Data, AI And The Future Of Well-Being
Mark Haney's interview with Ken Knecht and Kate Cordell of Opeeka
Mark Haney: Yes, this is the Mark Haney show, and we are on a mission to ignite the entrepreneurial revolution right here in the hometown we love. We are entrepreneurs helping entrepreneurs to be the best that they can be. So what is an entrepreneur? I mean, it’s defined not even know how Webster. I don’t even know if you people use dictionaries these days, but if you google it, I’m sure it would say something about taking uncommon risk, making tremendous sacrifice in order to figure out a way to change the world by building a business that makes our world a better place. And you know, that’s why I love entrepreneurs. I love being around people who are putting it all on the line in order to do something important. And that’s what that’s what Haiti business all about.
Mark Haney: And today on the show, we’re going to have a couple of entrepreneurs from Opeeka, which is not a place my friends, It’s the name of an entrepreneurial company that is in the process of changing the world in the area of mental health to make it easier for mental health providers to provide great care. The best care and you know, it’s it’s obviously a huge problem with COVID. And so today we have Kate Cordell and Ken Knecht. They’ve started this company Opeeka. and they’re going to share their story today and be prepared to be inspired, to be intrigued because these are very, very smart people. They’ve actually tried to dumb it down for a good ol Markey from down on the block and also for our audience, so that they can understand the kind of businesses that can scale. These software businesses, they start off very small, but they can grow and become worldwide companies, as you’ll find out. So stick around, my friends. Kate Cordell, Ken Knecht, the co-founders of Opeeka.
Mark Haney: Super, fired up today. And I know I kind of say that every week, every show, but another first today. So our last show was first time we had ever talked about cannabis on the show, and today it’s the first time I’ve ever had guests come on and bring me stock certificates. What a what a inspirational way to start a show is with with a couple of founders that I have recently invested into. So full disclosure, our guests today are from Opeeka, one of my newest ventures, and invested into. Kate Cordell and Ken Knecht are the co-founders of Opeeka, and today we’re going to be talking about their business. It’s an early stage company that is got a lot of upside. We’re going be talking about the business. We’re going to get to know them and and hopefully learn a little bit today about what it’s like to do to grow a business and go out and seek funding and kind of walk through that process a little bit? So again, why don’t we start off with Kate. Give us a little bit of your background and maybe an overview of Opeeka.
Kate Cordell: Okay, great. Yeah, thank you. Thanks for having me and for having us. I really appreciate the the invitation.
Ken Knecht: Yeah, by the way, Mark, don’t tell anybody any of the investors about the stock certificates. You were the first to get one.
Mark Haney: Oh, shoot, that’s the first one. Okay. Well, thank you very much. I love it.
Kate Cordell: Awesome. Yeah. So I’m Kate Cordell, and my background is that I’ve actually been working in the mental illness research space my entire career. I actually started out at the lab bench doing cell and molecular biology, looking at discovering new drugs to treat mental illness. So we actually worked with schizophrenic brains doing DNA, you know, getting the DNA out of the tissue samples and looking for new drugs to treat schizophrenia and other diseases, I actually have a patent out of that for a drug in dementia, but really fell in love with the data. I set up a robotics laboratory for that drug discovery program. The robotics learned that once you have a high throughput screen that you get a lot of data. And I just fell in love with the data. I fell in love with the data side of things, so I actually pivoted and went into in silico I drug discovery. So I started working for a software company that that did in silico drug discovery. I got my master’s in statistics at San Diego State in epidemiology, so master’s in public health epidemiology with the focus on statistics, and then took that A.I. skillset and began looking at neurological and mental illness in mice. So actually out at Jackson Labs here in West Sac.
Mark Haney: Mental illness in mice? Yeah, who would have thunk?
Kate Cordell: Yeah, I was able to use the statistical A.I. experience that I had to look at the mice on treadmills and see as they degenerated and when their gait started to get fatigued and stuff over time and use the A.I. to model their gait degeneration on the treadmill. So yeah, mice on treadmills, you know, it’s interesting.
Mark Haney: You and I are probably opposites in many ways, so I’m a C student, Oakmont High School. And when you start using vocabulary words that I haven’t learned yet, it intimidates me a little bit. So I look forward to making sure that you break it down for me as we go through. So now the business, Opeeka, does what?
