Operate lean — Be prepared to operate pretty lean for the first year or two. Once you’ve gotten the company off the ground, spend the first couple of years building and operating efficiently. Listen to customer feedback, get to know your customers, and update your product appropriately. Be smart and be practical. What’s most important for your company at the start is to provide consumers with a valuable product, build brand awareness, and excel in customer service.

As part of my series about the “5 Lessons I Learned When I Created My App or SAAS”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Doug Wilcox. Doug is the Co-Founder and CEO of SafeKeeping, an integrated care dashboard for long-term care providers that utilizes facilities’ Electronic Medical Record (EMR) data to improve health outcomes for caregivers, family members, and residents. SafeKeeping enables increased operational inefficiencies at long-term care facilities and creates a direct line of communication between caregivers and resident’s family members. The platform closes the gap in long-term care communications and is pushing the industry forward towards a more open and transparent method of engagement.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

I’ve always been involved in sales and marketing from the beginning of my career, but the last 12 years or so I’ve focused on high growth and start up technology companies. I’ve found that being a part of creating innovative solutions and leveraging technologies to create more efficient and effective communications is so exciting.

What was the “Aha Moment” that led you to think of the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?

My mom had a brain tumor and spent the last 16 months of her life in various Long-Term Care (LTC) facilities. Being her Power-of-Attorney (POA) it was a constant struggle just to get basic, non-critical information and updates on her condition. My partner and founder, Matt Prasek, had the same experience with his grandfather, which led to the creation of the SafeKeeping platform. One day I was admitting my mom into this small LTC facility in Anderson, IN and the nurse gave me a marketing sheet Matt had created. It just so happened that this small facility was a pilot facility for SafeKeeping and I INSTANTLY recognized how great a solution this could be. I was exiting another startup at the time, and I called Matt on my way home, offered to buy him a beer and talk about working together. We’ve been building SafeKeeping ever since!

So, SafeKeeping was born from the personal frustrations we had in communicating with LTC facilities and we know that millions of family members experience the same thing every day. We are very familiar with the operational challenges LTC providers face and how innovative solutions like SafeKeeping can be an integral part of finding the solution. The LTC industry is in the process of “catching up” when it comes to technological advances, and we saw an opportunity to push the industry forward while also creating a viable solution to a widespread problem.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

There is a personal passion for what we are doing. My mom’s situation with LTC facilities helped me better understand that there are millions of family members, caregivers, and LTC residents that are struggling on a daily basis to give and receive the best care possible. We broke into this space early, but it can still be tough to get new solutions and products scaling in healthcare. My drive comes from the positive impacts that SafeKeeping is having — every day I talk to caring LTC providers who are searching for new ways to deliver better care while remaining financially viable. I also speak with family members who use our platform and now have peace of mind knowing that they are giving their loved ones the best care possible. Our company is growing quickly, and we know there is a huge business opportunity for us, but we also know we are truly helping people deliver improved care outcomes, and that is what drives us on a daily basis.

So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?

We’ve come a long way since our platform launch in 2018. We faced challenges along the way, but the driver for us was always to solve a large issue in the long-term care space. We will more than double our revenue and facility count by the end of 2019 and are projected to more than triple in 2020. SafeKeeping is now in more than 70 facilities and we have had thousands of end-users on our platform. We’ve secured $330,000, and counting, in seed funding, which is allowing the company to continue to expand offerings, support additional long-term care facilities, and meet urgent industry demands for an engagement channel that puts facility efficiency first and drives tangible ROI for care providers. We are just beginning and are developing some very exciting partnerships that will continue to drive our growth. Having a sense of urgency to get your product to market, partnered with a passion for what you’re developing, has helped lead to our success.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

Things have been moving so fast, it’s hard to single out just one mistake! But, let’s just say I’ve had several interesting conversations with potential customers and investors along the way. One time I managed to land a meeting with a very successful entrepreneur and local business leader, and my demo wasn’t working. After a few minutes, he stopped me and said, “Don’t worry about it, I don’t want to see your product. You’ve only been a company for a couple of months and you’re not going to impress me. Why don’t you just tell me about you.” And we had a great meeting from there. I’ve had the chance to become friends with several extremely successful people while building SafeKeeping and have learned that they all went through the same challenges we are going through — almost exactly — and they are incredibly generous in sharing the mistakes and lessons learned. I’ve discovered that if you have a good story, an idea and a passion, if you pick up the phone and call to ask for help, people will meet with you and share their wisdom. It’s been a great learning experience.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

We are an integration partner with the largest EMR provider in the LTC industry and we have built a seamless, fully integrated solution. Our company is helping care providers that are constantly being asked to do more with less. In terms of technology, there’s a widening gap in current LTC communication models. We offer them an easy, non-disruptive communication channel that allows them to drive more efficient and meaningful engagement and customer satisfaction for their residents and families. Many facilities are limited to inefficient and outdated methods of communication such as phone calls, email, snail-mail, and fax machines. With SafeKeeping, we allow them to communicate in ways you and I, as end users, are accustomed to in today’s world — on our connected devices. We all want more relevant, real-time information in the most convenient way possible — and we do that for our customers without prohibitive costs, and with no extra work, no change to processes and no additional hardware or software. We have a deep understanding of what’s needed and being able to bring that knowledge to our customers and product gives us a competitive edge. We’ve been in the weeds of the industry, and we know how technology can solve these issues.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

