Episode 11: Mental health app and how to sell to government

Ogo runs a successful consultancy where she advises government entities. While the idea for this episode was to talk about how she came up with the idea for her app, we ended up talking about a little known secret: How can entrepreneurs and founders sell to the government and make bank.


Ogo Ekwueme: So right now, our state client was asking for a way to support their staff because their staff said they're stressed out. So they weren't looking for a platform, they were actually just looking for a therapist to come in. So we went after it, but instead of just saying, "oh, we'll give you a therapist." we instead, we presented a full, comprehensive solution.

Jesus Vargas: Hey everyone. Welcome once again to the LowCode Podcast, today have Ogo Ekwueme, she's the founder of Career Haven, and, uh, she has a very unique app and it's related to mental health. Um, so she, her app is not B2C, she sells to companies, which is unique, is very valuable to learn how she gets users, because she sells to company.

She's not going direct, abusing social media to get users. So that's the topic that we'll talk about today, so, Ogo thanks for coming to the podcast. 

Ogo Ekwueme: Thanks for having me Jesus. 

Jesus Vargas: Give us a little bit of history of who you are, uh, what do you do. 

Ogo Ekwueme: Sure. Um, so I am, I guess my technical title, I'm a health systems engineer.

I work with, um, hospitals, health systems, um, clinics, just anybody that delivers healthcare to the public. Um, I helped them improve processes, uh, which includes technology. Um, so I kind of just use my background as a launching point for this business in app, uh, I started to ask myself, you know, what is it that would help improve our clinicians or caregivers or hospital workers?

How do we improve their ability to do the work that they do so that our system, our health system keeps going, um, and that's where this idea kind of came from. Um, so I guess I use my engineering hat to think about how I can create something, but I don't code though. I know how to code, but I don't code. I left that for you guys to do. 

Jesus Vargas: Why is there so much opportunity in the healthcare industry related to technology? I mean, we have quite a few clients that come from that industry. It's a very, is a, it's an industry that can be disrupted by technology and there's a lot of opportunity. Why do you think that is?

Ogo Ekwueme: Um, I don't know why, but I can tell you what I recognize as far as patterns. Healthcare is usually slow to adopt everything, um, and rightfully so, you don't want healthcare companies or your doctors using anything and everything because sometimes you just need to let the technology mature before you bring it in to take care of a patient, because it could have, you know, costly effects, can kill somebody if it doesn't work properly.

So healthcare doesn't adopt things quickly, but then there's the trade off is because we don't adopt things quickly, we're slow. So when someone creates something, you literally can bring it to healthcare and we will need it because we're so stuck in the ages, because we haven't moved fast enough with technology.

So healthcare is, healthcare is a very risk averse industry. We don't like a lot of risks, but that just means there's a lot of opportunity if you can prove your solution works. 

Jesus Vargas: And why is your solution? 

Ogo Ekwueme: Why my solution? 

Jesus Vargas: I mean, what, how do you came up with, uh, with the idea for the app? I mean you, clearly you noticed certain trends, certain areas of opportunity in order to bring in technology to the thing that you do, um, and how do you find this specific niche or this specific idea to build something? 

Ogo Ekwueme: Um, I think from, for me, and I think for a lot of people who are in the tech space, um, you really look at your experiences, what you've gone through. I went through a period of like, really, like, there was a period of time where my grandmother was really sick, then she died.

Um, my father-in-law got really sick. Um, I had two personal health issues. Um, and during that time period, I noticed that I, I really struggled with mental health, like being very, um, confident, being able to deal with the things life throws at you. And in healthcare, we kind of have this like superhero complex, even, even us that are admins.

Like I am, I don't take care of patients but the work I do helps to keep the system running. Um, so it's hard for us to ask for help, it's hard for us to admit we need help. Um, and I noticed what I was going through and I actually had to step away a little bit, um, and I can see that in my colleagues because see that in the doctors I work with, I see that in the nurses and I work with, um, I have friends and family members who are clinicians, and I see that same behavior.

