Using the “SLAM” Diagram in Healthcare for Entrepreneurs

The Startup Launch Assistance Map (SLAM), illustrated below, is an 8-step sequential process, starting on the far left, moving across the center to the far right, establishing the key boxes needed to consider ‘product market fit’, and then going clockwise thereafter. This map is a simple way for any startup teams, individual ideators and founders, and even more mature businesses with new products or services, in any sector, to assess their thinking and hypotheses and judge whether or not they have an idea that can commercially scale. However, in this article, let’s look briefly at one specific but large sector-the so-called Healthcare Industry which of course envelopes many sub-industries and sectors, many of which are very large in and of themselves.

SLAM Diagram

The ‘SLAM’ diagram is intended to be a simple template for ideators, early stage startup founders and new product managers to relatively quickly test whether or not their thinking, hypotheses and guesses about an unmet customer need and a solution to improve the situation are the basis of establishing a new organization to tackle it. In other words, it helps founders to test whether their proposed startup/early stage business is scalable, repeatable and profitable in the future by testing structured thinking with real customers in an identified target segment. In the world of healthcare these customers include payers, providers of many types and many supply-side companies such as phama, bio-tech, medical devices and others. However, it also includes end consumers or a group that are often called ‘patients’, even when they are seeking wellness-side solutions and are looking to not become a patient.

In all of these target customer segments there are literally hundreds of thousands of unmet needs that need innovation and better approaches to be developed. However, in trying improve or maintain good health, in particular, this unmet even more careful “unearthing” and should be done rigorously and through a process of real customer discovery at scale (which is about talking to key people and listening carefully to them about their actual pain points and by avoiding ‘pitching an idea or solution to them and asking them what they think. In other words, in healthcare specifically, we often have to work hard to talk to ‘sharp-end’ practitioners of all types and with end-users to really understand what a new product or service will actually do for them, and what tangible value it may deliver (assuming it is well-executed and priced well of course).

In essence, the SLAM validation methodology is a process for starting to establish “product-market fit” in whatever part of the healthcare system that it is aimed at. In general, Product/Market fit has 3 main questions: 1. Is the apparent unmet need urgent or vital to lots of possible customers? 2. Does the proposed solution meet the unmet need at a price that customers will happily pay? and 3. Are there enough customers in the suggested “universe” to build a scalable and ultimately successful business? This is what we all hope for in healthcare in particular where is often the new startup and early-stage or ‘agile’ companies that are likely to have the greatest impact on changing things substantially and quickly for the better. The SLAM process is simply a sequential exploratory questioning process to help do this well. It is therefore only a framework only-the hard work is in the startup founders getting deep and meaningful answers

A quick word about the Reverse Side of the SLAM
The Startup Launch Assistance Map does have a reverse side to it. For the purposes of this article we will not describe it in detail here. However, in brief, this is intended to be the “execution” template and only to be drafted when the first side has been thoroughly tested by customer discovery, which will certainly take weeks and often can take many months.

Jon Warner is CEO of Silver, a research and mentoring organization for enterprises interested in the 50+ older adult markets. He is also Chapter Ambassador for Aging 2.0 in Palm Springs and Co-chair of the SBSS “Aging in the Future” conference, in Los Angeles.

To hear more about SLAM register for our webinar in conjunction with The Society of Physician Entrepreneurs on Thursday, November 7th.