Building a Startup in Clinical Research
Episode

Sam Whitaker, Co-Founder, and Co-CEO of Mural Health

Building a Startup in Clinical Research

Brought to you by   | hosted by Joseph Kim

Focus first on your end user and success will surely come your way.

 

In this episode, Sam Whitaker, co-founder, and co-CEO of Mural Health discusses what it takes to get a startup off the ground in the clinical research industry. Sam is no amateur in developing a startup as he jumped from the fintech world to the clinical research one with Greenphire back in 2008. His years of experience have taught him many lessons with success and failure, and now he’s back at it again with Mural Health. This new endeavor is a patient management platform that makes it easier to participate in clinical trials. Throughout this conversation, he explains how to build out a management system through and through, and create value for your customers by putting your end users first. Thanks to his personal experience, he shares advice on investments and exits for those interested in the startup world. He also breaks down the four feature sets that Mural Health offers with its groundbreaking platform. 

 

Tune in and learn from an experienced startup entrepreneur how to break into the clinical research industry!

 

Want to start your own podcast or offload the busywork of your current podcast to the pros?

Smooth Podcasting is the producer of our podcast. They help us deliver high quality audio, show notes, transcripts, podcast marketing, and so much more. We totally recommend them!

Check out Smooth Podcasting!

Get The Latest In Your Inbox

SUBSCRIBE

Building a Startup in Clinical Research

About Sam Whitaker:

Sam is from suburban Philadelphia and holds a BA in Philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania. He is an avid distance runner and in 2008 completed the Marathon des Sables ultra-marathon in Morocco. He spent his career in transactional finance as an investment banker and a member of the investment team for a Philadelphia-based holding company. Sam was a Vice President in the Product Development group of Citigroup’s prepaid card division, where he was responsible for managing several existing products and developing new payment solutions for new and existing clients. In 2008, he founded Greenphire, where he was responsible for identifying, designing, and implementing value-adding features and functionality for Greenphire’s clients and overseeing Greenphire’s global sales and marketing initiatives. He cofounded Mural Health in 2022. He is co-CEO there, representing a natural evolution to Sam’s past work, as the Mural Link product leverages a next-generation participant payment technology to drive deeper benefits to the participants and more meaningful value to both sites and sponsors executing the study. 

Research Confidential_Sam Whitaker: Audio automatically transcribed by Sonix

Research Confidential_Sam Whitaker: this mp3 audio file was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the best speech-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors.

Joseph Kim:
Welcome to Clinical Research Confidential! On this show, we highlight and demystify the inner workings of this greatly misunderstood activity called clinical research. Now, why is clinical research important? Well, it’s the basis for nearly every modern remedy for sickness and a growing method to build trust and solutions meant to optimize health. But it’s not for the faint of heart. And so on this show, you’ll hear what it really takes to succeed in the clinical research game. I’m your host, Joseph Kim, and I’ve spent over 23 years in the clinical research industry, now serving as the chief strategy officer for ProofPilot. Get ready for some adventures as we look into the underbelly of clinical research.

Joseph Kim:
So I’m pleased to have with us today the one and only Sam Whitaker. Sam, welcome to the show.

Sam Whitaker:
Thanks, Joe. It’s nice to be here.

Joseph Kim:
Yeah, it’s good to see you. So, Sam, I have you on this show because, not because you’re a researcher, per se, or you’re not, you don’t work for a clinic or a drug company, but you’re one of these rare breeds of individuals that come into this research ecosystem, and that is the tech startup. And there’s a lot of investment happening certainly now, but when you started your company, which we’ll talk about, it was certainly less. And I think breaking into the pharma research space wasn’t all that easy. And so what I’d love to talk to you about a little bit today is, you know, the struggles about doing that, breaking into an industry with a solution that is highly regulated, very insular, very traditional, so on and so forth. So let’s start with your background. You don’t even come from research. What did you do after, what did you study in university, and what was your first career?