Kate Cordell: Yeah, so having done that medical model focus on mental illness, I really felt like there was a social component that was missing. So at Opeeka, we add a whole person view to mental health and well-being. So not just the medical model, but the social, biological, psychological, environmental, the entire person, a whole person well-being. So that’s what we focus on, not just the medical side.
Mark Haney: So using data to help the whole person from a mental standpoint?
Kate Cordell: Yeah. So the way that care works now is you get very dissected into different, you know, areas of care, so your doctor is going to have one view of your well-being and your psychologist will have another view of your well-being and your social worker might have another view. And for those who get mental health in different places, like at schools, they’ll have another view. And so you end up being dissected into all these different pieces while you get care. And so what we do is we try to unify that back to a whole person so that you can understand your own well-being. And so the care providers can look at the types of care you’re receiving from around that circle of care providers.
Mark Haney: Very interesting. OK Ken, can I add a little bit of your background? What is it that attracted you to this opportunity?
Ken Knecht: Well, so my background is in technology. I’ve always been an entrepreneur since a very young age, so I’ve always had that entrepreneur spirit. I started my first web development company as soon as I took my first web development class at Chico State, I just fell in love with it. I was in school for graphic design and I still do design work, but I just loved the immediacy of the Internet and how fast you can publish something and get it out to the world. So there was no looking back for me. I started my own company before college ended doing web development, and then I got into work at several startups from then on, helping them build out their digital products.
Mark Haney: And then so tell me about Opeeka.
Ken Knecht: Sure. Kate and I were running our own consulting firms, and she actually hired me to work on a few projects and I was just fascinated by just how much need there is and how much is not being done to show outcomes. So she brought me in on a few projects and I was like, wow, it’s amazing. Just the amount of need there is in the space and stuff that Kate was doing just blew my mind. She was working on these different projects throughout the state, and I was helping her kind of put some visuals around that to make it look like a product. You know, she would just give me these chicken scratch drawings and so I would take it and put it into something that looks usable software.
Mark Haney: Well, interesting. So what what led to the launch of the business? How did that that was that inspired?
Kate Cordell: Yeah, that’s a good question. So actually I was starting to put together the best of show of the work that I’d done in these various solutions over the years for different counties and states. And we actually got a call to present for what a solution could look like, and we hadn’t built it yet. So we put together our best virtual mocks or vaporware.
Ken Knecht: I call them high fidelity mock ups, but they were probably less than that. Our first year was out pitching mock ups. I took Kate’s drawings and attempted to make it look like software, but it was just pictures stitched together.
Mark Haney: You knew from the beginning that this problem existed, that that the patient or the person was getting treatment from these different areas and yet it wasn’t rolled up. So that overarching decisions can be made on what to do.
Kate Cordell: Correct. Yeah. And so we saw the need was out there. You know, folks knew that the need was out there and there was no solution. They asked us to mock it up based on problems I had solved here and there. Over time, I had merged, you know, mental health data with child welfare data so that you can get a better picture of a kid that’s in foster care, that has mental illness or has mental health treatment. And so I had I had solved like little pieces and parts of this, but it needed a whole solution, it needed something enterprise. And so that’s what we did. We built the vision of and tested it out to see if people were receptive to it and they were. And we said, this is something we’ve got to do.
Mark Haney: So you think about these, you mentioned three different types of caregivers, the social worker or the psychiatrist, and the medical doctor. There may be other people that are treating as well, but then the data rolls up and it goes to who? Is it all three? Who does it go to? Who wants that data?
Kate Cordell: It goes to everyone. It goes to the doctors, the social workers, the probation officers, the school psychologist, you know, whoever is in that care circle for a person and the person themselves. And it goes. If everybody owns their own data, no data actually leaves ownership, but you’re able to specifically share on information when a person’s co-served between these various providers.
Mark Haney: OK, so that data gets aggregated on an individual and then it rolls up it. What format would somebody get the data in? Does it come up with a prescription or does it come up with a report?
Kate Cordell: Yeah, we build story maps, so a story map would basically be a visual representation of you and your well-being. And so we build a story map so you can see if you’re a diabetic, for example, you can look at diabetes management. And maybe there’s a behavioral health component related to diabetes management now. And you know that this person is also being treated for a mental health issue and you want to work together, then that would be an area where we can help even If the mental health provider is outside your system of care or outside your system, on a totally different system. That’s where we unify the information and we build the story map. So even if you’re looking at information you don’t understand, it’s all tied to let you know that the other provider felt this was a concern. And so you get this visual representation of the person’s story and then it tracks the change over time so you can see somebody transform their life in care as they proceed through that trajectory of recovery.
