In this edition of On the Record, I'm talking with the co-founder of an ambitious company that started as a self-funded UK-centric business and has now launched an international expansion, rebranding in the process.
Originally called National MRI Scan, the company switched to Scan.com, securing the Scan.com domain name in the process.
Scan.com's co-founder, Charlie Bullock, chats with me about the origins of the company, the rebrand, and the power of the Scan.com domain name.
Can you tell me about your own entrepreneurial journey leading up to the launch of your company?
My background is that I was at a couple of marketplace companies, such as Deliveroo, then I worked at a company called Pollen in the entertainment space.
My co-founder Jasper was an osteopath, and my other co-founder Ollie was most recently at a marketplace company called Helping.
So, between the three of us, we had an experience with marketplaces, and an insight into the healthcare market in the UK and the growing trend towards privatized healthcare, especially on the primary healthcare side.
Jasper had lots of patients coming to him wanting access to private diagnostic imaging or scanning, and they would not know how to get started. Patients did not want to phone up private hospitals and get quotes. He wanted a streamlined way to do it, which didn't exist.
That's the idea that was born. It was to improve accessibility into the diagnostic imaging market starting in the UK and now going to Germany and the US, plus other countries going forward.
Is Scan.com a marketplace to connect patients and providers?
Yeah. We've partnered with about 150 private hospitals in the UK, and we offer a wide range of scanning from MRI, CT scans, ultrasounds, X-rays, and more.
We started off the platform just doing the scheduling, which is incredibly hard. It sounds simple, but it's very hard because every body part, every different type of exam, has a different length of time depending on which hospital you're at. It is an incredibly complex job, so we built software to integrate directly into the scheduling systems of all of our partner hospitals, building integrations into very archaic computer systems.
Then over the last year or so, we've built out the first API to allow other doctors or digital health providers to access the booking engine we built to offer diagnostic imaging.
Would you describe yourself more as a software company than anything else?
Yeah. We started as a marketplace connecting hospitals and patients. Now we're evolving into a platform and extending all the software we built to give access to other digital health companies.
Does Scan.com lead on from the products and services you've previously developed?
It's utilizing a lot of the same technology that we built. However, every country around the world has a different healthcare system and setup regarding who pays from healthcare, whether it's the patient, the insurance company, or the government.
To tackle that, we've had to take that existing engine that we built and augment it and change it depending on what healthcare environment we're in.
So, if you go to de.scan.com, which is our German website, you'll see our German product. Then, if you go on uk.scan.com, you'll see the UK version of that website. Because of how different these platforms are, we had to create different instances on the same scan.com domain name.
It sounds like you've got the perfect domain name for the project. Was it a conscious decision to go after the best domain name for this project?
A hundred percent. We recognize the importance of an incredibly strong brand. We want to become a category-leading brand.
We are a relatively infrequent use case product, similar to buying a car or a house, and not something used daily or monthly. Therefore, a strong brand was incredibly important to us to be front of mind, and we thought about that in two ways.
It's being front of the mind of patients but also probably even more important for us is being front of mind and have credibility with doctors who will often send patients our way. We wanted to have the most legitimate and credible brand out there. A strong domain name is really important on the front.
The other reason we recognized having a premium domain name was important is that unlike some products and services on the market, we are only accessible via our website or our API. Our name is not Scan. It is Scan.com. Similar to Booking.com or Hotels.com, we know that it's super easy and memorable for our target audience.
Is that so that it gives an immediate indication to customers that you have this category-leading domain?
Yes, exactly and we want them not to be Googling us, we want them to be typing our name in. If you type in Scan.com into your Google Chrome browser. It will take you straight to our website.
We removed the possibility of losing people to other websites, whether it's by mistake or not. By virtue of typing Scan.com into your browser, you should reach us without going to a search engine.
I can imagine the domain name cost a lot of money. In terms of establishing a brand, was there a case for using a lower grade domain name and using the extra money saved for marketing or PR or, was it always the plan to get Scan.com?
We built the National MRI Scan brand and we got to a very substantial amount of revenue in the UK using NationalMRIScan.com. We were lucky in the UK because we have just one competitor in the UK.
Going over to the US where healthcare is 100 times bigger in terms of market size with more players and smarter people operating in that market, we had to stand out of the crowd. That's the reason we took the jump.
When did the idea of the international platform come about? You said that you've built up a huge revenue in the UK. Was it a natural progression? Something that was in the works for several years?
Yeah, it was. It was always in the back of my mind as to when we could do it, but we needed to get the funding in place to do it, especially on the US side, where it's very expensive to launch.
We got seed funding last September, and we're just about to take on more capital. The international platform was always on the cards because the UK market is far from perfect, but the US market is even further from perfect.
Therefore, there are more things for us to be able to fix and more people for us to be able to help. Secondly, the market is just much bigger there because of the population, but also just because of the cost of healthcare, which is pretty much double what it is in the UK per person.
It seems like the US market needs a company like yourselves to knit some of the services together.
Exactly right. In the UK, around 90% of healthcare is provided by the NHS so it's naturally not that fragmented because you've got 90% market share by one player. Whereas in the US, the top player in the space has probably around 4% market share.
It's fragmented, but more importantly, it's very opaque. Hence, patients find it quite hard to understand the cost of the healthcare before they actually go and get it, which is mind-boggling to the UK patient or consumer.
The most important thing is for us to be able to look outside in and ask how this could work, starting from scratch without any of the inbuilt assumptions that someone in the US may have.
How does the domain name help you when connecting with service providers in the US?
The initial reaction is that they assume we're bigger than we already are in the US just because of the power of our premium domain.
Did the domain play a part in catching the eye of investors?
Yes, I think it was an attractive part of our proposition. We did not have this when we did our seed in September/October 2021. We didn't present ourselves as Scan.com.
Going out to raise funds with Scan.com was a lot easier.
The VCs are probably some of the best people at understanding what can make a company valuable and having a strong brand name on the front page of the pitch deck helped.
In terms of your international expansion, how do you feel the domain name will work in other non-English speaking countries?
Yeah. That's a great question and something we though a lot about because, for example, Germany doesn't even call it an MRI scan. I think it's called a test.
Most of our thought went into the US market because that's what we're focused on, but because of how short and succinct the Scan.com domain is, we thought it could carry enough weight in other languages.
Even if it doesn't translate directly, it could be memorable, it's easy enough to type, and if you look at examples of other brands, no one translates their name just to make it mean something in another language. We followed that assumption, and it seems to have worked so far.
We looked at some of the geographics we want to move to next just to ensure there weren't any strange connotations of that word in another language.
What's the five-year plan for Scan.com? Where do you see the brand in five years?
In five years, we want to be the category-leading platform in the handful of countries we're in. At least for the next two or three years, we will be just doubling down on the USA.
The main goal in the next five years is to be the category-leading player in the US.
How do you see the Scan.com domain itself fitting into your plans?
The whole value chain is ready to be rejuvenated and refreshed. There is so much work for us to do. We're focusing on the bit which is the most accessible to patients and referring doctors, but there's so much for us to do.
We've got a lot of things in the pipeline. Especially on the artificial intelligence side of radiology, which is where the big developments will come from over the next few years.