From Bootstrap to VC: Appature Doubles Size in a Year, Looks for Next Defining Moment in Health IT

5/24/10Follow @gthuang

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about physicians’ needs, and how to communicate the advantages of their products.

How is Appature doing on that front? “Since our funding, it’s been all about how to build our commercial strategy, and identifying the right [employees],” Shahani told me last week. “Everything is about scale for us, and brand awareness. What’s the repeatable model for sales and implementation?”

A big part of the Appature model, as he says, is people. In the past two months, the company has added three key new members of the management team. They are Mike Lamberson, director of marketing, an 11-year veteran of Johnson & Johnson (a big customer of Appature’s); Kent Corley, vice president of customer engagement, a 10-year vet of Accenture; and Todd Feinroth, an enterprise software sales expert recently tapped to lead the Appature sales team. Shahani credits his investors, particularly at Ignition and Madrona, for helping to recruit these top-level folks; he also gives props to Emily Schrock from Role Call, a Seattle-based social recruiting agency for startups.

It’s always interesting to hear people talk about why they joined a startup after working in a big company. Lamberson says, “The potential and unmet need [for a product like Appature’s] was just too big… The biggest eye-opener for me is that everyone knows what the goal is and what they’re driving…Here everyone knows what the scoreboard is, and how to win.” Corley adds, “Here they talk about the data, not ‘where’s my [bleeping] report?’” He also cites “the team, the energy to grow and build something really amazing” as positive factors.

But one issue in any growing startup is the role of the founders, and how their relationship evolves. Hahn, the engineering brains of the operation, says his role has been pretty steady. “I still write a lot of code,” he says. “CTOs need to stay connected to the technology.” What’s more, although he and Shahani acknowledge they don’t spend as much time together as they did in the early days, their communications have become much more efficient. “We can go through a bullet-point list of 100 items in an hour,” Hahn says.

To get a better feel for Appature’s narrative arc, I asked Shahani for a few defining moments in the company’s history. A couple of them stood out. One was when the company landed its first customer, in May 2007. “Someone was willing to pay us money for the product,” Shahani beams. And the second was a meeting that took place at a Ritz-Carlton hotel in Orlando, FL, in early 2008.

As Shahani explains, the meeting was between corporate giants Microsoft and Johnson & Johnson, with little Appature in the middle. (J&J had invited the startup to attend.) Microsoft’s Health Solutions Group was getting ready to roll out its HealthVault software platform for electronic medical records, and it wanted Johnson & Johnson to sign up as a launch partner. But the two sides were having trouble understanding each other’s jargon, Shahani says.

“It was like one was speaking Greek and the other was speaking Russian,” he says. … Next Page »

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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