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Product Thoughts

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All Your Pills at Every Appointment

By | Product Thoughts

I have a daughter with pre-asthmatic symptoms, and that makes me and my wife care-givers for someone with (a potential) chronic condition. She has an inhaler that she takes two puffs from every night, but I couldn’t tell you the name or dosage of the medicine coming out of that inhaler. She takes gummi vitamins and some nose spray every night, as well. She also has a rescue inhaler, just in case, and takes over-the-counter Allegra as needed.

I’ve given her this prescription drug, over-the-counter medication and vitamin a lot over the last two years, but if a doctor asked me what she was taking, I’d be screwed because I haven’t memorized the names and dosages. Call me a bad parent, but I also never memorize the names and dosages when medications are prescribed to me… Sound familiar?

It turns out that not knowing the names and dosages of medicines is a pretty big problem for patients and caregivers in America, with 30 million Americans taking 5 or more prescription medications… an amazing stat that doesn’t even account for over-the-counter meds and nutraceuticals. This is the problem that me and some friends set out to solve, when we created Pillfolio during a summer, health app development challenge sponsored by the City of Louisville. We took second place in the contest and used the money to push the app out into Apple’s App Store.

If you take a lot of pills or are a caregiver for somebody who does, it’s tough to keep track of everything. What if you could carry all of your pills with you, prescriptions, over-the-counter medications and vitamins, in a password protected application? Pillfolio allows you to do this, and I feel a lot better now that I have everything my daughter takes, in a secure location on my phone.

Download Pillfolio for free and start taking all of your pills with you to every appointment.



Idea Machine

By | Product Thoughts


Good ideas are all around us… the fun part is putting them together. I found this start-up idea generator doing some five minute Google due diligence after brainstorming a similar idea with someone I met and talked with for the first time tonight. It turns out that this other start-up idea generator actually got written up by TechCrunch, for the win. So you could say that the market is saturated. The market for what, exactly? I don’t know. That was the fun part of the conversation. The two of us couldn’t think of a real reason for making a silly idea generator, or what purpose it could serve. But it didn’t matter, and that reminded me of good times.

It was really fun collaborating with somebody I didn’t know at all. Just riffing off of each other like two drunk guys at a house party. I think that’s the moral of this story, because it’s tough to find people you can do that with… I would like to try to do it more often, or until it gets weird.

For the record, none of the ideas we came up with tonight were as good as the one I found.

Comparing Four Health Start Up Accelerators

By | Product Thoughts

Abstract Map of the U.S. with four Health Start-Up Accelerators

The Start-Up Accelerator phenomenon is sweeping the nation, and it’s spread into the world of consumer health technology. With deadlines for 2012 approaching, I spent the other night researching and watching the Bloomberg TechStars documentary on this past class of tech start-ups. Sidebar: I totally recommend watching the series, whether you know what a tech start-up accelerator is or not.

I have been interested in the emergence of the specialized health start-up accelerator, for a while now. It seems to be a given that start-up accelerators help entrepreneurs, develop products, refine pitches and connect to money.  Let’s take a closer look:



healthbox logo



Healthbox is based in Chicago, IL and is no longer accepting applications for their inaugural class of 10 health start-ups. Selected teams will receive $50,000 and give up a 7% equity stake to be a part of the program, that is scheduled to begin in January 2012 and last for three months.  On a consumer to health spectrum, program mentors seem to skew heavily toward having digital health backgrounds.

Rock Health Logo




Rock Health is based in San Fransisco, CA and is accepting applications through November 16, 2011, to be a part of their second class of 10 health start-ups. Selected teams will receive a $20,000 grant and give up a 0% equity stake to be a part of the program, that is scheduled to begin in January 2012 and last for five months. On a consumer to health spectrum, program mentors seem to be mixed between digital consumer and and digital health backgrounds.

blueprint logo




Blueprint Health is based in New York, NY and is accepting applications through November 13, 2011, to be a part of their inaugural class of 10 health start-ups. Selected teams will receive $20,000 and give up a 6% equity stake to be a part of the program, that is scheduled to begin in January 2012 and last three months. On a consumer to health spectrum, program mentors seem to skew heavily toward having digital health backgrounds.

