We started this series of interviews with early stage startup founders who’ve been running their business for the ~last 18 months. The goal is to draw out their experiences while starting ad running their businesses, which could come in handy for the next crop of entrepreneurs.
Tell me a bit about your background ? Your education, work experience etc …
Andrew : I studied finance in college and started my career in Sales. I started my stint with startups at MDLIVE, that does tele health visits with doctors.
MDLIVE, when I started was in the early stages. We had a little bit of money to build out that idea, similar to the stage I’m at right now with Papa. My main role was to build out a strategy and sales process for employers, to offer MDLIVE to employees as benefits.
Then I went on to manage our health system channel to develop that part of the strategy.
MDLIVE now has over 25M members and integrations with many health systems that our team helped to grow.
You’ve also been part of startup bootcamp. Can you talk a bit about that and how that experience helped ?
Andrew : I mentored at Startup Bootcamp. I did not go through their bootcamp program. I was more involved with them because of MDLIVE as it was mutually beneficial for us and their partner startups. But I definitely think, their bootcamp would be valuable.
And what are you working on now ?
Andrew : About a year ago, I started working on Papa. My grandfather had dementia. We had difficulty managing his daily experience. I started Papa to support him. I called him Papa :)
And I realized that other people had this issue too.
So, we built this on demand service to provide help for transportation, companionship and stuff like that for elders. We also built our technology to be an ecosystem for all needs that elders have. It could be needing a nurse, or a tele-health call with a doctor, or scheduling a physical visit with a physician.
Right now we’re focused on one part of our product, PapaPals, where we use high quality individuals available on the market as needed to help elders with their day to day needs. Through our mobile app, you can schedule help same day or anytime in the future.
What stage is the product at ?
Andrew : We started building Papa in 2016, but I started to focus full-time on Papa only recently. We are live on the App store now.
How has the initial traction and feedback been so far ?
Andrew : Prior to the public launch, we did a pilot with a small number of clients and many remain active on the system. Active users are very important to us.
We saw decent traction with the limited employers we did a pilot with as well. These employers offered Papa as a benefit for their employees, who had elders that needed help with stuff around the house.
Regarding the product, people are pretty blown away by the experience, as we don’t use traditional care givers. We have a unique network of providers that we call Papa Pals. It’s a completely different experience from the traditional care.
How do you plan to grow the user base and get more folks to try out Papa ?
Andrew : We’re working on large contracts with employers. We’re also working with one of the largest senior communities in south Florida.
We’re positioning ourselves as both B2B as well as B2C.
I intend to use a lot that I learned at MDLIVE and apply to Papa from Day 1.
What have been your biggest difficulties or challenges so far ?
Andrew : Initial traction has been the biggest challenge. Since its a two sided platform, it’s a chicken and egg problem that every platform faces. So managing that has been the most difficult.
In terms of the product, its still MVP. We will be releasing the updated version shortly. We brought on a local development team to help us bridge the gap between where the product is right now, and where we want it to be, with some of the funding we’ve received.
There’s this uniqueness to your platform, that it’s not using traditional care givers, but uses Papa pals. Did that also cause any regulatory headaches ?
Andrew : Our model is to partner with home care companies, if you do need care. But that’s not our main focus. We try to get to people before they need care.
If you have multiple chronic diseases and you’re bed ridden, you shouldn’t use PapaPals. But if you’re 90 years old and you’re fine, you just don’t have a car, or don’t drive one, thats where we support you.
It’s sort of like Uber for elder folks. But not exactly Uber as in taxi rides, but Uber for help in general for elder folks.
Andrew : Exactly, It’s Uber for errands and friendship :)
Given that you did not really have any formal education in Computer science or Product development, how did you go about, taking the idea and translating that into a product ?
Andrew : I did not have any formal training in Computer Science or product development and I still don’t know how to code. But now I can manage how a product is developed.
I used that knowledge and showed it to different people that would then build the ideas that we had.
So the team that built the product was in house or outsourced ?
Andrew : The team was a remote outsourced team, in Argentina, and they were good and I liked them. But they weren’t a full-time dedicated team. Now that we raised a little bit of money, we hired a local team, to build out the product.
What process did you have in place to search, evaluate and hire the outsourcing team you worked with in Argentina ? And why work with an outsourced team and not an in house team in the first place ?
Andrew : Money was definitely a big reason why we chose to go with an outsourced team. And we had experience working with this Argentinian team. My cofounder had worked with someone at his past company, and this person moved to Argentina. So he, along with a bunch of other programmers he strung together, worked for us to build the MVP.
It wasn’t a company, it was a group that we put together.
What have been some of the best things that have happened to you since you started Papa ?
Andrew : The PapaPal experience has been amazing, and to me it has been the most positive and surprising thing. It will also really impact these people’s lives, help them to get jobs in the healthcare space.
It also helps these young kids to learn empathy, when they work with elders. And that will definitely add value to everything they do in life going forward.
What would you define as the success metric for Papa ? Or when would you feel Papa is successful ?
Andrew : We want to really blow it out in South Florida, and then expand to the next 10 markets and then within 3 years nationally. When we are a national name, that’s when I’ll consider Papa a success.
Do you ever get thoughts of ‘WHAT IF’ this doesn’t work out. All the time, money, effort that you put in amounting to nothing. What if things don’t pan out the way you expected ? Ever get those thoughts?
Andrew : After raising funds, I thought I would think, holy shit, what if I mess this up, and lose my investor’s money and my wife isn’t happy with me etc …
But I, for whatever reasons, don’t feel that way. I definitely feel stressed, but in a healthy way. But this is the kind of thing I was born to do. So I feel highly confident.
One of my personal greatest skills is my ability to take rejection. It does not affect me at all. In fact, it encourages me to do better.
That’s an awesome state of mind to be in.
Andrew : Yeah, call me in 6 months, and I hope it stays that way ;)
Based on all the hustle and experience with MDLIVE and Papa, what advice would you give your younger self, who’d be looking to start out ?
The advice I would give would be to Just do it. You could think about all sorts of different scenarios, where its good, or not good or whatever. But if you have an idea, and want to try it out, especially when you’re under 30 years old with no commitments, its the best time.
The worst thing that can happen is, you gotta go back and get another job.
So, that’s Nike’s tagline — Just do it :)