Serial Tech Entrepreneur Launches Ponea Health; An Asset-Light Integrated Health Marketplace

In this exclusive interview, Michael Macharia presents and shares latest the news about Ponea Health, the new innovative corporate health management platform made in Kenya. Ponea provides an online healthcare marketplace that offers convenience, discretion and lower cost of healthcare to africans living in urban areas.

Interview with Michael Macharia, Founder and Chief Visionary Officer at Ponea Health

Michael Macharia, Founder and Chief Visionary Officer at Ponea Health

What is the background of Ponea Health?

Ponea Health’s journey started about a year before the pandemic broke out when we realized there was a need to democratize healthcare in some of the emerging markets. We found that with the advent of things like fintech that were slowly becoming successful in Africa, and the issue of supply chains through digital marketplaces, we could see goods were being delivered using technology, and the Internet was becoming something that anyone with smartphones could use. We then figured out that having been in healthcare infrastructure in my other business, we could build healthcare by automat. Not by building large public sector hospitals, but rather, we could build it by putting the customer at the center of the whole ecosystem, so they get the best value for their money.

We realized that convenience was becoming a big issue. Telemedicine meant people did not have to wait for hours in hospital queues to see service providers. We then worked on building technology using the existing ecosystems, whether it was fintech or other commodities, to drive a unique value proposition for the patient. We are looking at middle, upper and lower-middle class people who value convenience and efficiency. We also realized there is entrepreneurship in the medical sector in which both younger and older doctors want to set up in their own practices. There are lab technicians who want to set up their own labs, and the same with radiologists. They and businessmen all saw that they could build outpatient centers in suburbs and similarly with pharmacies in neighborhoods. But everyone was doing it on a piecemeal basis, or one sector approach, and in larger markets that is okay, like in New York, London or Miami.

Then you have to look at who pays for healthcare. A significant number of people who pay for healthcare in emerging markets pay out of pocket. Insurance is less than 10%. Some government insurance tools do not work, or the competition model does not align well with the providers. The reality is that out-of-pocket cash payments remain the mainstream way that most people pay for healthcare. Putting all of that together, whether you are in Accra, in Ghana, and your mum is somewhere up country, ultimately you will have to find a way for the infusion of services to her and who is going to pay for it. And at the same time, you want to be sure that the provider who is going to deliver that healthcare is competent and qualified.

For us, that reasoning has rated very well with what I wanted to do with the next phase of my career which was moving away from public sector transformation, which I found extremely challenging because there are so many gatekeepers. The question was how do we build a mega platform that encompasses all of this? When you look at it, it looks extremely grand and very challenging to execute, but my experience in the last 20 to 25 years having built mega systems for big corporates and big telcos in Africa, enabled me to build a platform that incorporates these things. A platform that we own, we build the IP, and we globalize it and look for markets where we can scale and grow the business. You also need to know how to build networks to develop the next healthcare unicorn. And that is where our story started. We identified the building blocks, and the partners needed, and that was the challenge.

How did you raise your start-up capital?

First, we had to determine what market could support our platform. We studied which countries had been able to embrace tech and healthcare, and where we could underwrite our IP. We also looked into which markets would allow us to grow into other markets like Latin America, or Asia, or Africa. We eventually settled on the Netherlands. They have a very strong IP registration platform, or what is called an IP hub. We then identified Kenya as one of the markets that could be our starting point. Then we looked for partners in Holland and set up our business operations there. It shows you the power of integration and the power of the Internet. Our research, business analysis, and market validation were done pre-pandemic by doing some workflows to understand how people make payments, who would be partners, talking to doctors, talking to hospital owners, talking to labs, pharmacies, insurance companies, and all the ecosystem players you can imagine. Then the pandemic came, and everything came to a standstill. But during COVID we were able to put together a good introduction and information memorandum for investors. I then got together with my Co-Founder Akshay Shah and two others with backgrounds in tax structures, and we went out to market with our idea and our experience to find investors. We all put money in, as did our Dutch partners, and combined with other investors we eventually raised $4.3 million in capital. That took the last two years and in the next phase, we are hoping to raise $6 to $7 million. We have built the tech and have integrated with PayPal and all the other banks we need to integrate with, we have more than 600 providers in our network, and we are serving 17,000 patients on our platform. We have over 100 staff across different markets including Kenya, Egypt, Romania, India, and Portugal, as well as independent consultants. We now have close to 40 investors and with the money raised, we have built a corporate health management platform that supports many different apps. Where we had to collaborate, we collaborated and where we had to build, we built. We are making about $100,000 every month and we have not yet launched the business. The complexity of what we have built coupled with the knowledge our team has, enables us to call ourselves a mature start-up.

What is Ponea Health’s competitive advantage?

