Pivoting Your Startup

Pivoting Your Startup

The Need for Flexibility & When Direct Go-To-Market Isn’t the Best Approach

Everyone has ideas. Some have focused ideas, like foodies discovering new dishes and delicacies through sheer will or accident. Others have scattered ideas. When we both recognize a practical path to realize our ideas and take the first step, these dreams come alive. This is what entrepreneurs vie for—the budding of new capitalism, a startup.

Ideas are pure, and the endeavors (startups) give them life tend to match. Making the idea tangible is one thing, and for some companies, it is the main or even the only focus of their efforts. Distributing, evangelizing, and driving adoption of the newly tangible idea is often a gravely underestimated hurdle where entire industries (e.g., brand creation and marketing strategy) have formed and risen to surmount this obstacle.

Is there such a thing as “too pure” of an idea? People cannot be “too good” of heart. (They’re called Hufflepuffs.) To the dismay of many well-intentioned entrepreneurs, there are. The world is predominantly pragmatic, and the commercial markets in which most startups exist epitomizes this limitation. Without a tactile application, the idea will not be adopted, and the startup may fail.

A Noble Idea Comes to the Table

One enterprising and debonair startup found themselves in exactly this situation. R, a soft-spoken and sharp businessman, and W, an orthopedic surgeon and lifelong cattle rancher, first met decades ago as patient and doctor and have remained friends ever since. Now both retired, W has enlisted R’s help in realizing a dream he’s had for 30 years. It is W’s mission to reinvigorate the patient-doctor relationship through technology.

Gone are the days of doctors making house calls. All that remains are images of them with their large black bags trudging through the snow to reach patients in their times of affliction and need. Gone too are the patient charts as they used to exist. There is no longer a holistic view of the patient as a person.

With hundreds if not thousands of medical specialties and practices dedicated to extremely specific services, people no longer have “a doctor” knowledgeable in all aspects of their health and physiology–not even their general practitioner (GP). In Western society, the predominance of the medical insurance industry with its practices of managing and caring for populations as a whole, the individual is even more lost.

W’s vision is a solution to the lost holistic view of a patient that is capable of not only integrating but even thriving in the current medical care ecosystem. The vision goes on to account for the innumerable specialties, disparate electronic medical record (EMR) systems, and even HIPAA compliance.

A Titan Obstacle

Of all the industries that comprise our economy, medical is one of the most deep-seated and immutable in routine and mechanics of operation, likely second only to federal government. There are hundreds of thousands of organizational participants operating in the industrially complex field of medical care. Any change, however small to operation or management and reconciliation of patient records, must be meticulously orchestrated across potentially countless participants.

Medical Record

Another testing impediment is a fundamental conflict between W’s vision and the reality of how patient information is stored and handled. American medicine has long been driven by provider-based records, managed at the population level by large insurance companies and reconciled to individual patients only for purposes of determining progress towards deductible contributions and out-of-pocket maximums. There is no longer “Jay” who had a septoplasty at 18, a hearing-loss diagnosis at 28, and an upper-endoscopy at 31; there is only Blue Cross Blue Shield Member 12345 with Explanation-of-Benefits A, B, and C, and United Health Care Member 67890 with Explanation-of-Benefits X, Y, and Z. The insurance companies are at the heart of the medical care ecosystem, and information collection and processing has been optimized to support their operation. In order to rebuild the lost patient chart, stewardship of patient information must be fall to the patients themselves.

Ownership of one’s own information seems implicit, but experience has revealed pitfalls capable of catastrophic results. Beyond the taint of personal bias during information entry, full reliance for management of the information on individuals with no experience or expertise in doing so has resulted in the creation of a “junk drawer” of medical information more so than a coherent and utilitarian system.

Companies as large as Microsoft and Google have both entered and abandoned their efforts in this space. Google Health was discontinued in 2012 after only four years of operation. Microsoft Health Vault was officially shut down in 2019 after twelve years of operation. There are many lessons to be learned from their experiences and reasons for discontinuance, and R and W have incorporated these into their vision.

Step, Stop, and Pivot

As Code Authority was approaching MVP (minimum viable product, the earliest launchable state of the platform), the team fully acknowledged and confronted the uphill battle that would characterize their efforts at market penetration and adoption of the platform. For a variety of reasons, most notably the aforementioned difficulties and the fact that the project was privately-funded and not utilizing external investors or venture capital, R made the decision with the support of the full team that the initial launch of the platform should be in a different industry and with a version tailored to the specific needs of that industry in order to bolster adoption. This would further progress on the medical aspect by effecting a revenue stream to support what was expected to be a lengthy, difficult effort to penetrate that market.

Thoroughbred Trailmaker Login Page

The three core principles at the heart of the medical solution (patient ownership of data, a proprietary presentation of information, and a clearly defined access-and-control process) would be directly applied in the new, other-industry-focused version of the platform. The changes were expected to be large superficial. The question then was simply what industry.

That question found its answer where W and R’s hobbies converged. Animals. Specifically, horses. W had always been an avid rancher, and R held interest in thoroughbred horse racing. Prior experience in the industry meant contacts and industry insiders were already available. With the contributions and advisement of these subject matter experts, MVP 2 of the platform with a focus on the thoroughbred industry was born.

Delay of Race

As has been put to verse, the best laid plans often go awry. W and R’s Thoroughbred MVP was ready to go in early Spring 2020, and the enlisted stakeholders within the thoroughbred industry had a diverse team of early adopters identified and ready to go. Tragedy struck when the COVID-19 outbreak shuttered businesses and brought the racing industry to a halt.

The closed-beta launch postponed, but even with this shock delay, it is exciting to see how far technical progress has come. There was already a fundamental shift in focus from a patient medical chart to the life and career of a thoroughbred racehorse. Such a change was unthinkable when this project started, but it has come to a point where it is ready to launch and with strategic early adopters lined up and ready to begin using the system.

Life often feels like a race, and no doubt entrepreneurs are incentivized to be the first to market but really it is not. While a thoroughbred’s first step in a race is in a known direction down the track, that same first real step for an entrepreneur or startup may end up being in a very unexpected direction.

What’s Your Big Idea?

Whatever idea you may have, Code Authority can work with you to build the software that matches, as we did for W and R. Our software development team can develop a custom platform tailored to your needs. Contact us today!