Sam Whitaker:
Yeah, so it’s an almost embarrassing story. I studied philosophy. That’s like the funniest part of the story. I studied philosophy at Penn. When I went to school, I wanted to go to medical school, and I did some work at the hospital at Penn throughout college. Eventually, I ended up giving up on that dream of going to medical school, mostly as a function of, some say like, below standard grades. I spent probably too much time having fun in college and not enough hitting the books. So in any event, my fallback, I ended up becoming an investment banking analyst out of college and traveled through that world for a while and realized that it probably didn’t suit my personality all that well, and then ended up working at a startup outside of Philadelphia that was a payments startup, a fintech startup, which is ultimately where I came up with the idea of developing a tech that would help pharma companies make payments to patients who are participating in clinical trials. And that was a combination of experience I had in Ecount, which was the startup in Philadelphia and my work at the hospital at Penn while I was a, while as a student.

Joseph Kim:
Got it, so, I mean, you know, medicine and health care had been on your mind, you didn’t have the grades at the time. But there is a funny story you’ve told me before, which is like, how does a philosophy major get into investment banking? How did you end up landing that job?

Sam Whitaker:
You know, I think when I decided to study philosophy, I did it because it was just something that I enjoyed, like I liked kind of flexing my brain in the ways that you do when you’re thinking about kind of abstract problems. And at the time that I made that decision, all was good with the world and everybody was getting, I had a friend who was a folklore major who ended up going to work at Goldman Sachs when he graduated, and so I used him as a point of reference. I was 19 at the time that I made this decision, and I thought, well, if folklore majors are getting jobs, then surely philosophy majors will, so it seemed like a sound decision. In the end, I graduated in 2002, so this was the, kind of the graduating class that happened after 9/11, and the world had changed kind of overnight as a result of 9/11. And philosophy majors were not getting jobs, like they were maybe two years prior, and so it was hard. I didn’t get a job right away, and I ended up essentially cold-calling senior bankers throughout the world to see if I could get anybody to pay attention to me. And finally, I got somebody to return a phone call and one thing led to another and I got a job. But it was a very atypical kind of nontraditional way of getting kind of an entry-level job in investment banking.

Joseph Kim:
Yeah, well, I think it foreshadows a lot about you as an entrepreneur, which is a lot of grit and matching professionals, not with necessarily their experience, but their attitudes, right? So we’ll touch on that, I think, as we hear about the growth of your first company in clinical research. So it’s no surprise you are the founder of Greenphiire, which is a, the leading payment provider in this, in clinical research. And I remember meeting you, I don’t know if it was weeks, months after you had started the company. I was working at a company called E Pharma Solutions in Conshohocken, and you guys were in King of Prussia. Tell us how you made the jump from your other fintech startup to doing something like this in clinical research, which is its own weird business and ecosystem of players.

Sam Whitaker:
So, you know, I think that the way that the story went, what actually happened was we actually had decided we, meaning, actually I guess it was just me at first, but I decided that I was going to start a company. I decided that I didn’t want to work for somebody else, and I wanted to, I saw the success that the team at Ecount had had over the years, and I’d also seen the success that other entrepreneurs had had while I was in investment banking, and then I worked for this kind of funky private equity firm for about two years. And they were, at the private equity firm, we were buying lower middle-market manufacturing businesses, and so they were these people that would start these companies and grow them over time and then sell them in the end. And so I decided I was going to start a company. I knew something about payment technology. And then it was, really, mostly I had a bit of a thesis that I wanted to do something that did something more than just move money from point A to point B, and I wanted to build a software that would increase the value of the tech beyond just moving money, and I needed to find an industry. So the way I was describing it back then was a payments company that was designed specifically for a single industry. And in today’s kind of terms, people would call that a vertically integrated payments business. So this was before there was such a thing as vertically integrated payments businesses, and this was the idea. And so then I was, I took inventory of kind of where I thought this could apply. And when I’d actually gone to interview at Ecount, I was a product manager. I had made a list of, I think nine or ten products that didn’t exist that I thought we could build, like create, and a clinical research product was number nine on my list. And I had that, actually, I had that note page framed in my office. And so I think I also, I think the way that my brain worked in this way wasn’t so much. I think oftentimes people will ask me or might ask me, what was the analysis that you did in order to identify clinical research as an opportunity? And they’re really giving me way too much credit, like academic credit. It wasn’t, we didn’t go through that type of process at all. I think I wanted to start a business clinical research like popped to mind, and then we did enough research to find out that no one had ever done it before. No, there was not a product, and I think that was one of the requirements that I had was to be the first somewhere. And I thought that that would be more compelling because it seemed to me that like building a better mousetrap would be kind of a pain, and for some reason, I thought that that was less interesting. And in some ways that may actually have been a lot easier, but I didn’t know that at the time. And so at that point, we had, you know, me and my friend and my wife, we were, we had the desire to start something, and we had identified an industry, no one else had done it, and as far as I was concerned, that was enough to kind of make the commitment and move forward. Years later, I had seen a, I had read an article that compared the way that entrepreneurs think and the way that maybe the typical MBA graduate thinks, they compared it to two chefs or different types of chefs, and I think that the way the article was describing entrepreneurs was somebody who kind of walks into a kitchen and takes inventory of the ingredients that exist in the cabinets and then figures out what they can cook with those ingredients, where they describe the MBA graduate as somebody who finds a recipe and then goes to the store and gets the ingredients. And I think that our journey or process to essentially starting that first business was very much a process and like kind of opening up the shelves and seeing what we had to work with and then figuring out something new.

