After working in front of his computer all day long for decades in the tech industry, Ron Miller’s health wasn’t exactly great.
“My doctor and I had a tough discussion about how I was on the quick trip to a less-than-long life,” Miller recalled.
Inspired by this, Miller made the startup leap in June 2012 and founded URGravity, an online digital health services company focused on enabling preventative health care. The goal is to make it easier for customers to take action with the data they compile from health devices and provide access to services that help manage your health.
We caught up with Miller — who is also apparently known as the “Sensor King” due to his knowledge of wireless medical devices — to learn more about Redmond-based URGravity for the latest edition of Startup Spotlight.
Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: We use data from wireless consumer health devices to provide usable and meaningful information for patients and physicians alike to better achieve health goals and clinical results.
Inspiration hit us when … After having a difficult conversation with my doctor about my ongoing health challenges, he asked me to write everything down and bring it with me to our next appointment. He wanted to know what I ate, how well I was sleeping, how much exercise I had and what I weighed.
I went home and broke out the notepad and started writing everything down. This lasted for less than a week. Being busy, there simply wasn’t enough free time in the day, nor was it convenient to keep a journal of everything.
What I did next was to create a simple spreadsheet that allowed me to track what I did for that week. I was surprised at what I found with even that little bit of information. I found that I could easily track my health quality based on what I did to affect it. Since manually inputting data into a spreadsheet daily isn’t much easier than just writing it down, the next logical step was to automate the collection of the health information.
VC, Angel or Bootstrap: We are bootstrapped and expect to stay that way until we want to accept investment on our terms —primarily when we’re ready to accelerate our growth.
Our ‘secret sauce’ is: We focus on the customer first. Health and technology are rarely very customer friendly — we’re changing that by making an experience for the customer that is easy to understand and provides significant value to them in their busy lives.
Our service integrates with the leading wireless health sensors, allowing the customer to choose their preferred health device for tracking. As more and more health devices come onto the market (more than 15 new devices were announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in January) we will stay neutral and integrate with them equally so that the customer wins.
We think of ourselves as the “Switzerland” of health devices rather than forging a partnership with just one device manufacturer. Many of the device manufacturers like to work with us because we have a great engineering team that can easily and quickly integrate new devices with little or no support. In the local startup community I’m known as the “Sensor King” because I know all the benefits and drawbacks to the health devices, which is a huge benefit to adapting the technology to the doctor/patient relationship.
The smartest move we’ve made so far: Staying focused. Often too many startup companies are just chasing revenue and are willing to forgo their vision instead of being willing to build a business in an area where they don’t currently exist. We’re pioneering some of the customer scenarios that we’re building. We’re doing it in a way where we are building trust and understanding with our customers by focusing on the value that they receive instead of just how to make money from them.
The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: Initially we weren’t as focused on the health professionals, instead focusing just on the consumer portion of our business. What we found after working closer with health professionals was that this was a solution they really wanted and needed. It helps them improve clinical results using enhanced monitoring of patients between office visits. It creates true doctor-patient accountability, allowing them to quit relying on subjective information or inconsistent data from their patients and enabling them to gather streams of objective health data that is already graphed for them, so they can make quick, concise decisions on treatment efficacy.
Would you rather have Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: Bezos. He has the customer focus first and look what he’s built over the years. It’s hard to imagine an area of content and goods that haven’t benefited from his vision and determination to make them available to customers. I personally own a Kindle Fire and find it one of the best products around due to its focus on what I want as a customer.
Our world domination strategy starts when: It’s already started. We’re changing the way that you interact and manage your health through a more personal, attentive relationship with your health professional. As we move through this transformation we see URGravity as the service that enables preventative health to be more common place. No longer will you only get in touch with your health professional when you’re ill. Our unique solution will allow your doctor to keep you on the path to great health.
Rivals should fear us because: We live in a country where healthcare spending is out of control and we have a population that doesn’t get involved with their health until they have a medical issue. This is all changing with new sweeping changes being made to healthcare to focus on preventative health. We are the forefront of that wave and are well positioned with a complete solution to this problem.
We are truly unique because: There are billions of dollars being spent on healthcare in the U.S. annually. We’re focused on the next stage of health — making it easy to understand and manage. We’re identifying patterns in a customer’s health data that are the habits of their life; good and bad habits. We’re emphasizing the good while helping them reduce and eliminate the bad habits. By showing the cause and effect of their actions, customers can choose wisely about what to eat, how often and how much to exercise, are they sleeping well, and much more. Doctors, personal trainers, dietitians, and health coaches alike can have much more success using our product. And we do it all in an easy, automated way.
The biggest hurdle we’ve overcome is: Positioning our product in the market — often we’re simply lumped into the weight loss products, but our product is unique in that it’s focused on preventative health. We’ve spent a lot of time identifying our core user persona; we understand what drives them to care about their health.
Our initial thought was that it would be someone who was either in great health or very poor health. Our conclusion was surprising. What we’ve found is that it’s those who have good health and need assistance in making sure that they do the right things to stay on track. That’s why creating a great interaction medium for the customer with their health professional is so important to our business.
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: Don’t be afraid to have a vision — even if no one else initially gets it. Keep refining your vision until it becomes clear. Being out in front of everyone else can be daunting but having customers tell you again and again that this is what they’re looking for is a great feeling.