Mark Haney: Hmm. So thinking about this, maybe we can kind of break down, maybe almost like an example. So I’m thinking about diabetes and maybe somebody that’s got a mental illness. How might those be related?
Kate Cordell: Yeah. So if we go back to the the youth in foster care example. So if you have a youth in foster care, diabetes management is, you know, going to be a need that follows them throughout care, through placement changes, right? And if they’re young, then they’re going to need help with that. And so they’re foster caregivers as they come into care, would have access to their story map and know more information about their diabetes management and how it’s been going in the past. The child themselves would be able to track their own diabetes management, as well as how that affected their well-being. So when there weren’t managing their diabetes very well, they would actually see in their story map that their anxiety level or the depression level had increased. And so they could see this association between how they’re doing in different areas of their wellbeing and their overall well-being. So both, for the person themselves, you know, their caregivers, as well as for a broader view of all of those areas for the providers that are in their care circle.
Mark Haney: You know, if you get early stage company like this and you know, it sounds like there’s a lot of different directions you could take it or a lot of areas that you could focus. And so it makes me sort of wonder, how do you decide how to allocate your focus, your resource?
Ken Knecht: That’s a great question Mark. Yeah, there’s so many things that this can apply to. So we’ve had to be super diligent on where we’re going to focus, what lane we’re going to be on, right, especially for our investors, that’s important to them. They want us to be focused and we are. So there’s a lot of areas that people talk about that we could apply to. But right now we’re focused on child welfare because the kids being served have the most complex needs. They have the most complex needs and they are typically multi-system involved. So to communicate that story across systems is super important.
Mark Haney: So your building this story map and then who’s the customer? So you’ve got this offering, who buys it?
Ken Knecht: So our first product is our Person-Centered Intelligence Solution (P-CIS). It’s really for the for the workers, the clinicians and people who oversee the work that’s being done in these different organizations so they can see if what they’re doing is actually working for the particular person.
Mark Haney: So are these large organizations? Is your customer sort of an enterprise type customer?
Ken Knecht: It’s kind of all over the place. It can be very large, it could be states, can be used down to community-based organizations who use our software.
Mark Haney: OK. So thinking about this, this business model, how do you grow it? Do you create partnerships? Is there a sales force?
Ken Knecht: Yeah, when we started this, we were thinking we might not ever need a sales force because we have such good connections out there> Kate is is a heck of a seller, let me just say that, she can really sell.
Mark Haney: I’m not surprised.
Ken Knecht: I don’t think she knows it, but she’s great. Through partnerships is another big way. So we’re working with the people who write the assessments, the authors of the assessments, and they want their assessments to be used and and be able to track outcomes from those. So they love our software because it shows that. We’ve partnered with England, for example, the country of England as partner with us. And we’re actually rolling out our software throughout England which is great. You know, they have a lot of the same things that we have in the States.
Mark Haney: It’s kind of amazing a country partnered with you, that’s a big customer.
Ken Knecht: It is. And it came on on pretty early. We were just getting started and we didn’t have the software built yet and they were coming on and we’re like, How do we say, no? I mean, this is England. We’ve got to make this work. So with all the legal stuff, a lot of our initial funding went to take care of all that. We had to get legal representation over in England and then tackle GDPR. So it was kind of a big hurdle but we got through it. It was hard for an early stage company like us to take on something that big.
Mark Haney: So, yeah, when you bring on a customer like England, I’ve never had anybody say that their customer is England, that’s another first. How much on boarding has to go into something like that? There must be certain parts of the software that England needs because they’re England and because they have their own way that they want it? I’m sure you customize it for them at some level.
Kate Cordell: No, no.
Mark Haney: OK, well, how does that work? You have something off the shelf that England wants to buy?
Kate Cordell: Yes, because we stay really focused on the person and we are person-centered. The people in England all have the same body parts, the same, you know, psychology, physiology, same medication use, same everything. There’s no difference, really. Now they do say things funny, how they talk.
Mark Haney: I’ve seen Austin Powers and a lot of them don’t have good dental hygiene.
Ken Knecht: And as the marketer, we built websites and marketing material that we had to completely rebuild. They gave me a road map of how to say certain words and terms. So it’s really interesting.
Kate Cordell: You can pick your language from the top of the software. And if you want English English, then you get a lot of “u”s in your behaviors.