The value that Ponea brings to the table is around simplifying the system. We enable providers to become successful by offering them customer interface platforms that they can use to bring value and customers to them. Customers want service delivered to them and, when they go to a hospital, they want to be treated like in a hotel. In this sense, healthcare is not unlike the hospitality industry in that patients want better service. They want premium service without having to overpay for it. So, we have brought a level of transparency in our service providers. Regardless of the service costing $10 or $25, it does not mean that the $10 service is inferior. The outcome has to be the same. The $25 service may be complemented by a medical operator who has maybe billed infrastructure, whether it is for parking or Internet hotspots in the hospital. But maybe the patient does not need all that. It is like flying from Dubai to London. Some people fly first class and others economy, but they all land at the same time. Healthcare can also be looked at from that point of view. In our marketplace, you as a customer can make a decision based on price, based on quality levels of the provider, or ISO certification. Whatever interaction you have with a provider, that information remains with you as a patient. It means when you go to the provider, you do not have to start again from scratch because you already have the information. Because your provider of choice might be A today, but tomorrow it can be B or C. Our biggest competitive advantage is enabling providers to have visibility on our platform, simplifying their customer interaction ecosystem because we own it, and giving the customer control to decide where they want to go based on price, the financing model they use to pay, location, service and the convenience level they want as a patient.

What we have done very differently from other companies is we have built this as an enterprise system that is a very simplified frontend platform. At the core of our platform is significant complexity, but at the front is a lot of simplicity. Simplified healthcare with a very complex backend integration. If you brought big players to do this for you, they would charge $50 million to build this out for you. What matters to us is we can take our platform from the Netherlands and deploy it anywhere in the world.

What about patient confidentiality, how secure is your patients’ information online?

When you build systems of this nature, the first thing you have to do is build out microservices. They are databases where information repositories sit across the whole ecosystem. The first one we built was the patient microservice. It reads from other systems where a doctor is connected to a patient, or a patient themself adds information to the platform, or a lab sends imaging information to them, or a pharmacist delivers medical prescriptions from a doctor. We are also very deliberate in ensuring that our cloud platforms, where we host our platforms around the world, only have providers who are HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) compliant in terms of offering medical grade beta platforms. And because of data privacy and GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) rules, we have also been able to replicate all the data at each country level, allowing each country to have its own patient information and giving each customer the right to be able to migrate that information to wherever they choose. For example, if you are moving from London to Kenya, you can move your records appropriately because you control them and where they sit. When you register in a country, we then understand what rules apply in that country, but patients need to understand that they cannot be reckless with the information. It is not like typical social media apps that keep you logged in indefinitely. When you log in to this app, it is like a bank account, you have to start the process of facial recognition, authentication of the device you have registered and passcode. That is the way we have built the platform. As a patient, you can decide where to push the information. If you do not want to give your doctor your entire medical history, you can decide how much of it you give them. When labs connect to us, we give them a lab interface platform so they can send information directly, either digitally or by uploading it, to the backend systems of hospitals, doctors, or pharmacies. Our medical operations center monitors a customer concierge between doctors, pharmacies and patients.

What is Ponea’s vision in the next three to five years?

Our dream is to make it easy to be healthy. People do not always stay healthy in some emerging markets because it is difficult to get healthcare, or it is complicated, or cumbersome, or it is expensive. Our mission is we make it easy to be healthy. We are your medical healthcare companion. Just like Uber makes it easy to get cars, we want to make it easy for you to stay healthy. We will do that by building an asset light, scalable health marketplace. That means we will never compete with our providers, we will not try to build a hospital, we will never try to be able to employ doctors and will always ensure our ecosystem is clinically vetted. Our products are professional, and we will always provide transparent and efficient care access at home, work or in a provider’s facility. One of the things we like to say is finding the right care at the right time in some markets is like looking for a needle in a haystack. We are not a haystack!

ABOUT PONEA HEALTH: Ponea provides an online healthcare marketplace that offers convenience, discretion and lower cost of healthcare to africans living in urban areas. Ponea targets to consolidate 70% of private healthcare providers online to provide greater choice and access for patients, and more cost-efficient operations for providers from the marketplace enablers. Ponea enables expansion of private healthcare through enhanced distribution of medical services thus creating jobs and driving full employment of the scarce medical providers.





Corporate Headquarters:

Johan de Wittlaan 7
2517 JR The Hague
The Netherlands

Operational Countries:
Delta Riverside Office Park Block 1,
Riverside Drive. P.O. Box 2795-00606
Sarit Centre, Nairobi Kenya


Complete YouTube playlist

Serial Tech Entrepreneur Launches Ponea Health; An Asset-Light Integrated Health Marketplace
Ponea Health: The Global Marketplace Connecting Patients, Healthcare Professionals and Partners
Ponea Health: Consolidating the Entire Global Health Ecosystem Into One Easy to Use Platform
Investment Opportunity in the African Healthcare Sector: Sven Hermans Presents Ponea’s Marketplace

The Ponea Vision
Value Proposition | The User Journey
Ponea Foundation | Making an Impact
Who is Ponea Health? | One Stop Healthcare Platform
Ponea Patient App | Explore Best Healthcare Experiences
Ponea Doctor App | Explore Best Healthcare Experiences
Ponea: The Online Marketplace that Offers Convenience, Discretion and Lower Cost of Healthcare
Healthcare Made Easy: Michael Macharia Explains the Birth of the Ponea Health Concept
Ponea Health: Helping Patients Become More Proactive and Preventive with their Healthcare
Ponea Health: Providing Universal, Transparent and Convenient Access to Healthcare
Health Sector: Invest in Ponea to Transform the Healthcare System Globally
Ponea Health is Looking for Investors to Improve Access to Healthcare for Underserved Populations


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