Off The 2018 Launchpad: Kellogg’s Hottest MBA Startups

Chase Michaelek. Courtesy photo

Hilltop Health

Industry: Healthcare / Consumer (Veterinary Services)

Founding Student Names: Chase Michalek

Brief Description of Solution: Hilltop Health offers a unique solution for both consumers and veterinarians:

In an era where technology makes so many services personal, on-demand, and well-designed, the contrast is especially apparent when interacting with our vet. Hilltop Health is changing all that. Hilltop Health offers tech-based, patient-centric care with simple but revolutionary benefits. Patients can access vets for same-day appointments, visit convenient, modern, and beautifully-designed offices, and even use our technology to receive continuous care for their pets.

For veterinarians, managing a practice has been never been more difficult with increased competition and an ever-changing group of pet owners with complex needs. What if a trusted, smart, tech-savvy company could come in and be their partner — their foundation? Hilltop Health is that company. Hilltop Health takes care of those infinite details, so vets can focus on pets and their owners. Hilltop Health can be the management and marketing solution — giving vets access to a world of young new owners and their pets. This allows vets to breathe a sigh of relief – and look down and greet that new dog who’s come in for his first checkup.

Funding Dollars: Undisclosed

What Led You To Launch This Venture? Before Kellogg, I worked for a private equity firm in Chicago where we invested exclusively in the healthcare services sector. I began learning from the best management teams that were leading high growth businesses and disrupting the human side of healthcare. Frankly, managing a physician practice in today’s environment is more complicated than ever. For providers, the value proposition offered from practice management companies is really compelling… and so we tried to back the best management teams that we believed were doing something truly unique in healthcare.

As an associate, I was also responsible for our investment in a leading animal hospital management company. I quickly saw that many of the provider pain points and inefficiencies I saw in human healthcare also existed in animal care… but animal care lagged about 5-10 years behind some of the advancements that were occurring in human health.

So as lifelong pet owner, I applied some of these insights and founded Hilltop Health with the goal of bringing animal care up-to-speed with advancements in care quality and technology seen across our human care counterparts.

Biggest Accomplishment So Far with Venture: We are still in very early innings and I am completely ok with that. My main accomplishment has been developing ways to de-risk my business. I have done this by interviewing countless veterinarians to assess need for enhanced practice management and appetite for a new clinic concept that looks and feels different than most other hospitals. Equally important, I have surveyed pet owners to better understand pain points of the pet-owning / veterinary relationship to identify key areas of differentiation. Furthermore, I have developed advertising campaigns and marketing strategies to test various customer acquisition strategies to improve the customer ramp for when a clinic first gets started.

All of these means, among others too, have helped me gain a comfort with my business model and its viability in the marketplace. There will always be development areas to refine and further testing to complete in my business – this has just been the start of it. I believe that no matter what stage a company is in during its life cycle, it should always be testing concepts to find ways to do things better or different. Something also really exciting is that I am working with a team to develop a few key pieces of technology that we think will give us competitive advantages both in management strategies and customer engagement.

How Has Kellogg Helped You Further Your Venture? Kellogg has been foundational for developing my venture. I came to school with an idea and was able to gather feedback from faculty and students to further refine and pressure-test my concept. It’s a total win-win when you can be in a class that is led by a leading VC Partner in Chicago that is solely-focused on helping you test and develop your business. The time, mentorship, and overall support across the Kellogg community has been immeasurable. I think Kellogg even takes it beyond other business schools by offering the Zell Fellows Program. Being in a group of like-minded students who are taking risks, experiencing similar struggles, running hard to test product-market-fit, raise funds, or launch their business is incredibly rewarding to be a part of. You know people have your back and will take a “No BS” approach when seeking feedback. The funding dollars, faculty/industry mentorship, and business resources have helped develop my executive presence and given me a leg up in launching my venture.

Long-Term Goals with Your Startup: The long-term goal is to create a company that has both an amazing culture of innovation and is considered the gold-standard for care quality. We will do this by taking a people-centered approach to design, investing in the smart application of technology, and enabling our vets to be on the forefront of care quality. I believe by doing-so, we will create on a self-fulfilling prophecy, attracting the best and forward-thinking talent, retaining our people and customers, and building a brand that raises the bar on what people should expect from their animal care provider.

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