Backed by 500 Startups and Adams Street Partners, MyHealthTeams creates social communities for people suffering from chronic illnesses and their caregivers
A Q&A with MyHealthTeams co-founder and CEO Eric Peacock. The San Francisco-based company was founded in the Summer of 2011 and raised $1.75 million in Seed funding in mid-August from 500 Startups and Adams Street Partners.
SUB: Please describe MyHealthTeams, and the value proposition you bring to healthcare.
Peacock: If you or a loved one are diagnosed with a chronic health condition, it should be easy to find the best people around to help you. MyHealthTeams creates social networks for communities with chronic conditions. We make it easy for you to meet other people who are in your shoes and learn from them so that you don’t have to re-invent the wheel. We launched MyAutismTeam, a social network for parents of kids with autism just over a year ago. You can think of it as a combination of Facebook and Yelp specifically for parents with children on the autism spectrum. It has really taken off, and now we are launching similar social networks for other conditions.
One out of every two Americans is currently living with a chronic condition. That’s over 150 million Americans and that number will grow to 200 million in ten years. What MyHealthTeams is doing is working to fill the void for the millions of people in the U.S. living with chronic health conditions who want to connect with a network of others who have been in their shoes and can offer tips and referrals on local providers and specialists.
SUB: Who are your target users?
Peacock: MyAutismTeam is for parents of children with autism—that is the caregivers of the person with the chronic condition. Soon we will be introducing new networks directly for people with other chronic conditions. For example, next month we will launch a site for women with breast cancer.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition? What differentiates MyHealthTeams from the competition?
Peacock: A lot of people impacted by chronic conditions have used Yahoo Groups or other list serves as a way to connect and ask questions of others with the same condition. Many groups have sprouted up on Facebook as well, but not everyone is comfortable sharing details about their health on Facebook. None of these solutions, nor any of the traditional health Q&A sites or discussion forums, provide what caregivers and patients really want—namely, an easy way to find other people just like them, get to know and learn from them in an open and safe environment. We combined the social aspects of Facebook with the local referrals of Yelp and made them specific to a single community—e.g. parents of children with autism. For example, beyond just searching for another parent of a child with autism—you can filter your search to find parents with children the same age as yours, with the same developmental needs and sub-diagnoses. In addition, you can find and share the best specialists and other local providers for your condition, through recommendations from the other folks you meet on the site. No other site does that. We simply took the social and local tools everyone was accustomed to using from the mass market web, and put them to work in the context of specific conditions.
SUB: When was the company founded and what were the first steps you took in establishing it?
Peacock: We had the idea for MyHealthTeams while I was running another company, Insider Pages. We built a prototype for MyAutismTeam while there, launched it in June 2011 and began iterating on it. MyAutismTeam grew from about 30 parents to 10,000 parents in four months. After that we formally incorporated MyHealthTeams and set about fundraising while bootstrapping for a few months.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for MyHealthTeams? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Peacock: We all know someone who has been impacted by a life-changing condition and we were particularly inspired by the experiences of people in our own lives. When you or a loved one are diagnosed with a chronic condition or disease, it should be easy to find the people and resources that can best help you. But it’s not easy. If you ask anyone impacted by autism, breast cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Crohn’s, or other chronic conditions, they will describe it as a ‘painfully frustrating’ experience that is ‘lonely’ and similar to ‘reinventing the wheel.’ We saw this as a huge void that needed to be filled.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story behind it?
Peacock: Individuals with chronic conditions end up building a large team of people to help them—everyone from doctors and specialists in their condition, to the barber, dentist, personal trainer, schools and nutritionists that are helpful. They also assemble a large group of peers going through the same condition. MyHealthTeams flowed naturally from what they do in real life.
SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building the company?
Peacock: The biggest challenge is getting the word out. A caregiver, like a parent of a child with autism, or an adult diagnosed with a chronic condition, are typically starting from scratch in terms of their knowledge of the condition and support available. Depending on the condition, they most likely won’t have a lot of friends and family that have gone through it, so they probably won’t hear about one of MyHealthTeams social networks. But, as we launch more sites, it won’t be long until people start hearing about us from other parents, other patients, the clinics where they get the diagnosis, and so on. We find that as MyAutismTeam has grown, the word-of-mouth referrals have grown along with it because people naturally want to share something they think will be beneficial to others like them. We’ve grown quickly because we are meeting such an underserved need that people want to help us spread the word.
SUB: You recently revealed that you’ve raised $1.75 million in new funding. Why was this a good time to raise outside funding, and how do you plan to use the funds?
Peacock: We bootstrapped for about four months and saw that the business was really taking off. So we will use this round to scale MyHealthTeams’ business, expand the team and drive awareness of our social networks and mobile apps.
SUB: Do you plan to raise additional funding in the near future?
Peacock: I think we’ll raise more money next year.
SUB: How does the company generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Peacock: MyHealthTeams is pre-revenue and focused now on scaling our first social network, MyAutismTeam, and launching our second network next month. However, we already have more than 27,000 registered parents on MyAutismTeam and that number is growing every day. Going forward, we intend to leverage the large numbers of parents on MyAutismTeam to benefit them. For example, with 27,000 parents we can negotiate services and products they need and secure discounts or better deals to help them obtain more services that will help their children. Providers of these services will pay MyAutismTeam a revenue share. We intend to apply this same model to the other social networks we launch. Our litmus test question for considering monetization opportunities is this, “Will this empower the people who rely on this social network?” If the answer is “Yes”—we know we’re on to something.
SUB: What are your goals for MyHealthTeams over the next year or so?
Peacock: We are focused on cultivating incredibly engaging social networks around autism, breast cancer and other chronic conditions. We believe that if you’re diagnosed with a chronic condition it should be easy to find the best people around to help you. We won’t stop until that vision becomes a reality.
MyHealthTeams – www.myhealthteams.com