David Smith and Alexandra Fisher, co-founders of Sherpa, a senior living CRM platform that helps providers follow an empathetic process, tell us about their company and how LaunchCode has become an integral partner in making their company and mission successful.
Alexandra Fisher: Sherpa grew out of a need to support a sales theory first developed by David and then later broadly adopted, both by me and many other successful sales professionals in the senior housing industry. As David and I developed and deepened the theory, which revolves around helping people navigate decisions and change with specific emotional frameworks, we needed to find a way to scale and support the sales behaviors proven to be most effective.
David Smith: Sherpa is homegrown and contains patented workflows which were built on decades of research and practical application in our field. It is the sophisticated tool we never had while coaching and encouraging sales professionals.
We are a local company with a vision to marry empathy and technology in an effort to help people navigate life changes in a meaningful way. A lot of the theory was developed and honed in my development of The Gatesworth, by Delmar and I-170. In my career, I’ve owned more than seven retirement communities in four states and learned how to sell to fill the buildings.
Alex helped refine that theory and baked it into Sherpa. Prior to our launch, we raised about $5 million in capital and have achieved profitability in less than three years. We’ve also recently received a significant valuation, and are encouraged by our indicators of future growth.
AF: For over a decade now, we’ve been thinking about how best to automate and scale these processes. In early 2005, when there were fewer options for good technology, we used a manual process to manage the selling process in our industry. It wasn’t scalable. So we started conceiving this idea of an application, what would it look like? How would it interface with users?
Sherpa launched in June of 2014. We started as a small shop. Our CTO, Adam Levinson, was the lead engineer at Integrity, a local shop and fantastic partner who built Sherpa’s MVP. After Adam came on board with Sherpa full-time in 2014, we experienced rapid growth in our development team.
We considered outsourcing... But it was important for us to have a local team. It was important for us to build the St. Louis workforce and give people an opportunity.
Our journey wasn’t always certain. We weren’t necessarily sure where to look for talent and how to grow a local, St. Louis-based team. We considered outsourcing or looking at other places that could build our app and technology. But it was important for us to have a local team. It was important for us to build the St. Louis workforce and give people an opportunity.
DS: Our limited exposure to the the tech world prior to this venture proved difficult at times. We did engage in traditional networking in the community. Through word of mouth, we were exposed to different resources including Venture Café and LaunchCode.
AF: It’s important to be able to nurture a LaunchCoder and expose them to the work environment. We’ve had success by growing LaunchCoders. Click to tweet.
Jarrett went from being an apprentice to a Junior Developer in a short amount of time. It’s helped us to have great new talent and grow talent from the bottom up. That strengthens what we do.
We use LaunchCode, and it’s important to us, because it’s an opportunity to expose a young LaunchCoder to a product with a mission. We find it’s very exciting for someone who wants to become a developer to have a product that has a sense of purpose. It’s important to grow talent, and it strengthens us in the sense of mentorship. It helps us be a local force and reflects our culture.
It’s important to grow talent, and it strengthens us in the sense of mentorship. It helps us be a local force and reflects our culture.
It’s a privilege to do this. As a business owner, you balance the risk of investment in nurturing an individual… in teaching them. But, we feel it’s so worth the investment in growing that talent. It’s good for the product we’re building and company because they grow with it. They learn through this product we’re building. It’s theirs. They learn the language — not just a programming language — but the language of the application. They learn how to speak that language and then advocate for that product.
AF: It’s been a great move for us to hire LaunchCoders. We’ve had great success. Jarrett Pon is one example of a LaunchCoder who started with us and was quickly promoted. He was able to contribute in a meaningful way to the team very quickly. Not all situations are a good fit, but letting both sides figure it out in a structured way minimizes risk to both parties.
Another LaunchCoder, Crissa Petrovic, has also been incredible. She’s had an opportunity to really look at what she wanted to do. She was exposed to different areas of the business. She always showed up and has incredible work ethic. During her time at Sherpa, she has been able to transition into a full-time position that really fits her skills and dramatically supplements our teams.
AF: You can’t have three head chefs. A good operation relies on a combination of mature and upcoming talent. You need to strike a balance to build a complete and effective team.
DS: The same rules apply in other arenas of business. We’ve always found that the most talented sales professionals were people we were able to teach and train; people who had no prior experience. Alexandra is a great example. She was a sales support person 17 years ago. The same concept applies with our COO. Being coachable and having an open mind are huge indicators of future success.
AF: LaunchCoders are great because they are fresh, curious and are typically self-starters. Click to tweet. You certainly need to nurture them, just as you would any other member of your team, but they are worth the investment of time.
DS: The fit occurs when the passion matches what we do. It occurs if they’re as driven as we are by the mission.
AF: Yes. LaunchCoders are so passionate and eager to learn. That feeling we’ve gotten from LaunchCode is that we’re so aligned. With the people involved with LaunchCode, the LaunchCoders, you can feel that sense of purpose and drive. It’s evident. You can go to an agency and hire or contract developers but it’s very different from finding that hunger and drive to make things better that we've found in LaunchCoders.
DS: As a St. Louis native, I remember this area being devastated. The ability to continue to impact this area in a positive way and bring jobs back to the local market is exciting and meaningful for all of us.
Interview By Samantha Williams,
LaunchCode PR Manager