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Scrappy startup rolls out its appointment-reminder software

John Seelmeyer
jseelmeyer@nnbw.biz

Chris Bulen has a long list of concepts that could be developed into software projects.

Erik Hanchett has a degree in computer science and, perhaps more important, some spare time after the kids go to bed at 8 each evening.

Together, they’ve launched RemindMemo, a Reno-based company that automates the process of reminding consumers about appointments at the dentist, the lawyer or the hair salon.

Now the company’s founders, who continue to bootstrap the development of RemindMemo, face the challenge of carving a position for the service with a minimal budget for marketing and advertising.

They’ve put a little money into digital pay-per-click advertising, they’ve paid a lot of attention to search-engine optimization for the company’s Web site, and they written and distributed press releases in a bid to win attention.

But mostly, Bulen says, the founders of RemindMemo — both of whom continue to work other fulltime jobs — are counting on the product itself to begin generating word-of-mouth sales.

“We don’t have the money to do a major ad buy,” he says.

Customers pay anywhere from $29 a month for 100 reminder calls to $99 a month for 1,500 calls.

They log in to RemindMemo and enter contact and appointment information for their clients. The service automatically sends a voicemail, e-mail or text message to the client as a reminder and asks the client to confirm.

As Bulen and Hanchett make their pitch to potential users of the service, they cite third-party studies that show that automated reminders can eliminate nearly 40 percent of the no-shows in a professional’s appointment calendar.

But the field is crowded with competitors ranging from stand-alone services such as RemindMemo to larger outfits that integrate reminder calls into the practice-management systems developed for medical offices.

Bulen says the founders of RemindMemo think their company has a shot because its prices are more affordable than many competitors. Another advantage: The small company can move quickly to customize solutions for clients.

Besides, Hanchett says, much of the hard work already is completed.

Writing code late into the night after his kids were in bed, Hanchett wanted to create a product with an intuitive interface that also met the rigorous privacy requirements of federal health-care laws. The cloud-based RemindMemo is hosted in an Amazon.com data center.

Bulen, trained as a mechanical engineer, developed the company’s Web site. That’s old hat for the entrepreneur, who has been creating Web-based businesses such as an online small-loan outfit since the 1990s.

While the company doesn’t have the resources to spend big on sales and marketing, the founders’ tight control of spending also has allowed the company to reach break-even within a year after Hanchett and Bulen were introduced by a mutual friend who thought they might be able to develop products together.

The future? Bulen doesn’t make predictions.

“We don’t do five-year business plans,” he says. “Everything is way too fluid.”