Mount Sterling native and University of Kentucky graduate Sam Razor is a co-founder of Hippo Manager, a Lexington-based software company for the veterinary industry. Razor and his company have secured funding from the top three venture capital investment companies in Central Kentucky.
He talked with Tom Martin about how Hippo Manager came about, what services it provides, and what the future might hold.
Q: You have built practice management software from the ground up for your company. Why do you focus on veterinarians?
A: My co-founder, Bart Conrad, and I started our careers at a company called DVM Manager, which was based in Versailles, and they did server-based veterinary practice management software. That company was bought and relocated and subsequently shut down after we left about 10 years ago. We wanted to start something together, and we knew the space. We were amazed by the opportunity that existed, so we just jumped right in.
Q: You graduated from UK. What was your major?
A: My undergraduate degree at UK was in political science. And my graduate degree from EKU was in public administration.
Q: How did that education transfer to the software business?
A: My master’s has a public health focus. I enjoy policy, and the data side of it has always been an interest to me; looking at data trends. Regardless of the context of the data, it’s something I enjoy looking at.
Q: We are here in the “horse capital of the world,” Central Kentucky. Did that influence your decision to focus on veterinary needs?
A: Absolutely. There are tons of opportunities here because of the equine cluster in the area. And really, I’m a pet owner, as Bart and most of the people in the office are. It’s something that we all feel passionate about, so it’s just kind of a natural fit, bringing together that love of animals and the software side of things.
Q: Do you guys bring your pets to work?
A: Not as much as we’d like. We’re still trying to figure out how that works best. We’re located downtown, so I’m not sure that it’s a comfortable environment for the animals. But we’d love to find a space at some point that’s a little more pet friendly.
Q: Let’s talk about your client base. It might be obvious locally, but as I understand it, it’s more broad than that?
A: Absolutely. Our customer base is reflective of the market. It’s about 80 percent small animals, 20 percent mixed and large animals. We do have clients in Kentucky of course, but also across the country and then 17 other countries.
Q: OK. I’m a veterinarian. I want to use Hippo Manager. What’s it going to do for me?
A: We’re an “A to Z” solution for vets. Everything from scheduling medical records, point-of-sale, billing, inventory management, client communications, emails, all those sort of things. So, if you’re a new vet starting up a practice, you don’t have to buy all these different types of software, since we’re cloud-based.
We’re pretty amazed at the barrier to entry for folks who wanted to start a new practice, the amount of capital investment they have to make just on the software and computer side of things. We can provide a better solution.
Q: There seems to be growing interest in the midwest for investment in tech startups. In fact, this region is seeing growth where the East and West coasts are not. Are you seeing any of that locally?
A: Absolutely. We’re fortunate enough to be able to raise our money here in town. We had a lot of opportunity from outside, but we felt that it was important for us to be in Lexington and to stay here. So we wanted to work with local partners. A lot of people worked hard over the last several years to establish an entrepreneur-friendly climate and it’s worked really well for us to help us grow our business.
Q: Can you put into words what it is that makes you want to stay in Lexington?
A: You know I think it’s almost cliché at this point, but it’s the quality-of-life issue. It’s a great town. It offers a lot of the opportunity and entertainment that a much bigger city has, but it’s still a really small town, so you get a little of both worlds. And it’s pretty accessible. I think it’s a nice place to live and it’s an easy place to get to other places from.
Q: What trends in your industry are you watching closely these days?
A: The migration from server-based systems to cloud-based systems is obviously one that we’re very interested in. It’s a rapidly growing sector. People love their pets, they spend a lot of money on them, so it brings a lot of interest from other areas and one of those is going to be regulatory.
We do prescription management where you can issue prescriptions through the system, printing off your labels and that sort of thing. As the sector grows, I think we expect that to become more regulated and more in line with the human side of things.
Some other trends include data ownership and data ownership rights. We believe that the data belongs to the vets. Not every company in our space feels that way. So, the management and regulation of the clients’ privacy and the practices’ privacy — who owns that data — is going to be something we’ll see changing in the future.
Q: Is there any division between micro data that’s specific to a veterinarian that for competitive reasons they may not want to share with other vets, versus macro data that everybody is providing that might be useful to all?
A: Yeah. There is some pretty good overlap and gray areas between the two. On the human side of things, there are pretty clear divisions on what counts as micro and macro data that can be anonymized and those data-sets can be used for different things. On the vet side it’s not nearly as clear, so we follow the human model which is a much more strict interpretation. But we feel like it’s important to give people that peace of mind — not only the practices, but their customers, as well, that in exchanging that data we’re going to err on the side of privacy.
Q: And what are the advantages to moving to the cloud?
A: It represents an enormous savings opportunity for folks and also, it’s a little counterintuitive, but it’s also a much more secure environment. If you’re a mobile vet and you’re going to the field, you have a laptop with all your data on it, and if somebody were to get into your car and take that computer, it’s gone and there’s nothing you can do about it.
We’re hosted with Amazon, so everything is always encrypted. You don’t have the server cost or the maintenance cost. You don’t have to set up networks. We have some clinics that have very complicated networks, they’ve got multi-locations where those things all connect to one another and all those things can be very expensive to own and operate. And we just take all that off the plate for the vet so that they can really focus on veterinary medicine and not worry about things like IT infrastructure.
Q: Are you anticipating growth for your company?
A: We had a really exciting year with a lot of growth. I think that’s probably going to be the trend for us for the next 36 months or so. And as we’re gaining market share in different segments, being able to grow the team where it’s appropriate. It’s been exactly what we wanted it to be so far with all indicators still pointing in that direction.
Tom Martin’s Q&A appears every two weeks in the Herald-Leader’s Business Monday section. This is an edited version of the interview. To listen to the interview, find the podcast on Kentucky.com. The interview also will air on WEKU-88.9 FM on Mondays at 7:35 a.m. during Morning Edition and at 5:45 p.m. during “All Things Considered.”