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Cariloop The Expedia Model For Geriatric Care

Cariloop, Austin startup, Dallas startup,startup, startup interviewElder care and geriatric care are on the rise. As the baby boomer generation starts turning towards assisted living and geriatric care, the industry continues to grow. In 2013 we’re starting to see a new trend of somewhat computer savvy seniors, and their kids, turning to the internet to help find care and services.  We’re also at a time where more and more seniors are trying to prolong their independence by living at home. However, they still need resources.

Austin based Cariloop is a startup that is applying an Expedia like model to finding elder care and geriatric services.

Cariloop’s co-founder Michael Walsh tells us in an interview:

:Cariloop is a web-based platform designed to help geriatric care and service providers digitally market their capabilities. Cariloop’s search engine then allows anyone – healthcare professionals, consumers, patients – to get a more current, accurate snapshot of the providers in their area, reach out to them directly, or share their information with others…all in real-time.”

This gives users access to information that used to take months and months and hundreds of brochures to sift through. Now it’s all accessible at your fingertips and easily comparable.

Check out the rest of our interview with Walsh about this exciting new trend in elder care:

In layman’s terms, how does it work? (In other words how would you explain it to your grandmother)
Cariloop provides an easy way for geriatric (or “senior”) care and service providers, such as Assisted Living, Home Health, Behavioral Health, or Hospice to quickly and cost effectively market their businesses over the internet.  As people go to search for these providers online, they can come to Cariloop and get information directly from the providers themselves as opposed to having to call or email each of them individually, drastically reducing the time it takes to connect with the appropriate provider.  Think of it like Expedia when you are searching for a hotel – you’re able to search for exactly what you’re looking for, where you want it, and when.  The same goes for Cariloop, that person searching has access to information about a provider’s services, pricing, availability, personnel, as well as photos, documents, or other media.  So, basically Grandma, we’ve built this hub where providers of care or service and those in need of care or service can quickly find each other.  We know and understand that caring for the elderly population can be stressful, but finding the information that is needed to make informed decisions shouldn’t be.

Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?

Steven Theesfeld

Steve grew up in the south suburbs of Chicago in the town of Frankfort, IL.  In Steve’s last year of high school, he took part in a course that shadowed all the roles in a hospital – from the maintenance team to the executives.  It was in this class that he began to take interest in the healthcare field.  After high school, Steve left for the fresh air and even fresher snow of the Rocky Mountains. He attended the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he graduated with a degree in Psychology.  At the suggestion of his girlfriend (and now his wife), he wandered in to a new building near his apartment complex – and in to his first job in senior living.  Steve worked for Sunrise Senior Living as a Caregiver for the last two of his three years in Boulder.  After graduating in 2006, he had the opportunity to move to Minneapolis, MN to continue working with Sunrise as a Coordinator managing a team of Caregivers.  In his last role at Sunrise, he worked to turn around a property by increasing occupancy and improving quality.  Through all of his experience at Sunrise, he began to envision a better way for geriatric care and service companies to better reach their customers. That’s when he and Michael began working on what is now Cariloop.  Steve lives in Austin, TX with his wife, Kelly, and their two chocolate labs, Digger and Libby. He enjoys hiking, snowboarding, and holds his Certified Professional in Healthcare Quality (CPHQ) certification.

Michael Walsh

Michael also grew up in Frankfort, IL and spent many evenings sitting around bonfires over at Steve’s house.   In 2007, Michael graduated from Purdue University (Boiler Up!) with a BS in Industrial Management and minors in Finance and Honors Economics.  After graduation, Michael went home to Chicago and took a job with a business risk consulting firm called Protiviti.  While at Protiviti, he had the privilege of working with and learning from several large manufacturing and healthcare organizations.  It was here that his passion developed for our nation’s healthcare system and taking on some of its colossal problems really sparked.  Michael began working with Steve on getting Cariloop put together in 2010, but didn’t come on full time until spring of 2011.  Michael is also the Co-Founder of Health 2.0 Dallas and a National Academy of Sport Medicine (NASM) certified personal trainer working at LA Fitness.  He enjoys being at the gym, cooking, reading, travelling, and watching all Chicago sports.  Michael currently lives in Dallas, Texas.

Where are you based?

Cariloop is headquartered in Austin, TX.  Because we are focusing solely on the state of Texas as we get launched and scaled, and being that the majority (30%) of the providers in the state are in Dallas, Michael is in Dallas spearheading the business development efforts.  Our presence in Austin is obvious – budding technology scene, lots of entrepreneurs, investors, accelerators to meet and learn from, great programs through the University of Texas, plus tons of cool stuff to do!

What’s the startup scene/culture like where you’re based?