Mark Haney: So, you know, in the business model, they take the product as it is off the shelf, but then you have to help them put it into their into their market, right into their user base so that it’s adopted so that there’s people that want to use it.
Kate Cordell: Well, we’ve partnered with an organization in England that is an advocate over there, as well as a trainer and a support person. So the Centre for Outcomes of Care in England oversees a lot of the onboarding.
Ken Knecht: So they are a true partner. I mean, they’ve hired staff specifically to help with our roll out there.
Mark Haney: Wow. So OK. So if you don’t mind, maybe tell us how you make money. So England uses it and do they pay you? Some kind of licensing fee? They pay you per transaction. How does it work?
Kate Cordell: Yeah. So our business model charges per person in care. So, for example, we actually have a domestic abuse shelter that uses our software now, they don’t share their data with anyone. But the other thing we offer is that ability to track change over time. So if they want to see the transformation in the families that they serve, they can just use our software as a stand alone for that. So coming back to your question, the onboarding process is is pretty simple. You just calibrate whatever you want to monitor, whether that be diabetes outcomes or you want to monitor mental health indicators or wellness indicators, and then you start using our software.
Ken Knecht: Yeah, we really try and take out the complexities. There’s always a lot of barriers put up when it comes to technology, especially especially on how we’re going to get systems talk to one another. But we kind of boiled it down to make it a lot simpler for people to understand.
Kate Cordell: We’re doing something different. I would say I say we’re thinking about the problem differently. We’re not trying to boil the ocean. So a lot of times, if data sharing is talked about or, you know, you talk about a whole person care, you’ll just get overwhelmed because it’s like, Oh, you got this data. I got the electronic medical records and electronic health records and you’ve got case management. We don’t do that. We say, let’s start with one question of time. What is it? We’re interested in tracking for this family in terms of their own well-being, and they can define that themselves. What’s important to me is having a safe place to stay. So let’s track that, that’s the outcome were tracking, a safe place to stay. OK, so right now you don’t have a safe place to stay. You don’t feel safe. On a scale of one to ten, your safety is a one. Going back to that domestic abuse shelter, as you work with that family and you’re working with their trauma and you work with an ability to find a safe place to stay, be a gated community or another community outside, away from the perpetrator. Then you watch their indicators go up and now instead of a one they’re at a four. And now you can see change over time until that family feel safe. And that could be the only thing you’re tracking. But if that family has complex needs in a lot of other areas, then you build that story around that family and track all of those different indicators until they reach that point where they feel self-sufficient can move on on their own.
Mark Haney: How much does the tracking… How does the data change people’s lives?
Kate Cordell: So that’s a good question. So first of all, I would say we’re very strength and resilience factor focused and I think if you sit down with a lot of the folks that are in care, the system tends to look at what are the problems. What are your problems? What are your symptoms? Where you’re deficient? And one thing that we do as part of the data is help people recognize their strengths and that if you start looking at your strengths and tracking your strengths, you build resiliency, you build those protective factors to help you with the areas that are the problem. So one way data can help is just to make you aware. You’re aware that you have high anxiety, you’re aware that you’re tired, you’re aware that you have a strength. So it’s the awareness that we’re bringing around the problem so that we can begin to address them.
Mark Haney: So your high anxiety, that data is captured through one of your caregivers? You told your caregiver or you answered a question that indicated that you have high anxiety?
Kate Cordell: Yeah.
Mark Haney: Gotcha.
Kate Cordell: And so it’s just like if you go to the doctor and they ask you, what’s your pain level today on a scale of one to 10? And you’re like, Oh, it’s a it’s a it’s a nine today doctor and they look and they see what you the last time? Oh, he’s up. You know, it’s the same idea. So where’s your anxiety level today? You know, and there’s there’s assessments out there, psychometric tools to track, you know, various levels of well-being, but nobody brings that all together and looks at a whole person, you know?
Ken Knecht: I mean, these assessments you fill out, we’ve all filled them out in doctor’s offices. You know what happens to those? I never recall one time filling that out and the next time coming and the doctor saying, Oh, I see you’ve changed since the last time. You know, nobody lays out those assessments across the table and looks at, you know, longitudinal data. That’s kind of what we’re doing. We’re looking at those assessments longitudinally, looking for patterns of resilience and recovery.
Mark Haney: So what’s the big dream for the company? Where do you take it? You grabbed England, brought them on as a client. But what does the company look like in five or ten years?
