Peter Peter - Founder, UserActive

Standing Out in a Small, Competitive SaaS Niche

SaaS Founder Interview - Daniel, ChartFlow

Making a name for your company and standing out in a competitive niche is a challenge many SaaS founders are dealing with. If there is someone who can understand this difficulty, it’s Daniel Shporin, Co-Founder of Chartflow.io.

Their cutting-edge healthcare education platform operates in a very small niche, with numerous competitors. However, the company has done a remarkable job at standing out from the competition (while managing the inevitable ups and downs)

In this interview, Daniel shares valuable insights for his fellow founders on:

  • What sets Chartflow.io apart in a crowded space, so they can solve a critical problem in healthcare education.
  • His successful exit to launching Chartflow.io. How he recognised an industry gap.
  • Investing wisely when building a product. How money got wasted and their approach now to designing and developing a SaaS
  • How the product is adapted to address needs across the globe, not only in the U.S.

Check out all our SaaS Founder Interviews here on our YouTube channel.

Background and previous startup experience

[00:00:02.170] – Peter

Okay, here we go. So I’m here today with Daniel Shporin from Chartflow.io. Hey, Daniel, thank you for joining me today. Can you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about who you are and what you do?

[00:00:13.860] – Daniel

Yeah, absolutely. So, thanks for having me. My name is Daniel Shporin and I’m from New York, from Brooklyn. Originally lived in the city for most of my life and done a number of things, but really in the last about, call it 10/11 years, I’ve been in healthcare education. And so we’re talking nursing education, medical assistance, respiratory therapy education, a lot of undergraduate level, but also some high school and graduate as well, and primarily US based, but really over the last four years, started doing more global work as well. So with Chartflow, this is actually our second startup in this industry.

The first was not a company I was a founder of. It was actually my wife and her family. They created an educational EHR. And the joke was that I was their first non family, call it non blood hire. And they were building something really special. And I kind of broke one of my rules of not working with family and said, hey, let me join up with these folks. I know them, I love them, they’re building something special. Maybe it’ll blow up in our face, maybe not. It didn’t. We had a great run, built that product up over about five, six years, and then we successfully exited it in 2018.

[00:01:27.960] – Daniel

And now with Chartflow, I don’t want to say a similar product because there are similarities, but there are differences. But it’s certainly in a similar industry. And we just launched this past, May, I should say, of 2023.

[00:01:47.330] – Peter

Okay, can you tell us a bit about Chart Flow? What it is, who it’s for, what problem it solves?

Chart Flow and its purpose

[00:01:53.740] – Daniel

Yes. So what Chart Flow is, it’s a healthcare education platform. And specifically, it’s an educational EHR, an electronic health record system that allows college students, universities, high school graduate level programmes. Right? All the programmes I mentioned earlier nursing, medical, respiratory therapists, physical therapists, to practise, both reviewing a patient’s health record, adding documentation to their health record and working with other clinicians in that space.

[00:02:27.420] – Daniel

And the way I kind of describe it to folks outside of the industry, it’s kind of like a CRM, but for healthcare. So the patient comes in and they present with a certain type of problem. Maybe they have a heart disease or high blood pressure or obesity or a psychological condition, whatever it may be, you’re going to type all the information into a computer system and that’s an EHR. And so we’ve created a simulated or educational version of that system for schools to practise with their students on.

So the problem it solves is that students can’t get access to the real platforms in the United States. There’s HIPAA, right? It’s a privacy act. And so students aren’t licenced. They can’t go to their clinical sites and practise entering information into these systems, which can be a problem because between 30 and 60% of a nurse’s time can be spent on one of these systems.

[00:03:27.180] – Daniel

So it’s a critical component of what they do. And the systems aren’t easy. They’re cumbersome, they are big. You can put information into multiple places. And a lot of times, right, I’m working with a patient, I’m talking to them, I need to look them in the eye. But at the same time I need to document this information even in real time, or I have to come back and document it immediately afterwards because if I see another patient right now, all the information gets blurred together. Wait. Was that patient a? Was that patient B? What was what? So everything has to be documented for insurance reasons, for compliance reasons. So our platform allows schools to practise all of these things with their students and get them prepared for the clinical settings.

Identifying the market need

[00:04:13.010] – Peter

Sounds like you have a really nice, focused product in a niche with a real problem or real need. So how did you identify, how did you get exposure to discover this problem that you could work on solving and see that there’s a real need for it?

