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Janus Choice, a company that offers an interactive, mobile, and easy-to-use platform for matching hospital patients with the best post-acute care providers, is growing. Rapidly.
So successful has their growth spurt been, that Prosper Women Entrepreneurs announced earlier this month that they will provide the company with follow-on funding.
But just what did that growth look like? The company, currently in contention for an Arch Grant, has nine hospitals in its network and is in discussions with health care systems in five states in the Midwest. Prior to going through the PWE Startup Accelerator this past fall, they’d only been working in one hospital.
We caught up with CEO Sasha Goodwin on a visit to St. Louis from Chicago—the company is moving to St. Louis soon—one afternoon to talk about their rapid growth, dealing with the doubters and what’s coming next.
The idea for Janus Choice stemmed from pain points that you experienced yourself; talk a little about that.
My dad had multiple strokes and heart attacks. He required additional care after his hospital stay and we experienced the hardship and stress of finding an adequate provider first hand. At the same time, some of our friends were going through similar experiences with their loved ones and it made it us wonder, was there anything in existence to help families to make such choices or decisions? What could we do to help with the process using our science, tech and business backgrounds?
We started doing some research and learned there was some information available but it was not organized or curated, and it was hard to obtain. We discussed the hardships of finding quality care with more people and a solution was born—a platform with helpful information that is regularly updated and could be used by the patient’s families right at the bedside at the hospital. Our goal was to improve patient and patient’s family experience, finding the right care
So how did you start working with hospital systems and alleviating some of their pain points?
In 2014, as I was working on my MBA at Chicago Booth, we participated in New Venture Challenge and became the only healthcare finalist that year. It’s a very big competition, you can call it Chicago Shark Tank, but has larger panel of judges and it lasts for 10 weeks. The idea: if we entered the competition and it confirmed our value proposition and business model, we would continue. However, if we went to the competition and failed, we would stop. We didn’t fail!
After the competition, we realized that we needed to position the company in a way that hospitals would be willing to jump on board…quickly. Though our original pilot was about patient experience, the side effects were too significant to ignore. With the use of our platform, we shortened patient’s length of stay by a day and a half and we improved patient satisfaction scores significantly compare to traditional paper-based hospital discharge process. On average, it costs about $3,000 a day to stay in the hospital in United States. Simply based on that fact, we can help a 100-bed hospital with 80% occupancy save up to $10.5M per year. It often becomes a matter of life and death for the hospital to save or make money and we help them with both tasks. We give hospitals a chance to stay open and provide care to the local population. Besides, Length of Stay, we also help hospitals with patient satisfaction and experience improvement and 30-day readmission rates reduction. We are especially beneficial for the Accountable Care Organizations and Integrated Delivery Networks, due to substantially increasing their integration rates.
How does your background fit into the work you’re doing now?
I have multiple graduate degrees in theoretical astrophysics from Russia and the United States. I worked in science for a while and then in corporate finance for almost 10 years. Then I decided to get my MBA at Chicago Booth. As I was going through the program, my father experienced multiple health related problems. I had never thought I would be an entrepreneur, and I ended up providing a solution to a problem that many people experienced! Entrepreneurship is a risky business, but I see so much value and impact in what we do. I hear the feedback from people we’re helping, from healthcare providers, and patients every day. Over and over we receive confirmation that what we are doing is important. I use my data scientist and business background to build and run a company that improves quality of life for thousands now, and millions in the future, of people every day.
How was your experience with PWE?
The PWE Startup Accelerator is the best accelerator program we’ve been through. Some places we went to it was really a question of diversity. We were told that having a women CEO was a liability. I was told multiple times that if I wanted our company to succeed I had to hire a white Caucasian male to run the company. Getting accepted to PWE and connecting with strong, independent, business savvy women who were committed to your success was tremendous. Each CEO is paired up with successful mentors to help your business grow. My mentor was Mary Jo Gorman and Charlotte Martin; two very strong, experienced healthcare entrepreneurs. They were phenomenal—very supportive and very helpful. Our relationships not only continued, they grew stronger after we graduated the PWE Startup Accelerator.
What do you think you gained most from the program?
Confidence. I was told so many times to give up and not continue, people who I needed to believe in me discouraged me. They all said, “You are brilliant, you are this, you are that. But if you want to succeed—hire a man.” PWE gave me faith that I was in the right place, that my idea was good, and that I really could do it.
Now, Mary Jo Gorman is Chair of our board. We also have a few other people serving on our board who are closely connected to St. Louis, including Karla Bakersmith, CEO of “Scrubs & Beyond”,. Steven Collens, CEO of “MATTER” in Chicago, attended school in St. Louis. So, three out of five Janus Choice board members are connected to St. Louis. Outside of building my confidence, the PWE business accelerator provided a large amount of condensed business knowledge and vast network for all of the Accelerator participants. I joke that instead of Red Bull, PWE gave me wings!
Currently your technology is just being used in Chicago, correct?
Yes. We are in talks with hospital systems outside of Illinois, including locations in Missouri, Indiana, Wisconsin, Utah and a few other states. Each one will take their own pace but we have a great team and I have no doubt that it will happen in due time.
You saw a hole and you looked to fill it. Have you seen other programs looking to fill that same void since you started?
There are several competitors that exist, which only makes me happy because it validates that we are solving a real problem. Every time we look at our competitors, there is nothing that they do that we haven’t done—plus we do more. Sometimes people are in too big of hurry to make money and they aren’t thinking about creating a robust company. We are here to build a company that will grow, last and create a legacy of being a nation-wide trusted source of information on post-acute care providers. A place where everyone can go for information when they need to make a difficult choice or decision.
Talk about the follow up funding you recently received.
We are very honored. Even before PWE decided to do a follow up the program investment in us, we’d hoped Mary Jo would become our chair. We wanted her to become a board member, and part of our investment was that we had to have someone from PWE on our board—so now (she laughs) she has no way out. PWE not only gave us funds but lifetime friendships and mentorship.