2016 Startup Internship Award Winner Supported by the Rosalind (WG’76) and Roy (WG’76) Neff Entrepreneurial Internship Fund
This past summer, I was a business development intern at RistCall. RistCall is a tech startup developing a smart watch application to replace nurse call buttons in hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living centers. The advantages of our device is allowing patients to specify what the nature of their call is (Request for food, an emergency, bathroom, etc), and coupling nurse units with the patients they’re responsible for. By doing so, nurses can see exactly which patients are calling, for what purpose, and even how long it has been since each patient made their call, all from a watch on their wrist. The goal is to enable facilities to be more efficient by allowing nurses to prioritize specific calls, and using data collected to address areas of inefficiency. Doing so should improve the patient experience, which leads to improved HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) scores for hospitals, which is going to be a critical part of receiving government funding.
I think the route in which I joined RistCall is not one often taken by students. I didn’t find RistCall through a job fair, or an online posting, or by referral. It all started when I took a chance to visit Dreamit Ventures, a venture capital and startup accelerator designed for mature startups. Dreamit Ventures has their office at 3401 Market Street. Within is a multitude of different startups spread over 2 floors. I took this tour as a chance to explore the startup scene of Philadelphia, as well as to see what life at a startup is like. RistCall was one of the many startups I encountered that day.
Honestly, I was blown away right from the start. The founder and CEO of RistCall, Srinath Vaddepally gave all of the students on the tour a quick summary of the business model, before quickly moving onto what we were REALLY interested in, the device. As someone who’s experienced firsthand how frustrating it is to press your call nurse button countless times and get no response, the idea of being able to receive feedback and improve this interaction appealed right from the start. I asked Srinath if RistCall was accepting interns that summer, and after an interview or two there I was, one of 3 interns working in Philadelphia.
I spent 10 weeks at RistCall, and during that time I got to touch many different aspects of the business. I spent time researching changes in the healthcare industry so RistCall could continuously adapt to change. Part of that entailed coming up with presenting new business opportunities for RistCall to Srinath; looking for different ways we could leverage our product to appeal to healthcare facilities. Another part involved contacting individuals who had academic expertise in the field we were trying to break into, and asking them what they thought of our device, and how we could improve it.
I also spent a great deal of time on the marketing side of business. One of the largest takeaways I have from this summer is just how much time and effort is spent at startups trying to find target customers. As a new player in the large field of healthcare technology, we had to make sure every time we corresponded with a possible customer we had a message specifically tailored to their situation. This meant compiling large lists of possible candidates and conducting research on each facility or individual. This might sound like busy work, and in some ways it was. But something I’m very thankful for is that Srinath communicated with me at every step of the way, detailing how my work was playing into the larger picture at RistCall and how valuable it was. It also helped that he had done many of these same steps by himself before. Leading by example is a crucial part of being an effective leader, and Srinath elevated every intern and employee by demonstrating his own commitment, dedication, and work ethic.
Overall, I had a fantastic experience interning at RistCall this summer. As a small startup, I got to see firsthand how my work was affecting the overall business. My work mattered, and that is perhaps the most flattering feeling an intern can experience. I also had the unique opportunity to travel to healthcare facilities and help pitch our product with my fellow interns alone, devoid of supervision. I think that experience was the most fulfilling I had all summer. Srinath trusted us interns to be the face and front-man of our company. I will never forget that experience and level of trust, and judging from our reactions at lunch afterwards, neither will my fellow interns.
Thank you, RistCall, for giving me the most amazing summer and first internship experience. If there is one piece of advice I’d give to anyone looking for an amazing internship it’d be this: Look for a startup where your work as an intern will be valued. It will make every part of your day easier, and at the end of your internship, you’ll be able to look back proudly and say “This is what I did, and this is how it mattered.” It cannot be understated how gratifying that is, and how thankful I am for that experience this summer.