In August of 2017 my life took a dramatic turn. I woke up in the back of an ambulance, disoriented and scared, with a paramedic asking for my wife's phone number—which I couldn't remember. She explained I'd been in a car accident, likely triggered by a seizure, and was lucky to be alive. With newborn twins and a toddler back home in Toronto, the fear was overwhelming.
That accident led to my epilepsy diagnosis. I was no stranger to the challenges of epilepsy, I'd watched my uncle struggle with it all his life. From remembering to take his meds or the side effects of trying new treatments, until ultimately, not waking up from a seizure he had in his sleep. But I was determined to not let it define me. What came next was new as well. We had never had medications in the home and with three kids under 3, I was paranoid they might get into them and I knew there had to be a smarter way to keep them at home.
A late night conversation with my best friend Ben in January 2019 revealed that he too struggled with medication safety around his two young children. Like many others, we found existing products lacking, adding friction rather than making lives easier. So, we set out on a mission to create KEEP, a stylish, modern solution for storing and managing medication safely that would also remotely monitor adherence of life saving treatments of loved ones.
The journey has been filled with many ups and downs, but the highpoints kept us going. Like our kids proudly telling their friends how "cool KEEP is" and that their dad invented it. Their excitement and pride fuelled our determination to show them that dreams can become a reality.
Fast forward to November 2019, we received a sign that our hard work was paying off: KEEP won a CES Innovation Award. We were stunned when our pre-order campaign attracted nearly 15,000 orders, confirming that we were on the right path. Then being named by TIME magazine as a Best Invention of 2020.
Then, our journey took a dark turn as the COVID-19 pandemic struck in February 2020. We faced uncertainty and wondered if our business could survive. But we persevered and adapted to the challenges. It was in this “dark” time that I met Jeff, an entrepreneur who also happened to be a pharmacist. We had finally found our missing link. And with that, we were off to the races.
Now, as we prepare for our formal launch, I reflect on the trials we've overcome and the lessons we've learned. My hope is that our story will inspire others to embark on their own journey and bet on themselves, ultimately transforming the world, one step at a time.
Lessons from the Journey
- Navigating the labyrinth of hardware development. Developing KEEP's hardware was no easy task. After a few false starts with vendors who over promised and under delivered, we finally found an outstanding partner in Aztech Technologies. With their partnership, we persevered through countless iterations, innovating and adapting to create a product we're proud of. Despite the challenges, we never lost sight of our vision.
- The importance of a great team cannot be overstated. Our team is amazing! They're experts in their fields, and their values align with ours. The collective expertise, dedication, and passion of our team members have been crucial to our success. We also learned that Founder Agreements are a must. Have uncomfortable conversations early on about expectations of each other and document it!
- Resilience and adaptability as our guiding stars. COVID-19 brought unforeseen obstacles, but we never wavered in our determination. We learned to adapt and find new ways to collaborate, proving that we can overcome any challenge when we stay focused and work together.
- Angel investors as invaluable allies. Our angel investors' belief in our mission propelled us forward. They provided not only the necessary funding but also crucial advice and connections that made a significant difference in our journey.
- Everyone wants autonomy and authority but it’s useless without accountability. Autonomy is crucial for our team members to feel empowered and motivated. By giving them the authority to make decisions and take ownership of their work, we saw a significant improvement in their performance. That being said, when we introduced accountability as a core value, some people left, but those who remained have excelled tremendously. We realized that without accountability, it's difficult to achieve our goals.
The Road Ahead
We're immensely grateful for the lessons learned, the support of our partners, and the incredible team that made it all possible. We're committed to revolutionizing medication safety and management, and we couldn't have done it without the resilience, hard work, and dedication of everyone involved. We hope our journey inspires others to pursue their dreams, overcome obstacles, and make a positive impact on the world. As a founder, my goal has always been to create the company I'd be excited to work for myself. Today, I'm thrilled to say that this dream is a reality, all thanks to each and every KEEPer, partner, and investor.