1 September 2021
What inspired you to start CareLineLive?
Having already launched a successful IT company, specialising in managed solutions for SMEs and HNWIs, the CareLineLive journey started just by chance. One of my existing customers was a care agency and they approached us about building a platform which could bolt onto the system they already had in place. It was then that I started to realise the pitfalls that the industry faced as it tried to go digital.
At the same time, my grandfather required homecare and I also started to see how a lack of communication in the process was incredibly frustrating. I soon realised that responsibility needed to be shifted from clients so that carers could be supported. Believing that better supported carers would result in greater staff satisfaction and improved care for clients, the idea started to grow quickly from there.
Our ultimate goal with CareLineLive is to improve home care. By looking at it from an outsiders’ perspective, if you can digitise and automate processes, you give carers more time to spend with clients and improve and personalise the level of care that they receive.
What has been the most challenging part about setting up your own company?
Most business owners or entrepreneurs will talk about money, that’s a pretty big challenge. Managing the in’s and the out’s, knowing that you’ve got to have a minimum viable product before generating any revenue, and making sure you can get to that point all takes time to get your head around. Equally, recruitment is incredibly important. Making sure you surround yourself with the right people, that share your vision, is vital.
Something that’s talked about less often though is burnout and the sacrifices you often have to make in order to be successful. The responsibility and burden always lies with you as the person heading up operations. Whether it’s making payroll, signing a new customer, everything rests on your shoulders – especially when you are first starting out.
I first started the company in 2010, I took my first employee on in 2012, and only employed two people until our first equity round in 2017 when we grew to six. We have now scaled up to a team of 20 but it takes time to establish your business before you can grow it at speed.
In the early days, pre-investment, it was genuinely a case every day of working out who needed to get paid, what customers I could chase to pay me in under our terms. Getting a credit card limit increased so I could make that payment I needed to order equipment for another job. Then when the investment came in, in September 2017, I could let that bit breathe a little. What then suddenly came over me was now the responsibility I then had. The realisation that it’s not just me and one other any more, there’s six of us now, and some have kids, so there’s more than five other people relying on you to run the ship smoothly and keep everything ticking over. That strain burns you out, and that I believe is one of the hardest things to manage.
Where would you like CareLineLive to be in five years?
CareLineLive is achieving great success. Looking back, I always hoped we’d get this far, but I guess in a way I doubted whether we could really do it. Now that we know what we’re capable of – the sky really is the limit!
Over the next five years, I’d like to increase our international offering. About 10% of our users are international, across six countries outside of the UK. I’d like to see us move into the US and Canada, and increase our international customer base to 20-25%.
What are some of the most exciting innovations you have come across in this sector?
Paincheck is an intelligent pain assessment tool that allows patients who are unable to verbalise pain still access the right treatment. The app uses AI to identify the presence of pain on a person’s face over a set period of time, using a phone’s camera to record facial muscle movements indicative of pain.
This type of technology stands out to me as it will transform the way we diagnose and treat individuals suffering from illness, but are unable to express what is wrong. It will go a long way in reassuring the family and friends of patients too, something which is closely aligned with the concept behind CareLineLive.
What is your advice for first-time founders?
Everyone believes cash is key, and it is, but so is a consistent vision and goal. It’s important to try to stick to that as closely as you can. You also need to be fast enough to pivot when required, as long as it keeps you on that main journey or direction.
I also think that it’s most important to recognise your staff so they always feel valued, make sure they feel part of the journey you are on. Finally, relationships with key customers and suppliers. Ultimately, without these, you have no business.
Which entrepreneurs do you respect and why?
Elon Musk. He is the true epitome of an entrepreneur that doesn’t listen when people say no. That’s a pretty impressive trait to have and it’s important to have a thick skin in business. On the flipside, it can be a negative trait too and it’s good to recognise when it’s time to stop or to take advice from others.
I have a huge amount of respect for Lord Sugar too. He built his empire up from nothing. I accept that I’ve been very fortunate in my upbringing and having a supportive family to guide me along the way too. Without that, I think the journey for me would have been 100x harder. I have a lot of admiration for those that aren’t as fortunate in that respect.
What have you leaned on to navigate the challenges of the past year and a half?
The pandemic has had a huge impact on our industry. Fortunately, we’ve been able to support our customers with four months free service which has gone a long way in helping them weather the storm.
To navigate the challenges we’ve faced as a business, I’ve also been able to speak with some of my fellow alumni of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Program. It’s been great to discuss any challenges or issues with people who are going through the same thing. Having a network of people in a similar position is a huge advantage when it comes to growth.
What invention do you hope to see in your lifetime?
Tech is obviously a huge passion of mine and I’m always keen to follow new trends and developments. It seems that Covid has massively accelerated digitisation and AI is one area of tech that is definitely booming at the moment.
I’d love to see the rise of assistance robots in my lifetime. It’d be great to have a helping hand when cooking, for example. I look forward to seeing how the sector continues to develop over the next few years.