Spotlight on Dr Ben Coyle
At Spotlight, we had the opportunity to talk to Dr Ben Coyle, GP and co-founder of SimplyCPD, who told us about his setbacks with funding and developing a product that is designed for doctors BY doctors.
A Background into SimplyCPD
I’m a GP and co-founder of SimplyCPD, an app and website that aggregates educational courses from all over the UK, and from the many different providers, into one handy space for doctors to easily search and find ongoing learning.
I started this business journey after I left the practice that I was a GP partner in and found that CPD events were much harder to come by when you’re outside of the network. CPD, continuing professional development, is a mandatory annual requirement for doctors (and many other professionals) and events are easy to find when you’re working in a practice. From city-wide GP email groups and leaflets being sent to the practice, to colleagues discussing courses they’d attended, we were always aware of which CPD events were happening.
However, after leaving my practice to become a locum GP, it became much harder to find relevant courses. After a chat about this with a GP colleague, we decided to try to help ease the problem shared by most GPs, especially the locum workforce, who make up around 1/3 of the total GP workforce in the UK, and SimplyCPD was born. It’s a platform for all doctors, though as GPs ourselves we initially targeted GP colleagues.
Funding has been our biggest setback! To-date, SimplyCPD has been self-funded and we’ve been stuck in a chicken and egg kind of situation. We wanted to build a proposition that was as attractive as possible for investors before we asked for their money, but in order to market and build the product to get to that point, we’ve needed funds!
Sourcing funding is far from easy, so we’ve had to use our own money and consequently had less growth than we would otherwise have had with funding. However, the product is so good and meets such a significant demand in the market so perfectly, that it is growing anyway!
Another challenge has also been the effects of Coronavirus. We were on the verge of seeking funding around the time the pandemic hit but, as a result of the pandemic, all face-to-face courses disappeared overnight. At the time, that represented about 90% of CPD courses available and 100% of the ones on SimplyCPD!
Dealing with Setbacks
Our main expense is IT development and coding, so we made the decision to give our lead coder equity and it’s worked out really well for us. As a result, we’re now planning to launch an updated platform in the next few weeks. Which means we’ll be having a big push on social media and after that, we’ll be applying for funding officially!
In terms of dealing with the effects of the pandemic, we quickly added an online courses element and have spent the quieter months since the pandemic hit, rebuilding the platform ready for the next steps. We’ve now attracted significant numbers of registered doctor and course provider users all over the UK, and we’re seeing users increase every day. All of the big names in GP CPD provision are also registered with us, and some large national organisations use SimplyCPD as their promotional platform of choice now.
I’m very passionate about making life easier by giving time back! Being a doctor is a tremendous privilege, but sometimes the days don’t have enough hours in them.
If we make an effort to give a little time back into that day, we’re helping the doctors and ultimately their patients and families. The search for CPD can be onerous as there are hundreds of providers of events out there, which means each individual doctor has to keep an eye on all of those providers. With SimplyCPD, they’re all in one place and what would previously have taken hours, can now be done in a matter of minutes!
The biggest lesson I have learnt is that things take time! Nothing happens as quickly as you want it or expect it to, and that’s okay. In fact, it actually helped us to build a more resilient company because we had the extra time to plan, adapt and evolve.
Advice for Others
The best piece of career advice that I can give to others is to always be yourself and decide what success means to you. Values and principles are much more important than money to me, but you have to be true to yourself as you’re on this journey for the long haul.
It’s also important to remember that life is short. So make sure you enjoy it while you’re going about it! If you’re not happy with the way things are going, change them! Especially if your work is making you miserable!
Plans for the Future
In the immediate future, we are planning a big update soon, and we’ll also be looking for funding. After that, we have some really ambitious plans for growth and expansion into other markets, both here and abroad.