Joseph Kim:
Yeah, that’s a great analogy. It’s often how I cook, which is like, or at least how I shop, go to the store, see what looks good, and then you come home and make sense of it for sure. So that kind of like mental agility to work with the, what you have, and then couple that with some notion that clinical research was a market that needed help. You know, sometimes that can be very, they don’t align, right? This market needs help, to do it right responsibly you need A, B, and C. Go to the cabinet, oh gosh, I only have B, C, and D. So what were some early holes you saw and how did you fill them?

Sam Whitaker:
Well, you know, I think that, you know, years later, after I graduated, maybe even years later, after we had started Greenphire, I think that JP and I would have told to you that we thought that the most critical skill to have, if you are going to start a tech company or at least be a successful entrepreneur, would be problem-solving. And I think that actually, this is linking this back to, otherwise kind of useless philosophy degree. I think that this actually was is where the benefit of that type of study kind of came in. And we ended up being really good, for the most part, not perfect, but we were pretty good at solving problems, and those were problems that we tended to encounter, I don’t know, sometimes daily, if not weekly, and it came in all forms, shapes, and sizes, whether they were vendors, employees, regulatory clients, investors, whatever. They were basically just kind of being shot at us from all angles. I’m trying to think of, I think that there is a tremendous amount of I don’t know, I guess it’s, use your word, agility that’s required in order to be successful, and there’s definitely some component of luck that’s involved, too. I think that the way that we started this business could have failed wildly and quickly if the industry that we had chosen was just completely shut down to the idea, right? And we kind of like force-fed the industry in the early days, this idea, it was, I think, one of our earliest investors when we first presented like the investor deck to him, he said this isn’t a problem. No one ever, nobody ever brings up patient payments and this isn’t an issue, this isn’t going to work. You know, and my point of view is just because you don’t hear about it or people aren’t, I think that people aren’t complaining about the status quo because they don’t know of anything better. And I would have told him at the time that, if I had presented a horseless carriage to somebody, they would tell me that horses work just fine. Like, I don’t need something like that, right? And then fast forward a decade or two, everybody’s driving cars and or call it the difference between email and snail mail too, I mean, I think it was more of a better opportunity to operate in a more efficient way. But man, there was a million ways. You know, I think that, actually, I think it might have been you early on that I was talking to and you told me that we needed to have a fully built-out quality management system. And you probably, maybe, maybe you realize this, maybe you didn’t, but I kind of nodded and agreed with you, and then I was like, Googling quality management systems. Like, what in the world is that? And then I said to JP, I was like, how in the world are we going to build this? I don’t know anything about this. So we went out and hired, found somebody, hired somebody to do it, and it worked. But oh geez, you’re like, I think you’re like triggering all my past trauma right now. I’m like, I’m trying to pull out like, all the ways that, all the gaps and holes that we tried to fill, there’s a million of them.

Joseph Kim:
Yeah, I aim to please. I think, I recall another discussion we had, which was like, how can we measure this problem? And I think there was a really easy way you were able to do that, which was like, hey, why don’t we just pull a couple of sites and see how long has it actually take them to do it the current way, which is some petty cash or a paper check process? And I think you discovered, I don’t know if you remember the figures, I remember some of them, I think, you discovered like, wow, when you actually count all that up over the number of patients, the number of studies, like it was many hours of wasted time doing these things manually. Do you remember that?

