Hyphen Health · James Sneddon & Dr Mitchell Tanner

Discover how Stigma Health and PrEP Health are transforming healthcare access in Australia with instant and confidential sexual health testing referrals through online clinics.

April 27, 2023
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  • Founders - James Sneddon & Dr Mitchell Tanner
  • Location - NSW, Australia
  • Started in 2015
  • 5 employees
  • $140k AUDin angel funding
  • $1.3M+ AUD in Annual revenue
  • hyphen.health

What's your backstory?

I'm the 4th of 5 boys and grew up on 28 acres in Awaba, 5 mins drive to Lake Macquarie. Growing up, we did the classic country kid entrepreneurship thing - we sold cow manure! I had a love for business early on, and Mum was stoked to be able to encourage (push!) me into accounting. I had yet to discover that I had ADHD, so my career in accounting was quite patchy. I both loved and hated it.

I bounced around from 18-23. I travelled, changed from commerce to business, then from business back to commerce and did a stint in the UK. I enjoyed commercial accounting for a small airline that ended up folding during the global financial crisis.

This was one of the best jobs I've ever had. As an accountant with ADHD, the window at the airport really helped me cope. Then the GFC happened, and I came back to Australia.

I've always been an ideas person. In high school, I started to document them, to plan and forecast. I used to rank the ideas too, but never took the next step of making them real. As a young accountant, I perused the books of every firm's clients, very interested in the diverse business models and opportunities. I began to ring up brokers and businesses for sale, evaluating business opportunities and I guess, growing in confidence.

At 24, a mentor of mine partnered with me in buying a local car wash cafe. Despite a lot of work in planning and acquisition before we entered the business, within 12 weeks, the relationship between us had completely broken down, and I was out. No job and no business.

I inquired about an old vacant TAB for lease across the road from my share house. Six months later, Cafe Llewellyn was born. My next step after hospitality was healthcare tech, and I haven't looked back.

What is Hyphen Health?

We are a diagnostic referral service utilizing asynchronous healthcare (text-based) to enable individuals to obtain pathology testing referrals instantly, at any time of day. This patient-initiated approach lowers barriers to healthcare access, creating an easier, more accessible, entirely confidential, and judgment-free experience.

As Australia's leading online sexual health service, we conduct 20,000 tests annually. Our online clinics, Stigma Health (www.stigmahealth.com) and PrEP Health (https://prep.health), account for 1 in every 40 STI tests performed across the country.

How did you end up starting Hyphen Health?

Our first clinic, Stigma Health, is a sexual health testing clinic, so the name felt obvious as it deals with stigmatised health issues. Technology has opened many new doors to improve the patient experience, and I am all for that. Healthcare should be empowering, and that's what we strive for.

With sexual health, for example, people are often too embarrassed to get STI tests. We're changing that, with over 20,500 patients to date. That's a lot of chlamydia we're catching and hopefully stopping the spread.

The next two clinic names are slightly more obvious to their markets: PrEP Health (HIV prevention) and Roidsafe (Sports & hormone testing). With these clinics, it's the same principle - encouraging people to get the medical care they deserve and maybe otherwise wouldn't get without a confidential online solution.

The group name, Hyphen Health, is the connection between our three clinics and the lines of passion we have to give every Australian the accessible healthcare they deserve.

How did you build & launch the business?

We founded the first clinic, Stigma Health, on the back of a pivot from what was going to be an "Uber for doctors" originally. We quickly realised doctors don't want to work on demand, but we're confident that text-based is perfect for stigmatised health issues. So we refocused on pathology referrals.

How have you grown the business?

Covid-19 was definitely a lucky break for our business. However, it didn't move the need for growth.

We do some marketing, but we're offering an essential service and people have responded well. They see what we're offering, and they like it.

Any big failures and learnings?

In the beginning, we spent a significant amount of money we didn't have on AdWords/Google advertising despite our website not being optimized and having a low conversion rate. As a result, we ran out of funds rapidly.

Upon launching PrEP Health, we introduced the service as a subscription model. For a monthly fee, patients received a referral for quarterly STI testing, and once we obtained their results, we completed their prescriptions.

While this approach worked for some customers, most desired greater flexibility or we found ourselves acting as debt collectors when their payments failed. In the future, with improved systems and investment in our platform, we may consider reintroducing this subscription model.

However, my most significant mistake was not dedicating myself to our business full-time earlier. Since making the commitment, the growth has been tremendous. Nonetheless, I couldn't genuinely devote myself sooner, as there were too many other aspects of my life that demanded attention.

What's next for you and your business?

We're going to grow and optimise our three great clinics, as well as look at a number of public and private partnerships. We like helping people and making a difference in their lives. That's real. And simple.

Your go to digital tools?

Here is a list of key tools and platforms we use for various aspects of our business operations:

  • Microsoft Teams and SharePoint: internal communications
  • Zoom and MS Teams: online meetings
  • Hubspot: managing client communications
  • MediRecords: practice management software
  • Zapier: no-code automation
  • Xero and Stripe: financial functions
  • Remarkable tablet: note-taking, idea jotting, and document signing on the go

Any inspiring books you recommend?

  • I wish somebody told me.
  • Singo
  • The everything store
  • Zag (Zappos)
  • Blitzscaling
  • How I built this
  • 100 great businesses and the minds behind them
  • Rich Dad Poor Dad
  • The 4 hour work week.

Any podcasts you love?

Any quotes you live by?

I resonate with Ed Mylett's ethos. Actually, his book 'The power of one more' was powerful for me.

Just do one more, for your loved ones, for your business, for yourself and reap the benefits. It works.

What do you love & hate about being a founder?

The 100% accountability. I both love and hate this. And the uncertainty, I thrive under it and am always pushing to find solutions, optimise and push new boundaries.

Any mental health tips?

It's hard to switch off when you're a founder. I spend time with my family, cook, play rugby, exercise, and read!

What does it mean to be a founder?

It's a lifestyle, not a job. I am living and breathing my business, and it is also taking on a life of its own. It truly is your baby!

Any advice for other founders?

Just start. You can prep and plan, but taking that first step of doing it is really important. It will never be the perfect time! Stars don't always align. You need to take power in your own hands and put one foot in front of the other. Also, if you're scared to make mistakes, you can't learn. Mistakes will help you find your way.

Your details, socials etc.

Business websites:

https://hyphen.health
https://prep.health
www.stigmahealth.com
www.roidsafe.com.au

Jame's Linkedin account

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