Marty Roberts

Marty Roberts

Chief Executive Officer at enTouch KK

Kioicho Park Bld. 1F, Kioichou, Tokyo, Japan
enTouch KK

General Information


President  - Cegedim S.A


PhD  - Clinical Psychology , Hofstra University


Senior Advisor  - Voice K.K.

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Marty Roberts, CEO of Tokyo based MedTech startup, enTouch
Marty Roberts, CEO of Tokyo based MedTech startup, enTouch Long-term Japan resident and clinical psychologist Marty Roberts, Ph.D says wannabe entrepreneurs should not let fear of inexperience stop them from starting a business. The 39 year-old Roberts plunged into his own MedTech startup last year through which he aims to disrupt Japan's healthcare industry. Roberts moved to Japan from Brooklyn in 2008 after becoming good friends with the CEO of French based global healthcare research company, Cegedim. Commuting by car through The City on his way to Cegedim's N.J. offices, he always gave the CEO a lift to and from his Manhattan hotel room. One day his boss asked, "What do you want to do? Roberts said, "I want to get out of New York. The CEO asked, "Where do you want to go? Roberts replied, "India, France, Germany, Japan..." His boss interrupted, "Japan? I need someone in Japan. Roberts spent the next 10 years running Cegedim's Japan operations, managing some 200 employees. There, he created new products, including a physician database, smartphone data collecting software, and new customer relationship software. After the firm was bought out in 2015, Roberts decided to launch his next product idea on his own. The company he founded, enTouch, aims to cut the cost that Japanese pharmaceutical companies pay to pitch their drugs to doctors using digital technologies. "Pharma is in a tight bind," notes Roberts. "It is a smarter way for Big Pharma to communicate with physicians," thinks Roberts. Roberts likens the experience to climbing a mountain: "Right when you think you've got to the top, you realize there is another peak to climb." Initial funding, office space, and mentoring came from a Tokyo based serial entrepreneur who Roberts had joint ventured with while at Cegedim. The Japan Finance Corporation provided enTouch with a loan to get the startup moving too. "There is support out there, but you have to seek it out," he says. Roberts wanted to hire newly retired older reps who already knew all the doctors and their secretaries in their territories. He also wanted to hire younger females who had left Big Pharma to raise children. (Yes, male doctors often prefer working with younger females!) Both are talented and skilled people who might appreciate earning extra income, working a flexible lifestyle, from the comfort of their own homes. The problem was not that qualified reps were in short supply. The marketplace is flooded with talented reps who no longer work full time. The problem was to identify and reach them. Roberts tried every possible approach he could think of. He tried partnering with recruiting firms. He also tired posting job vacancy notices at Hello Work, Silver Work, Mamas Work and on social media. Finally, he found the key to solving his recruiting problem. Overnight, he recruited 50 reps from all different therapeutic areas. "It took me some time to find the secret sauce," says Roberts, who offered no more on the subject. He spent another month figuring out how to provide childcare support so that the kids do not cry when mom is on the phone. "There is no playbook in Japan to support people who telecommute from home," he says adding, "We can figure it out. Roberts says his company is helping the government achieve its revitalization plans by encouraging retirees and women back into Japan's (shrinking) workforce. While Roberts was lucky to run a healthcare business in Japan before launching his startup, he believes anyone willing to work hard and to take risks can be a successful entrepreneur. He recommends that startup wannabes should not to let inexperience prevent them from doing so. "Just do it," he says.