The energy in Austin is fantastic.  We were at meetup a few weeks back and met the Founder of Map My Run and a few other entrepreneurs that live in town – so cool to hear their stories and talk with them about what we’re doing with Cariloop.  Austin has sort of become this other version of the Valley for tech startups and entrepreneurs to get rolling.  I think the business environment and cost of living in Texas  can be a bit more favorable to what people deal with in California sometimes.  Dallas, on the other hand, is still in its infancy when it comes to the culture for startups and entrepreneurs.  I did a search a few weeks back on AngelList and saw that the number of startups in Austin compared to Dallas was like 3:1.  Dallas doesn’t have the volume of Angel investors, accelerator programs, or work spaces that Austin has either.  However, that being said, Dallas is a major hub for some of the largest Technology companies in the world – AT&T, Verizon, Cisco, Raytheon, Dell to name a few.  The hope is that us entrepreneurs can work together to really bring the Dallas startup scene to life in the new few years and maybe even get the larger corporations involved.

How did you come up with the idea for Cariloop?

The idea has evolved quite a bit from when it was first conceived by Steve back in 2008.  Steve worked for this large, public Assisted Living Corporation and was working within his teams to improve the occupancy rates for the buildings in his region.  As he was doing his research, he was struggling to find a way to reach consumers both efficiently and cost effectively.  The healthcare market was very behind for the time (and still is in most places), so the best means of advertising your healthcare business was to put yourself in a magazine or newspaper.  Even 5 years ago, it was easy to tell the print advertising business was quickly becoming out of style – the world was on the cusp of a social media explosion.  As he researched more about putting some ads within these magazines, he realized that the prices were extremely high and not within any budget that had been set up for him.  The thought that this was the best possible way kinda bothered him.

Steve started to do some more research and speak with people in the hospital settings.  Sure enough, they told him that when patients, especially elderly patients, are ready to be discharged home or to some type of assisted facility, the best tool at these professional’s disposal to aid this patient was a magazine, list, or newspaper.  The patient and their family would be left to call everyone to locate open beds, figure out pricing, tour the facility, etc.  This all seemed pretty unacceptable, so Steve began drafting up a plan to create a basic system that would allow providers like the one he worked for to put up info about their organization online so that patients and healthcare professionals searching could have an easier time finding what they need post-discharge.

I entered the picture shortly thereafter when Steve approached me with this business plan.  As we continued to do our research and speak with as many people in the healthcare field as we could, we discovered this giant gap in the information sharing ability between the acute and post-acute providers.  Now, around the same time, the federal government was proposing the Affordable Care Act (what we all have come to know as “Healthcare Reform” or “Obamacare”) and the idea of an Accountable Care Organization.  In a nutshell, what this meant was that our country’s healthcare providers were now going to be judged on the quality of a patient’s visit, the satisfaction level of the patient, and whether or not the patient’s program was coordinated with other providers to produce the best possible result.  Our idea seemed to have the perfect timing – the healthcare industry was going to need a much better way to share info and connect with its audience.   From that point, we worked to bring our idea to life

How did you come up with the name?

The company was originally called SeniorCare Connector, but as we continued to research and launch our prototype, we realized we needed something more unique to build our brand around.  All along we envisioned our system creating this loop, or ebb and flow, of information between suppliers of care and service and those that have a demand for it.  That just meant we needed to come up with something that made sense within that vision.  The first root “Cari” actually means “Care and resource information”, creating the name “Care and resource information loop”, or Cariloop (pronounced care-il-oop).  I’ll be the first to admit that picking a name is much harder than I thought it’d be!

What problem does Cariloop solve?

Cariloop’s mission is to help everyone get a more current, accurate snapshot of the geriatric care and service providers in the market.   By providing a unique, easy-to-use platform that allows geriatric care and service providers to better share their information on the web, Cariloop strives to significantly reduce the time and costs associated with bringing providers and their customers together.

As mentioned earlier, people really struggle to plan for and find geriatric care and service providers in the market.  So much precious time is wasted when patients are preparing to be discharged from a hospital or in need of more assistance in their day-to-day lives and they can’t find the help they need.  The root of the problem lies in the fact that the healthcare providers themselves haven’t adopted many of the modern techniques available to them to connect with their potential customers and audience.  For example, here in Texas, there are over 10,000 of these providers, but because many of them don’t have websites, social media accounts, or even list themselves in the books, magazines, or newspapers, no one knows they exist.  They list all sorts of reasons for avoiding the technology – too hard to manage, too expensive to maintain, not enough time to keep up, etc.  Well, we believe that with the right tool that’s easy to manage, inexpensive to maintain, and can be used fast, just maybe we can get these providers caught up to the social media era and sharing information about themselves.  In doing so, those people searching get the information they need quickly!

