As usual, we love Bootstrapping Using Services case studies.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the beginning of your journey. Where are you from? Where were you born and raised? What kind of background did you have?
Jawad Shaikh: I was born in Pakistan. I came to the United States when I was four years old. I lived here in the States my entire life. My story falls under the Entrepreneur Journeys because my family is a business family. My father had his own business. I used to work with him. My story starts there.
Sramana Mitra: Set this in the context of the timeline. When were you coming out of school? Where did you go to school?
Jawad Shaikh: I graduated high school in 1995. I went to Georgia Tech for about a year or so and then I got a job at a local hospital. That is how I got into the healthcare industry. I always knew that I wanted to start my business.
I started making a lot more money working at the job or with my part-time business than I would after finishing school. I left school and just focused on my first business which I started in 2000. This was a pure healthcare technical consulting company.
Sramana Mitra: What kind of consulting were you doing?
Jawad Shaikh: It was mostly technical consulting on how to integrate healthcare systems. While I was working, one of the things that I learned was interfacing and tying healthcare data together. During that time, data was disparate. You could not get your results over to physicians. This included a lot of data integration and technical services.
Sramana Mitra: How long did you do this?
Jawad Shaikh: I started this business in 2000. I was mostly an independent consultant for the first couple of years. We grew to 30 employees by 2010. That was the same year that I sold off that business. I worked for that acquiring company for a couple of years after that.
Sramana Mitra: What happens after this?
Jawad Shaikh: After I sold off that company, I worked with them for a couple of years. It was a completely different mind shift working in a much larger organization. It had too much bureaucracy. That is not the environment that I am used to. I was used to entrepreneurship where you identify issues and go after them.
I left that after a couple of years. I did a little bit of independent contract work. Around 2014, my brother said, “Hey, we should go to business together.” We were in a similar field.
In 2014, we started Avelead. We started with what we knew best. We did consulting services around integration, implementing EMR systems, medical records systems, and relationships that we had in the market.
Sramana Mitra: How long did you continue in that mode of implementing EMR systems?
Jawad Shaikh: Healthcare is behind in the technology world. We had started creating software tools that would help us in our consulting. We were doing data reconciliation and audits and we developed tools to be able to do that. We were selling them as consulting services.
As we were going through and talking with our customers, they were saying, “Hey, I love your tool. Can you leave this behind, or this is something we work on our own?” That started creating the path to say, “Hey, we can make this a product and turn it into a true software product.”
Our first tool was our data comparison engine. We turned that into a product and started selling it to our existing clients as a software solution and not just a consulting solution. We started adding additional modules and products on top of that as well.