It’s been a pretty good week for Michelle Harper and Jana Barile, the co-founders of the private duty health care revolutionizing company, Akili Software and its signature product, Savii Care.
In just four days, the Raleigh entrepreneurs learned they won an NC IDEA grant and were one of six companies selected for the SoarTriangle’s deep mentorship program for female-led startups.
News of the major achievements made Harper feel as if the,“wind is beneath our sails.”
But the wind hasn’t always been at Harper’s back. This is the second time Akili Software applied for the NC IDEA grant—the company made it to the semi-finalist stage in last Fall’s grant cycle, but wasn’t selected to continue in the process.
And before co-founding Akili last year, Harper simultaneously balanced career and education decisions with major personal challenges like single parenthood and cancer. Now a cancer survivor, the same determination it must have taken to battle the disease can be seen in her ambition to scale her startup and vastly improve the healthcare sector with a unique technology.
Harper was always interested in technology and healthcare but wasn’t exposed to career possibilities that merged the two—she studied math and history in undergraduate and graduate school, respectively. When she entered graduate school, her dream was to be a History professor at UNC-Chapel Hill, but life intervened and altered her plans when she became a single-parent while studying for her MA. During graduate school, Harper developed the History department’s website and interned at a sleep diagnostic center and quickly realized her true passion lived somewhere in the intersection of her two side projects.
After various jobs in different health care companies, Harper met Barile while working together at Barile’s company, Home Care Software Solutions. In 2014, Barile shut the company down, but the pair knew they wanted to continue working together.
Then, in Home Care Software’s final days, they received several requests to develop technical solutions for the private duty home health care sector (think elder care, physical therapy or nurses visiting clients post-surgery). Each woman had knowledge and experience with the sector when immediate family members required in-home care. Harper also utilized home health services while undergoing her cancer treatment. They felt a pull to develop a software to help that growing industry.
From the start, they designed Akili Software’s signature product, Savii Care, with the end-user in mind. To determine what software solution the industry needed most, they conducted interviews and focus groups with over 70 home health professionals and stakeholders.
They found that providers desired a system designed around workflow rather than tasks, that nearly all providers already owned and frequently used a smartphone, and most home health care centers gathered and tracked client data through reports given by the providers via telephone or paper.
In short, both providers and the organizations they worked for desired a simple, efficient way to securely transfer client data and perform business administration tasks like billing and filing insurance claims.
Armed with user-feedback, Harper and Barile designed the web-based software solution—Savii Care. They simultaneously developed an accompanying app. The app connects in real-time to the software, allowing providers to upload their client data, and administrators to immediately view it. For context, most providers only visit their home office once a week to drop off and pick up files, so being able to view the charts in real time saves time for the providers and allows the administrators to better track patients’ progress.
Providers can also dictate their chart notes, automatically clock in and out using GPS when they arrive at their client’s home, and track all their tasks.
NC IDEA’s grant program manager, Andrea Cook, says one reason Akili was selected is because the company has “made significant progress and traction with sales since applying last cycle.” Just in the past month, the company has increased its revenue five-fold, and added new clients. Harper credits the Citrix accelerator, CED mentors, and HQ Raleigh for helping the company get to its current state.
But Harper is particularly excited about the company’s future. She looks forward to scaling Savii Care and believes the deep mentorship she will receive through SoarTriangle will help in all aspects, including fundraising, hiring and building strategic partnerships. She also hopes to fold into the company past projects like her TSW: Women winning idea, SmartEats (She’s pictured far right with the team above).
The NC IDEA grant will enable Akili to fund the companies’ ambitious scaling goals this year, helping it strategically market and reach customer, client-enrollment and revenue goals, in hopes of raising a larger round over the next year.