How does a College of Charleston finance and economics graduate end up founding multiple software, development and healthcare startups? How do those startups get bootstrapped into profitability without any fundraising?
David Levine didn’t intend to jump into being a founder, but these days he has constructed his dream-team to help him run his multi-layered businesses. Those first few years held some steep learning curves and plenty of late nights but have added up to a homegrown Ph.D. in entrepreneurship.
It all started when he moved back to Charlotte to help his mom manage operations at her new family law firm. He quickly realized that the business management software that was available needed extensive customization to even work. Since nothing was available that fit his needs, he decided to go configure it himself.
After just a couple months of teaching himself the basics of coding, his buddy from college called and asked, “I’ve got the rights to this ‘turnkey’ rewards software. Would you want to come help me sell it?”
“Every business needs this,” Levine thought, “and I’d be willing to bet they need help setting it up since ‘turnkey’ is not usually the case.”
He hopped on the opportunity and started reaching out to businesses of all kinds. “I must have pitched 30 companies the first week,” he explained, “but my first client was a yoga studio.”
After a few months, Levine partnered with the owner of the studio and a couple other talented programmers to eventually develop a more customized software for the personal services industry. They called it MBO Creations, after their much larger API partner-in-crime, MINDBODY Online.
As much as he thought he had learned from running his first startup, Levine said he learned more about the way Rick Stollmeyer founded and ran MINDBODY, and even more about the dream-team he had assembled. Eventually Levine and his partners saw different visions for the company and he took the opportunity to get bought out of his stake.
After leaving MBO Creations, Levine’s then girlfriend (now wife), Madison, asked him how he would use his MBO Creations experience to pursue his next venture.
Levine told her, “Honestly, I’ve met so many doctors lately, and it doesn’t seem like there is an effective rewards program for patients in a healthcare practice. I mean, how cool would it be if we could motivate a patient to change their behavior with stuff they actually want? What if software could encourage people to be healthier and more compliant with treatment?”
That idea eventually turned into BuzzyDoc, a digital behavior change platform. The company has three arms: a turnkey small practice solution, a membership program for hospital systems and a consultative data driven strategy for medical aesthetics branded as Practice Traction. All three empower healthcare providers with what they need to engage patients in their care and offer incentives to motivate them to improve their own outcomes.
“They needed something that not only improved customer loyalty, but also helped them up-sell and cross-sell to their existing patients,” he said. “If you have a patient earning points, they can apply those points to other procedures they may want, and it makes it easier for doctors to market to their most engaged patients.”
The software was initially built using an outside development company, but after two years, Levine saved enough money to afford his own in-house development team to rebuild BuzzyDoc from the ground-up and own all the intellectual property. That in-house development team grew to become a custom development firm, Integrateideas, and another company, Full Stack On Demand, that tackles overflow work from agencies for a flat monthly fee.
“You build a business around where you can go get clients. You don’t go and say ‘Hey, I have a product I want to take the market, let’s see who will buy it.’ You figure out who you’re selling to and what they need.” These three core businesses BuzzyDoc, Integrateideas, and Full Stack On Demand were created out of Levine’s own need for the services.
Full Stack On Demand allows small and mid-sized agencies to achieve the high quality work of a full stack developer without having to hire a full time employee. The model is similar to that of Design Pickle, a flat monthly fee for unlimited revisions on the work.
Levine has managed to grow his team to over 30 employees without taking any equity investment. “I started bootstrapping and managed my cash flow really tightly. Since our start, everything has grown very rapidly, and I have not had to raise an equity round.”
On top of growing BuzzyDoc, Levine also leads a monthly food drive for the homeless called Serve Charlotte’s Homeless and recently founded a local professional group for entrepreneurs called iiCharlotte. David spent years investing in his personal development in a local men’s group and later in some high-level professional development networking groups. He decided to take the best from each program to create his dream scenario with a marketplace to ask questions of specific experts and monthly group work that allows successful business owners to bounce their biggest goals off of each other for feedback and revision.
“I not only feel that I have a lot to offer Charlotte but feel like I owe a lot to Charlotte too. It’s the amazing teachers, mentors and family that I have in this city that’s helped me get to where I am today. If there is one piece of advice I can offer, it is to surround yourself with mentors. Ask for the lunch meeting. Ask for the coffee. Do whatever it takes to get in front of other successful people. Anything I can do to help the next generation is what I’ll be doing.”