We caught up with Sam Hussain, CEO & Co-Founder of Log my Care as part of ‘Product | People | Potential’. Log my Care is an award-winning free care planning software.
The purpose of this series of articles is to feature and showcase the very best UK start-ups with grand potential, truly inspiring businesses that are shaking up their sector. We capture and share the stories behind the name. We collate authentic peer to peer real-talk while celebrating the growth and success thus far and gather a glimpse of what’s ahead.
Sam: Hey Jake, good to meet you too. My background, before start-ups, was in engineering and then consulting where I worked for a strategic consultancy that took me all over the world working on lots of different types of projects, mainly around growing businesses & raising investment for funds. I always wanted to do that type of work so it would give me the skills to set up my own business and I founded Log my Care directly after working for a Healthcare software company in the Far East.
I came back to the UK and started working with some of their products here and that’s where I got introduced to the care industry. I saw how analogue it was and how everything was done on paper, which was so different from the Far East where everything was done digitally, they were a lot more tech-savvy out there!
Seeing the care home space and their need for technology to help in their day-to-day, we set up Log my Care. It also speaks to my brain type as an engineer; I studied engineering as an undergrad at Oxford, I saw this old-school industry that was doing everything on paper, so I felt I need to solve that problem using a modern solution, and that’s how Log my Care was born.
Sam: When Log my Care started it was just myself initially where I put in my savings to get an MVP built which was focused around where the majority of time was being wasted in care homes with a relatively small feature set.
That ended up being a mobile and a simple web app for care workers and managers to interact with, to record the daily interactions that they have with the people they are supporting. We got that out in the market, tested, and brought Alex Sorisi on board as well who came on as our Chief Marketing Officer. I was leading on the product side and he was building the marketing side.
We managed to get into the first few care homes to get it tested which was super tough! That was one of the hardest things to get a brand-new software product into a very conservative industry.
Sam: We found the hardest thing was actually getting care homes to agree to use it to begin with, especially when it was unproven. What we were giving them was going to become a critical part of their business, so this was a problem as nobody wanted to take that risk on as a guinea pig. As soon as we had the first few, and we were able to say that it’s used in multiple places, and it became easier and easier to get more new homes to come on board to use it.
The older that we become as a company, the more and more we are becoming legitimised. Even reviews on Google, for example, are important for people to verify that Log my Care does work and they’re not placing a critical part of their business into bad hands. Once those first test homes agreed to pilot it, we were shocked at how quickly they fully embraced the system, even considering it had a limited feature set at the time. The first one, for example, started off with their current paper processes in parallel with our system. We thought they were going to test it and give some feedback but they aren’t going to rely on it fully yet and within 10 days I got a phone call that “we’ve ditched paper and we’re just relying on your system now”, which was quite worrying at the time because the system was nowhere near as stable as it is now!
Sam: Yeah, it was huge and was quite shocking, especially 10 days into one of the first testers of a product with a limited feature set.
Once we had it in early testing, I brought on our CTO, Adam Hurst, who is a great friend of mine from our Engineering courses at Oxford. When I had gone into consulting, he became a full-stack software engineer. Although we have similar brain types, he’s much more technical than I am, and he got quite excited by what we were building so I roped him in gently by asking him initially to help with some code reviews of the other app builders as a favour.
He started getting super excited about what we were doing and asked me “when can I join?”. He left his previous start-up to join us and that was the founding team in place. Once we had about 5 – 10 care homes that were using it full-time, which was the completely free system, we felt were in a strong enough position to raise a first angel round which was completed between the end of 2018 and start of 2019.
Starting that funding round was really lucky, as one of those early customers was a care home owner who had signed up, had seen the software himself, and got in touch with me separately and said: “the product is great, I see that you’re an early-stage start-up, can we have a conversation about investing and supporting you?”. He was the cornerstone of that first round, joined our board. I don’t think we could have raised as much money from subsequent investors without him basically being that validation point for a lot of the others. It was much easier to say to other investors that we had a care home owner himself who’s put a good chunk of his own money into an early-stage business, which was validation for other investors that someone in the industry was using and backing our business.
He introduced us to other people who introduced us to other people and we ended up having quite a few care home owners both in the first and second round, and that’s been one of the things that have set us aside from our competitors.
That’s one piece of advice that I would give other start-ups, that if you can get your own customers to be investors, from that validation and networking point of view, they can bring a lot of know-how and connections.
Sam: I’m happy to say that we raised just over £600k, again, from angel investors and, again, it was largely backed by investors from the sector. Our first round was based on the early traction with a few free customers, as our business model is freemium. That round bought us the time to expand the development team and build first paid and gated features that we were adding on top. We wanted to prove that the freemium model could work in a B2B setting and with care homes as well, which we were able to do and on the marketing, side grow quite quickly.
We went from 10 homes at closing the first round to over 150 in the next round, and that was the traction we needed to then go back to investors again and say “look, we’re doing super well and we’ve proven that we can acquire customers in a sustainable and cost-effective way, so we need to grow the team again with more developer & marketing resources to take it to the next level”.
We are super pleased to raise this round, which has allowed us to have a really good runway and buys us the time to produce some awesome tech, which we are really excited by!