And I started to dig deeper into, well, how is this affecting the system? Um, you know, realize that if we don't introduce a process that makes mental health more assessable and palatable for healthcare clinicians, you're going to always have the extreme where they're going to burn out, they're going to quit, they're going to commit suicide, because there are no earlier interventions that actually work and they actually want to pay attention to.

Um, there are a lot of things that we throw at healthcare workers, and the one thing I tell my clients is that you got to think about it from their lens. You can't just like, for example, yoga, I've seen companies post a yoga class and only one person attends.

And I'm like, well, think about it from the clinician standpoint. One, if you tell them, "hey go do this yoga, you're stressed out" they're not going to listen to you, one. Secondly, um, mental health therapy, all these things that, you know, in the mainstream, we talk about more in healthcare, we don't talk about it a lot.

 It's almost like taboo and in almost, it's almost like you're telling them that you need to be fixed, you're not okay, you're broken. So you've got to create a new way where they can see that they need these services, they need these programs, they need these processes, but it can't feel like you're telling them that they're broken.

The messaging has to change, the delivery has to change. Um, so that's what we're trying to do with this app, is create a new process for delivering that, those, that earlier intervention so that you can catch people earlier on before they get to the extreme of quitting and, um, committing suicide. I, I used to sit on committees where we would deliberate on what to do with clinicians who are addicted to alcohol and substance abuse. Um, and you don't want to do that on that end. If we had intervened earlier, maybe we wouldn't have to have this conversation. So that's what I'm hoping to change. 

Jesus Vargas: Especially now with COVID and with all the pressure that the healthcare system has been put into, I mean, and, and I mean, the system, I say system, but actually the people, the doctors, the nurses, all people that work in that industry have been put into a lot of stress. We demand a lot from them. Um, their lives were being erased every day, right? And we expect them to do their thing and we expect them well, we assume that they're okay.

And they see, they might see terrible things everyday. They might suffer what you're saying, right? Um, but they are not allowed to show that, that they have something going on, either in their lives as well, because they always have to be like serving. 

Ogo Ekwueme: Yeah, yeah, exactly. You got it exactly right. And until we create that space where they feel safe to talk about these things and to get the help they need, um, we're going to just keep running in this hamster wheel.

Um, and we lose so many clinicians every day and it's even worse now, um, my, my fear is that our healthcare systems are going to take a really big hit if we don't get out ahead of it. 

Jesus Vargas: Why do you think, what do you mentioned that the healthcare industry needs, let's say a special way of treating mental issues compared to people not in the industry.

Why do you think, maybe why is there a stigma around mental health for health care professionals that other people don't.

Ogo Ekwueme: Well it's to me it's um, unfortunately just the way the industry has developed. Um, like if you look at how we used to train our doctors, or nurses or paraprofessionals, you kind of just tell them to keep going, deal with it, part of the job. I think I've actually heard people say, well, you signed up for this. So how does somebody then say, I need space, I need a break, I need time to myself, when you're getting that type of messaging. 

And it's not just, you know, here and here, it's all over, it's always around them, and we make we as a society, we have such high expectation, um, and part of our, um, our methodology is to actually look at the evidence. Um, and what we've discovered is that there's this invalidating effect. 

When people are constantly telling you that you, you don't have time to deal with your emotions, you're invalidating to them that these emotions aren't necessarily, or you're telling them, throw it away, don't, do away with it, don't think about it. And what ends up happening is psychologically we have a cycle, a stress cycle, and if we don't allow ourselves to actually like deal with the stress and come down, we never kind of offload.

So healthcare workers, you know, they're dealing with a traumatic case, their fight or flight mode is like here. You're supposed to come down after, but we never really do that. So the next day they're, they're just escalating more and more and more until they get to a point where they can't deal with it anymore. 

Jesus Vargas: That makes sense. Okay. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. So what do you come up with? What do you built to, to fix that problem in the industry? 

Ogo Ekwueme: Um, I mean, I think we each can address it uniquely, the way we address it is by, um, creating a new engagement process. How do we engage our clinicians in a way where they feel like they have a safe space, but this is their, this is theirs. This is not being controlled by anyone or their employer, that this is for them. Um, and then you also have to make sure that they connect with it. Um, there are a lot of things out there in the mental health space, but most clinicians we talked to say, "it doesn't feel like it's built for me".

