Sometimes, creating an all-female software company isn’t something you exactly plan for.
At least that’s the case for the four women who founded CAEK, Inc., which is in the midst of relocating its headquarters to downtown Reno.
Created in 2013 after its founders met for a mutual project in Arkansas, CAEK’s existence can be best attributed to a heavy dose of something visitors to Reno casinos are quite familiar with — good, old-fashioned chance.
“It just happened,” said co-founder Katie Lay.
These days, Lay serves as vice president of sales and business development, working alongside CEO Anna Drachenberg, COO Catherine Ganahl, and marketing and strategic planning vice president Elizabeth Green. By the way, in case you haven’t noticed, the first letters of their names are the inspiration for the name CAEK.
Lay says she continues to meet people who express surprise about her company’s all-female composition, including its software development team. The company is not expected to stay this way for long, however. With plans to grow from its current staff of nine to about 60 people by the end of next year and 150 in the next five years, CAEK’s employee demographics should see a notable shift. That’s just fine for Lay.
“I don’t like to think of us as a female-founded software technology company,” Lay said. “I like to think of us as a software technology company that happen to be founded by women.”
TurboTax of HIPAA
Serendipity is just part of the equation that gave rise to CAEK. The company also owes its existence to the complicated beast that is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act or HIPAA.
Signed into law by former Pres. Bill Clinton in 1996, the healthcare privacy law continues to be an intimidating boondoggle for medical offices to navigate. The law’s final rules, for example, were not released until 2013, Lay said.
“So you’re talking about a set of regulatory legislation that is very, very new,” Lay said. “It is also extremely complicated and very detailed so it’s very difficult for practitioners whose focus every day is patient care to comply with it.”
Unlike a Renown Health, which has the size to employ its own compliance staff, smaller physician or dental offices with just six staff members do not have the same resources, Lay said. Just because a practice is smaller does not mean that the potential fines and penalties scale down should they be found in violation.
Lay pointed to Catholic Health Care Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, which was fined $650,000 in July for failing to adequately secure an employee iPhone that contained confidential patient information. The provider also was found to have inadequate risk analysis and management plans.
“This was a larger organization so they will probably be financially OK after this,” Lay said. “For a smaller dental practice, however, that puts them out of business.”
It’s a problem that CAEK had in mind when it designed its flagship product LayerCompliance. Described by Lay as a software that works like TurboTax for HIPAA compliance, LayerCompliance provides an easy, customized risk analysis for smaller practices, only requiring them to click on buttons and fill out information fields. Once the assessment is done, the software provides recommendations, if needed, that medical practices can enact in order stay in compliance.
The software also automates HIPAA compliance through the everyday business processes of a client as opposed to annual audits with an old-fashioned policy manual. In case a breach occurs or equipment with confidential medical information such as a smartphone or laptop is lost stolen, LayerCompliance provides documentation that can be reviewed by regulators or auditors.
It’s service that is seeing growing demand, according to the company.
“We work with clients of all size,” Lay said. “Right now we have a little over 300 current clients.”
Biggest little move
As CAEK makes the move from a startup to a full-fledged company, its founders started to think more seriously about scaling up and where to best locate its headquarters.
Lay, who was born and raised in northwest Arkansas, continues to have a soft spot for their Fayetteville location but admitted to challenges when it came to hiring staff.
“It’s a good place if you deal with consumer packed goods … but it’s not necessarily the best talent pool for information security or software development,” Lay said. “We also needed to raise capital and resources were limited there as well.”
Other destinations the company considered included Austin, Texas, where Lay was based, as well as Seattle, Salt Lake City and Southern California. Then one day, Lay received a text from CEO Drachenberg.
“All the text said was ‘What do you think about Reno?’” Lay recalled.
As it turns out, Drachenberg had a friend in Reno who mentioned the Biggest Little City as a potential option. At first, Lay didn’t know what to think of the Northern Nevada city. At the time, her preference was Austin and she didn’t know enough about Reno to form an opinion about it. Once she found out more about the city, however, she and the other founders were sold.
“We only visited for a fast couple of days but we really saw something very special in Reno,” Lay said. “Aside from the tax incentive program from the state, which is wonderful for a company our size, there’s also the tech talent and proximity to the Bay Area.”
Lay said she was also surprised by the number of people who reached out and provided advice to the company. CAEK is currently finalizing an agreement with a Fortune 500 company that was made possible because of the contacts they made as part of their move to Reno.
“The introduction came from someone in Reno who told us, ‘You know, you should talk to this person,’” Lay said. “This is our first Fortune 500 distribution partner so this is a game-changing partnership for us.”
Gov. Brian Sandoval called CAEK's arrival an important piece of Nevada's continued efforts to diversify its economy beyond gaming and tourism while continuing to improve its technology sector. Getting companies like CAEK is exactly what Sandoval says he had in mind when he spearheaded the creation of the Governor's Office of Economic Development and overhaul the state's economic development system. The fact that CAEK touches on two important sectors makes their arrival even better, Nevada's governor said.
"One thing we knew we need to improve the state is the healthcare industry," Sandoval said. "This is a sector we know technology is going to make a massive difference."
Sandoval's thoughts were echoed by Mike Kazmierski, president and CEO of the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada. Although some might not associate technology with Reno, the city's history with companies such as IGT in addition to proximity to the Bay Area makes the combination a more natural fit than people think, according to Kazmierski. CAEK's arrival also is good news for efforts to improve Reno's core, Kazmierski added.
"We are working on the revitalization of downtown and one goal is to get companies come here and grow and be part of downtown," Kazmierski said. "The relocation of CAEK is important not just for our community but also for our downtown."
With the move close to being finalized, the CAEK staff is getting ready to occupy their new space in Reno’s Arlington Towers. Lay says they are looking forward to working in the heart of downtown on Startup Row next to the creative spaces like the Reno Collective.
“I’ve been working from home everyday so I’m ready to work in something else other than my yoga pants,” Lay said. “I’m so excited.”