“An innovative idea that hopefully will be able to be utilized all across our state,” said Governor Terry Branstad of TelePharm Technologies first implementation in Victor Iowa in late 2012. Fast forward to the summer of 2014 and founder Roby Miller expands on the Governors vision exclaiming, “I’d like to be in every state actually, it is a highly scalable product.” With the growth curve thus far demonstrated, and with the exciting news of the recent closure of their Series A round of funding, complete with some high profile Iowa investors, it would seem Miller’s vision is coming into focus.
Miller will be the guest of Executive Director Mike Colwell at the September edition of the Business Innovation Zone (BIZ) Start Up Stories answering questions from Colwell and the audience regarding his experiences as Founder and CEO of an Iowa City based start-up, a 2012 recipient of the Demonstration Fund awarded by the Iowa Economic Development Authority.
Miller, a University of Iowa graduate in Entrepreneurship and alum of the Stamford University Advanced Project Management program was working for NCS Pearson in Iowa City and looking for the right challenge when he realized it had been in his own backyard the whole time. Raised in the rural Iowa town of Kalona, he grew up around the pharmacy business with his father, a pharmacist himself who owned five pharmacies in rural Southeastern Iowa communities.
A victim of declining rural populations, the family had reluctantly been forced to close several of those businesses as they had become awash in red ink with the diminishing revenues, the high cost of insurance and the salaries required to secure professional pharmacists at each location.
“My family was looking for a solution to this challenge, and while the concept of a remote pharmacy was not new, there was no viable software available,” he remembers. Miller decided to take the leap and tackle the problem himself.
Since launch growth has been steady, staffing up to 4 people by late 2013, 9 people by mid-2014 and expecting to grow to 16 by the end of the year. Product development has kept pace with staffing as the original product has been split into modules at customer request and is now undergoing a platform shift before rolling out as version 2 and implementing in the numerous locations currently on hold in the pipeline.
Miller is excited to join Colwell, with whom he has worked closely since the early stages of TelePharm, and share his experiences with a Central Iowa audience. “Of course the most exciting news is the funding support,” he says anticipating topics they will explore. Iowa’s best known venture capitalist John Papajohn and agricultural entrepreneur Bruce Rastetter recently announced their joint investment of $2.5 million in TelePharm. “It was four or five months in the making,” he recalls offering that he has much to share on the subject while struggling to contain his obvious excitement.
Echoing most founders who have overseen rapid growth Miller declares, “Your team is the most important thing. Products can change, but you need a consistent team that can execute at a high level.” That, he suggests, means that the entrepreneur who perhaps only a few months earlier was operating alone or with a single partner is now recruiting, interviewing, and hiring. Suddenly, personnel decisions, something many are not prepared for, are as critical as code choices.
Bringing technology to small rural communities has introduced Miller to a challenge he thinks unique among start-ups, a fear of technology. “Some people are concerned that the technology will take jobs away,” he explains, when the reality is that TelePharm, by keeping rural pharmacies viable, helps keep rural communities and associated businesses viable as well.
Miller hopes that fellow entrepreneurs, as well as corporate types who, like himself, might hear the siren song of self-employment, join him and Colwell for a lively lunch conversation on these topics and more.
$15 admission fee (includes lunch)
11: 30 a.m.
September 17th, 2014
Ruan II, 601 Locust
Conference Room 101
Purchase your tickets/make reservations – http://www.desmoinesmetro.com/en/calendar/september_startup_stories_event/
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities will be made if requested at least two weeks in advance. Contact the BIZ for details.
The BIZ’s mission is to connect entrepreneurial needs with qualified community and state resources and to provide guided professional and business direction. The BIZ helps entrepreneurs maximize their successes by helping them navigate resources, strengthen knowledge, improve skills, form strategic alliances and secure proper capitalization.