What a year it has been.
From the global pandemic affecting us all, to me writing my first annual letter as the founder of a wellbeing and technology startup. This year serves as a demarcation of change or transition for many.
This letter comes as Commonly Well is six months new. A lot has happened since July 1 and the official launch. Also, a lot hasn’t happened that likely should have due to COVID.
Commonly believes that wellbeing and purpose should be possible for all. We will work with and build new ecosystems that default to wellbeing. And we’ll develop and use social and technology tools to power self-discovery and purpose.
My goal with this letter is first and foremost to set a precedent and tone for transparent operation and communication of Commonly Well’s work. Commonly Well was structured as a public benefit company, and in 2021, it will seek and attain B Corporation Certification. This letter meets those standards.
Second, I plan to keep this letter short and structured. What lies ahead will be one part reflective—looking at the good and bad in the rearview mirror. It will be another part responsive—looking at what our customers and the market are saying and what it means for us. And it will be one part forecasting—looking ahead to where we’re going.
For many years, I got to learn how to do this by reviewing and reading annual letters prepared by one of our directors, Kevin Kirby. I strive to reach the level of confidence and clarity he presented in those letters.
For that, and for the support each of you have given me to get to this place, I am forever grateful.
How We Did
Building Credibility and Value
Commonly Well was born from the desire to bring the Recovery Capital Index to a commercial market. We did not know at the beginning of 2020 that the economy would grind to a halt because of a global pandemic. Thankfully, we had momentum and a network to cultivate.
The single most important accomplishment for us was securing our relationship with Palm Beach County Community Services, and expanding our contract to bring the RCI to more providers and agencies. This anchor customer has helped build the commercial foundation of the product, shoring up its viability and growth potential.
The next success was finalizing a 5-year RCI licensing arrangement with Face It TOGETHER. This arrangement ensures a downstream benefit to Face It TOGETHER, while securing development rights. This has allowed emerging integration partnerships to take place. For example, we will partner with NuLife Virtual to make the RCI the leading assessment that drives treatment navigation, content matching, and long-term care management. Two other integrations are currently under consideration, including a recovery-oriented content platform and an organization that is reimagining the transition of active duty military to civilian society.
At the close of the year, we had 5 RCI partners: Palm Beach County, Homeward Pikes Peak, St. Lawrence Health System, Face It TOGETHER, and the University of Texas El Paso.
Our pipeline is growing and we have multiple proposals under review. But, we have work to do on the product to attract a larger customer base and make onboarding easier.
Although Commonly Well’s immediate focus is the RCI, my experience in designing peer models and customer experiences presented meaningful opportunities.
Thrive Behavioral Health hired us to design a self-pay strategy for virtual peer coaching. Our hope is to continue working with Thrive to execute that strategy in 2021.
And, St. Lawrence Health System hired us to develop a quality management system for their peer support program. This work will improve the quality of care and further mainstream addiction care into St. Lawrence Health’s primary care clinics.
These consulting relationships are important because they extend the value we provide to an industry needing deeper and more impactful strategies to transform more lives. These projects also provide much needed revenue, but more importantly, they build credibility, further our vision, and elevate the brand.
From an income statement perspective, we earned just more than $200,000 in total income. However, we ended the year with a negative net income of just less than $20,000. The primary contributor to the year-end loss were legal and startup expenses.
It is not lost on me that this business generated more than $200,000 in revenue in 6 months. For any small business this is a great achievement. But for a new endeavor during a pandemic is incredible and further signals our value in the marketplace. And while economic indicators are poor, on their face, at the outset, this is a signal that stakeholders align with our vision.
The third accomplishment was establishing new brand identities for both Commonly Well and the RCI.
We hired Henriksen Studio to reimagine both identities.
The new Commonly Well logo is designed to evoke a sense of playfulness buttressed by stability.
The new Recovery Capital Index logo represents the puzzle or maze that is addiction, pulled together or solved by the RCI.
The brand identities share color palettes, giving cohesion between the company and the product.
Hearing the Market
Platforms will expand adoption
We are in the market and providing value to our customers and stakeholders. But more importantly, our work is improving systems and capabilities through tools that will transform significantly more lives.
The Recovery Capital Index is steadily building its presence in the market. Current customers include a county government, a small healthcare system, a homeless-centered addiction treatment provider, and a research university. Each customer is beginning to see the micro and macro value of the RCI within their community.
An adoption strategy that focuses on individual providers has great potential, simply given the data desert that exists in the addiction and behavioral health sector. Our platform is immediately interoperable, allowing us to partner with organizations seeking to minimize their technology footprint and disruption to staff.
But 2020 shined a bright light on the capability and necessity of digital health tools and platforms in addiction care. Numerous care management and electronic health record systems are advancing their reach, but they don’t provide long-term and direct value to the people receiving services. The RCI is a natural fit, adding a unique engagement layer and longitudinal outcomes measurement built into those other products.
We are already active with this strategy through our technology partner, H4 Technologies.
As indicated earlier, we will be building the RCI into the NuLife Virtual platform. The first assessment new clients will see in the NuLife app will be the short version of the RCI. We’ll launch in the spring.
And we are also exploring integrations with platforms. These efforts are focusing on placing the RCI as the lead assessment that provides direction to resources, content, and care while quantifying a person’s change in wellbeing over time.
Measurement can stand on its own, but the market is saturated with many platform technologies. The RCI will get to scale as a core feature of many platforms and products already in the market.
Where We’re Going
Growing data literacy
Commonly Well and the RCI are still in the early days of its initial life-cycle and there is much yet to be revealed.
Two things are clear.
First, despite a growing set of technology products in the space, there remains a gap between that technology and meaningful data.
This data must first improve the individual’s life, but collectively, it can help improve whole communities. Going forward, we will be focusing on impact-centered partnerships for broad distribution and adoption. We will seek partnerships with large, regional foundations who can champion and fund adoption while establishing a common language for measurement that puts the data to action for impact.
Second, the RCI has tremendous value inside healthcare providers and others delivering care, but it may also have value directly with individuals as a consumer product.
One tool in my sales process is showing my personal RCI scores over 12 months. After a potential customer takes the RCI, they immediately begin to see the personal benefits of measuring consistently over time.
We’ll find ways to test the direct to consumer market in the coming year. What we learn will not only tell us if a consumer-based product is needed, but reveal consumer insights relevant for our provider-based product and make improvements.
Either way, the RCI plays a critical role in our bold vision where communities and systems are designed with wellbeing as the default for all. Good community and system design relies on good data, which the RCI provides.
We’re helping build a muscle of measurement amongst organizations and individuals not accustomed to measurement. This will have a profound and rippling impact around those that adopt our tools and methods.
Again, thank you, and onward through 2021.
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