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Merck Digital Accelerators Start Ups Design Thinking

An innovation accelerator for health start-ups

According to leading venture capitalists, 98% of digital health start-ups are facing a common challenge: they lack a creative business model and often are missing a clever go-to-market strategy.


Merck, a global pharmaceuticals company, sought to address these challenges head on through their Nairobi based accelerator program.  

ThinkPlace Kenya worked with Merck to infuse design thinking and business model innovation principles into 4 health start-ups who were hand picked from hundreds across the African contintent. 


Through personalised coaching sessions with the heads of each start up, we first sought to understand the challenges that they face as a business, their current business model, their understanding of their users and where they were on the product/service development roadmap.

We identified core issues that we would coach the start-ups on, running sessions and assigning tasks for completion before the next session.

Start-ups included tele-medicine apps, innovations that allowed for the testing of drugs to see if they are couterfit, medical data analysis and storage services and digital medical record applications for hopsitals and clinics.



We found that there were common areas in which that the start-ups were facing problems.

The first was how to monetise, fund or commercialise their ideas regardless of where they were at in the process. If it was early stage it was about how to speak the language and leverage the motivators of funders depending on their persona type, or if it was futher along it was understanding how and what people are willing to pay and the timeframes that would need to happen before futher investment would  be needed.

The second was that while the start-ups needed fundamental business model innovations that would require them to pivot their strategy and offering- these changes would ultimately, provide a service or products that are needed, would be paid for and would result in commercial success in the long term.

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