How a missed appointment led to an award-winning venture

12 Dec 2018

Martina Skelly. Image: YellowSchedule

YellowSchedule’s Martina Skelly tells us how her company is reducing no-shows and waiting times in the healthcare sector.

Martina Skelly is co-founder and CEO at YellowSchedule, an online appointment-booking platform.

Co-founded in Limerick alongside Michael Skelly, YellowSchedule enables clinics and behavioural health professionals to streamline their appointments process.

Skelly has an extensive background in digital marketing and software development. She is also co-founder of SportsTech Ireland, a not-for-profit cluster initiative that aims to position the mid-west region as an international sports tech hub.

Voted Vodafone Startup Businesswoman of the Year in 2013, Skelly has also been on’s radar for some time now, featuring in our Women Invent 100 in 2014, as well as being recognised as an influencer and an entrepreneur in the Limerick start-up scene earlier this year.

Describe your role and what you do.

My role is CEO of YellowSchedule and my main focus is growing the business and developing our strategic partnerships. We work mainly with clients in the behavioural health sector, within several distinct verticals, and I need to ensure that we are always communicating our value proposition effectively. I correlate customer feedback on the product and take that on board as we plan the product roadmap.

How do you prioritise and organise your working life?

It’s important in small businesses to ensure that some of your time is spent working ‘on’ the business in planning and strategy as opposed to just ‘in’ the business being reactive. I plan on an annual, quarterly, monthly and weekly basis, and include some strategic time. I have my monthly targets and key projects, and I revisit those weekly. The last thing I do before I leave the office on Friday is plan the following week’s priorities and tasks.

What are the biggest challenges facing your sector and how are you tackling them?

Behavioural health is massively underfunded; spending in many areas continues to be cut yet patient demand is increasing year on year. Waiting lists are long and access is an issue. Our product enables healthcare providers to significantly reduce their no-shows, increase patient adherence to programmes and reduce their waiting list.

We deliver a positive ROI so our value proposition is strong. However, convincing customers in a stressed marketplace to spend more money and adopt new systems isn’t always easy.

What are the key sector opportunities youre capitalising on?

The pressure on finances is an opportunity for us to communicate our value and show how a good back-end system can automate the admin, reduce no-shows substantially, and help organisations deploy their staff and resources more effectively. An impact report released by ‘Capitalize for Kids’ in August underscored the effect that YellowSchedule, and online scheduling, has had for care providers.

YellowSchedule was implemented into the George Hull Centre for Children and Families in Canada. The foundation reported a 35pc drop in no-shows. There was also over $120,000 in healthcare value created and an 800pc return on investment. The foundation is now taking steps to integrate the solution in centres across Canada.

Some of the demand is being led by patients, especially in the private sector. They are used to being able to schedule online in other sectors and want to be able to do the same for their healthcare requirements.

‘A missed ENT appointment for my eldest daughter actually sparked this entire journey’

What set you on the road to where you are now?

A missed ENT appointment for my eldest daughter actually sparked this entire journey. I had no reminder, had waited six months for the appointment and ultimately was an unwitting no-show. We had to go back into the waiting list and cost someone else the potential of that appointment. Given that the health system was and still is under such financial pressure, I believed that technology should be better leveraged to automate many of these processes.

I’ve always liked solving problems, had a technology background and, ultimately, convinced my brother to come on board as co-founder.

What was your biggest mistake and what did you learn from it?

I think charging too little for the product early on is a mistake a lot of start-ups make. If you are going to compete on low price alone, there is always someone who will come and do what you’re doing cheaper. Low cost isn’t a sustainable value proposition. Larger customers and partners shy away from low cost; they are risk-averse and want to know that you are charging appropriately and can get the job done.

How do you get the best out of your team?

Work-life balance is really important. I believe in respecting that balance for myself and the team. We’ve created a respectful and positive environment with flexibility. I believe if people have enough time to refresh and energise themselves in their free time, they bring the best of themselves into work.

STEM sectors receive a lot of criticism for a lack of diversity in terms of gender, ethnicity and other demographics. Have you noticed a diversity problem in your sector? What are your thoughts on this and whats needed to be more inclusive?

There is undoubtedly a diversity issue in the sector. It is improving, but slowly. For most of us, it is probably more comfortable to turn up to work every day and be surrounded by people who think like us, look like us and share our world views. It’s an easy fit. As leaders, however, we all need to push ourselves outside our comfort zone to learn, and that includes working with a diverse range of people who can lead us to a deeper understanding of complex issues.

‘If you are going to compete on low price alone, there is always someone who will come and do what you’re doing cheaper’

It is important to note that this is not about altruism. Your organisation simply cannot have a 360 view of any problem if most employees are from the same demographic. I believe that quotas are part of the solution along with education, mentoring and more visible role models.

Who is your role model and why?

As one of the co-founders of SportsTech Ireland, I’m very interested in sporting role models. I think the discipline, focus, drive and resilience they need to deploy is something that business leaders can learn a lot from.

I admire business leaders who have managed to steer their companies for a sustained period of time. Anyone can be lucky for a short period of time, but companies that have survived, grown, changed and adapted show a leadership that is always cognisant of what’s coming next.

I think of people like Anne Heraty of CPL and Susan Spence of software firm SoftCo, who have grown their respective companies into international market leaders. They are also actively mentoring younger companies and women in business, and Susan sponsored the Irish women’s hockey team before they were famous!

What books have you read that you would recommend?

I recently read Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup back to back with Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike. Bad Blood is the extraordinary story of blood testing company Theranos led by Elizabeth Holmes. The culture of fear, fraud and lies couldn’t be a bigger contrast to the scrappy, passionate, determined culture of Nike in the early years. Both great reads for anyone interested in creating company values and how the culture of a company comes from the top down.

What are the essential tools and resources that get you through the working week?

I’m big into streamlining and efficiency, things that keep me focused and on track. Bullet journalling works really well for me and I’ve tried every other method.

I use GoToMeeting for online meetings (85pc of our customers are in North America). Pipedrive is a simple but effective sales pipeline management tool that integrates with my emails.

I use Teamwork Desk from Irish software company to effectively manage our support tickets. And I use Intercom, another Irish company, to segment our customers and leads, and use the action-based prompts to message our key prospects with relevant information at the right time as they are trialling our product.

Want stories like this and more direct to your inbox? Sign up for Tech Trends, Silicon Republic’s weekly digest of need-to-know tech news.