Phlo Connect founder: break out of network bubbles when hiring – Fi5

Phlo Connect founder

Nadeem Sarwar is the founder and CEO of Phlo Connect, a pharmacy tech infrastructure platform that bridges the gaps in digital healthcare for clinicians and patients.

Founded in 2019, Phlo Connect’s technology integrates with healthcare providers such as Babylon and HealthHero to offer services including digital prescriptions and live patient updates.

In 2014, Sarwar joined the Entrepreneurial Scotland Saltire Fellowship programme after leaving a career in relationship banking. His time on the programme inspired him to found Phlo Connect, which has since grown into a 50+ strong team based across Glasgow and London.

Sarwar has also been the chairman of the Glasgow Junior Chamber of Commerce and the director of the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce.

In this week’s Founder in Five Q&A, Sarwar explains why companies should practice what they preach to promote diversity, outlines why there’s still a misunderstanding around healthtech and recalls throwing himself out of a plane at 3000ft.

1. Has sustainability changed any of your business processes?

Nadeem Sarwar: It’s important to me that sustainability is built into all of our activities and processes at Phlo Connect. Founders have a responsibility to act in accordance with high environmental standards.

Our medication delivery service helps keep cars off the roads by removing unnecessary return journeys to pharmacies and we use bicycle couriers wherever possible for local drop-offs. We’ve also changed all the packaging that we use for medication to make 90% of it recyclable, and we use Woolcool’s sustainable thermal insulated packaging for items that need to be kept at a specific temperature during transit.

2. What are the best and worst parts of your job?

NS: The best part of my job is working with a team of amazingly talented people who have worked hard to help deliver the vision for Phlo. I think knowing that we are building something that makes a positive difference in the way that Clinicians work and also how patients manage and access their medication is what keeps me going every day.

Growing a tech scale-up is no easy job and one of the hardest parts is prioritising all the things we want to do to achieve long-term success. Continuous improvement and iteration is key to that.

3. What’s the best way to promote diversity in the workplace?

NS: The best way to promote diversity in the workplace is to practice what you preach. You cannot only pay lip service to the concept of diversity and inclusion – you must be seen to be making diverse hires at every level of the organisation, from senior leadership to interns, and celebrating the strengths that a diverse talent set delivers.

Finding the best people to help your organisation grow demands that companies make an effort to break out of their networks and their sector bubble during their hiring campaigns. This takes time and investment – and can bring risk – but the rewards are worth it.

4. What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done?

NS: I grew up in Scotland, and, following my undergraduate studies in London, I returned to Glasgow to study for a masters degree at Glasgow University. Whilst I was there, I joined the university’s parachuting club. Naturally, membership of this society required me to regularly throw myself out of planes – so I’d say that is the most adventurous thing I’ve done! Being a founder involves plenty of adrenaline-rush moments, but nothing that quite compares to free falling through the clouds at 3000ft.

5. What’s the most misunderstood technology?

NS: There’s a lot of misunderstanding around healthtech and pharmacy tech, as people often assume that companies working in this space are trying to replace human medical professionals with apps, robots and chatbots. This is very far from the case.

In reality, the best new technologies being built for health and social care are designed to support human clinicians to work in a more effective, efficient and safe manner. This might involve automation of repetitive manual tasks, moving analogue processes into a digital environment, or reducing the risk of human error when information is transferred.

Founder in Five – a UKTN Q&A series with the entrepreneurs behind the UK’s innovative tech startups, scaleups and unicorns – is published every Friday.