Gareth Hughes, PhD, MBAEntrepreneur and successful grant writer

Biomedical engineer, nanotechnologist, entrepreneur, and successful grant writer. Co-founder of Medical Nanotechnologies, Inc., and owner of The GLITCH & Co and Caizio. I help startups win non-dilutive funding for early-stage development without giving up equity!

Recent Answers

As someone who has spent their career with startups, I would say go for it, but not all in ... make sure to finish high school as the new venture may not pan out. At a minimum, they will learn the ins and outs of entrepreneurship. Valuable, lifelong skills.

I've mentored college students, and starting up a business while a student is one of the best times to do it. Most students have little to lose when starting a new business. No mortgage payments, no family to support, few bills to pay, etc.

There are also many resources available to help students. Some high schools even have entrepreneurship tracks, many community colleges and universities have advisors and other resources that may help. There are also business plan competitions and grants available to students that can provide funding.

Starting a business as a student can be very rewarding and give you a strong sense of purpose. Just don't sacrifice the high school education for it though. Get support when and where you can ... advisors, mentors, parents, and partners.

Managing a product in the healthcare space is quite different than most other industries. You need to have a thorough understanding of the following:

1. What is your target population? The candidate patient for your product needs to be well-defined. Usually, the more specific, the better (at least initially). This not only factors into your regulatory path but also reimbursement decisions, targeted healthcare providers and clinical adoption.

2. What is the regulatory path? Determining the regulatory route should be done early on in the product development cycle.

3. What are reimbursement practices of similar products? Payment for the product needs to be ironed out early on too. The product may need it's own CPT codes or can it rely on existing ones. If there's no reimbursement available, then other means of payment need to be determined (patient out-of-pocket, subscription-based, value-based proposition to healthcare provider, etc.).

If you have a healthtec solution that is going to require regulatory approval, then you will be 'pre-revenue' for quite some time. This creates a challenge when it comes to early-stage valuation. Considering you can't market or sell a healthtec solution until approved or cleared by the regulatory agency (i.e., FDA), then typical valuation methods used in other industries aren't always the best approach to take.

The main drivers for healthtec startup valuation are IP, targeted patient population and data.

1. IP - most healthtec startups exit through acquisition by one of the big healthtec/medtech companies. The more solid your IP, the higher valuation. You need to have a different, unique, innovative solution to the healthcare problem that you are trying to solve.

2. Target patient population - this will define your available market. A solution that has the potential to affect more patients will drive a higher valuation. Keep in mind, larger patient populations (i.e., cancer, heart disease, diabetes) draw more competition ... which leads to the importance of item 1 (IP). However, the most important valuation driver in healthtec is ... data.

3. Data - without data to back up your claims for a clinical benefit behind your healthtec approach, you have very little value. Data in the medical field drives everything - regulatory approval, clinical adoption, company valuation. It's a data-driven industry. So, the quicker you can get data and the closer your data is to representing actual use, the higher your valuation. For example, animal data is more valuable than bench (in vitro) data. First-in-human (FIH) data is more valuable than animal data. Later stage (i.e. Phase II) clinical data is more valuable than FIH data. For this reason, most potential acquirers in the healthtec space won't be interested until you have human data.

So, keep protecting your IP, define your target population and continue to collect data to justify your approach.

In addition to the Trademark search engine at the USPTO site, you can also download (for free) all the Trademarks filed for each day through Reed Tech -

I've been using Zoho's suite of products for over 15 years (before they were called Zoho). They offer a CRM which is very good, has many integrations similar to other CRMs, is very customizable, and has many functions which can be automated (lead generation, campaigns, etc.).

Zoho offers a package of over 40 apps for $360/year per user which includes Zoho CRM and many other useful apps (Mail, Books for accounting, online chat, etc.). Worth looking into, especially if you will use the other apps that Zoho offers.


Aside from the advice already given such as validating your market and raising funds from early-stage sources (i.e., friends & family, bootstrapping, incubators and accelerators), another set of sources that are often overlooked are grants.

Most grants are quite competitive, specific for what they look for, and take time to put together and to receive funding. However, they are non-dilutive. If you are developing a solution for where there's a fit for a grant opportunity, I recommend pursuing grants in conjunction with traditional funding sources.

One major program backed by the US Small Business Association is the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. This is essentially a $2.5B seed fund!

Here's the link to the SBIR website - - and you can read a bit more about the program on my website -

Good luck with your new venture.

The first thing to do is do assess whether your conversion rate is really that low. E-commerce conversion rates are around 5% for fashion and apparel. Considering you are a startup, then it's quite reasonable that you'll be getting a far lower conversion rate than the 5% average. Here's more info on e-commerce conversion rates - and

If your conversion rate is really low, then you need to determine the cause. Is it pricing, product offering, targeted customers, etc.?

If your price is higher than your competitors, then try to justify that higher price before dropping it to match (sure fire way to run out of business). You don't want to race to the bottom of the price pile as existing, entrenched competitors can undercut you. So, promote your benefits (faster turnaround time, quality products, impeccable customer service, etc.). Sure, there will be customers purely shopping on price, but there will be those who are willing to pay more with adequate justification.

Maybe you are targeting the wrong customers? Take a look at your current and past customers and see if there's a particular profile that the majority of those customers share. Then focus your marketing and website on those customers.

It sounds like you are doing custom apparel and other decorated goods, such as promo items. Most customers (typically businesses) looking for promo items and corporate gifts typically like to deal with as few vendors as possible. So, you can start with your existing t-shirt customers and ask them what other products they purchase or would like to purchase. It's a lot easier to sell to existing customers than to acquire new ones.

Good luck!

We use Speedy Barcodes - - they are economical and allow you to purchase any number of barcodes from one to hundreds of thousands.

I've used both Shopify and Wordpress with the WooCommerce plugin. Both setups work well. The choice depends on your needs.

Shopify is definitely a turnkey solution. It has built-in POS and inventory management and easily integrates with numerous selling channels as you've mentioned. There's a lite plan ($9/month) that doesn't give you an online store, but does allow you to sell products on Facebook and your own website. If you are looking to get up and running rather quickly, Shopify is the way to go.

Wordpress with WooCommerce takes a bit more effort to set up. While it's free, you'll need to host your site somewhere, so you'll need a web host that is optimized for WooCommerce. Also, to get the functionality that Shopify offers out-of-the-box, you'll want to add some plugins to WooCommerce. You may also want to upgrade to a paid theme to further customize your shop. So, using Wordpress with WooCommerce may not end up being less expensive than Shopify. The main advantage of using Wordpress with WooCommerce is that you have much greater flexibility in customizing your store.

If you are looking to quickly open up a standard online store, then Shopify is your best bet. If you are willing to put in some time and are looking for a more customized store, then go with Wordpress with WooCommerce.

We started with Shopify and then switched to Wordpress with WooCommerce as our needs grew and we wanted some custom features in our store that were difficult or impossible to do on Shopify.

Good luck!

Wordpress will give you many more blogging options and capabilities than Shopify. There are also numerous plugins for Wordpress that allow you to sell services. WooCommerce is great for selling products, but you may want to find a plugin that allows you to sell just services. You don't really need all the inventory and other product-related capabilities that WooCommerce provides if you are just selling services.

Shopify is great for selling tangible products. However, it sounds like you want to sell services, so the many tools and plugins that give Shopify users the ability to quickly set up shop aren't really helpful to you.

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