“WeCounsel is a HIPAA compliant telehealth platform that connects mental health providers to their clients online. Our software, which includes videoconferencing, scheduling, document storage and billing, brings together the most convenient and effective technology for facilitating meaningful provider and client interactions online.”
Year Founded: 2013
Founder: Harrison Tyner
Number of employees: Nine
Q&A with Josh Kaywood, Director of Business Development
Q: Tell me about your role at WeCounsel.
A: I focus on growing the direct-to-consumer part of our business. We have two lines of business: enterprise sales and private practice. I work with private practitioners to onboard them onto the WeCounsel telehealth platform, trying to help them understand how to use it and making sure it’s providing value to their practice.
Q: Have you worked for a startup before?
A: Yes, my first dive into the startup world was in 2010 when I helped start Wild and Local Foods, an organic and naturally sourced food company in Nashville.
Q: Was there a defining moment when you knew you wanted to work at a startup?
A: Definitely. I had finished an internship with a Nashville politician and interviewed for a job for which I was pretty much a shoo-in. We were at a kind of dinner club and everyone was wearing suits and ties, and I knew in that moment that I didn’t want to do any of it anymore. I walked into the interview wanting the job, but by the end I was like, I don’t think I’m the right person for this. So I left.
Q: How did you get to here?
A: After the internship and my startup, I worked for Salesforce in Nashville; it was what got me hooked on the Software as a Services (SaaS) business. After that, I was introduced to our founder, Harrison Tyner, and became interested in moving to Chattanooga to work with WeCounsel. I came down to see what we could do together, and here I am two years later.
Q: How do Chattanooga and Nashville compare?
A: I love Chattanooga. It’s great. You can’t beat the access to the outdoors, which was a natural draw for me to come here. But Chattanooga is a lot smaller than Nashville, and has less access to resources in some ways. However, I think being a startup in Chattanooga is great because we have such a nurturing community of fellow startup companies. The Chamber does an amazing job, as well as the INCubator and The Company Lab with startup support.
Q: What’s the growth been like for WeCounsel over its first few years?
A: The three original founders worked with The Company Lab to build their concept up and test it, and then secure an early investor to help construct the initial platform. When we first went to market, it was a direct-to-consumer kind of marketplace, so you could imagine we were trying to bring healthcare providers to our platform while also trying to drive business to those providers, which meant we were marketing directly to potential patients as well. We’ve since evolved. Now, we’re focused largely on enterprise sales and growing our strategic partnerships.
Q: Who’s your competition?
A: We have a number of competitors. If I had to name a few, I would say Thera-link in the direct-to-consumer space. In the enterprise space, we compete with larger companies like Secure Video and Snap MD.
Q: What’s WeCounsel’s competitive advantage?
A: First, our private practice platform isn’t just video conferencing and scheduling, like with most of our competitors. Our platform offers advanced client engagement features like messaging, billing, and patient file management and document sharing. Under the regulatory scope of HIPAA, the ability for WeCounsel to offer these secure features is quite substantial and empowering for the provider.
Finally, our private practice services are substantially cheaper than those of our competitors. Our service is $15 per month, compared to others at $50-$75 per month. This is because our R&D expenses are covered by our enterprise revenue, which allows us to offer a really robust platform at a cheaper price point.
Q: What are some of the hurdles WeCounsel has faced?
A: Initially, the biggest hurdle was general misinformation and uneasiness about telehealth. There was a lot of uncertainty about the quality of the service, so demand was weak from the provider side. We also faced regulatory obstacles since many states didn’t have parity laws requiring states and private payers to pay the same rate for a telehealth session as for an in-person visit. Luckily, that’s changing now that more than 50% of states have parity laws. Providers are beginning to see telehealth services are cheaper to render and the patients have increased access from just about anywhere. Today, the insurance companies are more apt to pay and providers understand the cost savings, but it was definitely a big hurdle in the beginning.
Q: What does success look like for WeCounsel in the next three years?
A: Our long term goal is the same as any company, to achieve sustainable growth and provide a great service to our clients. We’re at the front of this telehealth push and positioned well to have a really strong brand in this space. Specifically, over the next three years we want to be recognized as the premier brand and product for telehealth.
Q: Any wild predictions for the industry?
A: I could really go off on a tangent here. But in general, we’re going to see massive growth in telehealth across the board, with major transformations between the next two to 10 years. I think it’s going to become the norm for everyone involved because it’s cheaper and the data coming in says it’s just as effective as an in-person visit, especially in behavioral health because it’s more consistent and people don’t have to take time out of their day to go physically visit their provider. We’re at a tipping point on this and it’s going to grow immensely.
Q: What’s it been like at the INCubator?
A: Coming to the INCubator has been wonderful for us. The facilities are great and we’re surrounded by smart people that are going through the same thing we are. Networking here is good, too. It’s brought a lot of relationships and opportunities to the table that I don’t think we would have had otherwise from a partnership and services standpoint. We partner with multiple people in this building from marketing to human resources. You can’t beat being able to walk into the office of your marketing guys, have a real conversation, and walk back to your office in 15 minutes.
Q: What advice do you have for other startups?
A: First, it’s not as glamorous as TechCrunch makes it out to be. I almost want to say don’t listen to anybody’s advice and just do your own thing. But I won’t, so here’s a few pointers:
- Don’t be married to your initial vision because you’re ultimately going to have to pivot. Especially if you’re in tech, you’re going to pivot.
- Get a really solid team that you can count on. Note: that’s probably not your friends.
- Keep pushing even when it gets really, really hard. And it will get hard.
- You can be an MBA from the best school and still have the hardest time. Or you can be some guy who went to technical school, if any school at all, and just crush it. It all comes down to drive and having a solid team around you, and I’m so lucky with our WeCounsel team. I honestly think we have the best startup team on the east coast. You can’t beat them. I don’t know if they love me, but I love them.
StartUp podcast, by Gimlet Media out of Brooklyn. So it’s not a book, but it’s really informative.
The Elon Musk biography is really good. It won’t give you advice on business acumen, but I don’t think that stuff matters because it’s so different for everyone. That bio shows you how hard this is and what kind of person you need to be to survive it.