I think when you have a true passion for what you’re doing, when it’s a personal mission to change and improve the way an industry does its business, and in our case improve health outcomes, then that helps avoiding “burn out”. At the same time, it’s important to find time to unplug and unwind. It’s natural to feel like you’re trying to beat the clock and get your product ready for market. However, you’ll only delay the process if you’re burning out and overworking yourself. It may feel like the hardest thing to do but step away from your work every now and then. For me, its cycling. I’m an avid cyclist and I will spend a few hours biking through the countryside to unwind and organize my thoughts — and get some exercise. Simple things like taking a lunch break, spending time with family or friends in the evening, and blocking off some free time can be very beneficial.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. Approximately how many users or subscribers does your app or software currently have? Can you share with our readers three of the main steps you’ve taken to build such a large community?

We’ve had over 5,000 users on our platform since launching a little over a year ago.

When it comes to building our community, we’ve tapped into a huge market that affects virtually everyone and created a product that is easy to use and creates efficiency & convenience for long-term care operations.

Ease of Use- SafeKeeping is very intuitive to use for families and easy to implement for LTC operators (our clients). Our platform displays health information in a very simple and easy to understand way, and because we are integrated into the largest EMR in the country, it is very easy to implement and deploy. It only takes 60 seconds for a family member to enroll and get the platform. At the same time, it takes us less than one hour to implement our platform in our client’s facility.

Scalable market — We are solving a big problem for a big market. 52% of the U.S. population will need long-term care in their lifetime, which means the other 48% of us will also have to deal with it. We’ve secured a very large community of people that are dependent on our product for efficient communication.

Adoption workflow and user support– We have worked very hard to make it easy for our users to get and use our product. We have built a complete adoption workflow that guides our users back to our platform, how to use it and where to find it. We have also built an entirely different website exclusively for our family users, where they can get information on Long-Term Care, share experiences with other family members and give us feedback.

What is your monetization model? How do you monetize your community of users? Have you considered other monetization options? Why did you not use those?

Our customers are Long-Term Care operators. We charge them based on the size and number of facilities they manage. It is a monthly fee under longer-term contracts. As we were preparing to go-live with SafeKeeping, we considered many pricing models but landed on this one which is very similar to other models in our industry and is what our customers are accustomed to and prefer. I do anticipate that we will have the opportunity to change our monetization model as we add new features and functionality, but for now we have focused on keeping it very simple and easy to manage — both for us and our customers.

Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know before one wants to start an app or a SAAS? Please share a story or an example for each.

Defy the odds — People will doubt you, tell you your idea won’t work, and have their speculations. You have to have the passion and persistence to defy the odds. If you believe in what you’re creating and the impact it will have, push forward and prove them wrong. As a founder you have to go beyond the obvious, challenge the norms, solve issues that your competitors aren’t thinking about, and take steps that are going to set you apart. If it’s going to help your company grow, take the risk.

Reframe risk — Building a business is really hard and early on everything is important. My biggest lesson is that you have to reframe your perception of risk. It’s not always make-it or break it. Risks looks a lot different as a start-up SAAS and app company. I always look at what the optimal outcomes can be and what is the worst that can happen and then do what you can to manage to both.

Operate lean — Be prepared to operate pretty lean for the first year or two. Once you’ve gotten the company off the ground, spend the first couple of years building and operating efficiently. Listen to customer feedback, get to know your customers, and update your product appropriately. Be smart and be practical. What’s most important for your company at the start is to provide consumers with a valuable product, build brand awareness, and excel in customer service.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I really feel that almost everything comes down to communication- either good or bad. In most situations, if you have effective communication it improves almost every situation including work, love, and life. Look at what is going on in our world today, and so much of it is because we are struggling to effectively and constructively share ideas and viewpoints. SafeKeeping is pretty much based on this idea — with better communication between caregivers and families, studies have shown that better sharing of health information dramatically improves care outcomes. It’s the same in other areas. We all want to be happy and healthy, and I think it all starts with sharing information with each other.

How can our readers follow you on social media?



This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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About the author:

Mitch Russo started a software company in his garage, sold it for 8 figures and then went on to work directly with Tony Robbins and Chet Holmes to build a $25M business together. Mitch wrote a book called “The Invisible Organization — How Ingenious CEOs are Creating Thriving, Virtual Companies” and now his 2nd book called Power Tribes — “How Certification Can Explode Your Business.” Mitch helps SaaS company founders scale their own companies using his proprietary system. You can reach Mitch Directly via mitch@mitchrusso.com

5 Lessons I Learned When I Created My App or SAAS, with Doug Wilcox and Mitch Russo was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.