SXSW Accelerator Logo




SXSW Health Accelerator is based in Austin, TX and is accepting applications through November 18, 2011, to be a part of their inaugural class of 8 health start-ups. Selected teams will receive $0 and give up a 0% equity stake to be a part of the program, that is scheduled to take place on March 12 and March 13, 2012. There is no mentorship involved in this program, as it is geared to only represent the investor pitch portion of traditional start-up accelerators. (Disclosure Alert: I’m on the 2012 SXSW Accelerator Advisory Board)

Health Start Up Accelerators Are Not Created Equal

What I found interesting, when looking at these health start-up accelerator programs together, was how they differed in three key areas: timeline, seed investment capital & ownership and the backgrounds of the mentors involved. If you don’t want to give up any of your company to make connections then Rock Health and South by Southwest may be more for you. If you want double the money at a slightly higher equity stake, then I hope you got your application into Healthbox on time. If you want consumer web mentors, then Rock Health, or any of the traditional start-up accelerators may be more for you.

It’s definitely exciting times for consumer health start-ups, and I’m contemplating taking a more active role in researching this space. What do you think about it?



U.S. Map by Ian Latchmansingh

SXSW Health Accelerator 2012

By | Product Thoughts

I’m on the South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) 2012 Health Accelerator Advisory Board and we’re looking to recruit interactive health start-ups to pitch their products. SXSW is accepting applications for its Accelerator pitch event on March 12 and 13, with a submission deadline of Friday, November 18, 2011. This is the fourth year of the event and the first year that a category for health technology start-ups has been included. Prior years showcased big name judges like Tim Draper of DFJ, Chris Hughes of Facebook, Paul Graham of Y Combinator, Craig Newmark of Craiglist, Robert Scoble of Scobleizer, Jeff Pulver of 140 Conference, Chris Shipley of Demo, and Tom Conrad of Pandora.

SXSW Logo 2012

Here is a link to the details and the application process, CLICK ME LINK, or browse below for a quick check to gauge your interest. Also, feel free to reach out to me, hallicious [at] gmail [dot] com, with specific questions or concerns about the application fee.


Health Technologies: This category is about patient-centric health applications and technologies that connect patients, families, physicians, pharmacists, care providers (hospitals, clinics) and benefit providers – aka the care team – to share timely, relevant health data and drive better outcomes at affordable and sustainable cost levels.


  • A company’s product / service must have launched no earlier than March, 13, 2011.
  • A company’s product / service must not be launched after June 13, 2012.
  • Companies will be allowed to submit only one product / services to the SXSW Accelerator event. Companies who submit more than one product / services will not be eligible to participate in the SXSW Accelerator event.
  • Founders of the applying startup must retain some portion of ownership in the company to be eligible to participate.
  • Must not have raised over five million in funds from combined funding sources.
  • Product or service must fall within one of the following categories below.


All preliminary application information that is submitted is confidential and will be only viewed by SXSW Music staff and the selected judging panelist.

Application Fee

A non-refundable $175 entry fee is required from all applicants who would like to be considered for participation in the event. All Accelerator entrants will be given the chance to register to attend SXSW Interactive at the lowest earlybird rate, if they are not chosen as an Accelerator finalist.


I spent some time on YouTube today, viewing last year’s presentations and have to say that if  you’re planning on submitting and giving your pitch, do yourself a favor and watch Hipmunk’s Adam Goldstein dazzle the panel of judges with his presentation. The data visualization nerd in me also found their approach to displaying travel data to be especially good. You’re welcome.


