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Inspirational Female Founder Spotlight: Dr Farzana Rahman

Dr Farzana Rahman BSc, MBBS, MSc, FRCR. is the CEO and Co-Founder of radiology technology company Hexarad, which she led to a £4.5 million Series A round in 2022. She was previously Substantive Consultant Radiologist at University College Hospitals Trust London, an NHS Digital advisor, and Head of Data and Digital Strategy at the AoMRC where she led the publication of a national policy paper examining the use of Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare. She is currently a member of the British Institute of Radiology (BIR) Leadership Group.

Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?

I am a doctor by background and was a Consultant Radiologist at University College Hospitals Trust London, one of the UK’s leading hospitals. Now, I am the CEO and Co-Founder of radiology technology company Hexarad, a high-growth healthcare technology company, providing technology-driven solutions to boost radiology capacity and address the key causes of diagnostic delays.

As well as my medical degree, I have a degree in Health Economics and have also worked as a healthcare policy adviser, including with NHS Digital and as Head of Data and Digital Strategy at the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AoMRC) where I led the publication of a national policy paper examining the use of Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare.

How did the idea come to you for the company?

I met my co-founders in 2012 when we were senior radiologists working together at St George’s Hospital in London. Even back then it was clear that there were too many scans but not enough radiologists. Without a diagnosis there is no treatment – so we knew that if we could solve the problems we were seeing in radiology we would improve patient outcomes.

None of us had a background in business or tech, but we were all tired of seeing that no matter how hard we worked, patients weren’t getting diagnosed quickly enough. That was the inspiration behind us founding our company, Hexarad, and our mission is to make sure every patient can have access to fast and accurate diagnosis, because behind every scan is a patient waiting for treatment.

How did you achieve awareness?

When we founded Hexarad, it was clear that the number of scans being done was increasing each year and that there weren’t enough radiologists to report them all. Since then, NHS waiting times for scans have only got worse. Our background meant that we have real in-depth insight into the problems that hospitals face, which has put us in a great position to spread awareness of our solution. Knowing your audience inside out, and having solutions that genuinely solve their problems, is the best way to connect with potential customers and grow your business.

How have you been able to gain funding and grow?

When we first founded Hexarad we were able to get the business off the ground through a mixture of bootstrapping and a joint venture partnership with our first customer. Once we became revenue-generating we were able to go out to investors for funding, and in 2022 we closed a £4.5 million series A funding round. This was led by a mixture of private equity and angel investors. Although the last few years have been a challenging time to raise money for many health technology companies, especially those with female founders, our clear vision and knowledge of our market have allowed us to connect with investors. 

Beyond outside funding, we have also been able to grow our customer base and revenue with a focus on profitability. Not only has this been a strong selling point for investors, but it has also allowed us to focus on growing our business without having to go through multiple funding rounds.

What are the key successes?

We have had some incredible business successes over the past few years, but the success that is closest to my heart is the Hexarad Widening Participation Scholarship, an annual scholarship providing mentorship and research project financial assistance to UK-based Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) medical students. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and the experiences of the Hexarad directors, we partnered with the Royal College of Radiologists and are now in our fourth year of giving BAME medical students the kind of support that we wish we had been able to access as medical students. 

What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?

One of the biggest challenges that my co-founder Dr Amy Davis and I consistently face is being underestimated when we are the only women in the room, or on the stage. It’s a challenge that we relish, but it is surprising to still be coming up against such a consistent gender bias in 2024, and it can make you feel pressured to be the ‘perfect’ representatives of female founders. 

One of the ways we have overcome this is to surround ourselves with people who support us, both within our business and outside it. My fellow co-founders are the people I speak to most often outside my family, and they are continual sources of support and give me the confidence that lets me thrive as a Founder and CEO. Amy and I are also part of a fantastic community of female founders who are entrepreneurs and trailblazers in their fields, and their wisdom and advice not only give us confidence in our vision but also allow us to discuss any doubts or mistakes we may have made in a safe space.

What are your plans now/for the future?

Our main focus at the moment is growing Hexarad internationally. We already have a partnership with a healthcare group in Saudi Arabia, and we are exploring some other opportunities in the Middle East and Asia as well.

What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?

I think that the most important thing for any entrepreneur is to know your market and the problem you want to solve as well as you can. If you know and understand the problem really, really well then you will be able to come up with solutions, and adapt and develop as time goes on.

I would also say, speak to other people and get feedback on your ideas, but have faith in your idea and your solution. Take the useful advice but don’t let feedback, especially from those who don’t understand your industry well, dishearten you.

The people around you are key. Great ideas that are executed well are always the result of teamwork, so surround yourself with the best team you can.

Finally, I’d say that you need to get used to the idea that rejection is going to be part of the process. Whether that’s doing your first investment round, trying to sign your first customer, or trying to hire your first key personnel, you’re going to hear a lot of “no” and that’s okay.

Can you share your top tips for entrepreneurial success?

My top pieces of advice are:

  1. Be obsessed with the problem, not the solution.
  2. Surround yourself with the best team you can.
  3. Take useful advice but don’t get disheartened.
  4. Stop fearing rejection

Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most and why?

My answer to this question probably changes daily, but five people who inspire me greatly are:

  • Nelson Mandela for his integrity and leadership
  • Malcolm X for his courage to stand up against the status quo
  • My parents for their selflessness and resilience in the face of the challenges they faced as immigrants
  • Steve Jobs for thinking outside of the box and creating a bank of wisdom for start-up founders 
  • Shireen Abu Akleh for her bravery and dedication in sharing the stories she believed were important

What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel” – Maya Angelou

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

What are your Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn social handles and also website links so our readers can connect with you?  

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/farzana-rahman-4539a14a/

Website: https://www.hexarad.com/