Adventures in Startupland: Watching Human Centered Design Win

[I like to use my startup as an excuse for my not blogging often. But anyone who knows me also knows I’m not especially good at blogging regularly — regardless of what else is going on in my life. I have lost track of how many new leaves I’ve turned over.] 

I went to a panel discussion on startups and healthcare the other day, and one of the panelists said: “Healthcare puts the ‘no’ in ‘innovation.'”


Shift Labs started about two years ago. Two years of rushing forward, pausing at the precipice of federal regulation, chasing our engineering tail, rushing even faster forward, and then BOOM! there it is. A path to revenue. All we had to do was change our customer base. 

When is a pivot a distraction? I wonder if it’s one of those things that only hindsight can tell.

But here’s our story: a veterinary distributor/equipment inventor got wind of the Shift Labs DripClip last year, and was interested in it. We weren’t ready for primetime, but we’ve kept in touch since then. Two weeks ago he went to a major veterinary conference, and, as close as we are to production, we went with him! And by “we” I mean me and a pelican case of prototypes.

It was the first time large numbers of potential users encountered the device, the first time we had target users outside of a testing situation handling it, pushing buttons, thinking about its utility in their care settings. 

I read a lot, and teach some, about ’emotional design.’ About getting people to respond to technologies in powerful ways. I’m not going to write too much now — for fear of jinxing things. But here’s the short version: not everyone thought they would buy the veterinary spinoff from the DripClip. But those that did, the elements of the device that made their eyes widen and sparkle, that made them smile, that made them reach out to touch it — those were the result of battleground decisions in our design process, and all from our arguments over what constitutes human centered design.

It was awesome. 



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