Our stories

Talking Medicines

Jo Halliday

Like many entrepreneurs, setting up Talking Medicines was not part of a planned move by CEO and co-founder Jo Halliday, but just a realisation that the corporate world was not for her anymore and that she wanted to do her own thing.

“I think having my children was the catalyst for my change from corporate employment. I’d had a taste of working for entrepreneurial businesses but I wanted to build something myself and be in charge of my own destiny.”

The idea for Talking Medicines was borne out of seeing an opportunity to find a better way to communicate with patients about their medicines. People shop online, bank online and yet when they get their medicines, digital access and support is limited. The company captures the digital voice of the patient - helping pharmaceutical companies get closer to those who will be using the medicines and educating them on why they are taking those medicines.

Jo applauds the support system in Scotland to nurture young, growing businesses. She became part of (Opens in new window) Unlocking Ambition, an entrepreneurial leadership programme originated by the First Minister and delivered through (Opens in new window) Scottish Enterprise in which entrepreneurs receive intensive wrap-around support from a dedicated team and development funding to help support and scale their businesses, while having the opportunity to develop their own skills.

“There may be more access to funding in London, but too often I hear stories of how much of the company has had to be given away in return for the funding. We are very fortunate to have Scottish Enterprise in the unique Scottish support system to help us build up our value as well as accessing equity finance from, for example, Scottish Investment Bank.”

Talking Medicines raised £622,000 earlier this year and now has 19 investors – two of which are institutions.

“One of the key qualities I think you need is resilience. You need to keep going and you need to be thick skinned. The network of Unlocking Ambition Ambassadors gives you someone else to speak to, to bounce ideas off or to share contacts which has been invaluable for us.”

“Raising finance as an entrepreneur has been a tough part of the journey. However the support of Unlocking Ambition was undoubtedly an important part of the last fundraising for Talking Medicines, with an emphasis on social impact, and became a standout moment in our journey. Having the chance to network with social enterprises like fellow Unlocking Ambition Ambassadors Hey Girls and Brewgooder opened up opportunities for us to consider how companies like ours could access funds for driving social good as part of our mission.

“When social impact was initially mentioned my first thought was that supporting people to take their medicines is something we do, but impact investments are only for social enterprises. However we soon realised the social impact that our business has - helping people take control of their medicines. That unlocked the Social Investment Scotland Venture funding which the Scottish Investment Bank was able to match fund. All the due diligence required had happened at the stage of becoming an Unlocking Ambition Ambassador which made the process possible. It was a game changer for us.”

The cohort-based business development support that Unlocking Ambition offers is welcomed by Jo who believes it should be adopted more broadly.

talking medicine

“One of the key qualities I think you need is resilience. You need to keep going and you need to be thick skinned. The network of Unlocking Ambition Ambassadors gives you someone else to speak to, to bounce ideas off or to share contacts which has been invaluable for us.”

Those contacts include GlobalScots, a worldwide network of business contacts who are experts in their field, and driven to help Scottish companies develop, expand and thrive in a competitive international market. Jo has found inspiration from the GlobalScots, in particular experienced business leaders like Ian Ritchie.

When it comes to female entrepreneurship, Jo believes that you need to face every challenge in your own right whether you are male or female. “Access to finance is hard whether you are male or female. The key thing for women is lack of confidence. With Elizabeth Fairley as a fellow co-founder we are rather unusual with two females, and along with Scott Crae as our third co-founder we have found our own route which values diversity and has created a strong top team.”

Jo concluded: “The support we’ve received from Unlocking Ambition has really helped us drive forward our social impact, and we are now a stronger mission-led business. In particular the financial support has given us far greater weight to be able to advertise directly to the general public and encourage them to download and engage with our tool Medsmart®. This has meant that we have been able to reach a greater number of users and make a bigger impact in supporting people in taking their medicines. We have also invested in our data services which is helping us capture the voice of the patient. Simply put we couldn’t have got to this stage as quickly as we have without the support from Unlocking Ambition.”

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