[00:04:29.060] – Daniel

Yeah, it’s interesting. I’ve always been surrounded by folks in healthcare my whole life. Most of my friends are in healthcare. They’re nurses or doctors. My mom was a nurse, and then as I married my wife, her entire family is filled with nurses as well.

[00:04:46.510] – Daniel

It was interesting because I’ve been more always in the tech side. I’ve done work in finance, I’ve done even some work in sports with youth officiating and things like that. And I never thought I would kind of be in healthcare. But when my wife and her and her mom started their company, they needed help with sales, they needed help with support, they needed help with some of the things that I knew how to do. And so I said, you know, it kind of always seems like I’m being pulled into healthcare.

I’m not one to work with patients, so don’t provide me in a hospital that is not for me. I applaud everybody. And I’m grateful that there are many people who enjoy working in a clinical setting and enjoy working with blood and patients who are sick. And that is very necessary. But being kind of in this similar industry, kind of analogous to it has been really nice.

[00:05:44.370] – Daniel

So that’s kind of how I got my entry into it. And since then I really fell in love with it and had been in the space for just about eleven years and pretty much have quit everything else. This is exclusively all I do now.

[00:05:56.770] – Peter

That’s great. Yeah. With your new opportunity with Chartflow, do you feel that you have a competitive market? Because you’re solving a nice problem that you’ve identified as a real need for this. Giving students access to professional tools that they may not have a licence based on privacy laws to use. What does the market look like? What’s the space like? Are there other players? Or do you feel like you’re creating a new category and selling to institutions for a new concept or idea?

Market competition and differentiation

[00:06:36.030] – Daniel

Yeah, interesting, because so it’s both, certainly the first part. There are about seven or eight existing players in the space. And so already we’re in this very niche space of healthcare education, and we’ve built not a real EHR, but a simulated EHR. So even a lot of times you go, I’ll talk to doctors, I’ll talk to nurses who are in education, and they kind of laugh, like, why would you build an educational version of this product? How big of a market can there be for it? And to top it off, there’s seven other existing competitors.

[00:07:05.860] – Daniel

Now, the thing about those existing products is they almost exclusively play in the undergraduate nursing market in the United States. Now, that is a very large market. It is likely the largest of all the markets I’m in. There’s about two and a half thousand or so accredited nursing institutions, and many of them already have products. But what I really saw was this need to build something that was, one, a lot more affordable. A lot of the existing products are very expensive. They’re 80, they’re 100, they’re $150 per student per year. We’re $25 per student per year.

[00:07:42.480] – Daniel

Super cheap, really easy. Our cost to run the software now that it’s built, sure, we’ll get into, that are not astronomical at all. So we can afford to then have an affordable price for students.

[00:07:55.180] – Daniel

But also we wanted to build something very customizable, because we would always get questions from non nursing programmes saying, hey, can we change this? Or international non US based programmes. Schools in the UK, in Australia, in Canada, schools in non English speaking countries, right? In France, maybe. Schools in Asia, in Thailand, in Indonesia, anywhere. Right. The world is huge. What are there, 100 and 900 countries? And they all have one thing in common, they all have nurses, they all have doctors, they all have healthcare and hospital systems set up, and they all document in one way or another.

So we wanted to build something that everyone can use, that they can use in their simulation labs, that they can use in their didactic courses. And so we weren’t just limited to this one subset of undergraduate nursing. Then, really, the last point, we wanted to build something very modern, that’s mobile friendly, that can be used in any device.

[00:08:54.250] – Daniel

A lot of the other existing products are a bit older and they don’t work on tablets. Some do, some don’t. They don’t work on phones, some do, some don’t. And I think we see, especially with the younger users, with students today, they’re doing everything on their phone. I mean, I’m in my mid thirties and I do a lot of things on my phone, but I don’t do everything on my phone. If I was in school today, I wouldn’t do homework assignments on my phone. But I have peers. I have cousins and nephews and they’re just on their phone. They don’t even pull out their laptop. And so we wanted to build something that works for that modern student.

Building the product and development journey

[00:09:38.650] – Peter

Yeah, sounds really neat. Okay, Daniel, I’m interested in how you built your product. What’s been your experience? It sounds like a fairly complex system to build. So what’s your journey been like? How have you approached it and what has it cost you in time, effort, money to get your product launched?

[00:10:02.290] – Daniel

Yeah, we started building it and initially started working with a development agency. And I had one of my friends helping me as well that was a developer, and it was challenging to get it off the ground.

