic project and is developing all the time.

What has been the most difficult part of growing your business so far?

There are lots of subtleties and language really matters in our community so we’ve worked really hard to connect with all aspects of our audiences.

Getting that message right for both families and healthcare professionals hasn’t been easy. We’ve been going all around the country speaking to different networks and presenting. I think our clinical partnerships have really helped us to build trust.  It’s hard when you’re first diagnosed because you don’t know where to go to refresh your learning. Basically, we’re shortcutting that for people, because everything we do goes through the clinic.

How does your business help people?

It’s available online, offline, on mobiles, tablets; anywhere you want to be. Everywhere you are, it’s there for you. And it’s got all the resources you need to help, as well as for your family, extended family, carers, teachers; everything you need, whoever you are. It’s a nurse in your pocket if you like.

How do you think Elmwood can help your business?

Elmwood, with this LaunchPod, is going to help us focus on the nuts and bolts and help future-proof our model ensuring we stay ahead. It’s great just to meet other health tech businesses, see where they’re at and how they’ve tackled their issues and their hurdles.

Who is your business icon?

I admire the people who just get out there and do it themselves. When you walk into Elmwood, the first thing you see is Jerry Garcia from the Grateful Dead, and Jerry said an amazing quote – which was something like “It’s not about doing something well, it’s about being the only people doing it.” So for me, it’s not about doing the same things everyone else is doing better, it’s about doing something new and extraordinary. 

How do you cope with the stress of running a business?

We are now getting requests from all over the country. People saying “this would be good, have you thought about this”, and so on. The stress is more about whether we’ve got enough people to do these tasks, or are we going to be able to deliver it in a reasonable time. We’re at the stage now where we are ready to grow. The workload is big, we’re inundated with trying to service all that. We love it though, it’s part of our DNA. But making sure we can keep everyone happy is the hard part.

What advice would you give to others starting up in business?

Believe in it. If there’s something that you’re passionate about and that there’s a need for, go for it.

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