When Hussein Sleiman’s cousin, who works as a nurse, started complaining about the harsh conditions in the hospital he worked in, Sleiman knew he had to find a solution for him.
“My cousin was working long hours and double shifts because he needed the money to pay his housing loans,” Sleiman told Annahar. “So, we started thinking about how we can start a business that would solve the problem of nurses who feel exploited while generating revenue ourselves.”
Sleiman’s initial idea had nothing to do with technology; he wanted to operate an office that would match the nurses who commute to Beirut every day to reach their jobs with patients in the Chouf district.
“There was clearly a mismatch between the nurses and clients in the Chouf area,” he said, adding: “And there was no competition in the area at all. So we thought if we open an office in Chouf, we will solve my cousin’s problem and make some revenue as well.”
However, when Sleiman applied his project to Berytech’s Mount Lebanon Youth Entrepreneurs Competition 2016 to get seed funding, he was rejected.
“I remember one of the judges told us to go online and try to digitize the concept. We weren’t convinced much of her idea at the time,” he said.
Sleiman and his cousin decided to try their luck in traditional homecare one more time and open an office again, this time in Nabatiyeh, South Lebanon, where Sleiman’s cousin resides.
“We knew we wanted to target hospitals, doctors’ clinics and pharmacies. But in the end, the pharmacies proved to be the most accessible since the hospitals required us to have a larger, more professional entity and the doctors needed money to refer their patients to us,” he said.
After approaching several pharmacies and pitching their businesses, Sleiman and his cousin waited for work to pick up. But it didn’t.
"People were not willing to pay for quality nursing services in Nabatiyeh. They weren’t used to professional home care services, so we had to shut down the whole thing,” he told Annahar.
In parallel to all of this, Sleiman was participating in competitions, such as Wamda’s Reboot Beirut Hackathon and BDL Accelerate 2016, after which he started to form a team and digitize his idea. He decided to apply for a grant from Kafalat.
Things were going well until the operations “suddenly stalled” due to miscommunication, and Sleiman was denied the money.
Undaunted, he continued to build his application by working with two developers. When he saw that the progress was very slow because both developers worked full time and were not coordinating well, he decided to take matters into his own hands again.
Spurred by his lack of patience, Sleiman decided to enter the market once again and started printing brochures and pitching his idea to hospitals and doctors. He also recruited more than 40 nurses from AUBMC and surrounding hospitals, which seemed to impress the doctors.
“After teaching myself how to pitch to doctors and get appointments from their secretaries and doing all the hard work, I waited for the phone to ring. But it didn’t,” said Sleiman. He concluded that there were two reasons for this: lack of monetary incentive for the doctors, and lack of proper follow-up from his side.
Then, around the end of 2017, Sleiman was delighted to find out that he was accepted at Souk.lb accelerator. It was around the same time that the Kafalat funding finally came through, so things were looking up for him.
After getting his first medical case from a mother anxious about her newborn, Sleiman decided to study the newborn market and to focus only on serving newborns.
“The newborn market turned out to be a better market to get into because we’re dealing with healthy newborns with low risk, which means a low number of incidents. Also, new mothers are an easy target on social media because they’re very active on these platforms,” Sleiman said.
He also dropped the idea of the app and focused on building a much simpler platform, collaborating with his soon-to-be co-founder and CTO Ali Majed to build a website.
“Our platform was up and running in April 2018. In July 2018 we entered the growth phase,” he said.
Find A Nurse has so far served 73 clients.
As Sleiman’s team grew, he recruited Khulud Khalil to be the Chief Nursing Officer and his second co-founder.
Another exciting turn of events came in 2019 when Sleiman won the DMZ Challenge in Morocco which enabled him to join the DMZ accelerator (headquartered in Canada) and a fully funded trip to Canada.
“I was introduced to the Canadian startup ecosystem, investors and players. Now, there’s a chance in 2020 that, after reaching a product-market fit in Lebanon, we might actually launch in Canada,” Sleiman said.
As for their current affairs, Find A Nurse is discussing a partnership with a local university that is attached to a medical institution, although he says, he can’t reveal any names.
It’s true that Find A Nurse was established with a social mission: to help nurses find good paying jobs, flexible schedules and healthy working conditions, but its impact goes beyond that.
“We noticed early on since the Souk.lb days that 91 out of the 133 caregivers come from poor underprivileged families. The majority of them are females, which means they’re at a higher risk of being used and exploited,” Sleiman said.
He added: “To protect our caregivers, we created very strict policies for rescheduling, canceling, discounts, overtime, and the job description is agreed on beforehand,” he added.
The nurses and babysitters also undergo training in communication and etiquette skills, as well as policy and procedures, he added.
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