Sam Whitaker:
Yeah, yeah, I do remember that. And you’re right, that it is, I mean, I think that there are like superficial pains that people suffer on a day-to-day basis that I think are really easy to point to. And then there are like these, these more subtle or indirect inefficiencies that kind of exist that we’re, I think that oftentimes people are not cognizant of. And I think that this was probably a good example of one where there’s many steps, many, many manual steps, many painful kind of bureaucratic pieces of a process that in aggregate, where it was costly, to universities or research sites and of course, had a kind of a negative user experience from the participants perspective. But, you know, I’m not sure that anybody had ever quantified it or tried to solve it. And I think that even when we would, there were certainly some people that we would present that kind of problem and solution to, and it would resonate with them, and others just wouldn’t believe it or wouldn’t believe that it was an issue. And I guess that that’s true with all kind of innovation, especially in the clinical research space. It’s kind of what I would expect if anybody were to enter into this space and ask me what’s to come for them.

Joseph Kim:
You know, the other smart thing you did in the early days was you really focused on the sites as the end user, even if they weren’t the buyers, although sometimes they were the buyers as I understood it. But you were, you focused on really whose problem you were solving and making sure that that experience was delightful, versus just trying to sell the buyer on some ROI metrics that were half-baked or whatnot. And then you kind of met in the middle there where you could say, okay, we do have a site approach to have them adopt the technology and as well as a sponsor approach. Tell us, like how you came to that two-pronged approach, which is not something many companies really do in this.

Sam Whitaker:
Yeah, this was, I think this, the way that we approached developing our product back then and the way that I would still do it now, I think is unique. And how did we do that? I think that was, maybe that was just kind of, that was like a moment of our own brilliance in a way. And maybe it was luck, but it certainly wasn’t like thoughtful decision-making, you know? But, the way that we thought about it, and we were outsiders coming into a space, right? So we didn’t know how it had always been done, which I feel like is oftentimes, like the most shameful rate limiter of this industry. And so the way that I thought about it at the time was, okay, like the sponsor is going to be paying for this technology. But if the site, and especially the patient, we actually would think about it completely backwards in this way where I think that I would prioritize the patient as the most primary end user, the site as the most important business user of the system, and in most cases, neither one of them would actually be paying for the tech. And then the sponsor from a product design perspective, ends up being like a tertiary importance, despite the fact that they are going to be paying kind of the big bills. Although, from my perspective, I mean, tactically, I was thinking, hey, if the site and the patient don’t like using this, then eventually the sponsor won’t use this either, right? So it was very selfish in this way because I wanted the business to do well and grow and continue on. But actually, as I’ve, I think that the product evolution at Greenphire when I was there and even the other companies that I started afterwards, kind of reflect my evolution as a product person over the years. And now the way that I would probably frame that up is similar in the sense that I would still prioritize the patient and then the site and then the sponsor or maybe the CRO if the CRO was part of your kind of commercial dynamic. But I think that ultimately it wouldn’t, you’d be prioritizing the patient and the site from a user experience perspective, but by delighting the users, the patients, and the site, you’re actually creating more value for your customer. And so in that way, prioritizing the patient and the site is actually prioritizing your customer. So it’s not so much backwards or conflict like I might have described it in the past, I think it’s exactly what you’re supposed to be doing. And I think that there are more companies that are trending towards this kind of philosophy, although more than there were ten years ago. But I still think that especially, I think oftentimes like the larger clinical tech businesses in this space still tend to be very client-focused and customer-focused, and I think that that may be a mistake in some ways.

Joseph Kim:
Yeah, I think you definitely see a lot of these startups more interested in raising money than actually focusing on the end products. Very different from how you would have behaved, and then not quite as bad, but not still, still off the market is focusing too much on the sponsor or the ultimate, the buyer, versus the end user, whether that’s the patient or the clinician, or folks who are executing the business of research. So let’s fast forward, you grew the company over how many years, how long did it take you before there was a successful exit for you?

