Russ: Welcome back to The BusinessMakers Show. My guest today: Sarah Worthy and Katie Sunstrom of Door Space. Sarah is the Founder and CEO, and Katie is Co-founder, CMO and General Counsel. Sarah, Katie, welcome to the show.
Sarah: Thank you.
Katie: Thanks for having us.
Russ: You bet. Tell us about Door Space.
Sarah: Well, Door Space is building enterprise software that is focused on the Human Resource department. These large companies are becoming more global, and as a result, these HR departments are having to field tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of personalized employee files and records that have to deal with their continuing education and their professional licensure, as well as safety and government required regulation for what they have to deal with. And we’re there just to provide a centralized tool that makes it very easy for these large organizations to manage that personalized path for their workforce.
Russ: Ok. So, it sounds like maybe there was a little bit of an emphasis on tracking certification and credentials that maybe a standard HR package doesn’t do today; is that right?
Katie: That’s correct. Right now everything is done by management in a paper format, on spreadsheets. It’s very cumbersome. Especially in the healthcare industry, that’s a good example. Every time a doctor or nurse goes and gets certification, they have three pieces of paper that they have to fax or carry three different ways. This way, everything is centralized and automated.
Russ: Ok. So, are you saying none of the big ERP systems; SAP, Oracle, offer this today?
Sarah: They offer very robust suites that are more based on the industrial era workforce. So they really aren’t providing that organization wide, personalized, individual tool set that any employee can use in more of a knowledge workforce that we’re addressing.
Katie: And as we see it, they’re still using the old spreadsheet and PDF technology. It’s not the fine detail of database technology that we’re using.
Russ: Ok, and I guess this whole world of certification and credentials has sort of expanded in the last decade. There’s so many categories, and maybe in some regards they’re more important. Would that be right?
Sarah: I mean, absolutely. If you look in healthcare there’s robotic surgery now. And so surgeons used to have to learn how to use just the scalpel and basic tools, are now having to go to much more complicated tools, and those all require licensures and certifications. And that’s just one role within a hospital. Every single person in healthcare is having to learn these new skills constantly.
Russ: Ok, so I’m wondering what triggered the idea to start Door Space. Was there a specific experience in that category?
Sarah: In healthcare that was really more, I was already looking at a problem that I wanted to solve for myself. I have a philosophy degree and a business degree from college, but I’m self-taught in everything that I’ve learned since in information systems and internet technologies, and when I interview and talk to people about what I’ve done, they fall back on that 15-year-old degree instead of the 15 years I’ve spent doing these things. So I was really looking for a way to better organize and bring together—I go to Lynda.com and Team Treehouse for my own training. LinkedIn is a great place. People ask all the time, “Why not LinkedIn?” Well, LinkedIn requires you to manually enter each certificate and upload it field by field, and I don’t have time to do all of that. I want something that is much more automated, and the way I deposit my checks in my bank account today, I was thinking, why can’t I just deposit my certificates into a place the same way?
Russ: Ok, real interesting. So, what’s the stage of the company? I think we’re still pretty early stage, aren’t we?
Sarah: Yes, we’re working on our first pilot right now, getting their employees on. That should be ready by the end of the month, and then we’ll be talking a lot more vocally about what we’ve been doing with the pilot. It’s a very early first steps in making sure we do this the right way.
Katie: We do have a working system right now. We have some of the admins for our pilot working on it right now, and it’s imminent. We’re on the precipice of having their employees on the system, and that’s in the healthcare vertical.
Russ: Ok. Well, Katie I know you have a legal background; you’re a practicing lawyer, and considering when I first came to you, you might have been a little hesitant for a while, but you tell this story about this trip that you took. Share that with us.
Katie: Right. Sarah and I have known each other for years, and she has been coming to me, spit balling ideas off of me and just, you know, I’ve been sort of her sponge and her counselor for a number of years, and she came to me with this idea for Door Space. It was not called Door Space at the time, it was kind of ephemeral.
Sarah: That’s right. You named the company.
Katie: It was a collaboration. She basically told me, you know, I want you to work with me, and I said, well I’ll just do some legal work for you for right now because I’m not sure. I have this other legal career that I’m doing.
Sarah: It’s paying you.
Katie: It’s paying me. But, I went to a conference called Collision in Las Vegas last year, about a year ago, and there were a lot of VCs and SAS, and Cloud based companies speaking there who had been successful, and who were giving us advice and giving the audience where they think the industry is going and where we should focus. And these were things that Sarah had been telling me for 5 years. I called her from the conference, from Vegas, and said, ok I’m in, I’m doing it. When you get your stuff together I will help you do that and I will come on full time eventually.
Russ: Ok. Exciting times.
Sarah: She called and was like, “Is that offer still on board for me to come be a Co-founder?” And I was like, “Yes”.
Russ: Well, I also heard you talking before once too, and you were always carrying around a notebook with you, with sort of sketches and plans, and that influenced you as well, is that right?
Katie: Right. So she would show up to my son’s flag football games and she would open this notebook and show me things, and you know, it was just the process of sort of having that eureka moment after talking to her for so long and going, yes, this is something. This is going to be good, and it is.
Russ: Ok, and you’ve been sort of passionate about this cause for quite some time, saying, I’m going to do my own thing, and I’ve found the thing I’m going to do.
Sarah: Well, yeah, I’ve been part of the Houston startup community for almost 10 years now, an active volunteer in it, and it was really me learning what I needed to do, because I knew that’s what I wanted, but I hadn’t found the idea I wanted to do yet. This is something that after talking to so many people, they all have seen across different industries that this is a problem and we have a good solution. So that I guess is why I was just willing to just kind of make the leap myself, and I spent a couple of years, it takes a long time to architect a large enterprise system. I would say it’s been about two years of plugging away at that and eavesdropping along the way.
Katie: She actually has a trophy from a 2014 business plan contest that she won with her business plan for Door Space. That’s how long she’s been doing this.
Sarah: We came in third for the Houston Liftoff Business Plan Competition.
Russ: Well, congratulations on that (Sarah: Thank you.). So obviously you’re early stage, and Katie, you mention venture capitalist a while ago too. Are you guys raising funds?
Katie: We are. We are in a seed round right now. We do have some commitments, but we are still making those connections. Most of the people that we talk to want to see what we do with our pilot, which is imminent. And we did have an early investor who is still with us; he’s a big fan.
Russ: Well, great. Sarah, Katie, I really appreciate you telling your story and I wish you good luck, because this is exciting and yet difficult time. So, go get em.
Sarah/Katie: Thank you so much.
Russ: You bet. And that wraps up my discussion with Sarah Worthy and Katie Sunstrom of Door Space. And this is The BusinessMakers Show.
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