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Business In:Brief with Dr Silvia Pfeiffer (Coviu)


A doctor shows an iPad to a child and her mother.

Dr Silvia PfeifferDr Silvia Pfeiffer

CEO of Coviu, 2014–present

Coviu is an emerging start-up out of CSIRO's Data61. It offers video consultation software to healthcare businesses, so that healthcare professionals can treat their patients from the comfort of their own homes. Coviu brings the specific workflows and tools necessary for healthcare into an online video call, while also satisfying regulatory requirements around security and privacy.

Here Dr Silvia Pfeiffer, CEO of Coviu, discusses her achievements, business insight and her plans for the business moving forward. Dr Pfeiffer has a PhD in Computer Science and Business Management, is a Google Developer expert and also the author of multiple works in the healthcare and HTML5 video sphere. She is committed to changing the way healthcare services are provided in order to deliver fairer access to healthcare for everyone.

What was your first job?

My first job was an internship at a Building and Learning Society in Germany. They had a monthly newsletter which was all managed by paper and very outdated. I basically digitised the whole thing!

Since then I've always enjoyed finding solutions to business problems using technology, which is where I am today.

What's your proudest achievement?

Career-wise, it would have to be getting HTML5 video standardised. We fought long and hard about the best API for a video player in the web browser, so it was a difficult but rewarding challenge to overcome. Later I even implemented some of the standards in the Google Chrome browser – I'm very pleased to have contributed to such an important change.

On a personal level, becoming a mother and having a very happy family here in Australia is my proudest achievement.

What's something that you have learned in business that took you by surprise?

How hard it is to really innovate – human inertia is so high!

You can have a solution to a huge societal problem, but it will still often take years to convince people to invest in or support that idea. Business leaders, therefore, have to look at every implication of that solution and what it means for the broader industry to be able to make a coherent case and plan.

Healthcare is particularly complicated. The payer typically isn't the same person that is consuming the service, which makes it hard to come up with a business model that works for the payer as well as for the person taking advantage of it. We have to make a constant, conscious effort to demonstrate that what we're doing is important and will change the lives of thousands of Australians.

How do you plan on growing your business in the near future?

Coviu is continuing to evolve its platform by collaborating with healthcare professionals and customers. We have received $1 million in funding from Main Sequence Ventures, an Australian venture capital company, to advance our platform and commercialise our services across Australia.

The goal is to transform the healthcare industry by thinking digitally. More than 6,000 clinicians have signed up to our platform and we are selling our software as an online service. We plan to expand this and to continue to educate healthcare businesses about what is possible through combining health and technology.

What other business leader do you most admire and why?

The big three: Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos.

I admire the way they have all created digital businesses from nothing, all with a goal of changing people's lives as well as changing the way businesses work.

What's the best piece of business advice you've ever received?

Something I still struggle with and that I believe is core to success is to have the right team together. The advice I was given is to get the right people on the bus and into the right seats, and more importantly, to get the wrong people off the bus.

What advice would you pass on to someone starting out in your area?

Be prepared for lots of obstacles and for things to get difficult. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is thinking that it will be easy to build the business and to give up after a short time if it's not. You need to be passionate and motivated enough to continue working towards achieving results, even when it seems impossible.

Business In:Brief is a regular interview feature that profiles a notable business leader each month. It is also included as part of our business newsletter, which you can sign up for below.

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