The Birmingham-based social network is a LinkedIn for medical students and doctors. Co-founder Jeremy Walker tells us about his plans to create a ‘global network’
Social media networks are one of the big business stories of the century so far. Potentially worth billions, finding a winner is an investor’s dream. But for every success story, there are many, many failures. Getting a network off the ground, building awareness and developing the traction to make it work is a tall order. Until there is a critical mass of users, people are reluctant to join, but for the site to work it needs people need to use it. For tech entrepreneurs, it’s a double bind.
Birmingham-based Meducation appears to be one of the handful that have managed to fight its way off the ground. The site emerged in 2008, when medical student Alastair Buick created some medical videos and was frustrated there wasn’t a suitable venue to publish them. He turned to friend Jeremy Walker, a computer consultant, with whom he had been friends with since their school days at King Edward’s, Edgbaston. Walker built him a site, Meducation was born, and the pair haven’t look back since. “It’s a social network for medical students. A place where you can get easy access to knowledge and resources and learn together,” says Walker.
Today, Meducation is a growing social media network with well over 30,000 users and a similar number of podcasts, videos, presentations and postings. Much of the site’s content is user-generated and Walker says it’s been successful in aiding collaboration, idea swapping ideas. He also believes the social benefits of this are huge and have tremendous implications for the UK and much further afield. Meducation currently has over 30,000 members and plans to expand. “You have all of these doctors with similar training, but they don’t talk to each other except at conferences. This is problem we are trying to solve, we are kind of a LinkedIn for medics,” says Walker.
The site has done well around UK universities and purports to have reached around 33 per cent of UK medical students so far. The site has been generally well-received, although getting enough traction was hard. “Gaining awareness was a challenge. A lot of the universities have supported us from day one and we have 88 university reps who work for free and these were crucial to our success. It’s a chicken and egg scenario, you have to have both users and content to make it work.”
The site makes money through advertising, affiliates deals and by selling premium subscriptions, which enable students to access content created by senior doctors. Medical publishers are clients and students can buy their work via the site. Meducation also helps students to study and prepare for finals with mock exams. Walker says the model is working and now the business has embarked on a period of expansion. It has moved from its office in the Birmingham Science Park to larger and cheaper premises in the Jewellery Quarter. Hiring is underway and the business will go from having five staff to over a dozen by the end of the year.
Walker says Meducation is aiming to be a network for all medics, currently the site is focused on students. However, he wants more senior doctors to be involved and to retain graduate students after they begin work. “At the moment we are quite focused on medical students in the UK but are looking to go beyond that,” he says.
The site also has international expansion in mind and for Walker this is key. He wants Meducation to play a role in the fight against disease in developing countries. “One of the most important things to us is that we are social entrepreneurs. We want to use the knowledge we have in the developed world to give something back. Countries can learn from each other, this is an important part of our work.”
Finally, at the time of writing a seed funding round was underway and nearing completion which will set the company up nicely for the next few years. Walker sees the chance to create a global network and is going for it. “There are 60 million medics in the world and we want to bring in about two million of them in the next five years. We want to work with all the world’s major publishers and universities to create a truly global presence.”