Interview with Diabetes.co.uk co-founder

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The Entrepreneur: Arjun Panesar, Diabetes.co.uk

The co-founder of the global diabetes community on saving the NHS money,entrepreneur arrogance, and putting customers first…

Co-founder: Arjun Panesar
Company: Diabetes.co.uk (Diabetes Digital Media Ltd)
Website: Diabetes.co.uk
Description in one line: The global diabetes community
Previous companies: Financial Services Net Ltd (sold to moneysupermarket.com in 2010)
Turnover: £1.5m
12 month target: £2.4m

Describe your business model and what makes your business unique:

  • Europe’s first patient to patient diabetes community forum. Diabetes.co.uk was the first place that people could talk openly about their diabetes and discuss one of the most important parts of their condition – diet – without criticism or control.
  • Sponsorship and survey analysis. The exponential growth of Diabetes.co.uk has allowed sponsorship and survey analysis to grow naturally as a business model as the business has grown.
  • Community first. Ensuring that for every step we take, the community is at the heart of the business and therefore the community’s best interests should be preserved over anything else. We honour and respect the people who use the site, its services and share health information.

What is your greatest business achievement to date?

The biggest achievement we have made and what we’re really proud of, is the fact Diabetes.co.uk is improving the health of people who have diabetes, and as a consequence we’re saving health services money.

Evidence from a Diabetes.co.uk forum survey that has shown that the Diabetes.co.uk forum is saving the NHS and global health services money for every person that joins the Diabetes.co.uk community and we’re REALLY proud of that.

What numbers do you look at every day in your business?

We’re passionate about engagement. We’re no longer concerned about traffic stats such as unique users or page impressions. With over 15 million people visiting us each year, we now look at goal conversions. That means how many people engage with our posts, join the Diabetes.co.uk community, download the Diabetes.co.uk forum apps, download healthy-recipe cookbooks, join us on Facebook, participate in surveys, make a purchase from the Diabetes.co.uk shop, join us on twitter or apply for a clinical trial or medical device.

To what extent does your business trade internationally and what are your plans?

A growing proportion of our traffic is from outside the UK. With thousands of Diabetes.co.uk forum members praising the benefit of the forum and site on their health/diabetes, we have always had the ambition of growing into an international business, especially as there is very little that exists elsewhere that is extensive as Diabetes.co.uk.

We began with Type2Testing.com – a new worldwide service for people with type 2 non-insulin dependent diabetes, to help people take control of their blood glucose and reduce their HbA1c. Typically, people with type 2 diabetes do not have access to a blood glucose meter and test strips. However, on the same note, without a blood glucose meter and test strips, it is difficult to understand the effect food, exercise, medication and illness can have on your blood glucose levels.

We’ve also developed an international diabetes app, DiabetesPA – a diabetes health management app designed with the feedback of over 20,000 people from the Diabetes.co.uk forum. Downloads for the app are growing extensively and is helping the organisation to grow into territories we had never anticipated growing into such as South Africa, Australia and the UAE.

Finally, we are just about to launch an international website, DiabetesCommunity.com, which will be the anchor of our international activity outside of the UK primarily focusing on the USA, Canada, Australia and Germany.

Describe your growth funding path:

We are unique in the way that we have never gone through venture capitalfunding or the like. I joined Financial Services Net Ltd in 2006 and was part of the board by 2010 when we sold to moneysupermarket.com in a multi-million pound acquisition of our business.

We invested our own money into Diabetes.co.uk and the business now funds itself and most importantly allows us to continue our research and development into providing the right products and services for people with diabetes, their friends, families and carers.

What technology has made the biggest difference to your business?

The use of your mobile phone for browsing the Internet. We see a distinct difference in the way people using their phones access Diabetes.co.uk compared to people using a laptop or tablet. It’s a lot quicker and a lot more information-orientated. Adapting our site to ensure an optimal user experience from wherever you come from be it PC, phone, tablet or otherwise, has helped dramatically improve engagement across each area of the site.

What’s more, people carry their phones everywhere which means people now use Diabetes.co.uk or its related apps and services 24/7 from across the globe. We’ve had to make sure we cater for an international audience and fast!

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