 It has to be built for them. It speaks to their particular needs, their particular nuances. Um, and not a lot of companies are willing to take the time to uncover that. I think a lot of us build tools to just be general across the board, and in healthcare unfortunately that backfires, when it feels general, they don't grab time to it.

Jesus Vargas: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I mean, the opportunity is always on the niche rather than the general. That means that you're creating content related to mental health for clinicians and healthcare workers? 

Ogo Ekwueme: Yeah, we create content, we create education, we have an evidence-based education process, um, that's been validated.

We, um, Host events, um, we do a variety of things and we contextualize it to the clinician, making sure that we're speaking to their experience. We're not talking general, we're really speaking to their nuance needs. Um, and then something I do that's different from the traditional tech model is, um, we didn't have a, uh, consulting attachment to it.

So yes, we work with the clinicians and the end users, but we do have a consulting firm that does the strategy that we take a lot of the data that's collected from our platform to inform operational strategy for these healthcare organizations, so they're able to get insights into the needs of their employees that they never have been able to get before. 

Jesus Vargas: For example, what do you give them that they hadn't seen before?

Ogo Ekwueme: Like for example, um, understanding this context of, um, caring in multiple domains. So we assume that as clinicians, you know, they come, I'm just going to use a doctor or a nurse as an example, they commonly take care of their patients, they may work a 12 hour shift, please. Excuse me, I'm recovering from a cold, so please excuse the stuffiness.

Okay, so a nurse, a doctor, they come in, they worked at 12 hour shift, right? Um, they may be exhausted when they go home, we think, okay, you're going to go home, you're going to rest, you're gonna take a nap, you're gonna, you know, do something to not think about work. Um, in reality, most in what we've seen is that, um, clinicians don't go home to rest.

They go home to keep caring for other people. Um, they keep doing more things, you know, a nurse that's a mom, or has a mother that she needs to take care of, she's not going home to sleep. She's going home to do more of the same thing. Literally they're working at home, you know, if a child is sick, she has to take care of them.

Um, something we all underestimate or we don't think about because subconsciously we all do it, is that when we know somebody is a clinician or they're a nurse, or they have a medical background, whenever anything happens, health wise, we automatically think of them. We assume they're going to come help us, we assume they know what to do, but we are in trouble. 

Jesus Vargas: Specially now with technology, you're a text away. Like previously it was little bit harder, today you just had the texts and the WhatsApps and something and you expect them to answer right away. 

Ogo Ekwueme: Exactly. So literally you're telling them that, yeah, no, you just got off your shift, but you need to start a second shift and help me out and help out Susie out and help Billy out.

So they don't rest. So remember that stress cycle I was telling you about? That once we go up fight or flight, we need to come down and reset? They go home, they're like this, when, if people are in there in their community or in their homes, asking more of them from a caring aspect, they're not resetting. Um, and that's part of what we need to help organizations understand and learn how to operate around is you cannot assume they're going home to rest.

 You need to understand the context of how they're working, because that has huge implications for the safety of how we're delivering care. If a nurse works three 12 hour shifts back to back, and she's caring for her grandmother who has dementia, when she comes back, she's not fully rested. So what, what what's going to happen?

Is she going to make a mistake, cause she's going to forget something, cause she is going to be so tired that she loses her train of thought. There's already so much pressure in the healthcare arena. Um, we got to understand where people are mentally so that we're putting them in a proper place to be successful.

And we're not setting ourselves up for failure, but in order to get that type of data, and to understand that level of mental need, you've got to have a place where, um, healthcare workers gravitate to, um, and they're willing to share this information. They're willing to actually say, this is what I need, or this is what I'm experiencing, this is what I'm going through. 

Um, and that's what our platform helps to do for the organizations. Um, because without it, the likelihood that you'd get that, uh, insight, um, doesn't really exist now, right? And so we want to build that. 