Mobile Health – Kantine

By | Product Thoughts

Title Screen Shot of Kantine, Unreleased iPhone App

I’m working on an iPhone app that will allow me to test a hypothesis I have regarding mobile health. I spent the last year and change of my life working on a mobile mood tracking product that reminded people to check-in to how they’re feeling on a daily basis. I was published as a co-author of a paper in the Journal of Participatory Medicine because that product worked really well. I’m also still getting phone calls about it, despite the fact that I no longer have an affiliation with it.

So I’m continuing my exploration of this basic idea with Kantine. I have designed the app, am working on the screens and it is currently in development with a release scheduled for the Holiday Season. Please connect with me on Twitter if you’re interested in learning more.


Relationship Marketing

By | Product Thoughts

If you Google the term Relationship Marketing, you’ll find a lot of hits on why it’s important to establish relationships with your customers. I agree with that sentiment. But if the world according to your company can be split into two segments: customers and future customers, then I also think that it is important to establish relationships with future customers as well. In particular, future customers who are active on the social web. After all, how are we going to be able to “leverage social media” if we don’t try to make friends with connected people, whose goals align with ours, within our given niches.

I’m really buying into product managers becoming community managers as their product is being built and through launch, so I put together a slide to illustrate how building relationships can lead to a social media ROI.

That’s really exciting to me… Return on Investment, not return on some other clever word that starts with an “I.”.

Smells Like SPAM

But it’s not SPAM… at least not what I’m advocating. I’m promoting the fact that product managers need to make honest and sincere attempts to relate to other human beings within their on-line target audience(s). We’re talking about relationship building, as opposed to “blogger outreach.” Relationship building means finding more than one similar interest with another individual. You know, getting to know them. Then when the product manager has something that may be of interest to their “friends,” they can pass it along in a sincere way.

One caveat is that the product manager faces time limitations during the product development life cycle. If the goal is to get the product out in front of the community once it is ready for consumption, then it doesn’t make sense to build relationships with random community members. The connectors of any given niche community need to be identified up front, and those are the people who the product manager should start following.

Your Take?

This is a theory of mine that I am actively trying to test with products at work. I would love to get your take on relationship marketing, though. Let me know if there are any glaring holes in my process flow or if I’m way off base.

Making Social Media Matter

By | Product Thoughts
Jump on the social media bandwagon
Image by Matt Hamm via Flickr

As it turns out, quite the percentage of people who happen to find this blog via search, are coming here because of this post where I ask if social media matters…

So let’s suppose that social does matter, for a minute. What would make it matter?

Social Media = People

People make social media. People spread social media around the internets. There is no getting around the fact that social media would not be possible, were it not for people. However, what’s great about social media is the social aspect of it. Social media also provides a channel to meet and interact with the people behind the media. For example, when an sweet infographic gets your attention, social media gives you the chance to look up the person who made it AND reach out to them for a 15 minute conversation, or a pitch on a project you have up your sleeve, or what have you.

Social Media = Data

A status update is a data point. A geographic check-in is a data point. A tweet is a data point. By themselves they may or may not be very useful, but in aggregate (related to an individual or to a group) they can be extremely useful. Let’s imagine that we have a product that is coming out soon and we want to look to social media to find out where and when people are talking about the concepts that this product is being built to solve. Plenty of tools can tell you who is talking the most / loudest about your topic of interest.

Putting It Together

If we can agree that social media is data made by people who may be of interest to meet. And that, at the same time, social networking provides us with an infrastructure to meet and build relationships with these people who create social media that we appreciate. Then we now must look for tools that allow us to rapidly find the people we want to meet and build relationships with…

myTPSreport.com Update

It’s been a while since there was a myTPSreport.com update. And if you’re not familiar with myTPSreport.com, it is a Twitter Search tool that allows you to find the who, what, when and where around any Twitter search. The site recently underwent a minor back-end redesign that I’m pretty excited to talk about here:

more tweets The concept of geo-coding tweets is a great one. The problem is that there aren’t many people fully utilizing the capability on Twitter to make it some sort of killer application. So we changed which tweets myTPSreport.com shows from Twitter, meaning there will be more tweets returned in your searches on myTPSreport.com, not just the ones that can be plotted onto a Google Map.

