Episode 015: Greg Rockson – At the Forefront of Africa’s Digital Healthcare Sector

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About Greg Rockson

Gregory Rockson is the founder and CEO of mPharma.

You can connect with him @Rockson2 and @mPharmaHealth on Twitter.

MPharma is a digital healthcare company helping Africans access high-quality medications.

When Greg left for the US to study at university, he wanted to be a doctor. But he quickly realized that he could have a greater impact by studying the business of healthcare on the continent.

How often have you gone to a pharmacy in Africa which didn’t have the drug that you needed? It’s a problem that is common across the continent and has a devastating impact on Africans, especially those who have illnesses requiring regular treatment, like diabetes, cancer or heart disease.  

Greg wanted to tackle this problem. Hence, mPharma was born.

He built an e-prescription platform that allows seamless communication between doctors and pharmacies so that patients can get their drugs on time.

But he realized that this was the tip of the iceberg. The bigger issue was that Africans can’t afford drugs due to high costs. High quality drugs are expensive. What if mPharma bought the drugs, using its purchasing power to negotiate better prices from the pharmaceutical manufacturers? Partnering pharmacies could then buy the drugs on consignment, drastically lowering costs for consumers.

Greg has taken it a step further, developing a product that allows consumers to pay for drugs in installments.

I love mPharma's business model, which is incredibly innovative and driving real change in Africa’s healthcare sector.

Without further ado, here’s my conversation with Greg Rockson.

What We Learn from Greg    

Greg attributes the early success of mPharma to partnerships with multinational companies. By offering a valuable data-driven service, he won over and partnered with leading pharmaceutical companies, Pfizer, Novartis, and Roche. This gave him credibility with investors in Silicon Valley, allowing him to close his seed and series A rounds.

Greg’s Actionable Tips            

  1. Trust is of paramount importance in getting investment abroad. Investors invest in people they trust. The business takes secondary importance.  

  2. Join an incubator to gain credibility and build relationships with venture capitalists.

  3. As an entrepreneur, you know your business best. Do not get led into different directions by others who think that they know more than you.

Greg’s Top Quotes

  • "What helped us was finding the one believer in me, as a person, but who also believed that our early success with a number of big pharma companies showed that we had the tenacity and drive to keep working at it."

  • "You only need one yes to turn back all the nos you received. The hardest thing is always getting that first yes from a reputable investor. That is like the hardest. Once you get the yes, everything falls in line."

Greg’s Links

Greg's Mentions

  • The Alchemist Accelerator
  • Social Capital
  • Chamath Palihapitiya
  • Ashely Carroll
  • Shravin Bharti Mittal of Airtel
  • Jim Breyer

Key Timestamps

  • Greg’s childhood growing up in Tema, Ghana [3:36]
  • His budding interest in the business of healthcare  [7:48]
  • Greg’s student activism involving US healthcare reform while studying at university in Missouri [8:50]
  • The backstory of founding mPharma [11:07]
  • The Ranbaxy fake drug scandal in Ghana [13:06]
  • MPharma’s business model [15:51]
  • What surprised Greg in the data on pharmaceutical use in his markets [21:53]
  • Major takeaways from participating in the Silicon Valley Alchemist accelerator [24:55]
  • How he established trust with VC investors [27:06]
  • Backing from prominent VC fund Social Capital [29:41]
  • How Greg plans to invest the $6.6m series A fundraising round [33:54]
  • Development of a credit wallet (Mutti) to help patients pay for high quality drugs [34:44]
  • Book recommendations [40:36]
  • Where he’d go in Sub-Saharan Africa on a year-long sabbatical [42:35]
  • One piece of actionable advice for aspiring African entrepreneurs [43:37]