Mark Larkin, Enterprising Oxford Entrepreneur Uncovered
Dr Mark Larkin is the Founder and CEO of Vitaccess, a digital health and strategic consultancy start-up based in Oxford. Our experience in Health Economics and Outcomes Research (HEOR) and Market Access makes us a trusted partner to the pharmaceutical industry. We understand the complexities of governance – including GDPR - and have applied these high standards to the creation of our digital platform, MyRealWorld™, which captures real-world evidence in real-time. Our clients range from global pharmaceutical companies to biotechs, but we also follow a philanthropic business model to work in partnership with patient charities. We have, for example, formed a clinical collaboration with the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust.
Vitaccess qualifies as an SME and we’ve grown from just me to 10 employees within a year! We are profitable and self-funded.
What is your background? What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?
I have nearly 20 years of experience in healthcare consulting and finance. I became an entrepreneur as I thought there was an incredible opportunity to combine consulting and digital research, making use of digital technology and working with patients and patient charities in a democratic way:
What is your definition of entrepreneurship?
Building a business that we are all proud of, a varied team of people who like and respect each other and who work in an honest and open way without pretense. If we can do all that, the details will look after themselves.
How and when did you know your idea was good enough to develop it?
When we started getting fantastic feedback from the different stakeholders in our projects: patients, who use our apps; patient charities, who support (and are supported by) the projects; clinicians who understand the value of data; and industry, who commission projects and use them commercially.
What would you say are the top 3 skills that needed to be a successful entrepreneur? Why?
1. Strength of convictions
2. Sharing your vision
Company development is strewn with ups and downs, so
(1-Strength of convictions) is needed to make each “down” just a precursor to the next “up”.
(2-Sharing your vision): There are no successful one-person companies. Success is built by teams, so building a successful team means sharing your vision and getting team mates on-board.
(3-Multi-tasking): “It is what it is”… I don’t’ agree. It’s what each of us make of it, and that includes all of us being ready to do anything.
What is your favourite part of being an entrepreneur?
Working with people I like, doing something which is cool…which shows that work CAN and SHOULD be fun.
What individual, company or organization inspires you most? Why?
Benoît de Nursie. 5th century Italian Benedictine monk, who developed (from scratch and on his own) what could be considered the first set of management rules, mostly still applicable 1,500 years later. This shows what can be achieved with curiosity, creativity and integrity.
If you had 5 minutes with the above indiv/company/org, what would you want to ask or discuss?
It would be fascinating to discuss how his principles are still being applied today: many situations are different, but underlying human behavior is unchanged.
What would you say have been some of your mistakes, failures or lessons learned as an entrepreneur?
Key lesson is be ready to change tack…and quickly. An initial plan is unlikely to be completely right, so responding quickly to new information or feedback is vital.
How have you funded your ideas?
Are there any sector-specific awards/grants/competitions that have helped you?
We are in the final shortlist of two companies for the Oxford Business Awards: the CIS Technology Excellent Award.
What is good about being an entrepreneur in Oxfordshire? Bad?
Being based in the center of Oxford is ideal for us. The creative buzz of the city and the access to university hospitals and other businesses is a great asset for the development of the company. It is also an easy-to-get-to destination for our potential clients and the team loves working there. Clients love coming to Oxford too – more fun than staying in faceless chain hotels…
If a new entrepreneur or startup came to you looking for entrepreneurship resources, where would you send them? (Anything Oxfordshire especially!)
OCFI would be the first place to start. When I first started, and when our director of technology joined, we were working in the POD before taking office space when we grew. The support for start-ups is second to none.
Any last words of advice?
Believe and be curious!