faster The Tweet Positioning System (TPS) was initially set up to wait to display results on the page after a massive amount of calculations. The team has since designed myTPSreport.com to return all of the tweets and related information as fast as possible by giving you your tweet results almost instantaneously, cleaning up the calculations around the rest of the stuff it returns and displaying them accordingly.

so what? Being able to find people talking about things on Twitter as fast as possible is the first step toward building a relationship with them. Today, Twitter Search only really tells you what people are saying about something “right now.” But what if you wanted to know where these people were, when they talk about your topic of interest, and what else they’re saying? That’s where myTPSreport.com comes in to the picture.

myTPSreport.com allows you those types of insights, and what I’m letting you know is that now it does those things faster.

(Disclosure: I work for Humana, and co-created myTPSreport.com with a colleague within Humana’s Innovation Center…)

An opening screenshot of myTPSreport.com

Yo Gabba Gabba, Music and Your Health

By | Product Thoughts

[Disclaimer Alert: I work in Humana’s Innovation Center, where we found out that kids have the power to get their parents to be active. These thoughts are my own though.]

Yo Gabba Gabba came to Cincinnati this past weekend so we loaded up the C-Unit and trekked eastward to catch the show with some good friends. In case you’re not familiar, Yo Gabba Gabba is a children’s show on Nick Jr. that teaches kids the essentials. Check out what Rob Walker of the New York Times wrote about it here.

I happen to love the show because it focuses on music. But not just crappy kid music… really good music. The musicians that play are in groups that I like, and they play songs that make kids and adults alike want to get up and move around.

Music & Health

During the show, as I looked around, I couldn’t help but notice the movement. People were rocking out, and the beauty of the rocking was in the disparity of the ages of the people doing the rocking. The music of Yo Gabba Gabba trancends age. Because it’s good, adults can listen to the songs, learn the words and sing and dance with their kids. Because it’s good, dancing and smiling can happen. Because it’s good, fun can be had.

So what, right?

I’m talking about Yo Gabba Gabba because I feel that Yo Gabba Gabba equals fun. I’ve experienced it on TV and on mp3 and have seen it with my kids with my own eyes. After this weekend, I realized that a lot of other people experience it too. And that I’m not some kind of weirdo… or at least there are a lot of other weirdos out there like me.

I also think it’s important to talk about this because I believe that this type of fun leads to activity… And we know that increased activity can lead to better health.

Putting it all together, I couldn’t help but think that Yo Gabba Gabba can be beneficial to people’s health. If nothing else it gets people up, moving, and feeling young again. Something as simple as a kid’s TV show with outlandish characters, quirky animations, and slamming music leads to crazy dancing and fun across generations, which leads to health and happiness. If you don’t believe me, check out some of the songs for yourself and try not to get into it. Then let me know what you think about Yo Gabba Gabba, music and health in the comments below.

How Many Features Go Into A Website Intro?

By | Product Thoughts

[Disclaimer Alert: I work at Humana, a Fortune 100 Health Insurance Company, and co-created a Twitter Mining tool called myTPSreport.com. Making the website intro for that site is the subject of this post]

myTPSreport.com screen shot of a Twitter search on healthI spent some time making a quick demo video for the new myTPSreport.com yesterday, should be finished soon, and it was really good to get back into video. I took a video editing class in college and had forgotten how much I enjoyed it.

As I was putting the piece together, I wrestled with exactly how much I should showcase in the video. This seems like a dilemma for most web applications, so I thought it would be cool to share my personal process, right or wrong, and see what you all thought about it.