Kate Cordell: Yeah, our mission is is to put the person at the center of care, so not to have the person try to figure all out from all this fragmented system of care how to find well-being, but for the person to understand what their well-being is and to be able to create a care circle around them. So I know that’s a little esoteric. So in five or ten years, I really hope that we are a tool that helps people understand their own well-being, how to improve their well-being, and then helps their care providers understand whole person, them as a whole person and not just as a very small fragment of that person.
Ken Knecht: OK, and I think it’s important to make the distinction. Our software, does not provide care, and we have to say that over and over because there’s so many apps coming out in the market and you see headlines every day about these apps that are getting funded and making billions of dollars. We don’t provide care. We show you what care is working for you.
Mark Haney: Yeah. And does it roll up? If I remember correctly, this data rolls up so that people can manage caregivers so that if you’re a caregiver, you can kind of see what’s happening. Let’s let’s take a large health care organization, and they have caregivers throughout. They want to know how things are tracking with their caregivers so they can manage their people.
Ken Knecht: Yeah, for sure. You want to see from a from an organization, you want to see who you’re helping really well and who you’re not doing so well with so you can do training. You know, there’s a lot of oversight built in our software. So, you know, counties may be using it, but the state can look at it and say, OK, this is that we need to focus more on this type of situation or a type of problem and less on this other one. So who are we serving well and who can we serve better?
Kate Cordell: Yeah. And I’d like to say to that we we take a success focused approach. So a lot of times outcomes, we’ll look at who’s going to fail, who’s going to recidivate, who’s going to cost me the most. It’s a very negative kind of approach to looking at data. We turn that model on its head and say, How can we help everyone succeed even the people that would otherwise be predicted to fail in whatever program we have? What did it take to get a person like this person with all the circumstances and complicated issues that are in this person’s life to succeed and get on that trajectory of recovery? So we make those associations to say, Hey, people like this with a story like this tend to do better with this type of intervention. So we’re actually identifying what intervention works best for whom, based on the whole person’s story,
Mark Haney: Who would be the ideal customer in the Sacramento market? Are there other clients that you might have your eye on here?
Ken Knecht: It seems like we talked to everybody but maybe Kate can answer that, she has done a ton of demos.
Mark Haney: Who would be somebody who would get some benefit out of this?
Kate Cordell: Yeah. So here in California, we had there was a fairly recent bill, AB 2083, and that bill requires counties like Sacramento County to create a system of sharing of information to serve youth that have a youth in foster care with traumatic experience. So what that means is Sacramento County and in every other county in the state that schools, probation, foster care, child welfare, and medical doctors are all required to share information about these kids so that they can serve the whole kid and not just part of the kid. That is exactly what we’ve been designed to do, so we can facilitate that information sharing and build that story map for that kid.
Mark Haney: And then who would the customer be? You’ve got the you’ve got the counties, somebody requiring it and then you’ve got a school and other caregivers who who’s the actual customer?
Kate Cordell: All of them. So anybody who uses it, so the school can decide, you know what? We want to use P-CIS so that we get those story maps and a better view and we can easily see the progress over time for our kids that are getting behavioral treatments. And then as soon as they sign on, let’s say behavioral health says, OK, yeah, we’ll join too. They sign on. Now they each have their own space in our system, but now they can set up a care circle and they do that all on their own. They say, You know what, I want to share Joey’s information on these particular indicators with the school because I think it’s important for them to know how Joey’s doing in these areas. And the school can say, I’m not sharing everything, but there’s a couple of questions about Joey, maybe how many days he’s been absent in the last 30 days or how many suspensions he’s had that are behavior health related and I’m going to let the behavioral health provider know about that. And so they can set up a care circle and share just the information that’s important for each other to know and communicate around that so they can better serve Joey together.
Mark Haney: OK, so let’s talk about building the business. So we have entrepreneurs and people who would like to be entrepreneurs out there that are thinking about raising money and take an early stage technology type company and taking it to the moon. You came in here. We’re just talking before the show, you came into my office I think in December 2019, I think we agreed, so a year and a half ago and we were sitting, I do these Hanging with Haney’s where entrepreneurs get together and commiserate and talk about how great we’re going to be and so on. And so I remembered you and it was good, but you at that stage, you you guys were at the very, very beginning stages. A lot’s happened since then. Now you begin to bring on investors and so on. Maybe walk me through sort of what’s happening and then what are the big obstacles you’re facing today?
