QUPI is an ambitious startup that plans to change the future of medical education. Their online platform contains 10,000 practice questions which medical students around the world use to prepare for their exams. They’re working on a mobile app and a series of international university visits to help take QUPI to the next level.
The CEO, Damian Ratajczak is a 28 year old technophile from Poznan, Poland. Recently he sat down with the people of TechAMA for a no-holds-barred AMA on medical education, business, and life as head of a startup. Here’s below is an edited and condensed version of the conversation, containing tips and insights for entrepreneurs, medical students and anyone interested in how medical education is evolving. Enjoy!
Medical students statistically end up with the most debt. What solutions exist to help make studying medicine more affordable?
The world desperately needs more doctors, yet studying medicine is prohibitively expensive for too many students. This needs to change.
A few interesting projects exist to try and make a difference. One that comes to my mind is Compendium Medicine which covers all basic medical knowledge in about 1200 pages with a decent price tag.
At QUPI we’re mindful of the financial pressure on medical students, which is why we have created the most affordable study tool on the market. Our question bank covers all 12 medical discipline and is based around the in class and licensing exams that students have to face (like the USMLE, NBME, NBDE, MCCQUE, etc). We’ve capped the price at $400 for an annual subscription, which our market research indicates is within reach for most medical students. It’s small fraction of what textbooks cost each semester!
What do you enjoy most & least about running a medical education startup?
What I do love about my current job is its versatility. I never get bored, there are so many things to do. Lot’s of planning; without proper planning you can’t execute anything. In general, one day you work on PR and marketing of your company, next day you are a web developer, and finally, you shoot and edit a video to advertise your product. And the whole time you need to keep an eye on the finances, so you know that your business is being managed properly.
What do I enjoy least? Funnily enough, I would say the same as above! But only when I get exhausted by working 12+ hours a day. Although, it’s not like I have to. It’s my own choice and I’m driven by a passion for what I do. Just, as a human being, I do have my own limits too.
What inspired you to get into the medical education industry?
It was my partner in the business who uses the nickname Future Doc House and gives free medical lectures on YouTube who first inspired me to enter this field. He loves medicine and always wanted to make a significant difference in a medical world. His motivation convinced me that this is a good cause. My background was always related to management and IT/communication. I love tech and keeping an eye on figures, so I feel like I’m in a right place!
Where does QUPI source its practice questions from?
A major part of the question bank is sourced from validated sources and paraphrased from medical reference books. Others are submitted by medical students based on what they are facing in their exams and classes, and validated by our expert panel. Our goal is to create a community around QUPI, so everyone can participate in adding questions, reporting mistakes and submitting feedback to help us create the best platform for medical students.
How did you get into this line of work?
After finishing yet another demanding project for a big corporation, I took a pause and thought about what I really wanted to do with my life. This was a pivotal moment. I decided to be a part of something meaningful and gain more control over my life and more influence in general. I was very motivated and started to learn and discover what’s current in IT. Then the magic happened, I partnered with Future Doc House, and the idea of QUPI was born.
What would you do if you weren’t afraid? (Sheryl Sandberg)
What part of business do you feel you need improvement in?
The biggest challenge for every new business is building credibility. We are working very hard to gain people’s trust, looking for promising collaborations and good media coverage. We need the world to see as we are – a group of well meaning entrepreneurs who are here to make a difference, and who have something that will last.
Have you got a detailed business plan in place already?
I’m a ‘lean startup’ evangelist, so my business plan has been created based on the lean canvas method. It’s much more efficient, easier to come back and edit when necessary and I personally find its usability very satisfactory. In a turbulent environment having an easy to use and adaptable business plan is a must.
Does your job afford you the ability to travel and work remotely?
Yes, it does. Moreover, my business partners are from California and Scotland, so travel is a must. Frequent changes in environment inspire creativity, as does working with a dynamic team from all over the world.
How did you come up with the name QUPI? Does it mean anything in particular?
We think the best acronym based on QUPI is:
But we’re open to other suggestions!
What is the essence of your business?
The essence is in our slogan – Practice Your Medical Knowledge. Medical students are overwhelmed with the amount of content they have to learn, and lack an easy, fun way to practice this knowledge and prepare for the exams. We’ve traveled to medical schools around the world and met hundreds of medical students and listened to the challenges they face, and tried to create a platform to address this.
Our question bank is a database of 10,000 multiple choice medical questions for students to practice before their examinations. A number of tests medical students have to take constantly increases and we help them to gain confidence, strengthen their knowledge and pass with ease.
We also sponsor a series of Free Medical Lectures, which you can find on YouTube, created by our friend Future Doc House. This channel helps medical students to understand some more complicated medical issues in an enjoyable and accessible way.
Who finances your startup?
We were lucky enough to acquire two Angel investors from Silicon Valley in California in the early days of the business. Because we’re confident in QUPI’s success, several members of the team have also invested their own funds in the business.
We ran a Kickstarter campaign in the early days which helped give our fundraising a boost. All this together puts us in a healthy position, allowing us to focus on our customers and developing our platform without too many financial headaches.
Where do you see yourself and QUPI in 5 years?
QUPI exists to change the future of medical education. In addition to being a successful platform and the default choice for all medical students, we hope that our ideas and attitude around putting the joy back into medical learning will have a global impact. At QUPI we think big; we want to change the world and we’re not afraid to admit it! As Steve Jobs said, we’re here to “put a dent in the universe!”