Meet Dave Jacobs, co-founder, and co-CEO at Homethrive – a maturing startup, part of a group of digital health companies in the caregiving space. Their product offers 24/7 digital and human concierge services with expert coaching from Care Guides – proficient social workers. The result is tranquillity and confidence for members, their family, and their caregivers knowing that the Homethrive suite of services will always support their loved ones.
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Dave Jacobs has always been entrepreneurial-minded, even in elementary school and college. Before creating Homethrive, Jacobs spent 15 years as a senior executive at Medline Industries, a $12 billion healthcare products company. He is one of the more knowledgeable people in the country on nursing homes, home health, hospice, and durable medical equipment. But to start a startup, Dave had to leave his well-paid position at Medline. It was not an easy decision, but Dave was willing to pursue an untraveled path.
What are you doing in Homethrive?
We are a family caregiver platform, combining a high-service model with technology to give older adults and ones with special needs the support they need and enable them to remain independent at home. And what we do helps reduce work or stress for family members who have families and a career.
So you found a gap in the market and decided to fill it by building your company?
Yes, and it was a real challenge. I’ve started one business before and knew the challenges of starting something from scratch. And in our case, we knew we’d be creating a market that didn’t exist. And it wasn’t like we were trying to replace somebody else by doing something better. We tried to draw attention to a need that often goes unnoticed.
Jacobs and his business partner, David Greenberg, launched the Homethrive in 2018 after each had gone through family-caregiving challenges with parents.
How did you find your co-founder?
David and I have been close friends for a long time; we worked together but not in the same part of Medline. We had a similar experience that developed a desire to do something meaningful to make an impact beyond selling more medical supplies to nursing homes and hospitals. So we built a company with the same mission and values. And as the business grew, we collaborated in effective ways.
This is important when two co-founders are very similar. Shouldn’t they be opposites for balance?
We have similar skills, but we also have different points of view – I am more focused and risk-averse than my co-founder. However, David can sometimes be hyper-aggressive, bringing perspective and caution to our decisions. I characterize it as picking up every shiny penny.
What was your original MVP?
The original MVP was purely service oriented. We hired our head of care management, and she built a team of like-minded social workers. It gave us flexibility; we could modify things quickly. But we also recognize that we had inherited scalability and cost challenges over time that we needed to address.
What have been the challenges on the way?
There were a couple of different things. One was to figure out how we could use technology to scale and keep our business running. It took us a few years to figure out how to take an effective high service and translate it into a technology solution that would be equally or more effective and would complement the service component.
So that was a part, and the other part was building a team where I think having an effective board comes in. It’s a matter of finding the right cultural and technical fit so that every individual feels a greater sense of direct contribution to our success and progress.
We are very fortunate to have wonderful partners in several ventures. They provided strong financial support and also gave us a lot of great advice. They got involved in the hiring process for key roles and provided us with input. They never tell us what to do. But they have a valuable perspective that has proven useful, including bringing in other people.
What skills did you lack when you became the CEO of a startup?
There are a couple of areas we’ve been trying to bolster. David and I are not technologists; we deeply understand it. In terms of technology, it was a bit more difficult for us to understand and know what we were looking for. So over the past three years, we’ve had a pretty tough learning curve.
What’s been the hardest part of a building?
The hardest part for my co-founder, me, and the leadership team was that we had more opportunities than resources. And we struggled to make sure we were prioritizing the right things and being able to learn quickly and figure out it was worth proceeding to the next level. Or should we pivot and focus elsewhere? Getting the right number of things to focus on is probably the biggest struggle that we continue to have.
How did you deal with this pressure?
One of the benefits of having some experience over the years is that I learned to be a very present spouse, parent, and all those other things. I read a lot about Stoic philosophy. One of the core principles that hangs on my wall is to focus on the things I can control and worry a lot less about the things I can’t. And no matter how simple and not new, this is a very inspiring thing.
We have the tools and ways we measure activity levels, but I have no control over the outcome. And since I can’t control how many new clients we get, I hold the people involved in the training. I’m very result oriented. But since I cannot control these things, I accept everything.
In the last section of the interview, we asked David to share some advice for entrepreneurs and aspiring startup founders – a tip he might have given himself in the early days.
“You have to be ready to ask what may feel like stupid or basic questions and expose that you haven’t figured it all out. And what usually ends up happening is that if you listen carefully enough and talk to the right people, you can get some nuggets of good ideas, or you start seeing a pattern of things that emerge.” Dave Jacobs, Сo-founder and Сo-CEO at Homethrive, Inc
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