An exclusive Tech Tribune Q&A with Justin French (founder and CTO) of AngelEye Health, which was honored in our:
- 2022 Best Tech Startups in Arkansas
- 2022 Best Tech Startups in Little Rock
- 2021 Best Tech Startups in Arkansas
- 2021 Best Tech Startups in Little Rock
- 2020 Best Tech Startups in Arkansas
- 2019 Best Tech Startups in Arkansas
- 2019 Best Tech Startups in Little Rock
Tell us the origin story of AngelEye Health – what problem were you trying to solve and why?
Nearly 10% of children in the US are born premature, resulting in tens of thousands of babies staying in the NICU until they can safely go home. We founded AngelEye Health in 2013 initially as a NICU webcam venture, with a secure website component to provide an opportunity for families to view their hospitalized children during their NICU stay. As the company developed a base, we recognized the needs of the NICU (for staff and families) went beyond simply providing the ability to see a hospitalized baby through our cameras. There was a greater need to communicate more often and more effectively with the care team, as well as provide ongoing support to hospital staff working to educate parents on the health of their child prior to discharge. More recently, we’ve integrated a fourth component designed to support the NICU feeding process. Together, the AngelEye Health comprehensive family engagement platform works to integrate parents into their child’s care team during an experience that no one can really prepare for: hospitalization in the neonatal or pediatric intensive care unit.
We’ve built a diverse portfolio of resources for supporting the highly specialized needs of the NICU and PICU today and in the future. Our offering includes four complementary solutions accessible on our comprehensive HIPAA-compliant platform that offers advanced communication and engagement resources for clinical teams and families.
- CameraSystem™ brings live-streaming video of the patient to family members anywhere, anytime, on any device.
- OnlineEducation™ is a customizable portal where clinical staff can upload hospital-specific and patient care education and monitor parents’ progress on the patient’s path to discharge.
- PatientConnect™ is a one-way communication tool that allows care teams to easily engage with families via text, photo, or video messages.
- Milk Tracker™ is a comprehensive end-to-end feeding and milk inventory management solution.
Providing these resources to the entire care team and parents drives better unit performance, improves patient outcomes, and leads to a safe and timely charge for the most vulnerable patients in the hospital.
What was the biggest hurdle you encountered in your journey?
The fundraising strategy for a startup company is extremely critical. It is important to not only finance the company with enough capital to grow, but to execute on that plan so that investor confidence in your team remains high. While tedious, keeping an eye on the end goal of each funding round has kept our team grounded in the process.
Another hurdle that AngelEye Health faced in the early days was attracting talent. It’s often considered a risk to join a young startup, no matter the industry. Working to get the right people in place on our team took time, but ultimately, finding the right people (not just people to do the job) has paid off handsomely. We are all committed to the same goal and work as a team to get there each and every day.
Another barrier to success is your team’s ability to develop an elevator pitch to be able to describe your company quickly and succinctly. You have to work to inform the market you are going after, and bolstering our team with the right people and focused messaging allowed us to get in front of the right audiences. This teamwork and shared vision supported our ability to determine who AngelEye Health is, and not only as our company descriptor, but how we want others to speak about us.
Finally, a hurdle that we (and every other company) continue to face is that of technology advancements. Technology is an ever-evolving industry. As soon as you finish writing a section of code, it may already be obsolete. It’s important to be forward-thinking and keep working to make sure that your offering remains relevant in the market.
What does the future hold for AngelEye Health?
Our strategy has always been to create trusted relationships with our hospitals partners so that they will trust us to provide additional products and services. We believe we are THE go-to company for all things NICU-technology focused, and we intend to expand that to other parts of the neonatal spectrum (potentially providing services in the post-discharge setting, for example). We look forward to spearheading new innovations that allow our team to deliver more services that offer greater value to families, providers, and payers.
What are your thoughts on the local tech startup scene in Little Rock?
It’s been an interesting few years for Little Rock. I think the pandemic altered the tech startup scene of the city greatly. Large tech companies headquartered in bigger cities nationwide have allowed many of their employees to work fully remote, and Little Rock has been a landing place for many. As a tech-centric city, Little Rock offers a lot of the amenities that larger cities offer while still being an affordable and more suburban location.
I think in the near future we may see an uptick in local startups from these recent transplants. Whether inspired by the tech scene in Little Rock and available entrepreneurial resources or by other factors, Little Rock has the opportunity to go in the direction of a number of other mid-size cities nationwide that have been positioned as technology hubs, and I look forward to witnessing this change.
What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Take a chance on yourself. Remember that failure is not an option. You will experience failure on your path, but you can’t be willing to resign yourself to those temporary setbacks. Use these setbacks as fuel to propel yourself forward and learn from the mistakes made to make fewer in the future.
Trust yourself and the team that you build to work hard every day to achieve your ultimate goal.