How Reachify Came to Be: An Interview with Co-Founder Dr. Erik Stark
by Lauren Salles, on Jan 8, 2019 11:06:54 AM
Dr. Erik Stark, co-founder of Reachify, is an orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine. He currently acts as Vice President at Orthopedic Surgeons of North County (OSNC) located in Carlsbad, CA. Originally from New York, he completed his residency in Boston before moving to San Diego, where he now lives with his wife of 6 years and two sons.
Did you ever think that you would start your own business?
I’ve always had some connections in the startup business world and liked the idea of creating something that could benefit people.
Originally, I thought that I would start my own orthopedic practice.
Through my work in the private medical sector, I learned a lot about running a business. Doctors that work outside of a hospital must provide services to their patients while simultaneously managing their own businesses. I learned firsthand how tricky it can be to balance the responsibilities of doctor and business owner.
The idea for Reachify arose from a desire to optimize my own medical practice. As my career advanced, I began to see a business opportunity based on my current experience as a doctor. I work in a large private medical practice with 14 doctors, a private business office, and MRI machines on site. As in any service industry, customer support is of the utmost importance. However, like many large companies, I felt that our customer service experience was lacking.
Can you expand on how your own experiences as a doctor lead to the idea for Reachify?
These days, it seems like people receive better customer service from their cable company than they do from their own doctor’s office. The quality of customer service correlates directly with the quality of communication between the company and client. Often times, clients can reach out to their cable company via text and receive an immediate answer from an actual person. I wanted to find a way to simulate that communicative efficiency in the medical world.
Many messages in healthcare get lost in the cross-communication that occurs between the patient, doctor, office staff, and other professionals.
Take this example:
You have a patient who calls the office with a specific health-related question for the doctor. However, the doctor is in surgery, so the receptionist takes a message. She sends an email to the doctor, who opens it a few hours later and attempts to call the patient. The patient doesn’t answer, so the doctor leaves a voicemail asking for a call back. And the cycle repeats itself.
What’s wrong with this system?
Mainly, there is no way to keep track of all of the communication that is occurring between the doctor and patient. This creates more work for everyone involved. Patient, doctor, and office staff must continually repeat and relay information to one another.
When you have multiple communication pathways going on and no system that organizes them all, it’s very easy for messages to become lost.
That’s where Reachify comes in.
How can Reachify address the shortcomings that you’ve observed in healthcare communication?
Collaboration between patient, providers, and office staff is essential in healthcare. They need a secure system that can organize, record, and document all of their communication.
Technology tends to lag behind in the medical world, partly due to security issues. However, “old-school” ways of thinking are the main inhibitors to communication advancement in medicine.
Reachify makes communication easy, fast, and efficient. It’s HIPAA compliant and allows doctors, office staff, and other relevant professionals to communicate with the patient via telephone, text, email, and/or chat. All communication pathways are integrated with one another and can be used and accessed from one place.
I wanted the experience of using Reachify to be as simple and seamless as using your cell phone. Your cell phone allows you to call, text, and send emails all from one location. It also stores your voicemails and communication history with specific individuals. That’s the convenience that Reachify aims to provide.
How can Reachify be useful to businesses outside of healthcare?
Healthcare is complex and contains many communication and security issues. My thinking was that if you can build something that works well in that environment, it can probably work well in any environment.
Once we started building the product, we saw value for businesses outside of healthcare.
My medical office, like many businesses, receives about 1500 phone calls per day. Businesses typically can’t hire 200 people to field these phone calls. However, customers still want a personal experience, so businesses must find a way to balance efficiency with personableness.
Reachify allows customers to communicate the same way with businesses as they do with others. Customers can contact a company using their own preferred method of communication whether it be telephone or text.
I’ve observed many companies recently who are attempting to “revolutionize” business communication. They propose that everything can be accomplished via text or chat. I just don’t believe that’s true. In many business settings, people still want to have the option to talk to someone over the phone.
Sometimes, evolution is better than revolution. The best products don’t attempt to change a person’s (or business’s) behavior - they just modify it slightly. With this in mind, Reachify does not want to change how businesses operate. Rather, Reachify aims to make your business communication smoother and more cost-effective by merging with already-existing phones/phone lines, computers, and email accounts. It allows you to go mobile and carry your business with you in your pocket.
Can you tell us about the process of building your company (hiring employees, etc)?
I first proposed the idea to my colleague, Dr. Richard Balikian, who helped me brainstorm and form a plan. Then, we brought in Alex Bard from RedPoint Ventures (who co-founded what became Desk.com) as an advisor.
Next, we needed someone to design the software. We sought the expertise of a software engineer who built our prototype. Once the initial product was ready to be tested, we brought in some healthcare professionals including the CEO of a hospital. A few doctors’ offices volunteered to test the prototype and provide feedback.
Around this time, we partnered with Vish Verma, a doctor and entrepreneur who owns a medical spa in San Diego. He agreed to experiment with our product and offered suggestions and improvements.
Like any new company, we experienced many ups and downs. There was a lot of trial and error and we struggled to find the right people who could execute our vision.
Ultimately, we found Greg Spillane, our current CEO. He took our lump of clay and molded it into something valuable. He created a plan of action that took our business to the next level, which allowed me to take an advisory role.
Where do you see Reachify going in the future?
In my circle, I’m known as the dreamer. I believe that we built a really great product that could benefit any business. Reachify delivers proper message routing along with other features at an equal or lower cost. In my eyes, there’s no reason why a business wouldn’t want to use it. Any service industry that requires customer communication could find value in Reachify.
Moving forward, we plan to make our software compatible with other systems. To date, we’ve collaborated with MINDBODY, and I don’t see a limit to where it can go next.
To what do you attribute your success?
My father played a huge part in my success growing up. My mother died when I was 11 years old, and my father kept me on the right track. It’s easy to take a wrong turn when you experience childhood trauma. My dad wasn’t perfect, but he made sure that I always stayed focused on the straight and narrow.
As I got older, my perseverance showed. When presented with a challenge, I excelled. I set goals for myself and pursued them with my whole being. The fear of failure drove me and still does today. I’m somewhat of a perfectionist, which works to my advantage in some ways.
My relentlessness drives some people crazy, but I believe it’s gotten me to where I am today.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Don’t sweat the small stuff.
I put a lot of pressure on myself, which sometimes causes extra stress. And when you’re stressed, you forget to enjoy things. Looking back, there were many times when I should have been enjoying myself, but instead I was stressing. It’s important to find a balance of healthy, motivating stress while also enjoying the process for what it is.
What is the best $100 you recently spent?
I recently purchased a Baby bouncer for my 10-week old son. He loves it and he can sit with us while we are eating or hanging out.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I love watching and discussing movies or shows with my family. In fact, I’m a huge Marvel fan and I own a full Iron Man suit (my last name is Stark, after all). We go to Comic-Con every year and dress up as a family. It’s a great time!
Thanks, Dr. Stark!
Have more questions? We have answers! Contact Reachify today.