Tech pair strikes vir­tual gold

St. Thomas Times-Journal - - FRONT PAGE - LOUIS PIN @STTJ_Pin lpin@post­media.com

You prob­a­bly can’t pro­nounce their last names, but physi­cians across Canada know about Ja­son Kerkvliet, right, and Daniel Pf­in­gst­graef be­cause of their busi­ness, MMD Data Sys­tems. Their data col­lec­tion and man­age­ment soft­ware has won the young en­trepreneurs work with doc­tors from On­tario to Bri­tish Columbia, and ev­ery­where be­tween.

Two years ago, a pair of young en­trepreneurs moved into the up­stairs of a lit­tle of­fice build­ing in St. Thomas and accidentally cre­ated go-to cus­tom man­age­ment soft­ware for physi­cians across Canada. It sounds un­be­lie­ve­able. The way they tell it, noth­ing could have been eas­ier.

MMD Data Sys­tems was start­ing by Ja­son Kerkvliet and Daniel Pf­in­gst­graef, a pair of young sa­vants from St. Thomas with a healthy in­ter­est in soft­ware de­vel­op­ment. Of the two Kerkvliet is the brighter and more en­gag­ing, the eter­nal op­ti­mist; Pf­in­gst­graef is qui­eter and more metic­u­lous, more down-toearth. They’ve been friends for years, and have been pro­gram­ming even longer.

“We’ve been sort of do­ing this for­ever,” Kerkvliet said, laugh­ing. “I think I built my first ap­pli­ca­tion to test stock-trad­ing al­go­rithms in grade six. That was never the hard part.”

The busi­ness be­gan as part of an El­gin Small Busi­ness ini­tia­tive. Kerkvliet and Pf­in­gst­graef knew they wanted to start a busi­ness, so a few years ago they drew out a plan to build web­sites for lo­cal clients. Then a more cap­ti­vat­ing job fell into their laps and the pair shifted gears.

“Web­sites, they were in­ter­est­ing,” Kerkvliet said. “But with an EMR and a pa­tient record sys­tem you can re­ally do good, which is some­thing we cared about a lot … this is def­i­nitely closer to the heart.”

That first job was with El­gin Au­di­ol­ogy, a lo­cal com­pany with a se­ri­ous need for stream­lined soft­ware. The El­gin Au­di­ol­ogy job was only meant to be a one-time con­tract but then a physi­cian in Win­nipeg called, ask­ing about the soft­ware.

Then more physi­cians from Win­nipeg called, and within months MMD Data Sys­tems had clients as far as Daw­son Creek and Fort McMur­ray.

“A lot of it is word of mouth,” Kerkvliet said. “When a physi­cian likes the prod­uct they’re us­ing they tend to tell their friends about it … we have a model where physi­cians are very much mem­bers of our soft­ware as op­posed to be­ing cus­tomers.”

Physi­cians pro­vide in­put them­selves, feed­back MMD uses to shape their soft­ware for each physi­cian. It does their sched­ul­ing and billing; more im­por­tantly it’s where they keep med­i­cal records, any­thing from al­ler­gies to clin­i­cal notes.

It turns out Kerkvliet and Pf­in­gst­graef were on the edge of a gold mine. They had a ser­vice physi­cians were look­ing for, and were will­ing to pay good money to get. Within a year they hired two more de­vel­op­ers, even­tu­ally build­ing their spe­cial­ized team to six peo­ple, them­selves in­cluded.

It’s the same of­fice, and the same lo­cal pres­ence — El­gin Au­di­ol­ogy still uses their ser­vice — but now they’re on a na­tional stage.

And yes: they built their own web­site.

“It’s been a wild ride,” Kerkvliet said. “It’s go­ing re­ally well.”

LOUIS PIN/TIMES-JOUR­NAL

LOUIS PIN/TIMES-JOUR­NAL

Kerkvliet and Pf­in­gst­graef have clients all across Canada, in­clud­ing lo­cally in the El­gin-St. Thomas and Lon­don area. They still op­er­ate out of a lit­tle of­fice in St. Thomas above their first client, El­gin Au­di­ol­ogy.

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