Sam: Building a team is a first for all of us as a founding team. We’ve been really lucky with some of the hires that we’ve made and some of the best ones were through connections, especially in a co-working space. They just came to us offering us the contact details of former employees or friends. For building the founding blocks of the team, we were quite lucky to get some personal referrals who came in from early employees.
Hiring a technical team has been the trickiest bit because you’re mixing the needs of growing your team while looking for people who are a really strong culture fit and have great technical ability, while creating a place that people really want to work for.
This is in a market that’s as competitive as London, so we’ve had a lot of learnings in how to run that process internally. The biggest one was that Adam, our CTO, learnt to go with his gut on fit. If he had an early feeling, even at an early stage like a telephone or video call, that they could be a great fit culturally – his gut feeling was the right choice. 99% of the time he was going to be right, if he wasn’t completely sure about culture fit from that first stage, then progressing them wasn’t the right thing to do. Given how important fit was for us, we learnt that it actually came before the technical ability.
Sam: Yeah, absolutely true.
Sam: That’s a really good question! We’ve not written it down, but I can outline a few things. Communication is so important to us. When I was in consulting, we used to call it the “airport test” during interviews. Because we were flying all over the place, if I was going to get stuck in an airport delayed on a flight and I had to spend 6 hours just with this person, would that be a good experience or would we never speak again?
I think I’ve taken that in this company too, I don’t call it the ‘airport test’ anymore, but we work in a close-knit office and we’re one team in one room and will be for a while. If you don’t want to particularly talk to someone, don’t want to have lunch, go for a walk, or whatever it is with the person that’s sat with you, then that’s an immediate red flag for me.
We’re trying to build the core right and the rest of it will come naturally and culture will propagate. With each hire, we have to think of it as “is this someone that we want in the office and will they gel well with everyone else?”.
What’s also key is asking “is this person proactive and can they bring bright ideas to the table?”, because we haven’t got time for someone who is just going to sit there and wait for work to come to them, everyone’s got to push themselves and their projects forward. We expect people to embrace more autonomy, even at a junior level, so everyone’s going to have to be comfortable with that!
Sam: Actually, that makes me think of really important learning that we’ve had. One of the mistakes that we have made is hiring people whose skills were great and that passed the airport test, but if they didn’t want to be in a start-up and they haven’t fully bought into our mission, then they tend to not perform as well and they don’t tend to stay either.
That was something that we learnt the hard way. I can think of one great employee from a great skills perspective, but they weren’t bought into our mission, so they ended up leaving for a company that aligned with their passion and belief, which is great! But we shouldn’t have hired them.
Sam: We started with the free system as a core and then added paid functionality around it. We’re tackling paperwork and inefficiency one bit at a time. It’s really about picking low hanging fruit in terms of problems and that’s what we’re tackling first. One thing that’s really helped us is how we’ve managed that prioritisation process and deciding what to build next.
The product has been defined by having a close relationship with our early customers and talking to them a lot about their experience with the product. When the customer number got big enough, we put a feature board into the product that would allow people to add ideas, vote on them, and create more of a community. I feel people have democratically voted on what we build next and that now drives our everyday development.
We look at that list and we look at what people are screaming for, so that’s what we build. Before we were only operational for single care homes, so site by site, but we’ve just released a ‘head office’ view of performance across multiple care homes. We are now working on a family app as well, so we can allow friends and family of loved ones to have access to some of their data and as a communication tool – which is super important at the moment in the current COVID-19 crisis, especially as families aren’t allowed to see their families.
Jake @ ADLIB: That customer-first approach I think works really well for that B2C style model, especially for something ever-evolving like care homes.
Sam: Both Alex and I had prior experience of social care software before we came into this, and when we look at the UK’s market, we realised how fragmented is it. There’s lots of smaller business, which is really cool, but it presents a massive challenge to a normal B2B sales approach, we saw that competitors were very sales heavy with teams of salespeople driving up and down the country bringing a contract along with them to get signed. We saw how wasteful that was from a human capital perspective all round as it was expensive and we couldn’t see how the industry would change with that approach, there’re just not enough people for that to happen.
We are very much approaching it from a technology & digital-first angle and we even structured our business model as freemium by finding us online, signing up online, using the free system as much as they want, and through that, they become advocates of the system. The reason that we chose this approach is that the industry is pretty well connected, especially on a local level, so we’ve always been marketing-driven rather than sales driven and we’ve set our product up to effectively do a lot of the converting and the sales in an automated way for us.
It’s something that we’re pioneering, and it’s worked really well so far. We’re starting to break into a lot of the bigger players in the UK’s care sector as well and there are many large chains too. For them, you can’t get around the need for a real sales approach. As Founder, I handle a lot of the sales myself, but there will be a need to help out on the sales side full-time.
But with the smaller companies, we are going to stay with the automated SaaS, people-first approach as it’s the best way to be able to change an industry.
Sam: We want to become the tool that’s changed an entire industry’s way of working for the better. We want to be used in the majority of the care homes in the UK and in the future, I’d like to see us going international as well.
Thanks, Sam for your time!