BeBeVu Founder Fails to Pivot in MMA Fight, Succeeds in Pivoting Business Model

October 22, 2012

11:30 am

Tim Kelley, founder of BeBeVu, cuts an unassuming figure in person. Without talking to him, it’s tough to tell that Tim led his team through two years of product development, only to launch in the midst of the 2008 economic meltdown. It’s not obvious that Tim spent another year cheerleading the group, while he coaxed the first sales out of anemic marketing budgets, only to find he needed to pivot. And it’s nearly impossible to envision Tim taking a KO kick to the temple in an MMA fight. But it is all true, and Tim’s experiences offer valuable lessons to startups and entrepreneurs.

BeBeVu’s business model is a seemingly simple exploitation of a valuable market. BeBeVu empowers OB/GYNs to offer downloadable ultrasound videos to expectant mothers. It’s a simple concept, but one involving a maze of bureaucracy.

To make BeBeVu work, Tim and his team needed first to overcome an important hurdle: OB/GYNs themselves. Without docs interested in offering BeBeVu to their patients, the business would be dead on arrival.

Doctors are solicited constantly and are wary to offer an unproven marketing value-add. Recruiting docs to offer BeBeVu was made more difficult when two influential OB/GYN trade groups directed their members not to give patients access to ultrasound scans. This edict worried docs who became fearful that the video could serve as a noose in a malpractice lawsuit.

Enter a major pivot for BeBeVu. First, BeBeVu had to design its offering to assuage doctors’ fears about giving patients access to diagnostic-quality ultrasound video. The fix was to reduce the quality of the video to make it non-diagnostic quality, while still giving mothers clear shots of their baby’s first movements.

In talking to early-adopting docs, it became clear to Tim and his team that the original version of BeBeVu was not working. In that version, docs had to specially assign staff to carry out extra tasks in order to burn the ultrasound video to a CD for the patient. Doctor feedback was that the process was cumbersome, too costly, and not worth the hassle. To address these issues, BeBeVu had to achieve an onerous pivot: switch to offering a cloud-based version of its interface, where it had offered proprietary software licensed to individual offices.

BeBeVu decided that in order to make the product viable, it would need to incorporate video acquisition into the doctor’s regular workflow. Tim and his team studied the processes and re-designed its product to work as a SaaS offering. The next challenge, then, became engaging a developer with the expertise to create a suitable cloud solution.

After talking with several vendors, Tim decided that Redpoint Technologies had the vision and capability to offer the solution BeBeVu’s customers needed. Of course, that solution was a costly one, and outside the budget of a fledgling startup. Tim pressed on, hoping to convince Redpoint to take an equity stake as part of its payment. Tim was told, “no,” time and again.  But, working with his account representative over an 8-month period, Tim was able to grind out a meeting with Redpoint’s top executive. On the basis of Tim’s resilience and clear vision communicated through his business plan, Redpoint agreed to take on the project and make an exception to its “no equity” rule. It didn’t hurt that the CEO read about video ultrasound when his own daughter was pregnant.

These pivots, mixed with hard work and resilience, have given BeBeVu considerable buzz among OB/GYNs and solidified its place in the market.

BeBeVu’s next challenge is finding a suitable venture capital partner to help the company grow into the overwhelming demand received from OB/GYN offices interested in offering BeBeVu to their patients. As Tim leads BeBeVu into the next chapter of its growth, he’ll be sure to draw on the lessons learned since 2008. And more importantly, he’ll pivot more quickly when a roundhouse kick is coming at his head.

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Clint Costa is an attorney and CPA with the Chicago law firm of Harrison & Held, LLP, working with startups, entrepreneurs, and privately held companies on all manner of official-sounding legal and tax matters. Reach Clint at [email protected] or (312) 803-7104.

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