betweenMD Co-Founders Colleen McGuire, Andy Quinn, and Garry Welch and Bob Zdon (Chief Financial Officer) are deeply committed to helping people keep their health on track between doctor visits. Innovation Destination Hartford spoke with the Connecticut startup about the company’s beginnings, future goals, and advice for other startups.
Give us some background. When and how did the company begin?
betweenMD was formed in 2013 to commercialize the clinical research our Chief Scientific Officer (Dr. Garry Welch) had conducted at a large hospital network in New England, mostly focusing on diabetes patient care. His work was based on $4 million in research funding and involved more than 1,400 patients with Type 2 diabetes and more than 50 clinicians. We wanted to get our solutions out to the 140 million people in the U.S. suffering with chronic diseases and their complications, including 29 million people with diabetes.
Describe betweenMD and the major benefits the company provides.
We are a Software as a Solution (SaaS) company whose goal is to provide clinical solutions to our clients using highly scalable mobile health solutions we are developing. Our programs help people keep their health on track between doctor visits. We are building mobile healthcare solutions to assess, monitor, and guide people with chronic diseases to better health.
Why so much emphasis on health?
The U.S. now spends 85% of an annual $3 trillion healthcare budget on the management of chronic diseases, much of it to treat preventable complications. Lifestyle, obesity, and age-related chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, hypertension, mental illness, and eye and kidney diseases represent the biggest societal and economic challenge we face in the 21st century.
betweenMD understands that urgent action is needed to transform U.S. healthcare from a reactive “sickcare” model to a proactive “prevention and value” model. We provide new mobile/web solutions for our clients that focus on prevention and the good health of individuals living with chronic diseases. We help our clients “bend the cost curve.”
How does your solution work?
betweenMD provides mobile and web solutions to payers, health plans, and hospital care networks to help them improve patient care access and care quality and achieve cost savings. Their employees, members, or patients living with chronic diseases will now have the daily support tools they need to first get their health on track and then keep it on track.
We use a smartphone app combined with monitoring of vital signs and medications taken in the home and combine this with highly tailored patient video education and health coaching we have developed based on proprietary assessments to help patients and their families lead healthier lives.
Where do you see your company in the next three to five years?
We are currently raising money to complete product development, raise operating capital, and execute a commercialization project with our first client. In three to five years, we will be one of the leading healthcare SaaS companies in Connecticut, reaching 25,000 patients. We will be an emerging force, locally and nationally, based on innovative product design, strong healthcare information technology (IT) capabilities, effective marketing and sales efforts, and our growing network of strategic partnerships and relationships. We will be making a real difference in the way our healthcare system delivers healthcare to both patients and their families living with chronic diseases.
What is the best thing about being in the Greater Hartford area?
Seeing Connecticut state leadership working actively with local universities (the University of Connecticut and Yale), hospital networks (Hartford Hospital, Yale, and Saint Francis), health plans (Aetna and Cigna), and seeing our Connecticut state agencies create a growing climate of healthcare reform and innovation. This timely message of urgency and need for collective action should to be amplified and backed up with more targeted resources to support grassroots efforts by small entrepreneurial businesses like ours as well as large scale planning efforts across the state.
Some initiatives include the State Innovation Model (SIM), the Jackson Lab, a range of healthcare payment reforms, and building patient-centered medical homes. This cooperation of all stakeholders can only help entrepreneurial companies such as betweenMD raise money, grow fast, and create jobs.
Any advice for entrepreneurs or startup business owners?
Before they start the journey, company founders should map out a strong network of angels, different small business grant mechanisms, and other early-stage funding sources to focus on first. They should expect that their best source of early funding—aside from their own significant investment of time and money—will come from people they have relationships with, either personal or business. These will likely be the only ones who take some risks and who may be motivated socially or personally to help them raise the critical early money. It is extremely difficult to raise early money in healthcare startups in Connecticut, so be prepared for a tough journey with many ups and downs along the way.
Be prepared to pivot as a company over time in terms of what you offer. Listen carefully to potential paying customers and try to figure out what problems they have that you can solve for them (inefficiencies, high costs, improve brand, etc.).
Don’t be shocked to find that most investors early on do not share your passion for your startup business and your innovative ideas. While some individuals or angel groups are motivated to make a difference in the world through their investments, most simply seek a strong potential financial upside to them in the near future for the risk they are taking by investing in your team and products at a critical early stage in your company’s journey.
Be prepared to network widely and talk to many different people (maybe hundreds) who are in your space. Plan so that as a founding group you have the financial and staffing resources early on to do this critical early “shoe leather” networking so you can find those investors who are a good fit and also valued customers who will pay for your first products or services and build your revenues and company traction for the next round of fundraising.