Tapping into social networks to help individuals and their families forecast and avoid illness
Graham Dodge is the CEO of Sickweather. Similar to the way meteorological radars scan for indications of inclement weather conditions, Sickweather draws from social network conversation in real time to generate a live map of signs, trends, and outbreaks of illnesses in areas across the United States. As people publicly post about their and their loved ones’ symptoms, or report a sickness directly through the app, Sickweather sends location-based alerts and provides its users with regional forecasts scored by risk level. The company, which currently offers apps for the iPhone and Apple Watch, has been featured on Today, ABC, FOX, CBS, CNET, Mashable, NPR, and more.
EDWIN WARFIELD: The company recently completed an accelerator program in Kansas City, Missouri. Tell us about the decision to leave and return to Baltimore.
GRAHAM DODGE: How we ended up in Kansas City was the result of getting noticed by Techstars, being invited out to that program, which was a challenge. That was a tough decision to make because I was still working full-time for another company in this region. My wife and I have three kids and we couldn’t pick all of us up and move out there for four months, so it was a crossroads for me personally and professionally to decide, “Okay, I’m going to commit myself to Sickweather and do that full-time and I’m going to take this risk,” which is really what it seemed like at that time.
You know, now, in retrospect it was an opportunity that of course I would’ve done over and over again given the chance. I was really surprised. I’d never been to Kansas City. I knew nothing about it. I think I knew about K.C. Masterpiece Barbeque Sauce—which will make all my friends in K.C. laugh—but they have a thriving startup community. I’ve had the privilege to see what they’re doing well there.
I think one of the things that enables them to do really well as a startup community is combination between the community—the tech community there—the support they get from the local government—from the mayor’s office—and the support they get from their largest corporations in town, which include Sprint. Those three factors are what has really helped lift up that community. And they had Google come in and do Google Fiber, which also really helped in terms of making it sort of a tech haven.
In coming back from Kansas City, I then sought out that same community here locally, more so now that I was untethered from a full-time job of my previous career and looking for that support. Here I was, the CEO, now responsible for generating this funding to help keep the company growing. The tech community here in town, through the Tech Breakfasts that they have—which have always been really a great conduit for the community locally; through the ETC and Betamore and other programs like that, that we’ve been involved in and started to really leverage as much as we can to make additional contacts, to meet investors locally, to meet advisors. You know, we really got a taste for that initially in Kansas City and then came back here to Baltimore and we’ve been able to quickly identify who we want to align ourselves with—a co-working space that has that incubator-slash-accelerator feel where we can meet other members of the tech community and work side by side and have that same environment again here in Baltimore. What I found is that Baltimore does have all of that as well, and it’s very vibrant here. We’re excited to be a Baltimore company and be part of this community.
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