The COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in a historic global economic decline. However, there are a handful of industries that were poised for such a time as this. E-commerce, virtual meeting software, edtech, and telehealth have taken off. And companies who have remained flexible and curious have taken the rapid change brought by the pandemic in stride.
Recently I spoke with Price Fallin, Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer at TeleVet — a GAN Startup from StitchCrew accelerator — to hear how their telemedicine service for veterinarians has exploded in this time of quarantine. In our interview, he unpacked how TeleVet managed 1,000% (10x) growth essentially overnight. Here’s what he had to say:
The week after the NBA was canceled, inbound requests for TeleVet exploded.
In February of this year, we had around 75 clinics signed up, and would typically get two to four demo requests per week.
In mid-March, the week the NBA was canceled, everyone started realizing COVID-19 was a huge reality in the United States. The following week we got five demo requests in one day and booked live demos because that’s what we always did. The next day we got ten demo requests. On the third day, we got twenty-five demo requests, and 100 the next day. That’s when we realized there was no way we could fulfill live demo requests. We canceled all of our live demos and put our efforts into creating a demo video.
At that time we didn’t have a sales team and we barely had a customer success team. With hundreds of demo requests coming in, we realized we needed to make big changes. We were getting so many demo request email notifications that we had to reconfigure the way requests came in, and we also started building out a customer success team. We set up an automated email to go out to anyone who requested a demo, which included the demo video and a link to sign up for TeleVet. This change alone was enough to exponentially grow our veterinary clinic presence. There was such urgent demand for veterinary telehealth that clinics were signing up immediately after seeing the demo video.
TeleVet clinic presence grew more than 10x in one month.
In that first month, we went from having around 75 veterinary clinics enrolled to over 900 enrolled. In February, about 5,000 pet owners were using Televet through their veterinarian, and by the end of March, there were tens of thousands. We did more consultations at the end of March than we had done in the entire history of the company. We were able to do most of the onboarding in a hands-off manner, leaving clinics to do their own training. Most veterinarians expect new technology to take a month or more to implement, and ours took minutes. Through this process, we were encouraged that our product is simple and intuitive to easily set up and use, which has become a significant selling point.
TeleVet’s growth was a combination of right place, right time, and the team working its magic.
As COVID-19 became a reality in the United States, the veterinarian industry needed to figure out how to provide care, generate revenue, and keep employees as they closed their practices for an indefinite amount of time. TeleVet was well-positioned to meet this need.
We also had built amazing brand recognition. Before COVID-19, we had a consulting group reach out to several veterinary clinics to find out what they liked about TeleVet, and what could be improved. The outreach results showed that our customers felt that we really care about them and want their practice to succeed. It also provided insights into ways we could grow and evolve our service. We always focused on taking our business down to a personal level, making sure our customers could succeed with our platform, and as a result, improve their own wellbeing. We learned from one another. We built great relationships with everyone who joined the TeleVet community. At that point in time, we had no marketing or sales team, and so our growth primarily occurred through word of mouth from customers we had build relationships with. We had great referrals from many vet clinics, who would talk about us on Facebook and recommend our service to colleagues and friends.
After a season of rapid growth, TeleVet is focused on optimization.
The coronavirus put telemedicine on the map, especially in the veterinarian space. Things have settled down a bit now, and we’re no longer getting 100 clinic sign-ups per day, so we’re able to re-focus on our branding, marketing, tech, and sales processes. Now that we have a bigger team, we are able to start doing live demos again, focus on implementation for new clinics, and get back to providing the same level of great customer service that we offered before COVID-19. If we’d already had our team in place, we probably would have had even more clinics sign up at the beginning of the pandemic, but at the time we didn’t have enough support.
Our focus for the next few months is to continue optimizing our organic inbound traffic. We’re heavily focused on building out our marketing efforts. We are rebranding to align our mission statement, vision statement, and values. We are redesigning and enhancing our website. We’ve brought on a COO who is digging into our data to help us optimize leads using a new CRM system and various business intelligence tools to optimize our processes around how we run the business.
In February we had six people on our team. Now we about 30 full-time employees and we’re continuing to grow. We have built marketing, sales, product, and customer success teams. We’ve been so focused on inbound sales requests over the past several months, and now starting to build out an outbound sales process too. It’s just the beginning.
How the accelerator experience prepared TeleVet with a long term growth plan.
TeleVet is a StitchCrew alumni company, and we also participated in the Capital Factory accelerator in 2015, so we’ve had two accelerator experiences. StitchCrew is a structured program with mentorship, regular meetings, and various course tracks related to sales, marketing, PR, etc. The main thing we gained from our StitchCrew experience was redefining our long term plan for fundraising and growth.
We were a bit later stage than most other companies in the program, but the various exercises we went through helped us take a step back and realize where we were and where we wanted to go. We reinvented our growth plans during the program and realized the importance of taking time t look at the bigger picture. This learning was so beneficial that we actually implemented a monthly sabbatical day as part of our culture, which encourages our team to take a step back to evaluate what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, and focus on improving themselves by focusing on their own wellbeing and goals.
The accelerator experience also set us up for a number of different introductions (that in retrospect seem like fate) that allowed us to build connections with some incredible people who have helped us grow to where we are today.
Advice for the startup community.
Focus on the biggest fires. Reid Hoffman from LinkedIn said, “You have to learn to let fires burn.” It’s impossible to tackle everything. You can’t do everything perfectly, but you have to do your best. That’s what we did in the midst of massive growth at the beginning of the pandemic. For us, it meant figuring out how to efficiently show veterinary clinics what our service does. We immediately made a demo video and created a self-service signup process, and put out that fire.
You have to be scrappy. We didn’t sleep at all in March. There’s a lot of hard work and grind that goes into rapid growth. In that regard, it’s essential to realize which fires are the biggest, tackle those, and let everything else burn. There are some things you can’t accommodate, so you have to evaluate what the most important thing for your company is at a given point in time and go do it.