Learn more about NEXT’s entrepreneurs in our “Member Spotlight Series.” Members share their origin stories, challenges along their journey, and the insights they’ve gained along the way.
ChartSpan is one of our region’s most successful startups. We interviewed ChartSpan’s CEO, Jon-Michial Carter, to learn how the company came to be and to hear the insights he’s gained along the way.
Can you share your elevator pitch with us?
We help Medicare patients between their office visits. Patients who have two or more chronic conditions are particularly susceptible to additional health issues that could be prevented with a focus on preventative care. And Medicare is now focused on preventative care (in contrast with reactive care) since it reduces costs and improves health outcomes. Our clinicians reach out every month to check on these patients and to make sure they’re following their care plan. The result is that we’re reducing the number of patients that end up in the hospital and extending life spans.
What’s your origin story? How did you come to create your company?
I started with my brother, Patrick, who practiced in the clinical environment for 20 years and spent time in ER trauma rooms. He saw firsthand and was alarmed at the lack of patient engagement and the state of reactive care. Patrick had an idea on how to improve patient outcomes by focusing on preventative care, and I had spent my career in tech, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to build a healthcare company, powered by innovative technology.
We knew we needed to get into a top-tier accelerator program to get VC investment, and we looked at several programs all over the country. We chose the Iron Yard in Greenville, which had a program for healthcare sponsored by the Mayo Clinic, and had a culture that appealed to us. We ended up falling in love with Greenville and decided to stay here — not just because we loved the city but also because of the influence of county leaders and John Moore, who was President of NEXT. John gave us the opportunity to get plugged into the entrepreneurial ecosystem here, which we knew would be invaluable. NEXT gave us the ability to have affordable downtown office space, introduced us to partners, employees, and customers, and arranged cost discounts for technology. Toward the end of the Iron Yard program, we went through venture pitches, and we were able to raise capital.
What’s your vision for the future? What change are you trying to make?
We’re here to improve health outcomes and reduce the taxpayers’ cost burden for Medicare. The latest data shows that we save Medicare $1300 annually per patient in our program. There are 61 million Medicare and Medicare Advantage patients, so we aim to scale far beyond the 30,000 patients we are currently serving.
What has been your biggest challenge when starting a business and what insights are you gaining from it?
The venture capital route is challenging because, at the end of the day, you’re using someone else’s capital. You have to execute flawlessly because you need to raise the next round. I spend a third to half of my working hours focused on raising capital. But I’ve been fortunate and learned the value of execution. We’ve largely delivered on the commitments we made to our investors. I know statistically, as a start-up, that the odds were against us succeeding, much less raising 30 million in capital, so I’m thankful for our team and for the investors who believed in us.
Who inspires you?
I look at a typical clinician at ChartSpan who spends the day engaging patients and looking for ways they might be overlooking something in diet or medication, and I hear conversations every day that show me the impact we’re having. I’m inspired by what our clinicians are doing to help patients. I see how it’s making a difference, and it’s an honor to support them.
Also, I’m inspired by the innovators. Peter Thiel and Ben Horowitz in investing, Elon Musk with Hyperloop and space travel. And Jeff Bezos because he doesn’t fit anyone’s mold and finds success his own way. I’m inspired by how he runs companies and approaches meetings, ensuring that conversations are productive and things operate efficiently.
What would you say is the most valuable part of being a member of NEXT?
The NEXT ecosystem is where things began to happen for us. The biggest thing for us has been the network. NEXT is comprised of more than 100 tech and startup companies, but even more interesting are all of the support people and organizations. I can’t think of a problem that I’ve encountered that I haven’t been able to solve thanks to someone that NEXT has introduced me to as a resource. Most startups fail because they can’t figure out how to solve problems. I can pick up the phone and call NEXT and immediately get plugged onto someone who can help solve the problem. We’ve leveraged that opportunity in a big way.
The second thing has been the facilities to support startups who can’t sign traditional 10-year leases. The fact that we have these places where startups can go and be with other startups in a cost-effective way creates an environment where people can take the risks that come with a startup.
What advice would you offer to new startup founders or those who are in the early stages of starting a company?
I mentor a lot of startups these days, and the number one issue I see is a lack of product and revenue validation in the marketplace before starting the company or raising capital. You need to validate that there’s a demand for the product. You need to have confidence that you can sell the product. This is the foundation of any successful startup.