Short & Sweet

I ended up keeping the video’s time down to just over 30 seconds. I did this because I want people to see one thing the tool can do for them, get excited about it, use it, and then find out what else it can do by using the tool. I stole this concept from my favorite video games that allow a player to get the hang of the controls during a brief intro mission that is interwoven into the plot somehow. I think it’s the way to go, and am anxious to see if users feel the same way.

what it does I wanted to make this as succinct as possible so I ended up describing TPS as, a Twitter mining tool that shows you what’s going on around your Twitter searches.

what you get I gave a pretty basic overview of what a user can expect to see when conducting a search on TPS, the who, what, when, where around searches on Twitter, and I think that the visual aspect really adds to the explanation.

one key feature There is more than one feature within myTPSreport.com but I chose to end with the one that I like the most. The click anywhere feature. Returning a search and then being able to click on the results to further analyze interesting trends differentiates myTPSreport.com as a Twitter Discovery tool and I think that’s an important distinction, so I wanted to highlight it.

How Do You Do It?

So that’s what I was able to come up with after hours of intense thought. I’m interested to find out what you like when you watch a video demo of a new web app that you want to learn how to use. Is less more, or is a detailed approach the way to go? Please let me know what you think in the comments below.

Your Core Competency Is Not Defined By You

By | Product Thoughts
And bingo...
Image by klynslis via Flickr

What if you woke up one morning and everything you learned about business in college and graduate school was turned on its head? That would be pretty weird, right? All those years of thinking something is a certain way, just to have the carpet pulled out from under you…

If you don’t want this to happen to you, then be sure not to read Clayton Christensen and Michael Raynor’s book, The Innovator’s Solution. Shout out to Rob May for hipping me to it.

The Myth of Core Competency

I know that you hear the term Core Competencies at work and you’re told that you really need to focus on them, and nothing else. However, the one idea in this book to rally around is that the term Core Competency is just a buzz word because Core Competencies can not be defined by you:

Competitiveness is far more about doing what customers value than doing what you think you’re good at. – The Innovator’s Solution p162

I got into a friendly debate with my colleague Chris Palmisano at lunch the other day regarding this concept. He held to his guns that organizations should unequivocally stick to what they’re good at… At the time, I was unable to give a good example of what I was talking about. After reading more of the book, I’m only two thirds through it, I think that there is an assumption that the customer inherently finds value in what an organization thinks they do best. The million dollar question then is, should there be that assumption?

Have you made that assumption?

An Example

If the dilemma businesses are faced with is: how will the organization continue to grow in the future to maximize shareholder value, then we all need to stop making that assumption. The customer determines what the organization’s core competencies are by having needs. Here is a case in point:

ibm The behemoth company that helped make computers accessible to the everyman, once did it all. They designed and built component parts and operating systems, while also assembling the personal computers that were sold to the public. At some point, IBM decided that their core competency was selling computers because that’s where the money had been.

However, the market changed. Computers became nothing more than a group of commodity component parts. And we all found out that where the money would be was in microprocessors, operating systems and software. Subsequently, IBM left two separate multi-billion dollar growth opportunities on the table, with that one decision. Outsourcing the design and development of the personal computer’s processors and operating system directly allowed Intel and Microsoft to become the companies that you see today.

Skate Where the Puck Will Be

The authors use a quote from the Great One, Wayne Gretzky, to drive a point home about innovation within large organizations. Going where the money will be, as opposed to where it has been sounds like common sense, but it is a really important concept that can’t be overemphasized. Without getting too into the weeds, disruptive growth starts either down market or in new markets, typically at the low end of customer requirements and price points. These are pretty unattractive places for large organizations to spend resources, as they try to sustain their current growth trajectory at the upper end of the market. They’re also places where disruptive innovation historically occurs.

ernest & julio gallo There is a great CNBC Biography on the brothers that made a global, American wine industry illustrating this point. After the end of prohibition, wine makers struggled to get American’s to drink wine. To combat the fact that they were in a new market, Ernest and Julio Gallo went down market with brands like Night Train Express and Thunderbird. The Gallo brothers were competing against non-consumption more than they were competing with other wineries. And as they were able to gain low end market share, they were also able to move up market and eventually become one of the world’s most award winning wineries.