Jesus Vargas: That's good. Cool. Yeah, because at the end, your client, they're either losing people or their employees for making mistakes, right? So it's a very clear pain the one that they have, the one that you're fixing with the platform. Okay, so, so you sell to a place um, I dunno, hospitals, or who is your client? Okay. How do you get clients? 

Ogo Ekwueme: Sure, great question. Um, I'm going to just keep saying that we're not the traditional tech model. Um, are, we are B2B, business to business first, business to government first, before we ever become B2C.

 Um, so our clients are health systems, um, government agencies, healthcare agents. So actually our first clients were, we got them through our network because I've done a lot of work with hospitals. Um, the people I work with have done work with hospitals. Um, we literally went through our network to see who's willing to try us out.

Um, so we did do some three engagements, that free trial periods. 

Jesus Vargas: Oh, hang on. That means that you reach out to them or they were looking? Do they, do they have this topic in their minds? Like our workers are suffering, they're not where they should be? Or that's something that never pass through their minds, and when you come in, you explain it and then like, oh, it makes sense.

Ogo Ekwueme: I'm gonna say yes and no. Yes, they're thinking about it because they're raising people, but they're not thinking about it the way we think about it. Okay. So there's an education process with it. Um, so anyone that wants to do B2B or B2G, uh, B2G is government, anybody that wants to do that has to understand that there will be education, um, and educating a business is a lot more difficult than educating a consumer.

Um, harder in the sense that it takes a little bit more time. You've got to present, yeah, the cycle is longer, um, you've got to present a really good business case, they've got to understand what the ROI is for them, um, that understand that you're going to work hard to minimize the risks if they adopt this new technology.

Um, and they've got to see that there's longevity to it. Is it something they can sustain? Um, what we learned early on is that if they don't feel like, it could be a great idea or a great platform or great, and it could just be great, but if they don't feel like they can sustain it without you, they may not adopt it.

Um, and that's something, once we learn, we have to build that into our business model, that there has to be in point where they have seen independence and they can sustain the process, um, healthcare is very finicky like that, they just want to know that they can take ownership of something, um, not ownership on your platform, but ownership of the process.

Um, okay. So that's something we needed to build in, um, but something I did once we did like the three engagements just to do trials, um, to build out that minimum viable product, um, I started to look at the government contracting route, um, because government sources for a lot of things, and an opportunity that people don't think about is if the government's looking for one thing, you can embed your unique solution to it.

So our government client was looking for... 

Jesus Vargas: your government client is federal, or state or... 

Ogo Ekwueme: State, right now it's state, um, we're, we're actively pursuing federal now. Okay. So right now, our state client was asking for a way to support their staff because their staff said they're stressed out. So they weren't looking for a platform, they were actually just looking for a therapist to come in. So we went after it, but instead of just saying, "oh, we'll give you a therapist", we instead, we presented a full, comprehensive solution that will give them the opportunity to scale across all their, um, clinical sites because they have 75 clinical sites.

Um, so they, they saw that as a very interesting opportunity. And funny enough, even after we got the contracts, they talked to us and said, "you know, when you told us you're going to use technology, we were a little bit scared". And I was like, why are you scared? They're like, "because when people say technology, it feels like they're just going to give them a tool and that's it". 

They expect them to figure it out, exactly, cookie cutter. They're going to figure it out and businesses don't like that anymore. The reality is they need to know that you're going to be committed to their success, but you don't, you're not just selling them something for the sake of selling them something.

So we go up and be an above and beyond for our clients where we tell them where we're turnkey solution, meaning there's no stress on you, but we do hold your hand through the process so that you understand what's happening throughout, um, and when you're ready to take the training wheels off, we can take the training wheels off.

Jesus Vargas: When did you came up with the idea to embed an app to your service or your product? Because you do like a consultation of them, right? So when you think about, let's build an app that has these elements or these functions, uh, or was it always the goal and then you found like this no-code tool? So how did that happen?

Ogo Ekwueme: Actually, I started off thinking, I knew I wanted to be B2B because I want to make more impact in the system on a system level, there was a lot of people that do B2C, um, and then they choose B2C because it's easier, like the reality is B2C is easier. Um, But I want to make more system-wide impact, it to me, touching one person at a time, doesn't feel as impactful as touching a hundred people at a time.

