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NurseGrid CEO Joe Novello. (NurseGrid Photo)

Illnesses, accidents and moms going into labor don’t happen on predictable schedules, and that can make hospital staffing a tricky business.

Historically managers would work off a phone tree to add nurses to the schedule on the fly. And in fact, some hospitals still use this approach.

“It’s insane how antiquated these systems are,” said Joe Novello, the 37-year-old founder and CEO of NurseGrid. 

Novello is a registered nurse and wanted to create a scheduling solution specifically focused on the needs of his peers. He founded Portland-based NurseGrid in 2013 and the company has grown to 34 employees. In January, the startup announced that it had raised a $5.7 million Series B funding round, bringing its total funding to $9.3 million.

There are other companies in the nurse scheduling space, including McKesson, Cerner Clairvia and GE Healthcare Centricity. Novello says the other products began as online software then moved to mobile, while NurseGrid was developed as a mobile app and has a better interface. His product also provides real-time shift changes, while other software is focused on time keeping and building schedules.

With NurseGrid, nurses are able to digitally “raise their hand” so hospital managers know they’re available for extra work, or they can signal that they’re not looking for shifts.

“We base our mobile app around our nurses and what they’re asking for,” Novello said. In the future that could include nearby job listings.

We caught up with Novello for this edition of Startup Spotlight, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for his answers to our questionnaire.

Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “Scheduling and staffing technology built for nurses, by nurses.”

Inspiration hit us when: “My first RN job was at a top 10 hospital: University of California, San Francisco. Despite that, workforce and workflow was a disaster but it didn’t need to be. When I became an agency nurse, I noticed pain was equally bad or worse at all the hospitals I went to. Years later as a clinical leader I was able to get a clear sense of the negative downstream consequences of these pain points: poor staffing, nurse burnout, decrease in patient throughput and outcomes, etc. There was often a disconnect between staff RN, managers/directors and the C-suite.

Having been an entrepreneur in Silicon Valley, I knew that solid technology could reverse these pain points and create a happier, healthier and more productive workforce — while at the same time improving the bottom line for hospitals and creating better outcomes for patients.

Having been in and around healthcare for my entire life, I was able to create an interesting go-to market strategy that helped overcome many of the barriers to entry into healthcare technology.”

NurseGrid team photo. (NurseGrid Photo)

VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “We raised a round of Angel funding, then bootstrapped, and then raised money from VCs. We did it in this order with the process that you sell the vision, set milestones, achieve milestones, raise more and repeat.”

Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “We have incredible brand allegiance from our users and customers which has led to us having this incredible network of nurses that doesn’t exist anywhere else. We are obsessed with delivering products to them that they love and that fix real problems.”

The smartest move we’ve made so far: “We have taken a bottoms-up, product-led growth strategy that starts with the end users. This is very different from most health tech companies who create technology without really understanding how nurses will use it. With several nurses and health professionals (myself included) that have been with the company from the beginning, we know the pain points that nurses feel. We are obsessed with delivering products and features to them that make their lives better and their jobs better and more meaningful.”

The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “I’d say not unflattening the early organization chart soon enough. We are now playing catch-up on senior executive leadership.”

Our favorite team-building activity is: “Company retreats in the forest and hanging out with our office dogs on Thursdays and Fridays.”

The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: “Intelligence, cultural fit and either subject-matter expertise or overwhelming passion combined with drive.”

Would you rather have Gates, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner? “Bezos. He is a visionary who supports startups and entrepreneurs. He also puts an emphasis on philanthropy. I also admire that he wants to fix healthcare, an industry that desperately needs to be fixed. Who doesn’t love a heavy-hitting entrepreneur that wants to fix healthcare?”

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Develop a filter and run all inbound feedback through it. Trust yourself. And surround yourself with amazing people; settle for nothing less.”

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