2020 Recap: Letter from our founder
In a year when so much has been chaotic, uncertain, and needing adaptation – we managed to get closer to our BHAG vision of deploying game-changing apps to advance humanity and solve the biggest problems.
That vision first took root a decade ago when I was in healthcare management, and saw with my own eyes just how wasteful and BS-ridden it was. That led to starting my own healthcare startups. Fast forward to 2020, and not much has changed. Big healthcare, big banks, big education – all continued to produce huge amounts of waste and charge too much for too little. We always knew it was a matter of time before nothing was too big to fail, and that we (you and I) would disrupt the big guys by providing higher quality services, faster, at a lower cost.
It is up to us to create the better world to live in, the status quo exists because it benefits someone else.
After Covid-19, we discovered that 10 years of change could occur in 1 year. Necessity is the mother of invention, right? Nice in theory, but by no means was this a straight line. Like many, we started the year off with an unnerving decline in Q1 (down by 20%), while competition stiffened as everyone else also went remote. Still, clear patterns emerged quickly to reveal that our vision for decentralizing healthcare, fintech, ecommerce to remove the stodgy old gatekeepers was quickly becoming a forced reality. Many of these patterns will be here to stay post-Covid as well. Apps created during 2020 will not just go away after the pandemic, but could shape the world for the next 10 to 20 years.
With that thesis in mind, we jumped in with blinders on, not trying to just stay afloat but act blissfully ignorant of the costs of narrowing our focus more than ever, just to try our best to solve these gargantuan problems. We didn’t have time on our side (well, let’s face it, we never really do, but back then we could defend patience as a virtue). With literal lives on the line, we were forced to build even leaner, more creatively, with more pressure to build stuff that solves problems now rather than iterates toward it.
We launched new initiatives in 2020 to tackle these new challenges in a rapid-fire fashion:
We built a product management department, starting with Christoph and Franz, and they were appointed the daunting duty of owning our apps’ core engagement and making sure end-users would have their “a-ha” moments (when they realize the value in what you’re creating). In a year, we’ve grown from 0 to 4 product managers.
We implemented our baseball card system, inspired by Ray Dalio’s “Principles”, where peer ratings on performance, and not top-down judgment, are the single determinant of how we dole out company bonuses.
We pivoted our new rapid prototype program to turn it from a UI/UX-heavy phase, into a collaborative sandbox between product managers, developers, and designers to “break” ideas as much as possible before coding begins. This rapid prototype phase is now our most popular service, by far.
We launched the Covid-19 Innovation Program, and for an entire quarter stopped taking any meetings outside of it. This allowed us to learn fast about new problems and reorient our team quickly around solving them.
Realizing that it was now or never time for telehealth, we partnered with leading providers of HIPAA-compliant video and real-time messaging tools (Agora, Pubnub) to launch a 90% off program, nearly eradicating regulatory barriers to entry for startups.
Some of the highlights that came as a result:
We launched the Goodskin iOS app to help a thriving brick and mortar business not only make the transition to ecommerce but improve their customer personalization as a result.
We launched the Habitap App to help a thriving crossfit company in Las Vegas make the transition to ecommerce by gamifying healthy training and wellness habits from home.
We helped the Rocketmath game grow their userbase to 25k kids to take advantage of the transition to remote learning, and are now building a companion iOS app for the game.
We launched the Simplegreensmoothies Meal Planner to help the plant-powered wellness company (1 million+ followers) build LTV with meal planning and integrated shopping.
We helped the WalkerTracker App grow by gamifying employee health with step competitions while they’re working from home. The app now has 15.2k ratings in the app store.
We launched Soberbuddy, a seed-funded NLP and avatar-driven app that helps support sobriety in a time when mental illness is on the rise and many people are falling into the traps of abuse.
We launched the You+Me App and Registry to serve the ME/CFS community and long-covid community (people that don’t recover from covid) manage symptoms and contribute symptom tracking data to research.
We partnered with Awesome Studios, a digital health incubator and seed fund led by the founders of ZOOM+care. Topflight and Awesome share a vision of health consumers empowered by AI and telehealth.
We’re building a cryptocurrency app that will compete with the likes of Blockfi and Celsius, where we plan to stake our own money on the platform.
We’re launching a decentralized auctioning platform to help small businesses team up to consolidate supply purchasing power on par with huge chains like WholeFoods and Krogers.
Somewhat to our surprise, our approach….worked! Decisions that initially felt like hard choices between profit and vision, ended up being both. We grew by 50% this year, and we’ve never been more excited to come to work and help our customers (old and new alike) grow. We then reinvested our cashflow into:
our first in-house product to “eat our own dogfood” – a telehealth app helping solo practitioners create insurance-taking telehealth businesses.
creative team bonuses (4x last year’s amount).
hiring new team members in 2021.
They say if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day. Well, we’re following our passion right into the trenches of pushing the boundaries of apps, solving engagement problems, iterating methodically, and embracing your business challenges as our own. We’re hiring more purposefully than ever before, still maintaining our top 1% technical and communication standards, but also selecting for people that are equally excited by our vision and will add value to your app in unpredictable, un-instructable, and 10x-ing ways.
I’ll end this letter by putting into the universe some of my personal goals for Topflight in 2021:
Create or grow 3+ apps into 7-digit userbases.
Get one of our apps into Apple’s “Top Apps” list.
Connect communities to a hospital using SMART on FHIR.
Create an EMR that lives on blockchain with true interoperability.
Partner with more APIs to make healthcare compliance as affordable for entrepreneurs as KYC (know your customer) is for fintech.
Create a digital payments app that works across borders.
Create a vaccine and contact tracing app that works across borders.
Bring down a big bank (JK. Ok, maybe.)
I hope you’re as excited as I am for 2021.
Let’s change some more things about the world together.
CEO & Founder