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Martin Lindman is the co-founder of Doktor and has undertaken an exciting journey of jumping into different industries to apply his skills, competitive spirit, and eagerness to take on a challenge. Doktor has recently raised close to $100M from top-tier investors like Bonnier Ventures, Carnegie, Handelsbanken, and Webrock Ventures.

In this episode you will learn:

  • How Doktor raised almost $100M without VC money
  • The impact of COVID on the digitization of healthcare
  • Martin’s top advice for his younger entrepreneurial self

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About Martin Lindman:

Martin Lindman is the founder and CEO of the hugely successful healthcare platform Doktor.se – the third-largest digital healthcare provider in Europe and the fastest growing app.

He has a successful background as a sports player in the Swedish national ice hockey team, a finance role in banking, and over ten years as founder and CEO of five private primary care clinics in Sweden.

Doktorse Nordic AB currently manages both physical and digital care facilities. About 700 people work for Doktor.se.

Our digital and physical healthcare centres employ nurses, specialist nurses, general practitioners, specialist doctors, psychologists, counsellors, physiotherapists, dieticians and rehabilitation coordinators.

The company has operations in Stockholm, Uppsala, Sörmland, Skåne, Västernorrland and Västa Götaland.

Connect with Martin Lindman:

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FULL TRANSCRIPTION OF THE INTERVIEW:

Alejandro: Alrighty. Hello everyone, and welcome to the DealMakers show. Today we have a great guest. I think that on the episode we’re having today, we’re going to be learning a lot about jumping from one thing to another and developing an expertise, a skillset, a desire and interest, and taking it to the next level in different ways and different flavors. So without further ado, let’s welcome our guest today. Martin Lindman, welcome to the show.

Martin Lindman: Thank you so much. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Alejandro: So born in Sweden, right outside of Stockholm. How was life growing up there?

Martin Lindman: I think it was good. Sweden is a great country to grow up in, and there are great opportunities to do. I spent most of my time as a young person and individual doing sports, basically. That was my whole childhood.

Alejandro: And this was tennis and hockey, so how did you get so competitive so early on?

Martin Lindman: I don’t know. It was very early on. I started ice skating when I was three years old, which even in Sweden is fairly young. Then I started tennis when I was six years old. I did multiple sports, and it was natural to me, and that’s what I wanted to do. I was very competitive very early on.

Alejandro: So, in this case, you continued, and you really took it seriously. In fact, you went to university, and you were still playing hockey and ended up becoming a professional hockey player. So, tell us about this.

Martin Lindman: Yeah. That’s true. I did play all the way up. I played tennis on a serious level as a junior. In Sweden, I was among the lead as a junior, but hockey was always the sport where I felt like I could really compete and where I felt was my strong suit. But it didn’t really take off, so I thought I always wanted to study, so I went to Uppsala University. Right around my university study, I became a professional. I turned pro. I was 20 when I turned professional, and my first year, I was 21. I got a contract playing in the German Professional League. Then the hockey after that just took off, and I had 12 amazing years playing outside Sweden and played in the League for Sweden for quite a few years. I also got the privilege to play for the Swedish National Team for two years and, all-in-all, a fairly decent ice hockey career.

Alejandro: Here, you definitely took your competitive spirit to the next level. I’m wondering how that competitive spirit also has shaped you as an entrepreneur too?

Martin Lindman: I think it’s my core. It’s the essence of me. A lot of people talk about being competitive. Competitive, to me, doesn’t mean I get really mad when I’m losing. That’s not the essence of what I see being a competitor. For me, it’s all about the ambition of striving further. I can understand I’m taking a loss or things aren’t going my way, and it’s all about understanding that I don’t want to sit still. I keep wanting to move on; I keep wanting to build. I want to challenge myself; I want to challenge my surroundings. I want the surroundings to really dig down and challenge me and taking the opportunities that are out there. That’s what I feel is being competitive. I think that’s my core.

