David Weinfeld

Exploring the Convergence of Media and Technology

Life After ABC’s “Shark Tank” – WiSpots Moves Forward

I wrote a post at this beginning of this week that focused on a digital out-of-home media company’s treacherous journey through ABC’s “Shark Tank.” The investor panel tore Kevin Flannery, the CEO of WiSpots, to shreds. What’s important to note, however, is that Flannery ignored the sharks’ advice to close his business and continued to push forward. From the time the episode was shot in January of this year, Mr. Flannery has taken major strides toward achieving success with his business.

In June 2009, Flannery’s WiSpots merged with Worthington Healthcare Corporation, a healthcare-oriented software solutions provider, to form WiFiciency, Inc. As described in the Company’s marketing materials, WiFiciency operates as a holding company designed to acquire, manage and develop leading-edge software solutions for specialty medical practices, hospitals and other healthcare facilities. In addition to the company’s Patient Interaction Centers, it offers specialized healthcare software in the areas of automated medical transcription, electronic health records, and voice recognition (complement to transcription product).

Flannery made a strong strategic decision in merging WiSpots with Worthington. The combined company is a much more compelling business opportunity, consisting of a diversified line of software products within an industry that is undergoing a significant (government-backed) push toward widespread electronic record keeping and other technological enhancements. By offering a multi-faced software solutions platform, the team at WiFiciency can walk into a medical practice and revolutionize its operations in one fell swoop. The WiSpots system can then be positioned as another operational enhancement, as opposed to being the end all and be all of Flannery’s business.

After analyzing the combined entity that is WiFiciency, which would likely garner interest from the sharks if Flannery were given the opportunity to pitch again, I have some recommendations for the company (with a focus on WiSpots):

In order to grow and develop WiSpots, you must form partnerships with leading healthcare content providers. Nurture these relationships in order to furnish your screens with exclusive, premium, and highly engaging content. The Web pads need to be more than just portals to the Internet. As discussed on the show, there’s a growing population of people who have this in their phones. Instead, your Web pads must offer a healthcare-focused content experience a patient would be hard-pressed to find in another waiting room.

For practices with narrow specialties, give patients the opportunity to tap into targeted wellness information. Load Web pads with articles and resources specifically recommended by a patient’s doctor. Give an office’s medical staff the ability to act as an editorial advisory board, aggregating healthcare information from a range of sources and then filtering it to showcase what they view as the most helpful and enriching content.

As you develop your content strategy further, it’s integral (really necessary) that you showcase patient-facing videos, articles, educational segments, medical tips, etc. on your website. To compete with existing digital signage networks that have hundreds and thousands (Accent Health) of healthcare locations, you need to differentiate your offering through the specialized content and technology you provide.

Continue to improve and enhance your content strategy based upon patient usage of the Web pads. As the DOOH industry grows and doctors increasingly look to bring new digital technologies into their offices, it’s critical that your network stands out from its peers. This is even more important for you because you charge for your system, whereas other networks (Accent Health, Everwell, and InfoSlate) provide theirs for free.

With the expansion of your network, it’s likely that you and your partners will ask yourselves whether or not you can continue to charge a subscription fee when your competitors are providing a similar offering for free? In order to convince a medical practice that it would be better off paying for WiSpots than installing a competitor’s screens at no cost, it’s critical that your package is the far and away leader in terms of content, technology, and advertising strategy. One potential option for navigating this business decision, is packaging the WiSpots system into a complete WiFiciency software package purchase.

As more and more DOOH media companies enter the healthcare field, it raises the question of where your focus should be. There are thousands of medical practices across the country with waiting rooms ripe for digital signage. Rather than trying to put a screen in every one of these offices, an argument can be made for only targeting a niche of the healthcare industry. For example, if you were to focus your efforts on building a national digital signage network across neurology offices, it would require much less scale to generate major advertising interest from pharma and medical companies who seek to reach individuals suffering from a neurological disorder. Would you rather operate a highly specialized network or one that could be installed in any doctor’s office? The latter faces much greater competition.

Lastly, I would advise you to look into continuing your path of growing through mergers and acquisitions. As there are a number of media companies going after the healthcare industry, it’s quite possible that you might find one that would fit well within your organization. MediPlay, for example, is a Raleigh-based digital signage company (with an attractive content and growth strategy) that is in the startup phase as well. Perhaps further consolidation is in your future.

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