Sam Whitaker:
Well, we had a couple of exits along the way, there was three in total. And so we started it in kind of late 2007 or early 2008. The first exit that we had was in 2000, I think it was 2011, which was really just a secondary offering. So we, the founders, sold some stock to the venture capital firm that was, that we were partnered with, and that was a relatively small but really, really meaningful moment in our lives. And then many years later, many meaning three, but in startup world, that’s a long time, we did a recap with a private equity firm and the founders and some of the other most of the other early investors had sold most of their ownership to this private equity firm and then stayed along for the rest, for the ride. And then I left the business in 2016, early 2016, and the management team grew it from there, and then the final exit happened, or final exit, as far as I was concerned, happened in July of 2021. So that was what, 13 years? 13 years from start to finish, which is like, I think if you were to take a look at other companies that have kind of gone from zero to something in this space, I think a decade is probably a good estimate. I think Greenphire probably took a little bit longer because we were the first, we kind of defined a product category. And I think that those first couple of years likely moved a little bit slower than if you were kind of building a better mousetrap and the industry kind of understood and was on board with the product that you were bringing to market. But we don’t, I don’t believe that this space will accommodate like a hyper-growth business, which I think is like a really interesting dynamic. And, you know, and especially when you think about all of the companies that exist in this space today that have raised massive amounts of money. And I think that there’s kind of like, I think that oftentimes raising a ton of money is a mistake because of the fact that it’s very difficult to, maybe even impossible. I won’t say impossible for sure, but unlikely to get like a very kind of typical type of exponential, call it top-line growth curve like you might find in maybe a more generalist kind of tech space that was cross-vertical and had exponential adoption across its customer base. But in any event, yeah, ten years, I think that that’s a good estimate. If you want to start a business in clinical trials, don’t expect to exit fully before decade’s up. And there’s obviously going to be exceptions to that, and people listen to this and say, you know, I’m wrong, what about so-and-so? And like I admit, there is always exceptions, but I think that’s a general rule I would go by.

Joseph Kim:
Yeah, I think it’s prudent to say that. And actually, we’ve seen evidence of recent companies who’ve had multiple, giant multiples go public, and I don’t know what their stock is, but I’m pretty sure it didn’t go up from there, right? So they’ve gone down without naming names. And then there are other companies we’ve all seen where the investments are huge, and, you know, people are still waiting for some evidence. And I think what you did very prudently was make sure you grew the company in the right way where you didn’t take on too much of investment. Actually, that’s some advice you’ve given to me, as well as my first role here at a startup, and we take that to heart for sure.

Sam Whitaker:
Yeah, and I think that we actually took on probably, we probably should have taken on more investment, if I had to go back in a time machine. So we were really sensitive about dilution and we didn’t want to take on too much, but there’s a trade-off, right? And it probably ended up leading to a burnout, essentially, especially for me and JP, you know, I think Jennifer has kind of infinite energy, so she doesn’t, it’s probably not something that she would ever experience. Yeah, so I think that there’s, every company is different, but I would say don’t raise too little but don’t raise too much, and that is probably the biggest piece of advice you could possibly get.

Joseph Kim:
Yeah, well, there’s just something sort of sexy about raising a bunch, but you just get yourself into trouble, I think. So, let’s talk about what happened. You know, people can read the press releases about your exit and whatnot, but you took some time off, right? What did you do over the last couple of years during COVID?

Sam Whitaker:
Well, no, I have been, after I left Greenphire, I really needed time to essentially recover from the entire experience, and so I’ve done a bunch of different things. I wouldn’t say any of them were really passions per se, but I worked at Brackett for a little while. I started another company that failed and, you know, you win some, you lose some. But we designed that business to test it, and the test failed, and then we wrapped it up. Surely, we were meant to launch that business in June of 2020, we started building that about nine months prior, and then COVID certainly wasn’t helpful in that experience, but I won’t blame it all on COVID. And then I’ve spent a lot of time with my kids. I actually really, you know, I am not the type of person or entrepreneur that finishes one company and then has to run out and start another one three weeks later. And there’s lots of people that I have met that would describe themselves in that way and they would say, I can’t just sit at home, I can’t do anything but work, and I don’t fall into that category. I’m more than happy to not be working around the clock, and I love spending time with the kids, and so I was kind of like a stay-at-home dad for a long while, and I ran a whole lot. And, so we moved to Puerto Rico in November of 2020, in the middle of COVID, and we lived there for two years. And that was an awesome experience, I ran a whole lot there. I ended up, I ran a 100-mile ultramarathon in October of 2021.

Joseph Kim:
You’re crazy.

Sam Whitaker:
Yeah, no, it was super fun. Really, it was, really was, it was, I think that those types of things are like, semi-spiritual and it’s awesome. I would encourage everybody to do that.