Ken Knecht: Yeah, for sure. So yeah, we came here last time when we were at the very beginning. Kate and I were actually doing our roadshows down in the Bay Area, you know, doing all of those, all those pitches. And it was very interesting time. Mental health was something people really didn’t understand it, and a lot of people still don’t. But you know, this was pre-pandemic. So the pandemic has actually brought about a ton of awareness to mental health. It’s such a big issue now. And you know, before the pandemic, it was like one in five adults were suffering from some type of mental illness. Now it’s estimated to be one in three. So it’s become a huge, huge issue. And so a lot of the stigma has been removed and a lot more people are talking about it, you know, and it’s OK. You know, people are a lot more open to mental illness and talking about it and getting treatment for it.
Mark Haney: OK, but have you developed your product since then,? You were pitching before and now you’re got England, right? So walk me through that.
Ken Knecht: Yeah. So the products ever evolving. I think we’re at a spot now, I think Kate said the other day on a demo that it’s like the products reached a point where its even better than we thought it would be. So I think it’s constantly evolving, and every time we do a demo, we’re seeing new things that our developers put in and we’re like, Wow, this is really taking shape.
Mark Haney: Any learnings from that? So building out the product during COVID, obviously COVID helped the product get more acceptance in the market, but you had a chance to focus during this downtime, I suppose. Now your product is more ready for prime time.
Ken Knecht: Absolutely.
Mark Haney: Any any learnings about that?
Ken Knecht: Yeah. I mean, I think everybody kind of went into hibernation for a bit out there you know, people we were talking to before the pandemic about the software kind of just disappeared for a while and nobody knew what was going to happen.
Mark Haney: So the health care providers were focused on COVID, or maybe even just the unknown, people at home working from home.
Ken Knecht: I think there was just a lot of unknown. I mean, people just didn’t know where we were headed. And so things kind of stood still. But that was good because it gave us time to really put our heads down and get some work done. And you know, as far as fundraising goes, I have to mention Roger Akers. He’s a friend of ours and Roger, what can I say about the guy? He’s just amazing, and he’s helped us a great deal throughout this journey.
Mark Haney: What did Roger do?
Kate Cordell: Yeah. So when we were here in December, we had a 150 page design specification of exactly what we wanted to build, and Roger worked with us to figure out how to how to build that. First of all, he helped us build that technology team to build the software, and we broke ground on it. So we were here in December and we broke ground on the technology in May, on May 1st. So and then we we launched it December 1st.
Ken Knecht: We handed the developers directions on a silver platter. There was no guess work.
Ken Knecht: You know, I’ve done a lot of developer projects. People come up with ideas, but that’s all they are ideas. Maybe something on a napkin here. here, build this.
Kate Cordell: When you push this button, this happens. We you push that button, this happens. We had it mapped. So and not to say there weren’t any gaps. Once we broke ground we were like, Okay, how do we think about that, OK? We mapped that out. But we were, yeah, we were ready.
Mark Haney: Roger prompted some of those decisions.
Kate Cordell: Yeah, he helped us figure out how to take that from a dream on a page to reality. So that was huge. That was the first thing he did. And I remember we toasted with him the night that we broke ground or started building the technology. It was like, OK, here we go. But if you build it right, they will come. And that was, you know, at that point, that’s where we’re at was. It was a gamble. Will people show up on this baseball field if we plow the fields. So that’s where we were in May, a year ago and launched.
Mark Haney: Right at the point when people were working from home.
Kate Cordell: Yeah, we were cranking. And we knew that mental health concerns were going to go through the roof because people were isolated, right? And we can’t ignore this problem forever. We knew, we just knew that this was going to be a problem, even more of a problem that’s going to have to be solved after the pandemic. So we just we hit the gas even harder. We said this is needed. This is something that’s definitely needed.
Ken Knecht: And I’ll say that our focus, I mentioned child welfare earlier, is kind of where we’re starting because there’s the most need. I’d say the pandemic brought about more need for that age group, the young people. I think they say 50 percent of all lifelong mental illness is determined by the age of 14, and 75 percent by the age of 24. I mean, that’s that’s a big thing. And the pandemic, what it’s done for young people, being out of school and a lot of kids now that don’t want to go back to school. So that’s our biggest focus now because I think there’s the biggest need there.
