Episode 4: “Starting with Why” Growing up a Brand New Product…and Company, to boot

Company and Product Growth

Picking up right where we left off last week: “This is going to change everything…”

What happened next? Pure unadulterated excitement. Almost a “knowing” joy.  James and I walked out of the conference room that day, finished up some emails and to-dos, and began our respective drives home.  What I hadn’t planned on, and what would mark the beginning of the next level of an already budding partnership, happened next.  I called Scott Johnson.  I briefly introduced Scott earlier to you, the reader, in Episode 1, and he and his team we’re already making important contributions to our evolving, existing core product, but things were about to kick up a notch.  Scott (who is a bigger Apple Zealot than me) had already been looking at Apple Watch and was significantly ahead of my awareness level with the upcoming new product launch.  But, as always, I added fuel to his growing fire by laying out my initial thoughts around leveraging the Apple Watch to provide behavioral health support to patients outside of the hospital or clinical setting.  Back and forth, we traded ideas and glimpses of user stories. We both were inspired by the impact it could have in the oncology setting (and outside of it), especially with cancer patients.

Sometimes innovative, great product ideas come from inspiration. An important inspirational driver for Scott and I was that we had both recently (within the last 18 months) lost dear family members to cancer, my aunt and his mother-in-law.  These two people were giants in our respective families, matriarchs if you will.  And the loss was still reverberating throughout our extended family units. For me, Aunt Sue and I were close – always close; I would sometimes sneak out on a Friday in the years prior to head down to the beach to go kayaking in the bay with her before my Uncle or cousins arrived, it was our time, a time for personal connection with each other.  I’ll always remember how she would laugh as she fought a stiff wind heading out into the channel.  We still got to kayak together once or twice after her diagnosis, and I remember thinking that she’ll beat this; she’s so vibrant – just a temporary speed bump. But it wasn’t temporary, and we never kayaked together again.  Days turned into weeks; weeks turned into months and she was losing the battle.  By April, she had lost the battle, and what followed was this surreal “this can’t be possible” feeling.  Frankly, I hated it, and I hated the idea of more families and patients feeling this sense of hopelessness, despair and lack of support.

Fast forward 18 months, Scott and I were talking about what we had observed with our family members who had fought the fight and lost, the other family members that supported them along the way, and what was missing.  We both remarked that everyone seemed so alone, out-of-control, on a rollercoaster emotionally.  And while both had aggressive clinical treatment and strong emotional support from their families, external social and psychological support was lacking or was absent altogether.  A product that could leverage wearable and mobile technologies that would persist with the patient, wherever they were, could provide a companion that would not only connect patients to their care teams but also, potentially, to one another.  Who would know a patient’s daily plight better than other patients who were going through, had gone through, or were about to go through the same thing? Subsequent and frequent conversations were had with Tina, Deb, and James; the brain trust was growing, and it was about to grow even bigger. Stay tuned for our next episode, next Sunday…

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