Joseph Kim:
After you took a break from life, which I think is fantastic. People proudly call themselves like, I’m a serial entrepreneur. Like, come on, dude, just relax for a little bit. But you’re back, right? I see you have this t-shirt, Mural Health. What is going on? Tell us about this.

Sam Whitaker:
We made a t-shirt. Yeah, I mean, I think my attitude is, was basically, or always has, or kind of has been that like, if, like, the universe wants me to do something, it will present itself, like I don’t have to force it, like there’s lots of time and let’s see what happens. And so it was a little over a year ago that a guy I knew who was familiar with clinical technology, he was an investor, he kind of approached me and asked me if I would start a new business with him. And the idea was, I had this idea kind of reflecting on my time at Greenphire and kind of thinking about what would I do differently, or if I was, if I had still been working there, how would I map out the next five or ten years for that business? And so I kind of laid that out for him. And that was maybe six months prior to this phone call. And he called me up and said that he had been thinking about the kind of vision and the strategy that I had laid out, and he wanted to do it. He wanted to start a company and chase after that product strategy. And he asked me to start it with him, and I told him no, I told him I didn’t want to because it sounded like a lot of work. And I think eventually I kind of like, but I told him that I’d be happy to support him and I would help him out with it, and that helping him out ended up kind of evolving over the course of the next couple of months, and here I am. I’m a co-founder of this company that we’ve started that we’re about to launch called Mural Health, and we are, I will generally call this a, and this terminology might change over time, but right now I’m thinking of this as like a patient management platform. And so I think that the bigger vision for this technology is to essentially try to manage all of the touchpoints between a patient and a clinical trial. Obviously, we can’t do that on day one, so we are focusing in on four, what I’m thinking of as feature sets, which are essentially modules that sit inside of this platform that will help the patient. And I think what you’ll see when we become public with some of our materials is that the kind of, the called the tagliner, or the stated mission of this business is to make it easier to be a participant in clinical trials. And this is very much embracing this like participant-first product mentality with the idea that if we can make it easy or easier to be a participant. And I’m going to like, I’m going to stay away from calling the patient just simply because I want to be able to, I want to give credit to the caregivers as much so as any anybody that actually has an illness in the event that they are sick. But, because I think that the caregivers in our system are actually, there’s this concept of caregiver that is just as important, if not maybe even slightly more important than a patient or subject, I guess, I don’t like that word either. So, in any event, we’re going to launch this business with them, what I’m thinking of is like four feature sets that are all meant to help the patient or the caregiver participate. The one that’s going to be the most controversial in a way, is that we are launching the business with a next-generation patient payment solution, which will compete with the ClinCard, which is the product that I originally built and developed out during my time at Greenphire. And I think from my perspective there, the ClinCard was this awesome entry point into this space and it defined a product category. And back in 2008, it was by far probably the best tech available in my kitchen cabinet to deliver fast payment to patients, and I guess caregivers, too, although, we weren’t really considering them back then. But if you fast forward to current day, there are a lot of opportunities to upgrade the existing products. And so that includes ClinCard and I focus a lot on them because they’re the market leader, but there’s a handful of other competitors that exist in this space who essentially had replicated or attempted to replicate the ClinCard product. So I think they all kind of fall into the same category of these like prepaid debit card payment delivery mechanisms. And so we’re going to do a bunch of different things to improve that experience, and then we are also going to include transportation features inside of our mobile app. So our proprietary mobile application will be the primary way that participant interacts with our system. And I think that that is a unique feature for any patient-facing tech that I’ve seen out there. Transportation isn’t so much a uniquely compelling feature set, but I think it’s important to include. And then we’re also going to have a robust communication feature set where we’re not only going to be delivering, like one-way reminders, which I think is like kind of standard, but we’re also going to give the participants the ability to interact with the site in a two-way communication inside of the mobile application. And so if you’re familiar with this company called Spruce Health, it’s, I think our feature, the communication feature set inside of our product, I think was essentially inspired by my experience using Spruce with my doctor in Puerto Rico. It was just, it was like just a very easy experience where I can open up my app, send a message, and it could have been, could you schedule me for a doctor’s appointment? Or, I fell off my one wheel in Puerto Rico, and I kind of cracked my head open, and I open up my app and I asked, this was in the middle of COVID, and I said, How can I get stitches? I don’t want to go to the emergency room. And they responded right away and said, Just come on into the come into the office and we’ll fix you up. And so it wasn’t like, this communication feature set wasn’t like, this like kind of like amazing tech, it was just simple and it worked really well, and we wanted to give the same experience to participants in research. And then the fourth feature set in kind of the, we’ll call the MVP, minimally viable product, is typically if you’re operating efficiently as a tech startup, you want to put out kind of what you need to in order to test it and then iterate. The fourth feature set is what I’m calling like patient analytics or patient insights. I’m not sure where we’re landing on a name just yet, but we’re going to periodically simply ask the patient how they’re doing, what’s their experience in the study. And this is, during their participation in the study, and we’re going to give them the ability to provide feedback to the study, and this can be to the site, but we’ll also be able to roll this up so that the study teams are going to be able to have visibility into patient satisfaction on a real-time basis across their study. And I think the longer-term goal of this feature set isn’t just to provide essentially reporting, but also to build up a data set that will allow us to predict who will drop out, or who is most likely to drop out based on data they provide or feedback they provide. And some of those people will be people that are going to drop out and we can’t do anything about that, but there will also be some subset of patients or caregivers that we’ll be able to identify and then hopefully proactively improve their experience so that they don’t drop out and that they stay with the study and we can kind of proactively retain them, and I’m not aware of any other product that does this yet. And so I think these are the four feature sets that we have, I mean, I think that we’re attempting to kind of improve upon what I had built years ago and then not only give the industry a better way of paying patients and caregivers, but then using that payment as a, essentially a point of leverage in order to deliver other more compelling features to the patient, in order to ultimately kind of bolster the value that we can add to the study and ultimately the sponsor. And then I completely skipped over and didn’t mention the site and all of that, the goal is also to make all of those kind of tactical feature sets easier for the site to use as well. That’s my, it’s like my commercial for the Mural Health.

