Software Firm Targets Behavior Health Care
May 01, 2017 08:08PM
By Makayla Gay
By Brandy Woods Snow
Photography By Amy Randall Photography
“I bet my husband could create a software program to automate this process.”
With those words, the beginnings of Netalytics, LLC took root.
When Mark Essex graduated from Clemson with a computer science degree, he and his wife, Karen, moved to Atlanta to pursue job opportunities. She took a position as a methadone counselor in a clinic operated entirely on pen and paper with no computer system. After handwriting takeout labels day in and day out, Karen uttered those now famous words that set the wheels of fate in motion. That’s where Methasoft, the initial product offering, was born as a label-writing program for a methadone clinic in 1995.
Now in 2017, Netalytics is a complete electronic medical record (EMR) specifically designed for medication-assisted treatment facilities, most specifically methadone and buprenorphine clinics where addictions to heroin and prescription opiates are treated.
A year after the initial opportunity resulted in Essex writing the first version of Methasoft, a second clinic asked for a demonstration. A year after that, a third clinic contacted him. Each clinic requested several specific new features, which Essex accommodated, and by the time the fourth clinic called in 1999, he had fine-tuned the software as well as his business model.
“For two more years, I sold about one system per year while also working a 60-hour work week at my full-time job. I knew it was time to see whether this was a viable company or if I needed to let it go and focus on my current career.”
In 2001, Mark and Karen put together a new website, finished a demo CD and updated marketing collateral with a plan to push the Methasoft product at the American Association for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence, Inc. (AATOD) conference. There, they met with several prospects and initiated a dialogue with Cebert Pharmaceuticals, who was searching for a software development partner.
“Afterwards, I made follow-up calls, conducted several on-site demonstrations, and met with Cebert but still had no signed contracts,” says Essex. “It was decision time. This was post-dotcom bust, when you didn’t quit a good paying job, and here I was seriously thinking of quitting my job to pursue my dream. I had six customers, several ‘maybes’ and a decent shot at signing a sales partnership with Cebert—all with no guarantees.”
The gamble paid off in 2002, when Netalytics partnered with Cebert and signed up 28 new sites to run the Methasoft program. The dramatic growth
required the hiring of additional staff, and consequently, a move back to Greenville.
“We always planned on moving back home to Greenville, and with the new growth and blooming opportunities in the area, it seemed like the perfect time,” says Essex. At the end of 2002, Netalytics opened its new office on Pettigru Street with four additional employees. By 2005, the company had eight employees and relocated to Trade Street in Greer, and in late 2016, with 24 employees, they have moved into a new office in the completely remodeled old Greer Mill gymnasium. The current space has room that will allow the company to grow to 60+ employees.
Says Essex, “Though I don’t expect to hit 60 employees any time soon, we do expect explosive growth in our business over the next three years due to the opioid epidemic across the country.”
With six direct competitors in the niche market, Netalytics enjoys a 40 percent market share and is currently working toward 50 percent over the next three years. “Most of our competitors are not headquartered close by, and that has allowed us to maintain a strong presence in the Southeast. We are also currently installed in almost 600 clinics nationwide as well as in over 100 locations in the United Kingdom, including many prisons there.”
The company’s focus on customer service and emphasis on cutting-edge technology will be key in expanding its market share.
“Our customer service has set us apart from many competitors since day one. The chief complaint we heard from potential clients was lackluster support, and we knew this was where we could focus our efforts and capitalize on opportunities.”
When Netaltyics presented to Cebert in 2001, they were the smallest of the software vendors being interviewed for the partnership. As a “one-man-show,” Essex chose to differentiate his company by gearing the entire presentation to the customer service side of the business.
“Afterwards, when Cebert presented us with their vision, the very first slide in the presentation said ‘We want to be number one in customer service.’ At that moment, we knew we’d found the best fit.”
Netalytics also stepped out as a technology leader in the market. While many competitors were DOS-based, the company introduced a Windows-based product in 1995. Shortly thereafter, Essex moved from an Access database to an enterprise-level SQL Server database. And while today’s technology continues to move at an unbelievable pace, Essex notes that complacency will only get you quickly left behind. Consequently, he anticipates staying ahead of the technology curve going forward by hiring experienced people with industry knowledge and foresight as well as assessing new applications to benefit the business model.
“Location-based services, cloud computing and predictive analysis are keys areas in which we are investing in an effort to continue our growth and outpace the competition. We push the technology, and while we aren’t ‘bleeding edge,’ we always strive to be ‘leading edge.’”
While Karen and Mark’s blood, sweat, and tears have built the business from the ground up, they also credit some of their success to being located in a vibrant community with invaluable resources.
“With its easy access to an international airport and great quality of life, Greenville was the best place to grow our business. Clemson University provided us with several of our first software developers who were critical in building the product, and my relationship with NEXT has allowed me to meet regularly with other entrepreneurs to discuss issues, ideas and solutions to common problems.”
Essex also credits the NEXT Venture Mentoring Service with providing mentors who volunteer coaching each month for area CEOs.
“I hope one day, I have the expertise to give back in a program like NEXT VMS.”
In the meantime, Essex, his wife and his Netalytics family strive not only for business success but also for community success. For the last several years, the staff has adopted an annual tradition of collecting food and money at Thanksgiving for Greer Relief as well as participating in various mission trips, focusing on construction projects with homes, schools, and churches.
“It’s an eye-opening experience that works on your heart,” says Essex. “If you really want to understand how important it is to give back, volunteer and witness the look of sheer gratitude on the faces of those you are able to help. It’s a terrific, life-changing experience.”