On this edition of our “Meet the Founders” series, Kristine Harjes took time to chat with Mark Switaj, Founder and CEO of Roundtrip. Mark gives us the Roundtrip pitch and talks about the company’s history, where they are currently, and where they are headed next.
Video recorded on September 25, 2019
Kristine Harjes: Hi there, venture fools. Investment Officer Kristine Harjes here, and I’m back with another Meet the Founder interview. I’m here today with Mark Switaj CEO and co-founder of Roundtrip, a Motley Fool Ventures portfolio company. Mark, welcome to our interview. I’m glad to have you here.
Mark Switaj: It’s great to be here.
Kristine Harjes: Let’s kick things off with a very basic elevator pitch. How do you describe your company?
Mark Switaj: Sure, so Roundtrip, we are the leading marketplace for folks to get to the betterment of health. We do this through transportation. So through our Roundtrip community, we allow for health care organizations, think hospitals, health systems, health plans to connect ride requests with a marketplace of transportation providers that are able to provide any ride for any individual to get to that point of healthcare and eventually that betterment of health.
Kristine Harjes: And so what did the landscape of medical transportation look like before you all came along?
Mark Switaj: Even when we were starting Roundtrip, there wasn’t a day that passed where somebody pulled me aside and said, “Oh my gosh, I know somebody that’s personally affected by what it is that Roundtrip is solving.” In the United States, one in three people needs help getting to a medical appointment. And sadly, one in five people miss or delay their healthcare largely because of a ride barrier. And that’s what we are commissioned to solve and what we are solving. So, that’s largely what we came to solve was to look at how we can revolutionize misconnection, missed appointments, folks not making it to their healthcare appointment because of ride barriers.
Mark Switaj: And as a result of our model, improved engagements with the riders, with the care team, with the folks surrounding that rider, the daughter, the son, we’re now getting folks to their healthcare appointment five times better than before. So as a result, transportation is no longer a barrier and folks are focused on the betterment of health and wellbeing.
Kristine Harjes: And what were you doing prior to Roundtrip that enabled you to see this problem?
Mark Switaj: So, I come from the patient transportation space. I’m incredibly excited about this. I’ve largely dedicated my career to healthcare and specifically patient transportation. How do we provide transportation services to individuals to get to their betterment of health? I started my career actually working on an ambulance as an EMT and then loved it, and followed my passion, grew my career to working for one of the nation’s largest providers of ambulance and medical transportation services and experienced firsthand holding a patient’s hand hearing them give up on healthcare because, not the actual treatment, the ride or the process of getting to that treatment, or to that healthcare was much more painful than the actual services, or healthcare services that would be provided.
Mark Switaj: So, I knew there had to be a better way, right. We knew that we would come together and improve engagement, improve the experience, improve the coordination of that ride to those individuals, so that they could get to that betterment of health and wellbeing and not worry about their ride.
Kristine Harjes: Yeah, it’s really incredible to see what you all have been able to do and I think it’s really the embodiment of what we say is tech enabled. At Motley Fool Ventures, it’s the kind of company that we love to invest in where there is a problem that is out there, it is glaring, it is big, and innovative folks like yourself are using technology to solve it in a way that’s really novel. Could you take us through the company’s journey and how you were able to build such a powerful platform?
Mark Switaj: Oh, yeah. So we learned a lot when we started our company. And just like every early stage organization, you learn a lot in the beginning. You get a lot of feedback and then from there blossom as a company. So, we followed and subscribe to a design thinking methodology. I think that’s what set us on the right foot early on in our organization. We largely spent an entire year making sure that we understood the business problem that we were trying to solve.
Mark Switaj: We spoke to all of the different stakeholders, patients that had given up on their healthcare because of rides, folks that provided those rides. We spoke with rideshare companies. We spoke with ambulance companies, wheelchair companies, companies that provide those transportation services directly to patients, the daughter, the son, the hospital’s CEO, everybody that touched or interfaced with transportation, we met with and spoke with them to make sure that we understood the business problem that we were solving.
