Talyst, With $8M in New Funding, Sets Sights on Its Next Healthcare-IT Business
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and co-founder Jim Torina with Corkern. “The future of the company was in new markets, which were only 20 percent of our business,” Corkern says. “Jim saw that and positioned me as the new market champion.”
Asked about some of the company’s missteps, Corkern points to a couple of specific areas. In hospitals, she says, “we didn’t worry about customers’ upgrade path. We didn’t do a lot of backward compatibility.” That means some of the equipment around Talyst’s technology, like printers and scanners, would wear out after a few years and drag down the system, defeating the whole point of simplifying the dispensing of meds. “[Customers] weren’t complaining about aging infrastructure, but it was creating heartache and problems,” she says. So Talyst spent almost $1 million on updating the equipment. Customer satisfaction has since “skyrocketed,” Corkern says. She adds that Talyst now follows more of a Microsoft model for installing upgrades, which is more automated and “not invasive.”
Corkern also shared a couple of interesting anecdotes about hard decisions she made concerning elements of the product line that weren’t making money. “They were cool and sexy, and [customers] said they wanted them,” she says. For example, a wireless device designed so a caretaker could keep track of medication orders while walking around a pharmacy. But hospital pharmacies are usually located in basements with concrete walls where wireless signals are unreliable, leading to dropped orders. “We had the courage to shoot some products,” she says. “Don’t be afraid to kill something even if you’ve invested in it.”
Talyst turned profitable this year, following its major restructuring of 2008, Corkern says. As for the new markets it is targeting—facilities like nursing homes and prisons—the company is running pilot tests in long-term care homes in Texas, Florida, and Indiana. It has also closed deals with five pharmacies that service hundreds of facilities, including correctional facilities at 13 locations in San Bernardino County in California. The company’s traditional competitors in the hospital pharmacy space, like Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen, probably won’t follow Talyst into nursing homes or jails, Corkern says. But wherever it goes, Talyst will still face competition from the likes of Advanced Pharmacy and Omnicell in the increasingly crowded healthcare-IT space.
It’s still early days for the company’s market shift, Corkern says. Eighty percent of Talyst’s revenue still comes from its established hospital business, which is about $35 million to $40 million a year and growing at a rate of five to 10 percent annually, she says.