'Fix it'

By: 
Jan. 27, 2017

Executive Summary
Company. Voalte Industry. Health care, mobile health care, software Key. Company targets significant growth under new CEO.


Trey Lauderdale, co-founder of Voalte, a software firm that helps health care employees communicate better over smartphones, did something in late December that was remarkable, yet ordinary.

He took a vacation. For two weeks.

Lauderdale, his wife and their toddler son traveled from Florida to California, where they spent time in wine country, San Diego and with their 150-member strong extended family. The social media images of smiles and mountains and Santa hats show the young family doing what millions of others do over the holidays. But like most other executives at fast-growing, fast-moving companies, Lauderdale takes vacations with lightning-strike rarity.

“It had always been hard for me to take a week off,” says Lauderdale, 34. “I was the single thread for many decisions being made.”

That thread has doubled in the past eight months, courtesy of a new CEO, Adam McMullin, at the helm of the Sarasota-based company. A veteran health care IT executive, McMullin, when he was hired in April, was also named chairman of Voalte's high-powered board. Lauderdale, who had been CEO since 2013, remains with the company as president.

McMullin's arrival was the impetus for Lauderdale to take a legit shut-it-off vacation. McMullin also represents a big swing at Voalte — which is no longer a startup (founded in 2008) but also not yet the powerhouse health care mobile communications firm it aspires to be. “I was brought in to bring some structure and processes that allow us to scale,” says McMullin.

That scale, for the large part, takes two forms. One is the ongoing build-out of the executive team at Voalte, which stands for voice, alarm and text. Voalte's software is designed to improve on a hospital's legacy communication systems, which can be outdated, loud and inefficient, among other issues.

The other side of the scale is a shift in strategies and goals with individual customers: Instead of selling software to a department of nurses, in say cardiology, or a floor, say the NICU, the company now is expanding its services to entire hospitals or medical centers. That has the potential to increase revenue per client.

Capital attraction
Voalte officials stopped publicly disclosing revenue figures in 2012, when the company had about $10 million in sales. It also had a three-year compound annual growth rate of 84.17% from 2011 to 2014, according to the 2015 Gator100, a list of the fastest-growing companies run by University of Florida alumni. Voalte was 15th on the list. The company has more than 125 employees.

There have been a few stumbles along the growth path. For example, in 2015 the company laid off about 30 people, a move Lauderdale says was a restructuring after mistakenly hiring people earlier than it should have based on projected growth.

Voalte has also been a magnet for outside capital. It raised nearly $60 million in private equity and venture capital from 2012 to 2015. The money people are trying to stay in front of the trend lines. The global mobile health market, known in the industry as mHealth, is projected to grow at a compound annual rate of 47.6% from 2015 to 2020, from $14.5 billion to $49 billion.

Voalte's technology works on both iPhone and Android systems, and at least 132,000 caregivers use Voalte's products and technology every day, the company says. That's up from about 35,000 in 2014. 
McMullin and Lauderdale, in separate interviews, simplify the opportunity Voalte has in mHealth: Both executives cite the fact that in some hospitals, doctors still use pagers, a dinosaur-like symbol of 1980s health care communication. “Health care communications is broken,” says Lauderdale, “and we want to fix it.”

New boss
McMullin will oversee that effort, in close contact with Lauderdale.

The situation is a tad unorthodox. Company founders, particularly in tech firms, normally don't stick around when the board brings in a new CEO.

McMullin, commuting for now between Sarasota and Raleigh, N.C., where his three kids under 10 are in school, is in Lauderdale's former office in the Voalte headquarters. Lauderdale has a slightly smaller office on the other side of the building, a complex on Fruitville Road, just west of Interstate 75, above a bank and next to a self-storage facility.

Lauderdale says he totally supports McMullin's hiring, and has no problem putting his ego aside. For one, it has freed Lauderdale to do more things he's passionate about, such as visiting customers and working on product development, and less time doing operational tasks he doesn't care for. And the dynamic between both executives, says Lauderdale, is a great example of playing to each other's strengths.

“Adam is super-polished and is great at operational efficiency,” Lauderdale says. “He's really good at getting into all the details.”

