Tell Us About Your Journey
I, myself, am a Four Chapter caregiver and I became a 20-or-so-year practitioner and have been operating Torchlight for about ten years. For me, it was always about taking what I had grown up with and having a close family member, my Aunt Pauline, with categorical and pretty significant disabilities. And the heart of that driving me to change my career entirely, to go into advising families on how to navigate caregiving issues and how to deal with day-to-day challenges. I joined my mother in private practice and realized very quickly that only the rich and famous could pay us for our services. And that just didn’t sit well with me.
I needed to find a way to democratize access to the very best support. We decided to do that through sponsoring organizations like employers and health plans and to do that using technology to help scale that through communications mechanisms and make it available to millions and millions of families like we do today.
What Is The History of Torchlight?
Torchlight is tackling a huge problem in providing caregiver support. It’s a combination of a comprehensive offering that has a digital platform at the core, and then expert advisors and concierge services as a safety net. What Torchlight does uniquely is that it enables large organizations to be able to scale that. In many ways, it’s having your cake and eating it, too. And sometimes we say have your care and complete it, too, in which you can have fast connections to the very best expertise and do it in an incredibly scalable way where the technology is doing a lot of the work itself. Instead of the old model of just human help.
What Are Some Inspirations That Motivate You?
I am super motivated to do things that people say you can’t do, or you’re not supposed to do, or you’ll be unable to do. Taking childcare or elder care and boiling it down into a digital application that is akin to TurboTax or Waze for caregiver support navigation. Everybody said you can’t do that, there’s just no way to have that replace human help. I love that we’re able to do that and accomplish that. I’m always looking for new ways to do things, models to turn on their heads and that drives me a ton.
I’m also inspired by the human capacity to care; because any time, even when we’re going through the hardest circumstances, at the core of humanity is that desire to be able to help someone you love. And in many ways, helping them even more than you care to help yourself. And that inspires me to hear people’s stories every day and to be able to make even a little difference in someone’s life. To be able to help them do that, that’s game changing.
What Challenges Have You Faced?
Probably the most challenging thing for us over time was doing everything in lean fashion. Being under-capitalized but sticking to that as a strategy because we knew that we could claw our way client-by-client and raise just enough money to be able to accomplish that. Iteratively that’s a huge challenge because it constrains you as to what you can do, how much you can spend how quickly and how much you can accelerate the business. But we were always sticking with the long view in knowing that we could find ourselves a larger platform. That took a lot of perseverance, hiring decisions to find the right people to be able to help execute that, and then ultimately sticking with that as we were seeing others raising all kinds of big money. We stayed the course and ultimately found a great home in recently being acquired.
What Advice Can You Offer To Other Entrepreneurs?
I’ve been given a ton of advice over the years. My dad, my late dad, had told me over all the years, take a breath. You can figure it out; just stop and take a breath. And that is so incredibly important. It seems so simple, but when you do it, it makes a huge difference in how you then consider your options. Whether it’s a staffing challenge, you can’t find the right person for the role. You’re frustrated because you’re trying to move quickly and trying to do it right. And you’ve made countless mistakes before and you learn hopefully from each one. We all like to win. And there are certain times when you don’t win a deal that you were really counting on or hoping for and take a breath and then you realize you just won the next one that’s even bigger.
I would say the most important thing to keep in mind is that it’s a long game. You can define the success however you want to. There’s no kind of preordained playbook you have to do it any one particular way.
What Value Has Gesmer Updegrove Provided To Torchlight?
Right out of the gates. I knew that Gesmer was the right partner, the right firm, the right advisors, the right guides for us. Everything resonated around the experience in technology and our work in digital health and being able to anticipate the people, process, product challenges along the journey. It was very clear to me that the team has done this many times and been there to help guide entrepreneurs in a way that other firms just couldn’t do.
Why “Go With Gesmer”?
We go with Gesmer because we don’t know what’s sitting around the corner waiting for us. And the crew at Gesmer is always helpful in anticipating what comes next. I’ll give an example of a critical point going through our process of being acquired. The team, Mike Mahoney, Mike Brier, Sean Gilligan, Steve Snyder in the backdrop, incredibly supportive in some of the most stressful moments. And the willingness to jump on and tackle specific points and to help guide me into areas where I hadn’t been before. I always think of it as they were there helping sweep up, so to speak, when everyone else was going home. And that’s ultimately what led to the success of making all this happen.
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