[00:10:17.590] – Daniel

The performance wasn’t adequate. And we really threw away about a year’s worth of work and about 35-40,000 dollars worth of development costs because this time around, we didn’t want to build a product from day one that was limited. We knew some of the challenges that we were going to have. We knew the requests that we were going to have from users and they were challenging database questions. And we wanted to structure that database in a way that we could not only support our users today and support an MVP, but then support what we know we’re going to need in three to five years from now.

[00:10:58.690] – Daniel

We were right in this unique position where we’re not starting from zero. We didn’t have to do discovery. I was armed with 2000 estimate, but 2000 conversations over almost a decade with customers knowing what questions they’ll ask, what needs they have, what requests they have. Right? And so we wanted to say, okay, let’s talk about all of those today and build those.

[00:11:22.120] – Daniel

So eventually I did have a partner come join me. There was a full stack developer and he and I spent an additional, almost a full year developing the system in a way that I could say the best way to describe it is we used a lot of inspiration from Notion and how they’ve designed their product. People love notion. Notion, ClickUp right. They love how customizable they are. They love how you can use them for different purposes. And so we use a lot of that. We also use the inspiration of just Wix or Squarespace, a common website builder. And so we kind of needed to build this website builder that’s specific for healthcare education programmes. That will allow us to build the data they need and eventually allow them to build the information they need and can control on their own.

[00:12:15.630] – Daniel

So, again, if we had a school, let’s say in Italy, that came on board and said, hey, we need everything Italian, as opposed to us translating our whole site in Italian or doing that. It’s okay. You guys can build all your own flow sheets, all of your own sections, and put it all in Italian.

[00:12:29.610] – Daniel

It’s all unicode. So put it in Italian, put it in French, and then you have your flow sheets that look like yours and not like the American version, which are different. Even between the US and UK, things are slightly different. So total cost, I would say, since we’ve started this project has been about $60,000. Fully-bootstrapped, no venture capital, no angels. We could talk about that a little more if you’d like. Kind of the reasons for that. But, yeah, I self funded the whole, you know, saving money over the years, living cheaply and investing it into this new product and business.

Marketing and social media strategy

[00:13:13.950] – Peter

That’s awesome. Daniel yeah. It’s been really cool to hear about your journey and your start with things. I wanted to ask if you are active and kind of social, do you document your journey or do you do much marketing for the business at all?

[00:13:33.910] – Daniel

Yeah, I certainly do a lot of blogging. We have a blog blog, Chartflow.IO, and we have different content marketing set up there, and we have free resources and your traditional things of that nature.

[00:13:48.290] – Daniel

I personally don’t do a lot of social media. I don’t love social media. I’m not on it much. I’m more of a lurker than a poster. I meet people, I network on it, but I don’t like to post much and kind of do the whole influencer thing. I’m a very social person and very outgoing, but I don’t like to document kind of my life’s journey and make those big posts like that. I’m very private when it comes to things like that.

[00:14:17.380] – Daniel

This is one of the first interviews I’ve done in this case, and I’m starting to do more of them, which is nice. I do need to do them for the brand, but I think at some point that’ll be something where maybe in a year or two, I’ll bring someone on to manage our social media presence. But we certainly do a lot of sales. I have a sales background, so we do a lot of cold emailing, we go to conferences. A lot of your traditional B2B sales.

Connect with Daniel & ChartFlow

[00:14:48.650] – Peter

Okay, well, hey, I’m going to wrap up now. So it’s been awesome to have you, particularly that you don’t do many interviews. So it’s been great to speak with you, Daniel.

[00:14:56.580] – Daniel

Thanks for your time.

[00:14:57.290] – Peter

Thanks for sharing. If anyone wants to check out Chartflow, it’s Chartflow.io, and it’s Daniel Shporin, co-founder of Chartflow. So, hey, thanks again for speaking with me today.

[00:15:08.530] – Daniel

Great to meet you. I appreciate it.

[00:15:10.370] – Peter

Cheers. 

Check out all our SaaS Founder Interviews here on our YouTube channel.

Looking for UI/UX Designers who specialise in B2B SaaS?

Look no further! Click here to book a no-obligation consultation with our small and mighty team. We’ll give you a steer on your product and see if we’re a good fit to help!

Previous
UI/UX Designer: In-House or Agency? Which is Better?
Next
How to Make Integrations Easy for Your SaaS Users