Alejandro: In your case, the hockey journey definitely was very extensive. We’re talking about 12 years going back and forth from Germany to Sweden, and Sweden back to Germany, and then, obviously, Germany back to Sweden. Then after the 12 years, you find yourself – hockey’s over, so what’s next? How did you go through that transition to really identify what kind of life you wanted to carve out for yourself?

Martin Lindman: It wasn’t that the hockey just abruptly came to a halt, or I ended my career. It was more in the sense that I felt like I came to the end of how I could challenge myself. I knew I was too old to progress to playing in the NHL, the National Hockey League. I played in Italy; I played in Europe; I played on the national team. I felt that I needed to do something else. I was only 32 years old at the time. There were no injuries. I could keep playing, but I felt like I wanted to come back to school; I wanted to educate myself; I wanted to do something else. Then, I played in Sweden for the team here in Stockholm called Djurgårdens. I got the opportunity to study at Stockholm Business School. I did that for a while, and then from there, I got the opportunity right off to start working for a bank here in Stockholm. I thought that was interesting due to the fact that I wanted to understand the financial aspects; I wanted to understand the banking industry. But I only stayed there for a year because I felt like I wanted to do something myself. I still had that drive. It wasn’t so much that I wanted to go into employment. I kept wanting to push myself. Then, after only a year, I had the opportunity together with my dad. Once they changed the system of Swedish healthcare, and for the first time in Sweden, there was the ability to launch private care units like clinics. My dad and I set that up, and we started working on it. He has a long history within Swedish healthcare, so for him, it was very natural. For me, it was more of a challenge to set up the infrastructure around that company and try, together with him, to scale it. We did that for a couple of years together. Then, my dad retired. He’s older and wanted to slow down. I kept doing it. It turned out that I scaled up to five clinics around Sweden and got a fairly good idea of how we are executing and driving primary care. In the beginning, I had no experience. I was brought up in a family with a long history of Swedish healthcare, but for me, as an individual, it was all about the learning experience in the beginning, and it was exciting. It was exciting to begin to feel that I was a little bit out of place. I needed to be humble to understand that with people that have obviously been in this environment and working in this industry for their entire lives, are educated, smart people, I found myself in the opportunity to scale a company. We did a couple of good things; we did a couple of bad things, but all over, we learned a lot about how healthcare is run and how people are consuming healthcare.

Alejandro: In this case, how did you guys go about it because you went from one to five, and I assume that there was a lot of cost involved. How did you guys capitalize the operation? How did you finance it?

Martin Lindman: That’s exactly – that’s the truth. It’s two almost separate environments. One is the healthcare industry because that’s what we work in. That’s the industry we work in, but it’s equally an industry to understand how to scale a company, how to recruit and attract capital, how you scale your business. What’s your angle? What’s your value proposition to the market. – all those things. At the end of it, it was a crash course to understand what to do or not to do. As I said, I learned a tremendous amount on both those sites.

Alejandro: In this case, once your father retired, you scaled this up to five clinics, and then you ended up selling four clinics, four of the five. So, why did you sell four out of the five and not all the five? Then also, why, in the first place, did you decide to sell?

Martin Lindman: As I said, we did a couple of good things, and we did a couple of bad things. What I learned with the physical care units was that it was very difficult to scale. I didn’t have the financial backings of scaling them the way I wanted to scale them. I also learned that there were no real synergies between physical care units. I had one clinic that worked really well, and I had another one that didn’t work so well. There was very little synergy between the two of them and very little interaction. At the end of the day, I felt like we needed to move on. I had this one clinic that was fairly young that was in the city center of Upsala in Chanikin. I felt, “Let’s keep that one,” and we sold the other four and just basically tried to look at the next venture of what we wanted to do. I still felt like I wanted to be in healthcare, but I didn’t want to scale physical units the way I had thought I wanted in the beginning. It turned out that it was a fairly smart move to do that way.

Alejandro: In this case, you started having some discussions, and some of those discussions ended up really being the segue for your next business, which would be Doktor.se. Tell us about those discussions and how you essentially ended up bringing this new idea to life.

