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Building a Healthcare Company from Rhode Island: ShapeUp CEO Rajiv Kumar (Part 4)

Posted on Thursday, Mar 27th 2014

Sramana: Was there any kind of targeting or segmenting that you were doing when approaching enterprises?

Rajiv Kumar: Absolutely. We had a very specific approach for employee wellness. We learned that it was an uphill battle for companies that did not believe in employee wellness to begin with. If they were not already investing in the health of their employees, then they were not good prospects. It is a major effort to change people’s minds about wellness and that is not something we were financed to do. Instead, we went to the companies that had already committed to their employees health to show them how they could get even more out of their existing programs.

We started to segment the market into companies who had wellness programs and companies that did not. Those became the early adopters. Those were companies who had programs and were winning awards for being so innovative.

Sramana: How did you find those companies?

Rajiv Kumar: The great thing about those companies is that they are always in the press. They are in published case studies, lists of best places to work, and other publications. We would just call them up and ask them if they had social programs. That was enough to get our calls returned.

There were certainly challenges since we were a small company calling on Fortune 1000s, however, we had a credible message that many found compelling. Having a point of view matters. If that point of view is contrarian, it is potent. We wanted our message to be diametrically opposed to conventional wisdom. We did not want health to be an individual task, and we did not want people to get paid to do a wellness program.

The fact is that employees want to be healthy. Employees just need to be engaged. We showed companies that they did not have to pay employees to be healthy, they just needed to use social engagement. Our point of view helped us gain credibility and establish a beach head.

Sramana: What year does that bring us to?

Rajiv Kumar: That brings us up to 2009. We had roughly 75 to 100 customers by that time.

Sramana: How many people were on the social network at this point?

Rajiv Kumar: It was in the low hundreds of thousands at that point. By the time we did our venture round, we had a seven figure run rate. We were working with some very large customers such as Aetna and United Health Group. What is nice about enterprise customers is that they can bring you 100,000 people. We were acquiring our participants in that step-wise fashion.

This segment is part 4 in the series : Building a Healthcare Company from Rhode Island: ShapeUp CEO Rajiv Kumar
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