There's also a hint of dejà vu in bringing in McMullin. In its early days, Voalte had another seasoned executive who worked with and mentored Lauderdale. Rob Campbell, who worked for Steve Jobs and Bill Gates in his career, was involved in Voalte from the beginning through 2013. Campbell and Lauderdale met at the University of Florida, where Campbell was a guest lecturer in a business school class Lauderdale took.

“From the beginning of Voalte, it's never really been Trey-centric,” says Lauderdale. “I take a really methodical and pragmatic view of the company.”

'Youthful Exuberance'
A Toronto native who partially grew up in Fort Lauderdale, McMullin also emphasizes a pragmatic approach.

That's how he tackled the challenges and opportunities at Hill-Rom, a global medical technology company with more than 10,000 employees. The company's product focus includes advancing mobility, patient monitoring and diagnostics and surgical safety. From a Hill-Rom office in North Carolina, McMullin oversaw the company's health care IT and services for five years, from 2010 to 2015. The post included full profit and loss responsibility for the unit. He also built a new leadership team, acquired a business and doubled revenue in the clinical workflow solutions department.

McMullin, 43, knew of Voalte at Hill-Rom. And once he got to know the company internally, in addition to the market opportunity, he was jazzed by one particular factor — the company's youthful exuberance.

While the office atmosphere at Voalte isn't full-on Silicon Valley free snack land, there is a millennial-fueled hue. Bright colors, whiteboards and lots of offices with sliding glass doors blanket the office. There are also a few mini-scooters to help people get around.

“For (some) people, we are their first job,” McMullin says. “I'm energized by that. You don't find that in many corporate organizations today.”

At the same time, McMullin isn't shying away from bringing more adults into the Voalte fold. One of those is Jeff Reynolds, named CFO in August. A Business Observer 40 under 40 recipient in 2006, Reynolds was previously vice president of finance at Direct Energy in Sarasota. He started his career with PricewaterhouseCoopers, and was CFO for the Sarasota Ballet for two years. “Jeff's seen what's it like to take a company from one size to another size,” McMullin says.

The combination of young and seasoned employees, says McMullin, will drive Voalte forward as it both targets more customers and aims to do more for customers. McMullin adds a key will be to remain disciplined on some basics, including rejecting opportunities that don't fit Voalte's core mission.

“The thing we do better than anyone else in the market is we provide the best view of the patient care team,” says McMullin. “We want to continue to do that. We want to continue to delight our customers.”


Local and global
Sarasota-based Voalte, a software firm that helps health care employees communicate better over smartphones, has a diverse list of hospital clients nationwide. There are more than 125 in total, including several in the local area. The list includes:

Golisano Children's Hospital of Southwest Florida in Fort Myers
Tampa General Hospital
Sarasota Memorial Hospital
Greater Baltimore Medical Center
Stanford Children's Health
Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York City
Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston
The University of Kansas Hospital
University of California San Francisco Medical Center


On the board
The board behind Sarasota-based Voalte is a high-powered, eight-member panel that's active in setting company strategy. In addition to Voalte Chairman Adam McMullin and founder Trey Lauderdale, the board includes:

William Gish: A senior director at Cerner Corp., a health care IT firm with more than $3.4 billion in assets. Cerner Capital, an affiliate of Cerner Corp., contributed to a $17 million investment in Voalte in 2015. Gish previously held leadership posts in finance, operations and IT at Sprint.

Isobel Harris: Chairwoman of the customer advisory board at PeopleFluent, a human resources software firm run by fellow Voalte board member and investor Charles Jones. She was previously a senior executive at software firm Geac Computer Corp., a Canadian firm with nearly $500 million in annual sales.

Thomas Johnson: Founded Global Imaging Systems in 1995 and took the company public in 1998. Global Imaging grew to $1.3 billion in revenue, and Johnson sold it in 2007 to Xerox.

Charles Jones: Longtime executive has run several companies, including Geac Computer Corp., and the National Post in Canada named him to its list of the country's top 25 CEOs in 2005. Jones is the managing partner and founder of Bedford Funding, which invested $36 million in Voalte in 2014.

Jeffrey Lozon: Canadian health care executive ran St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto for 17 years and was president and CEO of Revera, a senior living company. He was deputy minister of health and long-term care for the Province of Ontario from 1999 to 2000;

Michelle Teichman: Executive with PeopleFluent. Teichman has overseen several units at the firm, including software engineering and the database team.