Martin Lindman: Yeah. I sold it, and ,driving five clinics down to one and having an organizational operation that was fairly self-sufficient felt like from one day to another, I had a lot of time on my hands. I spoke to one of my friends. We talked a little bit about the next venture and what would be interesting to do. He told me that he had a friend that I didn’t know that was interested in healthcare in the states. He didn’t have any knowledge, and he didn’t work within the space but had some other interesting backgrounds that could be applicable to healthcare. He wanted us to meet, and that’s what we did. That’s Svante Tegnér, my co-founder at Doktor.se. We started out with a luncheon, and he went straight to it and said that he was very early-on with retail – started a clothing company here in Sweden – all the way back when people thought he was crazy. People thought no one would ever buy clothes online and get into the mailbox, and that was crazy, and that was just a crazy idea. And all the way up to as we know today what retail is. He sold his company, and I wanted to move into the next market that he felt was interesting. Everyone at the time here in Sweden (this is early 2016) talked about digital healthcare. There were two young companies on the market already, which were [13:26] and Doktor. We started talking about the digitalization of healthcare in general. We had four to five months of intense discussions about what we thought. I was very driven from the system side of healthcare and understanding that we need to create something that is of value to the entire ecosystem. Otherwise, why would we do it? And Svante, obviously, was very driven as a B2C entrepreneur, understanding that, at the end of the day, it’s the end-users that are going to download an app, use the app, and it’s all about the value proposition to that end-user that’s going to make or break your service or what you put out there. So, after four to five months, we finally came to “This is what we should do.” It was a pivotal moment in those discussions because they were not always eye-to-eye. More and more of the time, it was [14:24] of the way we looked at things. We had a pivotal moment within the discussion, and since then, that’s still been the hardcore DNA of Doktor.se. Svante and I, still today, are very much in line with what we think is the long-term vision for what we wanted to do and what’s going to happen. We felt like if we even scratched the surface of what we could do and the potential of this market.

Alejandro: What ended up being the business model of Doktor?

Martin Lindman: We figured out, and we scaled it back to look at the whole entire ecosystem and pinpointed three major key stakeholders in the ecosystem. We knew that we need to cater to all three of them because if we didn’t, we felt like we wouldn’t be able to scale. We will get stale very quickly. We looked at it from the system point of view and understood that healthcare is a little bit different than the retail because at the end of the day, yes, it’s the patients that are going to download this app, and they are going to use it, but in most countries and in most markets, it’s not the end-user that is paying for it. It’s either the government; it’s either the insurance company, or it’s a company that pays for their employees. We’ve seen some countries, and Sweden in particular, we see a little small co-pay that patients pay themselves. But other than that, it’s someone else that pays for the healthcare. We really needed to cater toward the healthcare industry, and that’s basically the essence of Doktor.se. Then, on top of things, we knew that we could come out with a strong value proposition to the patients. That’s something that we’re working on, that we’re still getting better and better at, and we’re really creating that brand name into the market. People feel secure in understanding that I can ask, and I can reach out to Doktor.se no matter what my healthcare-related issues are. Then the third component here, which is the clinical staff, understanding that yes, we’re a tech company, and we’re scaling on the solution of what we can create digitally. But, at the end of the day, it’s doctors, nurses, psychologists that are treating these patients. So, yeah. We’re creating a system that makes it easier with steering volumes. We’re creating functionalities, but it is people treating people. So, at the end of the day, it’s still a service that we’re providing, and we need to become the best company to track the best physicians.

Alejandro: Obviously, for this company, you guys needed a little bit of money to scale things up. So how much capital have you guys raised to date for Doktor?

Martin Lindman: I’m not 100% sure exactly what it boils down to. It’s right around 70 to 80 million euro.

Alejandro: So, almost $100 million. You put in dollars, probably like around 90 or something.

Martin Lindman: Somewhere along that – a little bit less. Yeah, I would say around there. Yeah.

