How we went from running out of money to building the world's most delightful allied health software
Splose is the world’s most delightful allied health software.
But it wasn’t always that way…
If you thought you were going to read a story about a few young guys who came up with a genius idea, worked over a few months, built a “bug-fee” prototype and raised money from the first investors they met - well, you would be completely wrong.
There was a lot of “what on earth are we doing?” and “do our users really want this?” and at some point throughout the journey it honestly felt like this bunch could run a business better than us.
And that’s saying something…
Despite the ups and downs, this is a story of how I, the Founder (a cashier at Woolworths with a Bachelor of Commerce), Roozbeh (an experienced software engineer who was working as an Uber rider) and Hao (an electrical engineer who wasn’t even working) came together to build the world’s most delightful allied health software.
To understand this story, we need to go back to the beginning.
OK, not that far.
It was a wintery 2016 evening, I had finished my final shift at Woolworths to peruse my passion for entrepreneurship (I had always been working on different ventures since I was a kid). Like any aspiring entrepreneur, I needed to make money to get by, so I taught myself how to build websites. And before long, I had big plans to build the best website company!
However, if I was going to build the best website company, I needed to surround myself with the smartest individuals I knew. As a result of working at Woolworths for five years, I had very few professionals in my network, however I did have three people that I had been introduced to - Gen Cassuci, Roberto Cardone and Garry Winter who I eventually pitched my ambitious vision. Well, thank goodness they believed in my vision and became the first investors in Splose.
And boy, they had no idea what they were getting themselves into…
Gen (an allied health professional) wanted to help me get going and started referring other practitioners she knew were looking to build websites to improve their online presence. It wasn't long before I was specialising in websites for allied health!
When I finished a website, I would always get asked “Hey you’re a tech guy, now that I have a website, what practice management software should I use to run my business?” For the first few clients, I would say, “I’m not sure, I just build websites!” but when clients continued to ask me, eventually I thought that I should prepare a good answer.
So, I started doing some research...
And I found, a lot of practice management systems look like this…
The 90s called… they want their software back!
And… when I tried to find out information about those systems, I landed at this…🤯
Seriously, what happened to less is more?
I searched and searched, tried different keywords, and I even ventured onto the 2nd page of Google...
Yeah, that was scary.
To my surprise, I couldn’t see any system that was the holy grail for practice management software. Not only were these products clunky and expensive, but they were created on average 11 years ago... which is the same time the iPhone 3 came out!
Ahh, back in the days when you didn’t need to purchase a range of adapters to use your iPhone
With a good conscience, I could not recommend any of these outdated tools to my clients. I couldn’t believe it… How were hundreds of thousands of allied health practitioners using tools like this?
So as any entrepreneur would, I immediately saw an opportunity. It seemed like if I didn’t set out to build a better way for allied health right here, right now, that quite possibly practitioners around the world would be forced to use these poor tools to run their business for the rest of their lives!
From my initial ideas scribbled on a napkin came the first plan for Splose. I had one simple mission: Build better practice management software.
There was just one problem, I couldn’t code...
So, I took on extra website projects so that I could hire our first software engineer, employee number 1: Hao, who would help me build the first version of Splose.
And just like that.. Splose became a… software company!
Raising more money from investors to build a product that had not started, with a plan that we didn’t have was not going to happen, so I knew the only way to pay for a software engineer was to win more business and build a prototype that I could show to investors...after all... I was going up against companies operating for more than a decade.
If I was going to win clients, Splose needed to operate somewhere professional. So I made a phone call to Garry. “Garry, you know how you invested in a website company. Well, we are now a software company and we need to operate somewhere professional to win business and grow!”
Well, despite some silence on the other end (which I’m assumed was from the disbelief), it wasn’t long before Garry had an office for us to work out of on King William Street.
Thank goodness, we were finally able to move out of our former Splose HQ… Hao’s bedroom...
Yes, that was Hao’s bedroom.
Well, our new HQ was working wonders. Now, we were managing a huge software contact our company had tendered for and won and we were putting all of our profit into building our practice management software. As Splose grew in complexity and size, so did my stress. Our workload increased and we were under pressure, but fortunately we had the money to hire our second software engineer and employee number two, Roozbeh.
Every day I caught the bus to our King William Street office, and I stared out the window looking at the construction of the startup hub at Lot Fourteen: a $551 million redevelopment of the Old Royal Adelaide Hospital site and a place for startups to grow and flourish with access to community, capital and customers.
Coincidence that the building was called the Allied Health Building? I think not.
Well, finally the day had come where Stone & Chalk has been announced to run the startup hub. Applications were open for startups to pitch their idea and become one of 30 founding teams to be part of an incredible community.
It was exactly where we needed to be. We were quite literally weeks away from running out of money and exhausted all possible leads we had to find investment. We had $37.55 in our company bank account...
I lay awake all night thinking of how I was going to tell my team to pack their bags and move on…
I knew I surely wouldn’t have a chance to join Stone & Chalk, that there must be hundreds of companies with better products, a bigger team and stronger network. I spent hours writing our application, and made Splose sounds as exciting as possible, in 120 characters or less and with great hope, I clicked “submit”.
Then, days later, I received an email. It was from Stone & Chalk… we had been accepted!
Well, I don’t think I wasted a single minute. From the moment we arrived, I pushed Stone & Chalk to the limit. I had meetings with angels and VC’s, attended networking events and refined our product and pitch.
Splose was improving by the day and I knew we were close, but time after time, I received the same feedback from investors. “It’s just not right for us” or “Come back when you further develop it and have customers”. I managed to find just enough money to keep us going... I had two weeks to find the right investor.
Then, we were introduced to Rob Bowden and Nick Chigwidden, owners of PhysioXtra who operate seven physiotherapy clinics and have over 100 staff and sold their aged care business to Zenitas (previously listed company). They had the same frustrations to the problem we were solving. Outdated, clunky software was slowing down their teams' productivity and affecting client experience and there simply were not any better options available. They validated everything we had been working on for a year and a half and decided to invest in Splose.
Since arriving at Stone & Chalk, our company has transformed. We came here with a vision and an average prototype. I’m excited to announce today, that we have closed our seed round investment.
I have come to understand how challenging a startup is to run, but by having an incredibly skilled team and community like Lot fourteen and Stone & Chalk to back me, we can achieve our mission of building the world’s most delightful allied health software. If you’re reading this and you are an allied health practitioner, please sign up for a free trial. If you can introduce us to an allied health practitioner, please forward our website information. If you love what we are doing but can’t think of a way to help, then please share this post with your friends.
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