Longevity Network
  • Feb 14, 2018
  • Entrepreneur Spotlight, Health and Safety Awareness

Entrepreneur of the Week: Rob Flippo, MobileHelp

Entrepreneur of the Week: Rob Flippo, MobileHelp

MobileHelp is the maker of a range of smart emergency alert buttons for seniors, chronic disease patients, and active adults. The devices incorporate GPS technology and can provide location tracking and medical alert services.

We interviewed Rob Flippo, CEO, about MobileHelp and the potential they see in the 50+ market.

Longevity Network: What does MobileHelp, the company, do?

Rob Flippo: In the briefest of terms, we make sure people stay safe out there, and we do so by providing a wide range of emergency response services and solutions.

That said, we look to our customers to define what “out there” is for them – and our pledge is to support whatever that looks like. For example, an avid hiker might define “out there” as a rocky ledge outcropping in one of our national parks. A person with congestive heart failure might define “out there” as the walk to a neighbor’s home, or to the mailbox down at the end of the driveway. A senior might define “out there” as her grandson’s wedding, across the country.

Wherever their “out there” is, we want to be there in case they need help.   

LN: Can you tell us about your product and how it works? 

RF: As I mentioned, we have a wide range of emergency response product solutions, and at the foundational level, they all work the same way.

In emergency response, the most critical design aspect is simplicity – the product has to be easy to engage with, to ensure getting help is as simple as pressing a button.

All of our products meet that criteria: when the user presses the “Help” button, trained operators receive the call for assistance and know who the user is, where they are located and can contact them through our product solution to determine the scope of the emergency and provide the right level of response.

LN: What opportunity did you want to address with the development of your technology?

RF: Our co-founder, Elias Janetis, had been in the medical alarm business for several years and often got the question “How far does the button work from the house?”

With cell phone and GPS standard to the communications industry, he couldn’t understand why a medical alert system had to be constrained by a phone line – and he set out to change that.

Together the two of us committed to solving that simple problem and providing seniors with an option for personal emergency response that worked both in and outside of the home.

LN: How did you assemble your team?

RF: When we initially founded the company, Elias and I looked for technologists who could help us bring the best product to the marketplace. We looked for people who were forward thinking and diligent to detail (with a life safety product, you have to plan and test much more rigorously than with other consumer products). We looked for people who could help us grow the right customer service teams, monitoring services and make sure we had back-up solutions to our back-up solutions.

As we have grown from a company of 2 to a company of more than 200, we’ve established a new vision statement, which reflected not only the company mission, but also the team of people we have become: “Be someone’s hero.  Every day.”

LN: How has MobileHelp, the company differed from what you envisioned it would be (if at all)?

RF: After working in the field of emergency response, we recognized many years ago that the key to innovation in the industry was taking the issue further upstream – that is, preventing emergencies (such as falls) from happening in the first place.

This very basic idea shifted the entire trajectory of the company and its business model, from a reactive system to a proactive solution.

To that end, we have begun to introduce products and services that proactively help our customers maintain long-term wellness.  

LN: Who are your primary users? In what ways can your products benefit the 50+ population?

RF: Seniors above the age of 65 (and frequently older than that) were our primary market when we first entered this space more than a decade ago. But with technology advancements, we’ve been able to provide a wider array of product solutions and services to reach more deeply into that group of seniors, as well as a broader set of customers in general.

For example, two years ago, we looked to expand on our product offering and announced a new service called MobileVitals, which allows people to track and monitor their vital signs (such as weight and blood pressure). MobileVitals is a “telehealth-lite” solution – which means it allows people to self-monitor their vitals, as opposed to having a clinician involved in the biometric monitoring and analysis process.

Many of our customers struggle under the weight of chronic illnesses – from diabetes to heart-related diseases, and solutions like MobileVitals allow them to manage their health in a more comprehensive way.  

As another example, our newest product solution is MobileHelp Smart, which we created in collaboration with Samsung. This new solution delivers our customized user interface on the Samsung Gear S3 smartwatch, which allows people to easily get help in an emergency situation while also taking advantage of the everyday features and benefits available on the Gear S3.

With this new product solution, we anticipate reaching a broader set of audiences – from men who may have been reluctant to utilize an emergency response device in the past, to patients with chronic illnesses who want to better monitor aspects of their health, to extreme athletes who want to be able to access emergency help while training in strenuous or dangerous environments.

LN: What most excites you about the aging and / or health technology market?

RF: While the Health IT space has seen a massive recent influx of new technology in the form of wearables, apps and other devices, the foundation for them – telehealth and telemedicine – are older, proven technologies.

What is rapidly becoming ubiquitous, and will continue to, is the practice of remote biometric data collection, enabled by Smart Bluetooth or BLE in devices like tablets and smartwatches. To that end, we are looking to connect our MobileHelp Smart with data collection capabilities that include vital sign monitoring – so people can use the smartwatch functionality to collect biometric data such as weight and blood pressure.  

As we make those devices even more relevant to health conditions – from sharing data with physicians to delivering daily care plans based on data results to linking with electronic health records – we believe it has the potential to impact consumer costs associated with healthcare in the long-term.

LN: Do you have any other products in development?

RF: In our drive to think long-term about how the way we provide safety solutions to consumers, we’ve looked at chronic illnesses and the way they’ve driven the consumerization of health solutions and devices.

At the end of the day, the proven technologies tell us that if we give people the tools they need to engage fully in their own healthcare while simultaneously giving healthcare providers the tools they need to more effectively interact with larger patient populations, we will be able to enact real change in the long-term health of a much broader set of people.

Long-term health is one of the ways we’re thinking a little differently about safety – being safer in our own bodies.

In addition to that, we’re also pushing into other aspects of safety, from the personal safety of kids on campuses and people who want to exercise or walk their dogs at night, to connected safety platforms such as smart homes or buildings.

We will continue to make sure people can stay safe out there.  

LN: What is your best piece of advice for startups who want to include or target the 50+ market?

RF: It is necessary to simultaneously keep your eyes on both the bottom line as well as – and perhaps more importantly – the horizon. In order to best guide the organization in the long term, the answers lie in watching what is unfolding across the industry’s landscape in the next 18-36 months.

Rob Flippo is CEO of MobileHelp. For the past 16 years, Mr. Flippo has worked in both start-up environments as well as fortune 50 companies. Mr. Flippo has experience in forming high-performance teams and has held executive roles at high-tech companies such as Motorola, Boca Research, and Emergin Incorporated.  He is a current member of the Board of Directors of MAMA, the Medical Alert Monitoring Association.

In his most recent role as Vice President of Operations at Emergin, Mr. Flippo was responsible for all aspects of the company operations including the function of CFO and COO. He joined Emergin from Motorola’s Wireless Messaging Division, where he served as Director of Product & Business Development. At Motorola, Mr. Flippo was responsible for managing Motorola’s advanced messaging product lines, patent licenses, and contract negotiations. Prior to joining Motorola, he served as Director of Engineering at Zoom Telephonics Inc., a leading modem and networking company.

Mr. Flippo holds an MBA from the University of Miami, a BS in Electrical Engineering from the University of South Florida, and has completed coursework in business management at Harvard Business School. Mr. Flippo also holds 7 US patents for communications systems. To learn more about MobileHelp visit their website or follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

feature block image 3feature block image 3