Like you, I had been conditioned to think that it is always the right answer to focus on an organization’s core competencies. That it never made sense to spend significant resources on something that is small and isn’t “the core business.” Then I started working on myTPSreport.com in a health insurance company and saw the need for developing in house talent around an important new communication medium that has the potential to grow multiple aspects of the business.

What I really like about The Innovator’s Solution is that the authors stress that there are business theories that need to be explored and applied to individual situations. Be sure to check out this book if you’re serious about innovation.

Are Product Managers and Community Managers One in the Same?

By | Product Thoughts
Station #28, Mesa AZ Grand Opening
Image by CWaterhouse via Flickr

When you’re surfing around the web for products or communities, have you ever stopped to wonder what the difference is between a product manager and a community manager? I know I have, so you’re not alone. And I’ve had this idea that today’s web product manager also really needs to be a community manager for the products that they are trying to place. The theory could even translate to project management if you have a big enough imagination.

Maybe everyone out there in internet land is one step ahead of me on this one, but it’s been a hard sell at work. Nobody believes me.

Here’s what I’m seeing though: gone are the days when you were able to just get your product out the door on time, and on budget. That doesn’t seem like enough anymore, does it? I know from experience, dude. It’s all gravy to build something on time and budget these days, but building it is only half the battle now. You’ve got to get people to buy it, or better yet you’ve got to convince people to use it for free… which, amazingly, is tough to do.

Today’s managers want you to use social media to get your offering out in front of the right crowd, so that they start a social “friendzy” around your product and spread your message out to all of their closest online contacts. The problem is that figuring out the right crowd for a given product takes a lot of leg work, and I haven’t come across a product or project manager, recently, who is willing to put in that kind of time while they’re attempting to get their product ready for prime time.

Therefore, I’m posing the question to you so you can set me straight. Is a traditional product manager now expected to locate a community, or even build one if it doesn’t already exist, of people who would potentially be interested in their product?

– If so, then what is involved in a product manager’s community efforts?

– If not, then who gets the targeted word out to the right people? Someone other than the product manager?

The Weight of SaaS

By | Product Thoughts
Vintage Kodak Studio Scales Set and Bottle
Image by Capt Kodak via Flickr

Does Software as a Service (SaaS) truly scale? Just a question I’ve been thinking about recently. Not to knock SaaS companies, because I think that the good ones are definitely needed. That being said, most large organizations have varying requirements for the same type of tool. I would argue that in a lot cases, an SaaS company simply won’t provide all of the features needed to satiate a large organization.

And if that large organization is smart, they understand that they don’t need to put up with that.

For example, with all of the Twitter applications that currently exist, there isn’t one application that does exactly what a few different departments need in my large organization. Which begs an important question:

“Should we create our own team to build tools that truly work for us?”

Obviously I’m biased, but I would argue that in this day and age, the answer is yes more often than not. I realize that the approved solution has been to outsource as much as possible for some time now, but I think that mantra needs to be analyzed on a case by case basis in lieu of being accepted as a default. Here are some reasons why:

scalability One time development costs that can be depreciated over time may be cheaper than recurring monthly fees for your user population

inspiration I’ve seen first hand how working on “cool” projects can serve as an intrinsic motivator and recruiting tool

corporate knowledge Creating marketable specialties outside core competencies could provide added value to your customers

agile project management Six month dev cycles begone. Loose ideas can be brought to market rapidly and iterated on once they are tangible

the open api It is easier than ever to tap into external data sources and use those sources to do interesting things

overhead My organization is paying for the inefficiencies of my vendor’s organization… At some point I need to ask why

Opportunity Cost

I realize that there are a lot of factors in a make or buy decision in any given situation. I’m just arguing that making things has become less onerous than valuable in certain situations. I opened this post with a question about scale, and I keep coming back to it in my head. If I have thousands of associates, it just doesn’t scale for me to pay a monthly seat charge per person, if I want everybody to have access to a specific tool.

I do love the idea behind SaaS for a lot of reasons. However, it may not always be the right option in the long run.