Alejandro: It’s interesting how in the U.S., if you were to compare to Europe, it’s not as easy in Europe to go past a Series A because the funds don’t have enough cash to continue supporting the companies as they mature and they go from financing cycle to financing cycle. I’m originally from Spain, and there, the largest fund is probably like $100 million. That’s pretty much it. So many of those companies end up needing to come to the U.S., and doing that jump on the Atlantic is not that easy. Martin, for you guys, in order to really raise this kind of money, being in Sweden, how was that journey for you guys?

Martin Lindman: I do agree to some extent, but I think that a lot of things change, as well. We see a lot of capital being deployed in Europe, and it starts creating some huge funds even in Europe that could really cater to the journey that a lot of companies do. But that wasn’t the case for us because, from day one, we took a different approach to this market because we felt like, first of all, we weren’t first into the market. We had a different approach, but we were still in the same space, and we still did fairly much the same thing as the others but with a different twist toward it, and we scaled differently. We had a different tonality into the public eye, but it was in the same space. We started talking very early-on on sustainability and then unit economics and be aiming for the positive resolve and basing the company on what we’re performing, not scaling on VC funding and preferential structure and scaling the company on high valuation. Good or bad, that was the approach we took in the beginning, a little bit because, also, we didn’t have the opportunity to say that we were first out of the gate. We didn’t attract the high VC fundings in the beginning. So we did it on angel investors; we did it on private individuals in the beginning, but wealthy individuals that rode with us, in the beginning, all the way up to what we did just before the summer this year when we did our C round and raised 50 million euro. Even then, the majority of that investment was still individuals that had the pockets, family funds, and private individuals that became shareholders. We haven’t attracted industrial investors so far with Doctor.se. I think we’re a proven concept that it’s doable without structure in the company of getting into the hands of the professional industrial investors with preferential structures and so forth because we didn’t, at that time, feel comfortable on gambling on the valuation and leave it up to the investors to take us at that point. I think now, we’re past the stage of attracting that kind of capital, so it’s going to be interesting to see what the next step is going to be for us.

Alejandro: Now, with COVID, it’s incredible how now on the covers of newspapers and magazines, you start to see doctors and nurses, which is not what people were used to really seeing. So I’m sure this has pushed the business and being at the right time in history.

Martin Lindman: This is really terrible to say because the pandemic hit so hard on the society, and it affected so many people that it’s really difficult in that term to just jump into the discussion of how that affected our business positively. But in this conversation, obviously, I need to take that, and we need to have an understanding that that’s exactly what happened. If someone before the pandemic had told me to come up with a scenario that solidified or put Doktor.se in the full position of scaling, I wouldn’t have been able to come up with a pandemic because that’s how much that has done for the entire industry and what we’re doing. That’s spot-on to the functionality of meeting people in a different forum and being able to scale. Before the pandemic, a lot of my discussions within the market and scaling the company were all about the political risk. What happens if digital healthcare is not going to be a thing? Today, I don’t think that everyone ever thinks that we will not have digital healthcare within the next ten years. And it probably will increase. But that wasn’t the case before the pandemic. There were still a lot of discussions of – we saw a lot of European countries that weren’t even ready for digital healthcare. They didn’t have digital prescriptions. They didn’t have any fee structure for digital healthcare and so forth. So the change that we’ve seen over the last eight months is enormous in every way you look at it.

Alejandro: For you guys, being able to ride that wave and being able to adjust things, and going with a really full-mode scale mentality, how do you adjust? How do you listen to the market and to your employees and your customers so that you get it right?

