Completing the Puzzle: how the Agora Accelerator helped PACE MD piece together a complicated business model

In Mexico, more than 3 million neonates die in their first month of life, almost 300,000 women from complications at birth, and more than 750,000 children die of diarrheal illness each year. And this is just the beginning. Haywood Hall, founder of PACE MD, discovered that a significant amount of these deaths can be averted with proper training. Mexico suffers from a “Medical Knowledge Gap” in which health care providers lack fundamental training and/or continuing medical education opportunities to provide consistent high quality care.

PACE_MD_3PACE MD is solving this problem by selling continuing medical education and training packages in Mexico and Latin America to improve medical care and system efficiency in emergency situations. They use an innovative model of skills training and certification, knowledge networks, and tele-mentoring to reach from medical centers in major cities all the way out to the last mile of the chain of survival.

PACE MD has trained and certified more than 20,000 medical providers since 2006 and was credited by the Health Ministry of Chiapas with helping to reduce the Maternal Mortality rate in Chiapas 32%. PACE MD is a certified B Corp and Haywood Hall is an Ashoka Fellow. Like many businesses operating in Latin America, PACE MD faced a number of challenges to growth.

Agora had the opportunity to speak with Haywood about his experience in the Agora Accelerator and how the program helped PACE MD to overcome of the challenges it faced.

Which aspect of the Agora Accelerator were you most apprehensive about prior to starting the program?

Haywood Hall: [A Business Accelerator] is a very different orientation from everything that I have been doing so far to build my business. As a physician with background in emergency care, I hadn’t been very involved in the more formal business aspects. I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to understand the business parts as quickly as my peers. I also had many time constraints. However, as an entrepreneur, I was excited to get outside the “day-to-day” aspects of my job.

What was the most helpful aspect of the Accelerator consulting process for PACE MD?

IMG_6323Haywood Hall: When I started the Accelerator, I had a general idea of where different components of PACE MD fit together, but I knew we had a long way to go. Participating in the Accelerator taught me different ways to structure businesses, a lot about how organizations run and think, and the many kinds of tools that can be used to run a business. In particular, I learned the importance of focusing on the financial aspects of the business (and how to do so). I had a very low level of financial knowledge before the Accelerator. There’s still a lot of room for improvement, but my financial knowledge improved significantly.

Throughout the Accelerator, you had the opportunity to pitch PACE MD to a number of different investors. What did you learn from that process?

Haywood Hall: Prior to participating in the Accelerator, there was a confusing cloud in the air of what our mission was – in terms of its social function versus its business function. I had a lot of trouble maintaining both of those things and sometimes found myself discussing the social impact and downplaying the financial aspects, and vise versa. Through the Accelerator, I had a number of opportunities to practice selling different things to different people. I learned that people need to hear different things and that you need to figure out exactly who your audience is.

As PACE MD’s Agora Consultant, what was the most transformational change you saw in PACE MD over the 8-months you worked with Haywood and the rest of the team?

Joana Videgain: PACE MD significantly strengthened their business model during the Accelerator and showed real change in three major areas.

  1. Pitching the Business: At the very beginning of the Accelerator (at the Entrepreneur Retreat), the PACE team had a conversation with an investor and after an entire hour, the investor still could not understand the different pieces of the business and how they fit together. 8 months later, at Agora’s Impact Investing in Action at SOCAP, Hawyood successfully and clearly presented his entire business model in 10 minutes including an explanation of how their many different programs fit into the company’s theory of change.
  2. Linking the Vision and the Operations: I have seen many companies where the operational team is excluded from the core mission of the business. I worked closely with Haywood to find ways in which the entire team could spend more time together and could focus on the “why” of their work. After a few months, I was able to see the links between the operational team and the visionary teams forming and strengthening.
  3. Building the Network: With improved communications, PACE MD attracted many allies and investors. In addition, through Agora’s mentor and investor matchmaking and multiple opportunities to host Deal Discussions at industry conferences, PACE MD gained a much stronger and more prominent position within the larger industry of impact investing and PACE MD is now part of other programs that will continue to help them grow and strengthen their business.

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