EP 13: Creating a Life That You Don’t Need a Holiday From w/ James Somauroo
Updated: Jun 30
James is a Founding Partner at HS.Ventures, which build, scales, and invests in the best health-tech startups.
He covers health-tech for Forbes as a contributor and hosts the HS. Health-Tech Podcast, which is listened to in >80 countries. James supports the best health-tech startups on the planet and those companies have gone on to impact millions of patients globally.
James is an anesthetic and ICU doctor by training, has held roles in leadership, management, and innovation at NHS England, Health Education England and the British Medical Journal and previously directed an accelerator that provides startups with market access to the NHS, saving £48M for the UK health service.
He has degrees in biomedical sciences and education and is a guest lecturer on health-tech innovation and entrepreneurship at University College London.
Some Questions I Ask:
- What’s your relationship with faith?
- What drove you to go from anesthetics to health tech entrepreneurship?
- What's the biggest challenge in today's healthcare industry?
- Do you consider anything in your life a mistake and what do you consider a success?
On This Episode You Will Learn:
About faith in entrepreneurship, fearlessness, what does success mean to him, and the way we can solve problems for the future of the human race.
I can split faith in two, there’s the religious connotation and then there’s the general. I wouldn’t say I’m a religious person although I’m quite spiritual. I definitely have faith in something along those lines, although I’m not sure what it is or haven’t sat down and thought about it in too much detail.
I’m closest to the Buddhist faith if I had to pick one.
Faith it's a word that comes up in entrepreneurship, to have faith in what you are doing it's actually quite important. You might call it patience, you might call it belief, you gotta have a belief system, you gotta have faith in something. If you can align yourself to your north star as an entrepreneur you can then align your day to day actions with some sort of framework and system to conduct yourself in, whether its decisions about the business or decisions on how you treat people.
There are dark days and you have to have faith that what you are doing it’s the right thing for you and for the world.
I’m a doctor by background, I got taught very quickly by a system that forces you to transcend your own happiness, hunger, thirst, in order to care for others. When you have that kind of grounding as a clinician it’s kind of easier to then shift into business and maintain some sort of north star towards the common good.
Exposure to lines of poverty that you would never come across if you are middle class and go to university. In a hospital, you see people that your friends and family might not ever see. You truly experience all walks of life.
My north star was always to do with the common good.
I’m obsessed with things being efficient. I hate waste. Of people’s time, of resources, of things. Those two things motivate my business and everything I do.
I realized that it was the system that was the limiting factor. So any change you make to the system it’s not gonna only help you, you can do more things, it means also that more patients are treated and people are treated faster.
Learning that the system is what I needed to change was the first step. I never truly enjoyed meds, I was far more interested in things that could make a bigger impact.
You constantly got to ask yourself the question, what am I doing every day, what do I enjoy, what bits of my day do I enjoy, week to week, day to day, auditing your week, auditing your day, and going, what was useful in that week? What was actually contributing? It’s super important to constantly review that.
My hours are longer, the responsibility is greater, things are harder in a lot of ways, there’s a lot more anxiety potentially, it’s not as safe but it's amazing when you find a passion, for me it’s playing tennis. A lot of things become a lot easier when you make that sort of change.
In order for it to be sustainable, I have a long arc ahead of me, I have to set up my life in a way that makes sense. It needs to look a certain way in order for me to be able to do it for the long term.
I tend to leave work on Fridays for a lot of free-thinking, reading, it’s the time when I ask myself these questions and review the week. Did I really need to go to that meeting? Did I say yes to that meeting just to be nice? Was it to solve something on my to-do list or as if for that other person to solve something on their to-do list? What value is that adding?
It’s not trusting that you made the right choice, it’s acknowledging and accepting that you made a choice at the moment with the data that you had and not to kick yourself if it didn’t go right because you are gonna learn for the next time.
Often in entrepreneurship, we glamourize failure a bit too much. It’s often a badge of honor to be like: this my 9th startup, I had failures before. I wouldn’t point to major failures because wrapped into that it’s regret.
I’ve always been really opportunist, I’ve put myself in the right place at the right time or at least tried to. Generally, you will make your own luck and you will increase the probability to be lucky by putting yourself in the right place at the right time.
It’s part of learning, you are constantly making little mistakes.
I don’t consider myself successful yet, success is an ongoing challenge. Success for me it’s creating a life that I don’t need a holiday from. Some days it feels like that and other days it doesn’t. By that definition successful people could be doing absolutely anything, they could be doing nothing.
But as long as those people could be enjoying their lives and they don’t need a holiday from their lives, I consider that success. It doesn’t matter for me what you are doing, whether it’s medicine, whether it’s business, whether it’s a job that literally pays the bills and allows you to travel 3 months a year, it doesn’t matter what it is.
Healthcare comes down to people. As much as technology can do a job, ultimately it’s people that make other people feel good. You don’t want whatever bad diagnosis is given to you by an app, you don’t want robots doing your post-operative care, ultimately it comes down to people.
Healthcare’s biggest challenge it’s retaining a workforce that is incredibly passionate and retaining that passion and desire its the challenge. For me the best way to do that, or that I can contribute to is by getting technology in so that it allows people the time to deliver the standard of care that they want, it will allow people to practice at the top of their license because most of the mundane stuff will be taken care of, so people can actually put a hand on patients and put the care back in healthcare.
People remember how you made them feel not the technicality of the treatment.
When I think about being fearless I think about the earliest days of starting a business, you have to have this belief in what you are doing, and in the face of problems that might cause you to fear you have to find the way through and you have to do that very quickly.
A lot of people are gonna tell you, no, a lot of people are gonna tell you this is a terrible idea, a lot of people are gonna tell you that it’s not gonna work, a lot of people are gonna say no-one is gonna buy it. You should always listen to feedback but you should never listen to all of the feedback, you should have a belief in what you are doing and that should be ground in some sort of reality. It shouldn’t be confused with blind faith.
New ideas are super important for the future of the human race. We need people changing sectors and people experiencing and learning one sector and then experiencing and learning another sector.
That’s the best way that new ideas, completely disruptive ideas, completely groundbreaking ideas, that is the way that they are developed. The marrying of those different backgrounds it’s how we begin to solve problems.
Connect with James: