In the midst of a global pandemic, health care innovation is in high demand, especially within the telehealth market. That’s not news to Marc Cayle, who founded Milwaukee-based startup OnKol back in 2014. The company developed a smart device that connects third-party home and health monitoring sensors to an elderly person’s family, medical professionals and data platforms. Anticipating a spike in demand for remote patient monitoring technology, Cayle last year launched BeHomeSafe, which will use a franchise model to deliver home health monitoring products directly to consumers across the country. BizTimes reporter Maredithe Meyer recently caught up with Cayle to talk about how he is gearing up for the growing demand for his companies’ services.
Where does telehealth fit in to health care today?
“We already have an enormous shortage of caregivers for the seniors that currently exist and, with 10,000 people turning 65 everyday, that is going to be the biggest challenge that the senior care industry has in front of it. And now with the COVID-19 outbreak, there are going to be seniors living at home that do not want caregivers to come into the home because they might bring the virus. … It’s a perfect opportunity to place technology in the home to allow that monitoring to happen. Even senior communities are closing down all together (due to the coronavirus). There’s no way that you can even go visit a loved one, so how do you know how they’re doing unless there’s some sort of technology that’s notifying you?”
How will the coronavirus outbreak impact access to capital for BeHomeSafe and other health care technology startups?
“We are certainly in a position right now where we need additional capital to fund building more units. It has been a struggle in Milwaukee and in the Midwest in general to raise that capital. You see these companies on the coasts getting hundreds of millions of dollars for concepts that have failed because they don’t understand what they need to do in this market, because they weren’t in the market before this.
“We are known, unfortunately, as a flyover state and it’s very frustrating. It’s going to take something like this for these companies – venture capital firms and private equity firms – to take notice that we’re here and we can provide solutions and we need the capital to do it. … All it’s going to take is one big win from the Wisconsin (startup) ecosystem to draw attention to what we’re doing here.”
Are you concerned that current uncertainty in the global economy could slow the process of building that capital?
“I think (the coronavirus outbreak) will wind up being the best thing that ever happened to companies that can be involved in assisting people with being healthy from a distance because no one’s ever going to forget this. We are always going to be able to look back and say ‘remember that pandemic of 2020 and the tectonic shift that took place in the care for seniors and frail adults when we couldn’t be close to them?’ From my perspective, it’s a shame that it took this to happen, but I know that it will create what would be an instant awareness for the need for technology like this.”
What went into the decision to relocate and expand BeHomeSafe’s offices (to Spaces co-working hub in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward)?
“I need more flexibility because we’re going to be expanding relatively quickly and the shared office space concept allows us that flexibility. Right now, there are three of us and we are adding a fourth, which really was the impetus here … and we anticipate adding people as quickly as we need to as sales/installation people.”