#12: How To Leverage The Power Of The Crowd In Health Tech with Mona Jhaveri

Are you leveraging the power of the crowd? Join me in this week’s episode to learn how Mona Jhaveri believes crowds can revolutionize healthcare.

Mona’s backstory in healthcare

Mona is a researcher at heart. We’re talking white lab coat, white gloves, the works. She was an active researcher for the National Cancer Institute, studying cures for cancer..

Mona is a molecular biologist. Every day she got to study how cells worked, explore DNA and RNA - it was a life of constant discovery and she loved it..

All that changed when she discovered a possible DNA-based treatment for women with ovarian cancer. The proof was there. It just needed more testing. Mona decided to take a leap of faith and put her innovation on the commercial track. She started her cancer startup to move the potential life-saving treatment from an idea to reaching the women who really needed it.

Mona Jhaveri power of crowd

The scale had tipped….now what?

In order to move cancer innovations from labs to patients, further research is needed. It takes a biotech entrepreneur to advance the research and remove risks. That’s what Mona did. She transitioned from researcher to business owner.

Along the way, she discovered the real difficulty in cancer research… funding. No one wants to put money into risky projects. And since these cancer startups need funding to get through FDA approval before they can make money and pay back investors, few people want to take on this risk.

When she couldn’t raise any more money, her innovation fell into “The Valley of Death” - the place where great ideas go to die because they lack critical funding.

Innovation wasn’t done yet

What Mona learned through her experience is that funding keeps medical research from advancing. She believed someone needed to address this issue.

So she did what she does best - innovate. She created a non-profit organization to support fundraising.

Sound Affects is modeled after Kickstarter but specializes in cancer innovation. That being said, Sound Affects has a unique way of raising money for cancer. Traditionally cancer fundraising has focused on reaching the wealthy. Mona is focusing on reaching the crowd.

Joining forces with artists

Cancer research has always leveraged the power of music for funding purposes. Sound Affects takes a different approach though.

They realized that younger generations of artists are an untapped group with large fan bases. So they partner with these artists in fundraising efforts.

Here’s how it works. Artists are given a page on Sound Affects’ website. They then use this profile to rally donations. Each fundraising effort is, in fact, a challenge between artists. Whoever raises the most money, gets a special performance opportunity or meeting with a record label.

Sound Affects incentivizes artists to challenge the crowd. Artists, in return, get more visibility and opportunities.

By using online funding, Sound Affects doesn’t spend lots of money on fundraising. They don’t have to set up expensive galas or events. As a result, more money can go to cancer research.

Connecting the power of the crowd with cancer research

When Mona first began this venture, she encountered reluctance from others. No one had tried to do something like this. It flew in the face of what everyone thinks about the process of cancer research.

She discovered that to leverage the power of the crowd she first had to change their mindset. People don’t know how cancer research works. Most donate to find a cure but don’t realize that solutions need more funding once preliminary research is done.

Crowds aren’t a new thing. They’ve been around for ages. Digital crowds, however, are relatively new. Sound Affects is giving the crowd a voice.

Mona is kicking back at the idea that normal people can’t understand cancer research. She is a firm believer that cancer innovations are understandable for everyday people.

If something affects us, then we make a point to learn about it. Cancer is no different. Since cancer affects everyone in some way, crowds are eager to learn about new innovations.

Crowd trends that affect healthcare startups

Within every crowd, there are several levels of participants. It looks something like this:

  1. Internal network - they really care about what you’re doing.

  2. People who care - they have no idea who you are.

  3. People who don’t care - they may or may not know who you are.

As you progress down this list, the crowd gets colder and colder. You need to be reaching all of these layers with your messaging.

For very cold crowds, use motivational messaging. Create videos to inspire them to action. According to Mona, more people need to be using video. Learn from artists and YouTubers who can move crowds through simple videos.

Messaging is a very organic process though. Effective messaging takes some trial and error. Start with your core values and build from there.

Using crowdfunding for startups

Your messaging is super important when it comes to crowdfunding. You can’t take shortcuts. You’re going to have to put in the hard work. And sometimes that means learning by trial and error.

When Mona first started fundraising, she was told to use celebrities. In her opinion, celebrity support doesn’t help as much as people think. And there may never be a return on investment. That’s why she innovated a new solution.

For startups, It’s important to be on every social media channel. Keep honing that message until it strikes a chord with your audience. As you keep reinforcing the same themes, until the crowd interacts with you.

To summarize, there is no shortcut. It takes consistent messaging to spark change.

The takeaway

Learn from failure. Innovation happens when you discover what doesn’t work. You then have a framework for creative solutions. That’s exactly what Mona did when she started Sound Affect.

Learn from success. Even if it’s not your own success, you can still learn from it. Read and listen to people who are active in other industries. What’s working for them in those industries? Is there any crossover into healthcare?

You can use models from the education system or veterans issues. Try those models in your own world, and let your solutions pollinate from other places.

Mona draws inspiration from other industries all the time. When she sees something that works, she tries to re-wire it into her mission. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. But trial and error has revolutionized her fundraising efforts.

In creating Sound Affects, she was frustrated because everyone she talked to was stuck in an old paradigm. They simply couldn’t understand what she was trying to do.

So she looked to the people who are constantly creating content. She drew a lot of inspiration from artists and YouTubers. They are true engagers, but they’re rarely used in the charitable world.

To make a difference in healthcare, we need to broaden our horizons. Sometimes we need to look outside of healthcare for the answers.

Must-read book

When Mona was a scientist, she didn’t pursue reading. She didn’t have a reason to. Now she needs to know what other thought leaders are saying. She has to be in the know. So she became a reader.

If you want to use the power of the crowd, you need to read the book New Power. Henry Timms and Jeremy Heimans teach readers how to capitalize on crowd dynamics.

It’s incredibly insightful. It’s also a fun read since it breaks down crowds in systematically. Whether you’re new to crowdfunding or you’ve been at it a while, this book will make crowd models make sense.

Want to connect with Mona? Find her here:

Soundaffects.org - Their website includes their current campaign. You can also sign up for newsletters to receive updates about new artists and fundraising efforts.

Follow their blog. The blog series, Patients Speak Biotech, shares patients’ experiences with biotech. Sound Affects wants to hear your stories, too.

Follow their channels through soundaffects.org.

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