What’s your secret sauce?

The pricing and model.  Most of the companies we go up against are charging big fees and/or managing these providers’ information for them.  The issue here is that this information changes very quickly, so unless these third parties are keeping up, that information is typically obsolete.  This doesn’t provide a whole lot of value to anyone. We’d rather see a grassroots approach used so that the providers themselves easily login and control their information, update it as it changes, and actively share that with the public, all for as low as $20/month.  At that price point, the conversion cost for these providers could drop drastically.

Are you bootstrapped or funded?

Bootstrapped.  We raised a friends and family round of cash over the course of a year or two as we were getting going which has carried us through to this point.  As we get re-launched here in January, we’ll look to raise a seed round sometime over the first half of 2013.

What are some milestones you’ve achieved?

Well, to this point, staying alive has been a huge milestone in itself.  We’ve had our fair share of pivots to overcome to get to the point we’re at now prepping for a re-launch.  I’m sure many startup founders out there can understand that staying alive can often be the biggest challenge you face.  Another results-based milestone was being able to beta test both in Minneapolis, MN and Dallas, TX with about 150 geriatric care providers.  Everyone we worked with from about mid-2011 through mid-2012 was terrific – so many people share our concern for this problem and want to see a better approach.

What’s your next milestone?

As mentioned, the next milestone will be to get some traction going here in Texas with many of the providers we’ve formed relationships with over the past 18 months.  Our focus is and always has been on providing them with something that actually helps them.  We’d like to be working with about 5-10% of the Texas market in 2013 while also educating the healthcare systems themselves what we’re all about.  As we work with the providers, site traffic will obviously be a huge focus for us as well to form these connections between the user and the provider.

What’s one challenge you’ve overcome in the startup process?

Such a loaded question, there’s really a new challenge every day to overcome.  I had always heard that when being involved with a startup, there are the “highest of highs and lowest of lows” that come with the territory.  I don’t think I quite grasped the depth of that statement until recently, and even then, we are still finding ways to test those boundaries.  There have been numerous situations come up where you literally want to throw your laptop across the room and call up the corporate recruiter to find you a job.  The challenge to overcome is keeping in mind what you’re trying to accomplish and never letting your focus waver.  I think if you let it, that itch to pack up and go home can really push you and drive you forward.

I know one specific challenge for us has been working within the healthcare industry to convince people that technology is not their enemy.  Many of these great people have been in the industry for 20 to 30 years and are accustomed to doing things a certain way.  It’s really industry wide theme to still see folks avoiding mobile apps or other internet-based technologies and relying upon paper, filing, notes, etc.  Our task has been to show them that Cariloop is something that could really bolster their efforts to better care for patients and their families, not hinder it. Most people can tell within a minute or so that we’re pretty passionate about the issue we’re trying to solve, so that usually helps.

Who are some of your mentors and business role models?

We actually just welcomed the first member of our Advisory Board a month ago.  Mark DeBree has his MBA in Finance, his CFA designation, and works as a Director of ALM for Catalyst Strategic Solutions.  Mark’s expertise lies in helping companies chart their financial, performance, and product initiatives while managing the risk exposure they face.  Mark is assisting us and providing guidance related to our strategic initiatives and growth plan.  We’re looking to add a few more people to our advisory board here over the next 6 months.

In terms of other business role models, I know I am learning a lot from books, articles, blogs, radio shows and tweets from Eric Ries, Jonah Lupton, and Guy Kawasaki.  Obviously Lean Startup was awesome, a must read for anyone who currently is or is thinking about starting a company.  Jonah has a great radio show called Startup Sense that I’ve been listening to, worth checking out.  Guy’s book “The Art of the Start” was awesome, caught myself laughing plenty of times at some of the stuff he talked about.  Then, I know I always enjoy watching any interview with Elon Musk, seems like he’d be a real cool guy to grab a beer with.

What’s next for Cariloop?

The main focus in 2013 is simple – creating value for customers here in Texas.  We’ve got some things we need to get accomplished along the way – adding people to our team, more research and development, fundraising, etc.  However, this year is about finally delivering a product to the state of Texas that alleviates this pain point I’ve been explaining.  If we can be successful in that objective, that’ll open a lot of other doors for us.

Where can people find out more and what is your Twitter username?

Cariloop is getting set to re-launch here in the next few weeks, but you can go to www.cariloop.com to check out the landing page and sign up for newsletters or connect with us via social media.  Twitter username for Cariloop is @CariloopInc, Twitter username for me is @WalshMichaelR.

Also wanted to note that I will be in attendance at EverywhereElse.co, can’t wait to check it all out and hang out in Memphis!

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