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Marty saw an opportunity in this shift, and his company has quickly grown to be the leader in its space.
Marty also offers some very practical advice for anyone thinking of leaving a senior management role to start a startup. Marty Roberts saw a startup opportunity here and he founded enTouch which provides what the industry calls remote detailing services. Now, this basically means explaining drugs to doctors online rather than face-to-face meetings but as you might expect, there's a lot more to it than that and Marty soon discovered that it required a very specific Japanese twist to make this technology work here in Japan. Marty also provides some very sober advice for you if you are thinking of leaving a large company position to start your own startup. But you know, Marty tells this story much better than I can. Tim: So I'm sitting here with Marty Roberts of enTouch. Marty: You did a pretty good job there, Tim. Marty: Yes. Marty: In Japan, there's about 29 sales people for every 100 doctors; whereas in America, if I recall, there's about 9 sales people for every 100 doctors. In the UK, only 2 sales people, 2 MRs covering 100 doctors. Marty: I wouldn't use the word replacing. Marty: Because there's some really large forces going on right now. Marty: As a cost-saving metric, because with the aging population, we need to save cost as a society. Marty: No. Marty: Right. It's actually a bit of a strange story. Marty: It's a great place but man, after a while, I have to go try something new. Marty: So he says, "What do you want to do? I said, "I don't know. I want to move? He says, "Where? Marty: He was like, "I need someone in Japan. Marty: It's amazing. It was amazing. Marty: Yes. Marty: No one would want to use it. If you're an MR, you probably took that job because you like freedom, you like having this doctor be your customer, you drive to him or her or you're your own manager. Marty: Yes. Face-to-face, you can read the person, you can see what's going on, you're only probably going to interact for two minutes; whereas as an online call, if you and the doctor have set aside time, you have 25-30 minutes you're going to talk with one another so you have to be super well-prepared. In our software that we're using, you do not see the doctor's face. You need to be able to guide the conversation to make sure that he or she is still paying attention to the slides, that it's very interactive. Marty: I think the thing is the pharma companies needed someone to lead them out of the woods, to look at the situation a new way. Like just giving them a software - Marty: I think it was. Marty: It was a really great experience running Cegedim because I was exposed to lots of aspects of business I otherwise wouldn't be. Marty: Yes, and especially because they were going under acquisition globally. Marty: While we were being acquired by a company that had 10 times more revenue than we did, they won't need two presidents. That was pretty clearly evident. The acquiring company was great and the president of that company is a very fantastic guy and he was very kind to me. He offered me various positions but I didn't want to do that. I wanted to leave. So actually, a friend of mine who's a recruiter said, "No matter what you're offered, just say 'It feels like it might be a bit of a demotion.'" He eventually will get the idea. Marty: Because I was asked to sign a very general non-compete. Marty: You want to make it clean. Marty: I wanted laid out what I couldn't do because then the future is open. Marty: Yes. Marty: Yes. Marty: Yes. Marty: Right. Marty: Exactly or different age brackets. Marty: It's going to be very tough. Marty: Yes. Marty: Yes. We were offered ni sen man (). Marty: About $200,000, eight-year non-secured loan, not bad. Tim: No. Marty: And then what you can do is besides just the network effect, there's also then a good influence effect. Marty: Right. Marty: Our first strategy was find out if the idea will fly. Marty: But we'll figure it out. Marty: We basically started with a very off the shelf, using different SAS-based systems that we could put together under an enTouch name so we could be flexible so that when we receive requests from clients, we could turn on and off features, we could change things, we could find out what people wanted. Marty: A couple of things. Marty: Great question, Tim. Marty: Right, suits the concept. Marty: It's not consultative. Marty: Give me a couple more months, I'll come back to you on that and that one. Marty: Yes. Marty: Yes. Marty: To be honest, we could do but what I find more compelling is a vertical Japan strategy whereas right now we're a B2B business helping pharmaceutical companies get information to doctors. Marty: That's my goal. Marty: Exactly. Marty: Yes. Marty: Yes. Marty: Yes, absolutely. Marty: One really pleasant thing I've realized, I'm married. Marty: I'm always working crazy hours. Marty: Instead of doing 9:00 to 5:00 or like, "Yes, I'll go drop my kid off at school but then I need to stop at a coffee shop because I need to work on this and I promised I'll get this email to this customer by then." Marty: Right, yes. That's been very good. Marty: They should do it. Marty: The one thing though, of course, plan. Marty: Part of it though, the acquisition that was going to happen with the other company was announced it might have been a year in advance. Marty: Yes. Because you have a lot of responsibility and it takes time, right? Tim: Yes. Marty: Especially if you're going to be the founder of the startup, then there's no backup. Marty: To be honest, the one thing I would want to change is the child care system. Marty: When I started enTouch, I was hiring an awful lot of late 20s, 30s female MRs who had young kids. Marty: Yes, exactly. Marty: Of course we ended up with an allowance and also support and finding the best childcare match for them. Marty: I don't know. Marty: Absolutely. Tim: Excellent, Marty. Marty: Sure. Japanese industry does tend to wait until a technology has proven itself overseas; however, as Marty discovered, you can't just bring the technology to Japan and expect it to sell. If you'd like to talk to me or Marty, we'd love to hear from you. So come by And when you come to the site, you'll find all the links and notes that Marty and I talked about and much, much more in the resources section of the post. Marty's a cool cat. Not too many people in his position would be willing to roll the dice like Marty did.

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We sat down with the President and Representative Director, Marty Roberts, to talk about why he started the business, features of the service, and his vision for the company's future.
2150eed-1-150x150 Marty Roberts graduated from Hofstra University with a PhD in Clinical Psychology. Former President of Cegedim Japan, He currently works in the health care industry as a data and software service leader. He founded Entouch in August of 2015. Why did you decide to start Entouch? Marty Roberts (A.k.a Marty): I arrived in Japan in 2007 and, before starting Entouch, I managed a company that dealt with market research, specifically relating to the data and software services of the health care industry. Marty: The service allows doctors to make appointments with MRs when they are available, and lets them access medical information online or over the phone. Marty: We have 2 main targets. Marty: Many of the employees at the marketing research company I managed were women.

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