A New Vision for Handshake Media

On December 5, 2012, my intention as a presenter at the mHealth Summit in Washington, D.C. was to outline best practices in mobile health entrepreneurship.

I thought I knew of what I spoke. I’ve been working online since 1996. My father’s only requirement for my undergraduate education was that I take FORTRAN in 1978, setting me up for decades of skillful if-then thinking. I can’t remember Jay’s last name but when he taught me HTML in 1996, he ignited passion in me for lines of code and what they can display on screens.

Awareness gives me a chance to change

The mHealth Summit presentation was based on extensive trial-and-error learning about mobile application development. With Alex Edelman, then with Jim Schweitzer, and with the help of other developers, we had released our own portfolio of mobile applications and our behavioral health software platform Cognichoice. (Here’s our press release about the mHealth presentation on PRWeb.)

We explored the mobile app development business model (how do we pay for software development costs when users want their apps for free?!) , disclosed transparently how much a mobile app really costs to develop, including sharing the numbers for one of our own apps, and revealed the extensively detailed work that goes into creating a mobile app before the first line of code is written. We did our market research on health apps and found enormous competition.

We believed powerfully in our software and plowed determinedly ahead.

But here’s the rub for health apps. Health apps aren’t asked to just be useful or helpful.

“Does it work?”

“Does it do no harm?”

The medical profession and the health care industry demand definitive answers to those questions before they’ll recommend a product or service to patients or customers. The gold standard for a definitive answer in health care is a randomized control trial, or RCT.

We were able to collaborate with a health care entity to attempt a lesser standard – a pilot study – with our software. The entire process is confidential so I wrote with circumspection about the steps required to do health app research here.

Whether you think your health app is a treatment or not, the health care industry thinks an app is a treatment and it will require you to conduct research to prove that your app works and does no harm. An mHealth developer needs to know that research takes time and costs time which is antithetical to the lean startup model and burns most startups’ thin capital like tissue paper.
– Anne Giles, mHealth Zone Live interview, May 2, 2013

. . . . .

The night before my presentation at the mHealth Summit, the most important thing for me to do was not review my notes, not arrange my business suit on a chair for the next day, not start to unwind to prepare for a good night’s sleep. What was most important for me to do was get glasses of wine. Not a glass. Glasses. No mind that at the convention center bar cabernet sauvignon cost $15 per glass.

Twenty-three days later, on December 28, 2012, I got sober.

. . . . .

Terrified by the stigma surrounding addiction, I didn’t tell anyone, including my business partners. Sick from going without alcohol, I still attempted to lead a crowdfunding campaign to further develop Cognichoice, agreed to between the end of the mHealth Summit and my sobriety date. I wrote of my growing  unease about the process two weeks in.

Missing from the rah-rah about contributions-based crowdfunding is the news that a percentage of the funding received will pay taxes. In my mind, my for-profit startup is a cause, but cause or not, people buy products and services from for-profit companies. If it’s not from investors, what is the term for money given to a for-profit company? A contribution? A donation? I have attorney Ken Maready’s permission to quote his answer: “Whether you call it a contribution or a donation, the IRS is going to call it revenue.”
– Anne Giles, Lessons Learned from Two Weeks of Crowdfunding, January 30, 2013

I was so grateful to the sweet people who contributed! However, I wrote about bitter lessons learned a month after the campaign ended. (My adamant advice to startups about crowdfunding? Don’t.)

. . . . .

By the time I presented at the Virginia Counselors Association Convention on November 8, 2013, our mHealth entrepreneurship could be summarized in one word: failure. The audio recording at the mHealth Summit didn’t work so no one other than the hundred or so in attendance heard it. Our crowdfunding campaign failed (we netted about $3K, $97K short of the standard $100K needed to fund serious app development). Our pilot study failed. (I can’t say more than an insufficient number of participants were enrolled to even test if the app “worked,” i.e. resulted in measurable, positive outcomes.)

For the Virginia Counselors Association Convention, I prepared so thoroughly to lead a round table discussion on mobile health technology for mental illnesses.

One person attended.

Quit, right?! Just quit! Too much uphill battling, too much failure!

. . . . .

I cried most of my first year of sobriety. I finally told my business partners and received their kind and full support. Resigning myself to the shame of alcoholism, I had banned myself from writing about my struggles so, when my mind could work, I pondered mobile health app research and by early December of 2013, I had worked out the beginnings of a way to use the fundamentals of our software platform, Cognichoice, in a simple mobile application to help people like I am, people who struggle with addiction, and need 24-7 help to not drink or use.

Thanks to the heroic efforts of Alex and Jim, in an unprecedented one-month-from-idea-to-product, we were able to release our free addictions recovery mobile application,  New2Recovery, on January 6, 2014. (Here’s the New2Recovery press release on PRWeb.)

I was 1 year and 8 days sober.

Drinking and using is one kind of hell. Abstinence is another. I sobbed most of the way through the development of New2Recovery and remain in awe of Alex’s and Jim’s patience with me and belief in the project. Years 2 and 3 were intermittently anguish-filled and I pretty much withdrew from society and from business, although I did share publicly on April 28, 2014, that I was in recovery from alcohol abuse disorder. I’ve only started recently to feel better for longer periods of time.

For 23 years, I lived in Tampa, Florida, home of an average of 246 days of sunshine per year. That bounty of bright days was like my creativity prior to beginning to drink in 2006. After 6 years of drinking and 3 years of abstinence, for me, feeling better in recovery from alcohol use disorder is like lightning bugs on a summer night. I feel tiny bursts of inspiration.

One of those bursts is to relaunch Handshake Media, Incorporated, founded in 2008, but with very little activity from 2013-2015. For the rebirth of Handshake Media in 2016, I hired Laurel Sindewald as Executive Director on January 1 and we’re exploring possibilities with delightful synergy.

Another of those bright bursts gives me longing to issue an updated release of New2Recovery. We have generous, specific feedback from users about what they’d like. We still haven’t figured out how to make money from mobile apps, but there’s just enough in the business account to cover a few enhancements.

I’m moved to new tears that our original New2Recovery team members – Alex Edelman and Jim Schweitzer – are willing to consider the project again more than 2 years after the original release, and that they will be joined by Laurel Sindewald.

So, no, I’m not quitting – not at sobriety, not at life, not at business. I also have no inspirational, meme-worthy adages to offer. This has been quite a thing.

Awareness gives us a chance to change. We’re becoming aware of opportunities for Handshake Media, Incorporated and its new vision is evolving. Here’s what we’ve got going so far:

For their support and patience, we thank our past and current clients, and friends and fans of Handshake Media’s 8-year effort to become a useful and profitable company, and welcome suggestions and guidance as we begin anew in 2016.

With gratitude,

Anne Giles, M.A., M.S.
Handshake Media, Incorporated
Since 2008

. . . . .

If you’re interested, my presentation for the mHealth Summit 2012 was entitled “The Entrepreneurial Clinician: What Clinicians with Great Ideas for Health Care Mobile Apps Need to Know” and I was one of about half a dozen panelists in a session entitled “What Goes into Making an Extraordinary mHealth App?” Since the audio recording setup didn’t work during my presentation, I came home and recorded my slide presentation in this YouTube video.




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