Stan Nowak is the founder and CEO of Silverlink, a healthcare consumer outreach company. Under Stan’s leadership, Silverlink has developed a flexible communications technology, proprietary analytics capabilities and a team with deep industry expertise. Stan’s background includes more than 22 years of general and executive management in technology services. Prior to founding Silverlink, he held executive roles with StorageNetworks, GTE, and InterGen (Bechtel). Stan holds a master’s degree from Harvard Business School and a bachelor’s degree from Harvard College.
Sramana: Stan, let’s start by looking into your background a bit. Where are you from, and where did your entrepreneurial passion develop?
Stan Nowak: I grew up in New England and was raised primarily in Rhode Island. I went to Harvard and spent time in the Boston area working in the energy business in my early career. I was overseas from 1993 to 1996 working in India, where I developed energy projects there as the country manager. I returned to the States in 1996, which was the birth of the commercial Internet.
I joined the company that built the Internet for DARPA in the 1960s called BBN. I worked in the Internet business for a few years and then spent some time in the storage as a service business for Storage Networks. They were a VC-funded company that IPO’d in 2000 and became a victim of the dot-com crash in 2001. That was my opportunity to transition into the founding of Silverlink in 2001 and 2002.
Sramana: What was the premise of Silverlink when you founded the company?
Stan Nowak: When I was working in Boston, I was living with my grandfather who was in his advanced 80s. He had been a chief of surgery at a local hospital and was a very intelligent man, but at that point in his life he was suffering from macular degeneration and glaucoma, and he was quite frail. He was still living in his own four-story home. Every day when I came home and touched the doorknob, I had the anxiety that I would find him at the bottom of the stairs after my day at work.
When I started Silverlink, I was looking for a solution to that problem. How do you provide peace of mind to family caregivers who are worried about members of their family living on their own? Silverlink’s initial instantiation was a lifeline system without the stigma. There was no pendant but there was still a way to check in remotely on seniors at home as a family care giver.
Sramana: What was the architecture of the solution that you envisioned at that point?
Stan Nowak: It was reaching out to seniors with automated interactive voice technologies. Those technologies had emerged at that point and were quite robust by the early 2000s. I could call him and say “Hey, Grandpa, it’s Stan. If you need to speak to me, say Stan, otherwise have a great day.” If he did not call back we could check in again in 10 minutes or escalate the response to a neighbor. Based on his response, I would get a hell or high water email from the system telling me that he answered the phone and did not need to talk to me. That was the basic architecture to do that work.
It was a SaaS-based model and the idea was that a family care giver would code the basic interactions and a virtual phonebook in the ether. It was designed for a family caregiver to drive the service.