Eleven years ago, Brad Brooks co-founded healthtech company TigerConnect without experience in technology or healthcare. His background was in finance and business, but what he lacked in healthtech experience, he made up for in entrepreneurial grit and faith in his product mission, Brooks said.
“I was a neophyte in tech and healthcare from the beginning,” TigerConnect’s CEO said. “So there was a big learning curve for several years. But if you’re an entrepreneur, you figure things out. And I felt that our solution was something that was merited, which gave me the tenacity to stick through.”
The company’s mission? To improve patient care through more seamless communication. The TigerConnect communication platform streamlines how care teams collaborate, manage workflows and interact with patients and their families via a user-friendly interface. The platform currently serves over 7,000 hospital systems and facilitates over 10 million messages a day.
Brooks’s jumping off point for TigerConnect was “TigerText,” a singular, text-based, internal comms tool for healthcare providers.
“That premise powered a lot of the initial six or seven years of growth, but we knew it would eventually be commoditized,” Brooks said.
As text-based systems became more ubiquitous in healthcare, TigerConnect made significant strides in scaling its product offering. Last year, they acquired two companies: Critical Alert, which expanded alerting capabilities for nurses, and Adjuvant’s Call Scheduler, which upgraded TigerConnect’s physician scheduling and clinical collaboration functionality. The company also grew its employee headcount by over 35 percent in 2020 to more than 220 employees, due in part to 30 percent revenue growth brought on by the coronavirus pandemic and a $45 million Series D raise in October.
Throughout that scale, Brooks said he kept the company’s mission and impact front and center — a feat made easier by the positive feedback they received from customers. The Pennsylvania-based Geisinger Health System, for example, said they were able to reduce delivery time of critical lab results by eight minutes for the 3 million patients they serve.
“As much as I can, I try to connect words on a wall to reality,” Brooks said. “So during our weekly all-hands, we spend a lot of time talking about customer examples and use cases so people can understand that there is a direct correlation between their work and people's lives.”
Below, Brooks shared more details about the mission-driven company’s past and how that history — and his rock-star team — will set TigerConnect up for future success.
Where did the name “TigerConnect” come from?
I founded the company with my brother — a doctor — right after smartphones came out. We thought text messaging could benefit healthcare because it’s convenient, asynchronous and user-friendly communication. We wanted to create something that could also meet healthcare security needs and we actually created self-destructing messaging pre-Snapchat. Tigers are good at tracking and there was some alliteration there with “text” so we got “TigerText.” Over time, we became more about connecting people and systems versus texting, so we dropped the “text.”
But I liked “Tiger” because it felt consumer-friendly. So many healthcare products have boring names and their software is borderline unusable. We try to be very consumer-oriented in how we approach usability. I always want to deliver a product I could use as a consumer, but with the robustness of what healthcare needs. So I wanted to keep “Tiger” because it embodies our consumer-focus.
I always want to deliver a product I could use as a consumer.”
How did the company evolve from being solely a text-based solution?
A few years ago, we set up private messaging networks integrated into the directories of orgs, almost like Slack. We wanted to take the idea of a messaging network deeper into healthcare workflows, which are very shift-based. We also noticed that there were more investments being made within different systems in healthcare, particularly for patients. For instance, various systems within providers need to communicate with each other to get lab results to patients or other departments, or to discharge patients on time. So we started to shift in that direction.
Then we saw that telehealth was going to be a big part of healthcare. So we developed a telehealth product extension and brought it to market last year. And that launch happened to coincide with the pandemic. Our work and the events of the last year collided and created a perfect storm that’s powering a lot of growth for the company today.
What role does that mission play in fostering day-to-day work at TigerConnect?
Everyone is energized by the mission and there’s a lot of positive energy because we are helping make things better during a very difficult time. We frequently share customer stories and we’ve even had employees who benefited from health systems utilizing our platform and had a good experience because of it. If you’re in engineering or a different supporting function like finance, a lot of times you're kind of removed from the impact of the work. But when users share their stories, everyone gets to see their impact.
I believe in context. If you can provide context, people will be empowered by it and that's what I strive to do as much as possible. I also try to highlight contributors who aren’t at high levels in the corporate hierarchy but who are playing important functional roles. Then, I provide context on why I’m highlighting them.
How did you get TigerConnect off the ground without a background in tech or healthcare?
You don’t always have to be an expert in every single thing. As an entrepreneur, you can succeed if you have an aptitude for listening, asking questions and being willing to pivot really quickly. I think my abilities in those areas allowed us to survive.
I always felt like this industry needed a solution like this, so that was my north star.”
I stubbed my toe more than I would have liked, but I learned to navigate this industry. But I always felt like this space needed a solution like TigerConnect, so that was my north star. I felt this solution was something that was merited and that's what gave me the resoluteness to stick with it.
What is the TigerConnect team hoping to accomplish in 2021?
A lot of this year will be about digesting and integrating the two acquisitions we completed last year. We went from offering two products to seven. We’ll spend a lot of time developing those products and investing into advancing other features related to the seven products. These evolutions will have a definite impact on who in a health system can use the products. We're also investing really heavily into growing our sales and marketing teams.
As we see the market moving in our direction, we want to take advantage of as many opportunities as we can. We want to continue delivering on our mission and build a portfolio that provides end-to-end collaboration between providers’ internal systems, patients and family members.