Joseph Kim:
Listen, it’s great to have you back in the industry. I look forward to running into you at shows and hopefully presenting things on stage, maybe even partnering. I think our companies have a lot to offer each other as well. We’ll do that offline, of course. But listen, thanks again for coming on the show. I think you’ve enlightened a lot of people what it takes to really get a startup off the ground in this industry of clinical research. It’s not easy, but certainly, if you focus on the end user, first and foremost, you’re more likely to have some luck and success.

Sam Whitaker:
Yeah, well, we’ll see, fingers crossed.

Joseph Kim:
Yeah, welcome back. It’s great to have you, have an awesome day.

Sam Whitaker:
Thanks, Joe.

Joseph Kim:
Thank you for tuning into Research Confidential. We hope you enjoyed today’s episode. For more information about us, show notes, transcripts, and resources, please visit ProofPilot.com. If you’d like to debunk a clinical research myth, share some war stories, or maybe just show our audience what kind of heroics it takes to pull off gold-standard research, send us your thoughts, episode ideas, and more to [email protected] This show was presented by ProofPilot and is powered by Outcomes Rocket.

Sonix is the world’s most advanced automated transcription, translation, and subtitling platform. Fast, accurate, and affordable.

Automatically convert your mp3 files to text (txt file), Microsoft Word (docx file), and SubRip Subtitle (srt file) in minutes.

Sonix has many features that you’d love including advanced search, powerful integrations and APIs, collaboration tools, automatic transcription software, and easily transcribe your Zoom meetings. Try Sonix for free today.

Things You’ll Learn:

  • If you are going to start a tech company or want to be a successful entrepreneur, the most critical skill is problem-solving.
  • Prioritize the patient as the primary end user and the site as the most important business user of the system, even if in most cases, neither one of them pays for the tech. 
  • When systems prioritize patients, they are truly providing value to their consumers.
  • If you want to start a business in clinical trials, don’t expect to exit fully before the first decade is up.
  • Every company is different, but for investments, a piece of advice would be: don’t raise too little or too much, just what’s necessary.
  • Mural Health manages four feature sets within its platform to assess payments, transportation, communications, and analytics for patients.

Resources:

  • Connect with and follow Sam Whitaker on LinkedIn.
  • Follow Rochester Mural Health on LinkedIn.
  • Discover the Mural Health Website
  • For more information about Research Confidential please visit ProofPilot.com.
  • If you’d like to debunk a clinical research myth, share some more stories, or maybe just show our audience what kind of heroics it takes to pull off gold-standard research, send us your thoughts, episode ideas, and more to [email protected].