Mark Switaj: And so from there, we learned that there was largely a communication gap. That folks were not engaged in the provision of their transportation services. And as a result, they were not participating in it. In many cases, there was a social or physical barrier and maybe they didn’t have access to a smartphone, or a cell phone, or had some type of physical barriers such as a vision illness and they couldn’t see a screen. We had folks that had social barriers. They couldn’t afford, say, a smartphone, or even the cost of the ride on their own. And from all of those experiences, we knew that we would rewrite the canvas with the same premise in mind that we wanted to improve transportation for all patients regardless of mobility.
Mark Switaj: And from working with our early clients like MD Anderson Cancer Center in New Jersey, and partnership with Cooper University Health, Nemours Children’s Hospital in Delaware and many other organizations, they all stepped up and said, “Yes, we want to help solve this problem because patients aren’t making it to our facilities, to our campuses, and they’re saying rides are the problem.” We’ve seen a lot of organizations say that they were just maybe put more vehicles on the road or throw more money at the problem. It wasn’t as simple as just putting more rides on the road. There were a lot of vehicles on the road today and back then, and we knew that it had to boil down to using those resources more efficiently and improving the coordination. At the center of all of this was that patient and the surrounding care team, the daughter, the son, the nurse, the social worker that were involved.
Mark Switaj: As our company continued to blossom, we saw that the value of the data that we were aggregating has propelled us to the next level. So now we’re at the point, as our organization has grown, to provide population level data, so a healthcare entity, a fully integrated health system, for example, a health plan or a multi-campus organization can look at the population level to say for all of these individuals we’ve introduced a ride benefit, or we are providing rides to them to get to the betterment of health and thus breaking through a barrier that once was a major, major detractor for the organization.
Kristine Harjes: Right. And this is another key differentiator between you guys and, say, like a Lyft or an Uber is that you’re able to provide that information and it’s HIPPA compliant.
Mark Switaj: That’s right. So, we work with rideshare providers. We have a national partnership with Lyft for example, and so we allow for those rides to be ordered through us in a HIPAA compliant way. We fully integrate into electronic medical records systems like Epic and Cerner, so the power of our data and connecting healthcare data with ride information to demonstrate outcomes is really what’s propelling our organization forward.
Mark Switaj: We don’t really view rideshare as a competitor to us because we don’t actually own or operate any. Rather, we’re optimizing the use of rideshare, but surrounding it with a more comprehensive answer to the healthcare demands and needs such as security, like you mentioned, HIPPA compliance such as a request to order more advanced rides. So, we transport patients routinely in rural locations, let’s say, where rideshare doesn’t exist and for folks, let’s say, that can’t get out of bed.
Mark Switaj: Just two weeks ago, I know somebody personally that lived on the third floor of a house and needed to go to a medical appointment, could not walk, completely bed confined. A ride was ordered through Roundtrip. A vehicle showed up and transported that patient completely out of the house, onto a cot, into a vehicle to the betterment of health. It was completely seamless. And through that complete coordination that we’re solving the larger needs of healthcare.
Kristine Harjes: Yeah, I think that’s one of the things that really drew Motley Fool Ventures to Roundtrip is this amazing social impact that the company has. Could you talk more about that?
Mark Switaj: Yeah, so there is a lot of kind of need and emerging insight into what we’re calling social determinants of health. What are the barriers, social barriers that are detracting from an individual to promote and propagate their betterment of health and wellbeing? Transportation is one of those major barriers, and so we’re all over this, right. We believe that by improving the engagement and communication, by improving the access and overall coordination of the transportation, the focus won’t be on that social barrier anymore. It’s going to be on the actual provision of health care.
Mark Switaj: And as a result, we’re now leading this space in getting folks to and from their betterment of health. It starts in the home. It starts in the community setting. How do we get somebody to a cancer treatment from their home? How do we keep folks out of the hospital setting when they might be at risk for readmission when transportation is a barrier? All of these considerations are what is making our organization so uniquely positioned.
Kristine Harjes: And as you look over the next couple of years, what are some of the big challenges, big opportunities? What does the future look like?