Kate Cordell: Yeah. And workforce well-being, too. So we can do that as well. So if you want to figure out why your workforce is, you know why people are quitting, not wanting to come back to work. So that whole workforce well-being too is is part of what we do. So any kind of well-being, we were able to look at how that changes over time, not only as a system, but also as individuals within that system.
Mark Haney: You know, I want to get back to Roger’s Akers for a second because I want to make sure that our take away from this show should be you put the right people in your life and it can be game changing. It sounds like Roger, even on the product side, was game changing because it prompted you to accelerate. And sometimes just making some hard decisions and saying it’s go time. But then obviously, in order to scale this type of business, you made the decision to go out and get outside funding. And I’m sure Roger had an impact there because that’s how I got re-engaged.
Ken Knecht: Absolutely. I’ve known Roger for a number of years, just through the other businesses I’ve worked with around around the area. And so I was always the back of my mind. When, you know, as Kate and I were working on this product, I was like, I’m going to pull in Roger at some point. I think he will be super excited about this and sure enough, you know, when I first pulled him in I showed him our business plan we had at the time and he was like, What is this? I mean, this needs a lot of work. We were like ugh., we thought we got down, but we kept going, we were persistent and Roger just grabbed hold and he said, we’re going to do this thing, and he helped us every step of the way, and opening doors for us has been amazing. I mean, just this the community of angel investors in Sacramento. I had no idea. I mean, it’s amazing this the group of wonderful people here we have to work with.
Mark Haney: Well, it’s interesting who you take advice from makes all the difference in the world. Roger is a man that I respect tremendously. And so he would be one of my first calls as well. So I love that you did that. That’s why I’m re-engaged now. I mentioned at the beginning the show that you brought me some stocks certificates. So what did that fundraising activity look like? Is that behind you or is it’s ongoing?
Ken Knecht: It’s behind us. We closed are our seed series, so we’re really happy about that. We’re hoping that gives us enough runway to get a few of these larger clients on board, which I think we will so we can carry out our vision. But it’s not out of the question that we might look at a series A. So we want to make sure we keep our investors engaged and stay busy.
Mark Haney: So is there you say you might look at a series A? Is there a road map that you projected in terms of fundraise? I mean, some companies decide they’re going to put their effort in raising money from their customers, but in many cases, to grow fast, you end up taking more outside capital.
Ken Knecht: Sure.
Ken Knecht: I think right now we’re kind of feeling it out. We’re seeing how things are going with with customer interests. Right now, we’re seeing a ton of interest, so we may get approached from another client that we don’t see coming and it could force us into a situation where like, OK, we need to scale rapidly and have to go back out and do some fundraising, which is not easy work. Fundraising is is hard work. So thank God for Roger. He helped us a tremendously.
Kate Cordell: Roger was invaluable in the fundraising. It was a it was a lot of work, but Roger was always pitching up the softballs and we were we were swinging.
Ken Knecht: Roger always says, work harder and that guy, he’s one of the hardest working people I know.
Mark Haney: It’s amazing because, you know, a guy like Roger could be doing a lot of things in his life. And, you know, it’s fun. I have to admit, you know, it’s very rewarding to spend time with ambitious people and people who are on a mission to change the world. You’re on a mission to change health care and that’s inspiring for Roger, I know it is, it’s inspiring for me to be around it as well.
Ken Knecht: You’ve got to believe in the vision and you’ve got to really just believe in the people that you work with. I think Roger’s always said from day one, that I like you as people, and that’s why I’m here and that’s why I’m doing what I’m doing.
Mark Haney: So what’s the big hurdle now? So you’ve got the fundraising behind you. Sounds like the product build the funding is there now, what’s the big hurdle today?
Kate Cordell: The big hurdle today is we’ve got a number of smaller customers. We need a large customer on board. So that’s our big hurdle today is getting the the big fish in the boat.
Ken Knecht: And that’s not to say England’s not big. They’re big, but they’re starting out slow. I wouldn’t call it a pilot because I hate that word. It’s just they’re doing a slow roll out. We’re working with the largest provider of mental health over in England to roll them out, but it’s a slow process.
Mark Haney: Yeah. So a big customer, you know, trying to kind of sneak that out a little bit ago and there are their big customers in Sacramento?
Kate Cordell: There would be medium sized customers in Sacramento. A whole state. We want a whole state.
Mark Haney: A whole state to…
Kate Cordell: A state agency, like of all of Medicaid, mental health in a state or all of child welfare and state.
Mark Haney: And have them integrated through their entire system.