Martin Lindman: I think that’s exactly what we did. I think we changed the mentality of what we did. As I said in the beginning, it was all about scaling a company. We wanted to be sustainable. We wanted it to be unit economic-wise. We looked at the financials differently than I think a lot of our peers did, and they were more scaling a tech company and talking about high valuation and what they would do in ten-years’ time. I think now when we’re in pull position here, and Europe, and one of the companies that scale in the quick is where the third-largest – it’s debatable if we’re the third or the second largest in Europe. We do have multiple-platform corporations in various different countries. We’re going to scale that more. We’re going to enter our own countries here in the next year. I think from now, the tonality in the company has changed dramatically, and it’s all now about, once again, competing. It feels like this huge market is changing right in front of our eyes, and we’re in the position where we’re financed. We have the full organization. We’ve treated 800,000 patients. We’ve done a lot of things that have put us in a position that if we cannot say that we’re going to win this race, who can say it? That’s the mentality that I tried to apply to the whole organization and lean forward to that it’s going to be a very, very interesting and enormously fun raise that we’re going to see in the next couple of years.

Alejandro: Talking about the future, here, imagine that you go to bed tonight, Martin, and you wake up five years later, and you wake up in a world where the vision of Doktor.se is fully realized. What does that world look like?

Martin Lindman: I think we’re going to be halfway there in five years’ time because I think that we’re going to do this for many, many, many years. I think five years from now, we’re going to be a solidified international company that’s going to be in multiple markets, countries, and we’re really going to have a presence noticed in so many different ways. We’re also going to see a lot of verticals being approached. What I mean with vertical is that we do talk a lot about digital healthcare, but at the end of the day, and I think in five years’ time from now, we’re not going to talk so much about online-offline solution. We’re going to, once again, talk about healthcare, and we’re going to have solutions out there that are going to be a variation of what you can do physically and what you can do digitally. I think that Doktor.se is going to be forefront from that development, and we’re going to be at the forefront of having our brand name positioning to the market where people know who we are, and they feel comfortable on “That’s the functionality that we want to use when we need healthcare.”

Alejandro: That’s pretty amazing there, Martin. I think that you guys are definitely riding a wave that is very much needed. This is a typical question that I ask the guests that come on the show. Imagine if now we give you the opportunity to go into the time machine, and you go back, and you have the opportunity to have a chat with your younger self, with that younger Martin that is coming out of that switch from hockey into the business world and thinking about what’s next and perhaps what kind of company to start building. If you were able to have a chat with that younger Martin, knowing what you know now, what would be that one piece of business advice that you would give to yourself and why before launching a company?

Martin Lindman: I would tell me – I know me as a person, and what’s good about me is what we talked about at the beginning. It’s my drive and my ambition to keep pushing myself. I don’t think I need to tell my younger self to do that higher or harder. I think it might be, to some extent, the opposite. I would tell my younger self to take a deep breath because sometimes we need to understand that even in diversity, that’s the best thing that could happen. All my diversities in the past, all those times where I was down on myself, and I think things didn’t go my way, and as being as competitive as I am and as I was, it was really difficult sometimes to just cope with that. That kind of stuns you, and that makes you a little paralyzed in the progressions. As I grow older, it almost triggers me when something hits me hard, and it’s a curveball, or it’s diversity, or something that comes out of the blue, or something that we see coming. I almost can start thinking that here’s an opportunity. I think that, obviously, takes a lot of falling down and getting up on your feet until you can say that. It’s not always applicable to me, even these days. But I’m much stronger in doing that than I was when I was younger. That’s what I would have told myself because then when I felt momentum quicker, I would have aimed higher because I think that’s key in what we need to do. I think we need to feel that we’re comfortable with raising the bar, not in the sense that if we’re raising the bar it’s going to be a failure if I’m not succeeding. Just raise the bar; try to aim for it, and if we don’t, just keep striving.

Alejandro: Yeah. That’s very profound, Martin. I love it. For the folks that are listening, what is the best way for them to reach out and say hi?

Martin Lindman: There are many ways. You can email me: martin@doktor.se or LinkedIn is a good way to get in contact. It’s difficult to obviously answer everyone. As you imagine, it’s a lot of inbound coming, but I apologize in forehand to not be able to reply to everyone but reach out.

Alejandro: Amazing. Well, Martin, thank you so much for being on the DealMakers show today.

Martin Lindman: Perfect. It was my pleasure. Thank you so much.

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