Mark Switaj: I think the greatest opportunity for us is thinking beyond the walls of the United States. So, we’ve been approached by healthcare organizations like pins on a map that are reaching out to us saying, hey, your solution has a place here in India, has a place here in France, has a place here in the UK, I can go on and on, in Canada. So for us, it’s scaling our organization in markets where maybe there is a different health payer construction, so payer health systems for example. How do we consider different rideshare providers, even some cultural separation? But the beauty in our model is that it does have the ability to scale. Of course I’m thinking about how do you smartly scale domestically and then think about international expansion? So, that’s one that comes to mind.
Mark Switaj: The second greatest opportunity is what’s the next vision for the use of our technology? So recently, we announced a partnership with an organization called Hitch Health. And through that partnership, and the data that we’ve aggregated, I believe we’re actually going to be able to predict when somebody is going to need a ride. So kind of think of it as this way, somebody that has a financial barrier, let’s say that it’s a Medicaid recipient, or below the federal poverty level. They’ve been in the hospital a couple of times this month. They’ve been diagnosed with congestive heart failure. I can say with a 90 X percent degree certainty that that individual is going to be at risk for missing a medical appointment because they don’t have access to a ride.
Mark Switaj: Through our coordination and partnership with Hitch Health, we believe that we can proactively identify those individuals, reach out to them and say, “Hey, Patient Jones, we see you have a ride or you have a medical appointment scheduled for next week. Are you able to get there? If not, reply to this message and we will have a ride show up to take you to that medical appointment.” That’s where we’re headed in the future.
Kristine Harjes: That is pretty incredible. Is that text-based?
Mark Switaj: Yeah. In the early stages, we were looking at a couple of different models, both text enabled and then looking at how for folks that might not have access to a smartphone or can’t use one, how can we actually do this through voice enabled? Which is what we do today. We work with a lot of population that don’t have a smartphone. You don’t need one through Roundtrip. And we work through automated messaging that’s actually audible and done in many cases through a regular landline.
Kristine Harjes: Amazing. Just a second ago, you were talking about the different cultures around the world and it reminded me that I wanted to ask about your company culture. You have two offices right now. Describe to me what the culture is like and how you maintain it and grow it across to current locations and potentially more to come?
Mark Switaj: Yeah. I think culture is crucial. It’s what sets our organization apart as an employer. And so what we’ve learned as we have built out our company is staying really crisp on what is the mission of our organization. So, we’re very clear that we are here today to serve transportation needs, healthcare needs of unique populations. These are folks that would have otherwise given up, or delayed their health care because of ride barriers. So for us, we’re very much a mission driven organization. I can get into some of the tactics that we have focused on how to do that, specifically looking at millennials in the workforce. How do we stay focused on the outcome versus the approach?
Mark Switaj: We are hyper focused on building a company strategy that involves every member of our team, so every year and every quarter we plan for how we’re going to approach our growth target and that’s not a top down or a bottom up. That’s a combined effort. So, how do we involve every member of our team regardless of your role in setting the strategy and course for us to scale the business?
Mark Switaj: We spend a lot of time, finally, on celebrating our successes. And I would say that this is something that someday I’ll write about. Every early stage organization should be and needs to focus on their wins, the early wins, their mid midstream wins and their later. That is something that I think that we do really, really well. We look at when we achieve a revenue milestone, or ride milestone, distance milestone, a new state that we’re entering, all of these achievements, we actually have a gong in our office that the person who has recognized that achievement, that milestone goes over and hits it to celebrate. Hey, we had a big achievement today. Let’s join in that celebration.
Kristine Harjes: I absolutely love that and I hope that we’ll be able to bang some gongs and celebrate along with you for many years to come. Mark, thank you so much for joining me today.
Mark Switaj: Thank you. Thanks for this opportunity.
Kristine Harjes: This recording is for informational purposes only and does not constitute an offer to purchase or sell any security. You can find out more about Roundtrip at roundtriphealth.com and more about Motley Fool Ventures at foolventures.com. For Mark Switaj, I’m Kristine Harjes and thanks for listening and venture on.