Robin Wiener: I think the one thing about being an entrepreneur is that you always try to find what you like to do and see if you can make a career out of it. That’s what happened with recruiting for me. I found something I was passionate about and started following that. That took me to the IT world. All of a sudden, I’m recruiting for developers, project managers, and solution architects. With that, I’m learning about how technology can change people’s lives and what you can do with it.
Sramana Mitra: What year did you start this business?
Robin Wiener: I was the HR Director for USWeb from 1997 to 1999.
Sramana Mitra: I remember USWeb.
Robin Wiener: I ran the HR department. As the dot-com crashed, USWeb was bought by a company called Whittman-Hart out of Chicago. When they merged, they just imploded. They did a bunch of stuff that was pretty awful for the staff. Mark Heaney and Jason Harmon were my colleagues at that time. We all had the entrepreneurial spirit. This is when we decided to take our destiny in our own hands. We never wanted to be in a situation where we didn’t know what was coming down the path. We felt that we wanted to go out and try to do something ourselves. In 2001, we started Get Real Health.
Jason Harmon is a phenomenal developer and Mark Heaney was an engineer, while I know people. That was my piece. We wanted to make sure that we work with people we really like. Wouldn’t it be cool to be able to build something that can actually help people? That was the mission statement for us. That’s how Get Real Health started.
Sramana Mitra: What was the concept? What problem were you going to solve?
Robin Wiener: We first started just because it was the dot-com time. We were just getting out there and getting work.
Sramana Mitra: Are we talking about 1999?
Robin Wiener: Right after 1999, around 2001. We bootstrapped. We didn’t go out and get money. We lived in our basements and did it the old-fashioned way. We went out and pounded for business. We did a lot of development work and professional services. Eventually, we wanted to be a product company. We had seen what the venture capital world had done with the dot-com breakdown. We had a lot of friends who went out and got money and blew their businesses in a year. We had that concept of what we can do ourselves. We worked out of our homes.
Our next step was working with Maryland. They had an incubator program. Instead of going out and getting an office, we moved into their incubator program. Honestly, it was a small room with three desks. But they gave us some advantages. As an entrepreneur, I feel that you have to look around at state and government and see if there is anything they can do. If you do have to spend a bunch of money in the beginning, better hold on to your equity. We had access to lawyers for free, conference facilities, and printing at cheap rates. It was a good way for us to get started and move along. We did that for many years while figuring out where we can go and finding key employees to work with us. 2007 was when the ‘Aha’ moment happened for us.