Um, and then, you know, it doesn't help me to help you improve your mental health, but then you go back to work and the environment uproots all the work we make, all the progress we made. So, um, I've always known I want to be B2B starting, um, initially I thought that we would only sell the app, but that's it. We would sell the app,

it would have a little bit of, um, support with it, but it would run on its own. And what I realized quickly was that, that model doesn't work in the way we're trying to make impact. And we realize that there has to be some level of consulting and education. Um, They need to know that their managers are going to be supported.

They need to know that, you know, when these data reports are coming, what are we going to do with the data insights? How are we going to make change in the organization? Or is it just, you send us a couple of reports? Boom, it's done. So we realized that...

Did that changed your pricing strategy? Because a lot of people come to us and they're like, "I want an app and I don't want to be involved in app", right? This is my idea and the app should work by itself, it will sell by itself and get users by itself. People will pay, I'll just get money to my bank account, and that's, that's, that's not reality, right?. That doesn't happen. You have to be involved, but in your case, uh, if you change your pricing based when you understood that you had to become a lot more engaged than just to leave it yet.

Yeah, it did, um, not too much, um, something, I guess a benefit of being in the government space is you can get paid a lot more when your solution is more comprehensive. Um, so if not, we factored all of that in, um, commercial world, that's tricky, because they are looking for cheaper. Um, the government looks for best value, so they don't mind paying a little bit more if it has greater value to them.

Um, So, yeah, it did change our model a little bit, but what we are looking at doing, we're actually what we started to do is, um, even if it comes with consulting, how do we make it a hundred percent virtual so that we don't have travel costs? We don't have, you know, um, what's the word, like paying for accommodations, food, those types of things that come with having people going to different sites. 

Um, so we made it a hundred percent virtual, so that it's more cost-effective, but we're still, we still make ourselves available to all our clients. Um, so that helps it cost us a lot, um, for us. And I think we're still experimenting with our cost structure. Okay. We want to look at, you know, how can we make it more affordable for smaller organizations, organizations who need this level of support, but can't pay a high price tag.

So we're starting to look at how can we kind of adjust our operating structure to accommodate that. So that plan is for 2022. 

Jesus Vargas: Cool. How do you came up, how do you find these no-code or low-code space? Did you start looking for developers and how, yeah, how do you found LowCode? I know you originally started working with apps without code, did you see an ad or were you actively looking for a no-code tool?

Ogo Ekwueme: Actually, no. Um, I think Instagram it's just, is in sync with my brain, Instagram showed me an ad for the no-code agency. Um, I looked at it and I thought it was interesting. I attended a meeting, thought it was interesting, but I didn't really have a mind to go that route. Um, I wanted to, I start off as just a consultant.

Um, I didn't want technology, um, initially. Um, then I started to get more involved in the space and meeting new founders, um, and everyone had technology, and I'm like, um, I'm missing something. Um, and so once I started seeing that everybody has technology, it was like, okay, maybe I need to create technical technology, but I didn't know how, and I started getting quotes about things I could potentially do, and...

Those price tags? It's astronomical what people charge to build an app. Um, but then I realized something, I realized, six figures, six figures, yeah, six figures for an MVP. Right. That's ridiculous. And what I realized was that a lot of these app developers, they are assuming you're going to go get venture capital funding and pay for it, and I'm bootstrapped.

I've never taken out, um, venture capital money, I don't take out loans, I wouldn't be flipped every inch of development, so that was not an option for me. So when I found I started delving into apps without code, um, that helps to kind of build the initial structure, but I realized quickly that we need more flexibility.

Um, so that's when you and I started talking more about, um, what's an alternative to going fully native, but still having an effective cost structure. And that's when we were talking about low code and that made sense for me. Um, I do a little bit of coding, so I was like, okay, yeah, that makes sense, because we want it to have a custom feel, without the price tag. 

Jesus Vargas: What do you think you don't have? What do you think that low code, like in this case, Glide, which is the tool that you using to, for your app, is missing when you compare it to code solutions? 

