Find people who share the same hustle & grit and train them for the role you need, they will always perform better than the person with years of experience
As part of my series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Successful App or SaaS”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sas Ponnapalli, CEO & Co-founder of Beam Health.
Sas is the only second-time founder in the telehealth space, building Beam from the ground up. Virtual healthcare isn’t just a fad for Sas; it’s a passion. Sas proposed a telemedicine mobile app as his final project while in college. It wasn’t funded. Relentless, Sas went on to found PlushCare, a vertically integrated telemedicine practice valued at over $100M. After learning how to scale a singular clinic, Sas decided to bring telehealth to the masses via Beam.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
My name is Sas Ponnapalli, CEO & co-founder of Beam Health. I previously served as the founding CTO of Plushcare, a vertically integrated telehealth company now valued over 100M. At PlushCare, I saw the increasing impact of telemedicine on low-income & underserved communities.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led you to think of the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
As telemedicine started to pick up steam in the mid 2010’s, the trend has been to create specialty-specific telemedicine practices (mental health, urgent care, women’s health, etc). This resulted in a crowded space of companies competing to hire a limited supply by using venture capital.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
When I started Beam, I bootstrapped the company by selling some of my stock in PlushCare. Within the first year, I burned through most of it, with only 30 days of runway left. I had a half working MVP, no revenue, and had to move into my parents’ house to make ends meet and optimize the little runway I had. I had to let my only engineer go, and took on all the coding myself. I had to learn the frameworks/languages I’ve never used before.
I probably would have given up a lot earlier had it not been for my experience at PlushCare, where we had to work at the back of a dentist’s office for a year during tough times. I also keep telling myself that every founder goes through this process of doubt, and every successful entrepreneur has thought about giving up.
So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
We currently have over 1200 customers and 38,000 successful provider-patient interactions on the platform. We’ve been growing rapidly, successfully acquiring customers from companies with 40–100x our funding. In the last year, we’ve also built a world-class team of engineers & operations associates. We’re also closing in on a few large enterprise agreements we expect to close Q1 of 2021.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
I thought I wouldn’t need to raise money. That I would create a product and customers would just come. This made me focus on product development for nearly 18 months before speaking to our first outside investors.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We’re the only telemedicine company that offers a fully integrated suite of digital health features including; co-pay collection, rapid deployment where clinics can create an account and launch in 90 seconds, easy patient workflow, a custom Beam waiting room to educate and promote services to patients as they wait for your providers, custom EHR integrations, custom admin accounts so office managers/staff can chat directly with patients, screenshare capabilities, and group sessions. The Beam user experience is redefining healthcare technology. Doctors can create a Beam account in 90 seconds and require no training to use the platform. Patients of all ages love Beam because no software or app download is required!
Beam is faster, more reliable & just flat out cooler than other telemedicine companies. Older telemedicine platforms typically suffer from poor customer service and scalability issues. Beam offers more reliability, more features, more flexibility, more custom branding, more marketing services and a customer account management team that is dedicated to your success. With healthcare specific features like custom EHR integrations, medical assistant chat, patient marketing and 90 second provider onboarding, Beam isn’t just in a different league; we’re playing a different sport.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Make sure you get 8 hours of sleep, set some time to prioritize non-business tasks, whether with a significant other or working out, etc.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I had a lot of great mentors at my last startup, PlushCare, where I was given the opportunity to run, manage & lead a high performing team when I was 23. I definitely owe Ryan & James (The other PC founders) for giving me that opportunity.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. Approximately how many users or subscribers does your app or software currently have? Can you share with our readers three of the main steps you’ve taken to build such a large community?
We currently have over 1200 customers and 38,000 successful provider-patient interactions on the platform. We have a product without a single line of outsourced code, and offer every customer direct access to the C-suite. We also build features our customers want, and actively reach out to build and prioritize these features.
What is your monetization model? How do you monetize your community of users? Have you considered other monetization options? Why did you not use those?
We have 3 pricing options: Pilot/ Lite/Pro with specific features for each plan. The idea is to make the barriers for telemedicine as low as possible, without requiring an upfront commitment or investment for the provider side. As we collect more customers on our network, we want to leverage this network to further reduce costs on our customers.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a very successful app or a SaaS? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Build a great product or hire someone who can build a great product
- Understand your industry & customer acquisition process
- Make sure you call your customers constantly and are close to their feedback
- Create a process for everything that’s measurable & quantifiable
- Find people who share the same hustle & grit and train them for the role you need, they will always perform better than the person with years of experience
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I want healthcare to be democratized. Every patient no matter where they live should have access to high quality care.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
Sas Ponnapalli of Beam Health: 5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Successful App or SaaS was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.