Kate Cordell: That’s right. Exactly. We would like to unify the health and human services for an entire state. So whatever health and human services programs they have, if people are involved in more than one right now, the data is very isolated. So for for older adults, they’re probably in many programs at once and the the state isn’t able to track them between those different programs.
Mark Haney: Is there funding set aside through the CARES Act and through, you know, the COVID relief stuff that’s kind of set aside for this realm that you can kind of go attack?
Kate Cordell: I think there’s a lot more funding right now, plus post-COVID to address uniform care and to give, you know, just mental health and behavioral health as well. Traditionally, I’d say there probably wasn’t, but I think there’s a focus now, so that hopefully will help.
Ken Knecht: Yeah, I mean, I think the whole data sharing thing is huge. Systems be able to work with one another to share data because a lot of times these kids in care have to go retell their story, to each different organization, you know, that’s traumatizing. You know, you want to do that. So it’ll be good for for a kid that needs, you know, multiple systems to serve him, to come in and and see, that they’ve already got a good idea of what the story is and can jump right in and start helping.
Mark Haney: OK, I’m going to I’m going to switch the subject a little bit. You two are married?
Kate Cordell: No.
Mark Haney: Your not married?
Mark Haney: Oh, I thought you two were married.
Ken Knecht: Married through work.
Mark Haney: Married through work. OK. So how does how does the relationship between the two of you work in terms of operationally?
Ken Knecht: Kate and I have a really great working relationship. Like I said earlier, I’m kind of the creative end, and she is really the the analytical end, she’s the statistician, so she she comes up with some of these ideas and puts it on paper, you should see some of the works of art she’s put together. It’s pretty awful. And I’m going to take those and make them look pretty and work. We have a really good relationship where I can really understand what she’s trying to to get across, and I can put that into a visual format that people can actually use.
Mark Haney: OK, so on founding teams, typically one person who’s in charge, who’s in charge?
Kate Cordell: Oh, you know I’m in charge.
Ken Knecht: I don’t even fight that one. I don’t fight that at all.
Mark Haney: I love it. OK, so thinking about this and in a world that you’re changing, maybe wrap up if you don’t mind with some closing thoughts about the business and then maybe some words of wisdom or some advice for that next person in line, you’ve had some lessons learned, so maybe you can share some of that with our audience.
Kate Cordell: Sorry, what was before lessons learned?
Mark Haney: Just closing thoughts? Anything else you want to make sure that our audience knows, and maybe there’s a way to summarize this opportunity.
Kate Cordell: Yeah. So closing thought so. I mean, I think, boy, you have to have, if you’re going to do this, you’ve got to be all in. You know, that’s definitely some closing thoughts is this is not an easy path to take. This is a lot of work. And yet, boy, we’re dedicated. So I don’t think you should start a business unless you are passionate about the problem you’re trying to solve. And I think you have to stay focused on the mission because there’s a lot of ways to be distracted. But if you can stay focused on that passion that you have to solve a problem. And I’ve always said I never wanted to start a business. I didn’t set out to start a business, I set out to solve a problem, and I would have done that many different ways and tried to do it many different ways. I would have done it where it didn’t result in a business, but in the end, I realized because the problem we’re trying to solve is so overarching different systems, that no one area was going to see the big picture or spend the effort to solve the problem. It had to come from outside the system because to unify everybody together around a person, the person was going to pay for it, the doctor’s not going to pay for it, the school’s not going to pay for it. We’ve got to build it and they will come. So I was very passionate about solving this problem. You know, very, very passionate about that. And so I’d say if you keep your passion, stay focused and have a passion.
Mark Haney: How do you keep the passion?
Kate Cordell: I’m not sure that I think it just comes from within. I’m not really sure where it comes from. I can’t stop.
Ken Knecht: Kate’s passion is contagious. When I met her and we start doing work together, that was the thing that kind of drew me in. It’s like, Wow, she’s really passionate about this and this need is so huge, I mean, this has to be something we work on, this has to be something we build. So at that point, I made a decision and never looked back. We’re going to build this.
Mark Haney: Never look back. Great. Great business opportunity. A proud investor and really excited for how many lives you’re going to change and you’re doing it right here in our backyard. And it’s becoming a worldwide company. From right here in little Sacramento. So exciting. Kate, Ken, thank you for joining me. Best of luck on Opeeka and look forward to being by your side along your growth trajectory.
Ken Knecht: Thank you so much.
Kate Cordell: Thanks for having us.