Ogo Ekwueme: I think once we can get in the app store easier, I know it's a process for that and I've seen some platforms try to do it.

But it's not as soon as I would like it to be. Yeah. I think once we can do that, it creates a very clear path for any business model to B2B B2C, you know, if we decided to go B2C down the road, we definitely want to be in the app store so people can find us faster. Um, so if there's a pathway, a clean halfway to that, it would definitely make low code more attractive.

Um, and then I think just having...

The aesthetics of our platform currently are really nice, but I know it can always be better. Um, flashy, bells and whistles, yeah. Um, so I think just keeping that in mind, as we continue to develop. But something you've told me over and over again, is that, you know, focus on functionality. Do your users actually like what the features doesn't make sense?

It doesn't matter if it's pretty, but do they like it? Do they use it? Um, and if they don't then why adding? Why spend all that money? So, yeah, we're cautiously treading the line between aesthetics and flashy with functionality. 

Jesus Vargas: Whate are the goals for 2022? 

Ogo Ekwueme: Oh. Um, definitely keep growing in the government space.

Um, I would definitely recommend anyone that's attempt developer to look at the government space, um, even if you don't see something that's a hundred percent aligned to what you think you're doing, um, just be a little bit flexible and creative and ask yourself "can I turn this opportunity into something that will help me sell my tech?"

Um, that I think has opened more doors for us than anything else 

Jesus Vargas: Is, so what you're saying is that the government is not as competitive as selling to businesses? Is it easier to sell government than businesses? 

Ogo Ekwueme: It is, uh, it's not easier. Oh how do I put this? 

Jesus Vargas: Is there a less competition? 

Ogo Ekwueme: There's less competition because most people are not thinking about coming to the government the way we're doing.

Um, you do have to understand the space, understand what they look for, what they want and make sure you're speaking to that. It's it's like any, you know, market research, understanding your, your target market. Um, the private sector I learned is, if I could, have less attention span, because there's so many new things in the private sector that you can be talking to someone and tomorrow they met someone else with another theme and they're like, "oh, that looks nice", and you lose their attention. 

Versus in the government space because they're committing a lot of money to purchasing whatever they're purchasing, they don't change their minds as quickly. Once they make up their mind, they're going to purchase this, that's what they buy. They wait and see, does it work? Is the vendor good as a company good?

Then they make a decision whether to change, um, so you have a better chance to prove yourself and really become the vendor of choice in the government space. 

Jesus Vargas: That is very interesting. We had never, yeah, I hadn't thought about that. Government is an interesting industry that a lot of people don't don't think about. 

Ogo Ekwueme: Yeah. And it's not just, um, I know I'm in the United States, but it's not just us, um, governments across the board, um, even internationally, they purchase in a very similar way, um, because we were even looking at seeing international contracts as well. Um, so it's, it's definitely a big interest for us to keep growing in. 

Jesus Vargas: Where can people find more about Career Haven? 

Ogo Ekwueme: Oh, you can go to our website, careerhaven.com, you can visit us on LinkedIn, at Career Haven, you can search Career Haven, you can search me, um, you can see us on Instagram, um, but I think we, a lot of, most of our attention is spent on LinkedIn because we're handling business to business.

Social media, and that's another thing too, I know tech founders, a lot of people are thinking I've got to learn social media, I've got to figure this out. When you're B2B or B2... Business to government, I don't do a lot of social media. I do a lot of selling directly to people, to executives and managers.

So my social media pages don't look as robust as other tech companies, um, but that doesn't mean we're not doing, we're not doing a lot of work. 

Jesus Vargas: So careerhaven.com. That's the place to go. Cool. Ogo thanks so much for joining us today. 

Ogo Ekwueme: Oh thank you for having us. Um, if I could tell anyone anything about low code is Hey, Jesus and his team, um, are amazing.

They really are, they really take the time to educate you, even if you're a new tech founder and you're not sure what to do, they will educate you and walk you through the process. And quality is, is their middle name, they really pay attention to quality. 

Jesus Vargas: Thanks so much for these kind words. 

Ogo Ekwueme: No problem.

All right. Thank you Jesus.