Peeling Back The Curtains On The Startup: A Case Study


By:  DMKashmer, MD MBA MBB



We discuss numerous techniques on the blog for startup companies.  In this series of entries, we will discuss a case study of a startup as it unfolds in order to highlight some of the different tools and techniques we’ve used.


Intro To The Young Startup

Allow me to introduce Provider Lifestyle Experts (PLE).  Provider Lifestyle Experts ( is an idea that relieves a pain point that many physicians, especially surgeons, have:  multiple administrative tasks exist which we have little time to complete.  Things like licensure, credentialing, scheduling, planning, and other associated tasks often take more time than we have in our busy practice and lives.  They help bury us under paperwork hurdles that are hard to surmount.


Personal assistants are some options we can use so that we can better focus on taking care of patients and ourselves.  I have previously tried a virtual personal assistant team based on the advice of colleagues and a book called The 4 Hour Work Week.  These two sources led me to have an interest in virtual personal assistants and non-virtual personal assistants.  At some point I realized I was spending a significant amount each month on a personal assistant.


Unique Value Proposition

For that reason, I thought it maybe worth while to start a virtual personal assistant team which is focused on the special needs of physicians and surgeons.  Perhaps not surprisingly, the paperwork tasks and special needs for healthcare providers were VERY difficult for existing virtual assistants (often offshore) to understand.  That fact lead to errors, re-work, and many hours spent performing tasks that should not have taken so long.


In short, the tasks I required often needed special expertise beyond that normally seen in virtual personal assistants.  Existing virtual personal assistant services often fell short for what I needed as a healthcare provider.  There was a special value proposition required to be an excellent personal assistant for the jobs I needed done….and it’s not just paperwork.  The virtual assistant who specialized in healthcare could do literature searches, maintain all my documents in the cloud, and let me know about CME issues and times when I need to focus on recertifications.  These and other specialized tasks made me value the idea very highly.


Validated That Many In Healthcare Share Same Pain

I “got out of the office” and asked colleagues the jobs they needed done to decide if this admin paperwork was just a problem I had or if it was a problem that many healthcare providers had.  It turns out, perhaps expectedly, that the issues I saw were shared by colleagues including nurses, prehospital staff, physicians, and respiratory therapists.  So, I decided to take the money I spent every month on my own personal assistant and try to role out a scalable, virtual assistant service that satisfied this unique need.


Realization I Couldn’t Follow Through, & Passed Idea Off To A Startup Team

Unfortunately I lacked time and ability given my other endeavors to really have this service take off.  As we’ve discussed before, a team of 3 to 4 people is significantly associated in some series with startup success, and, when asked about startup team size, some say there’s no set number…but you should be able to feed the entire startup team with a box or two of pizza.  I lacked time to follow through on this idea and, on review, didn’t have all the skills required to make it go.


For that reason I passed off my idea and allowed a team of my colleagues to take it and run.  Isn’t it better to see the idea developed than not?  I continue to pay a monthly fee as a customer for this new company but I was no longer the person to run the company.


Next Up:  Team Building & Business Model Canvas

This series of blog entries, now, follows the lifecycle of this young startup.  I am very excited owing to the team that has picked up this idea and I can’t wait to watch as it is developed and grows.  Please enjoy, as I will, seeing this unique, valuable service expand.  We will be applying the tools and techniques of startups and we will describe how these are leveraged in designing and maintaining the startup.


Basic questions like:  what does a valuable value proposition look like?  Perhaps most importantly, what does a good team look like?  How can I determine how much capital I should use to get started with my idea?  Other old friends, such as Lean startup principles & the business model canvas, will appear early and often.


Next time, how to pick a team and the business model canvas as applied to PLE.  By the way, special thanks to the PLE team for letting me write about their endeavor.  It takes a lot to pull back the curtain a la reality TV on your startup, so I thank them for the all-access pass.