Treatspace–connecting doctors with their patients online

Treatspace is the brainchild of Rick Cancelliere, a serial entrepreneur who noticed a huge problem in medical marketing after heading up a design firm that catered to that industry. I sat down with the CEO to discuss why it’s so hard to find information about your doctor online, the progress of his company, and how he copes with the stress of being an entrepreneur.

Describe Treatspace in one sentence.

Treatspace is reinventing medical relationships online.

What problem are you trying to solve?

We are correcting inaccurate information online about doctors and making it easy for people to find their doctors online, and communicate with them.

Today 80% of all internet users have searched the web for health information. Half of these people are specifically seeking out doctors and health professionals. But if you’ve ever searched for your doctor, you know you don’t find their website. You find sites like Healthgrades and Vitals that aggregate information about your doctor and pretend to represent them so they can sell ads. These pages often have incorrect information—to the point of misidentifying what medical specialty they practice. And then they have rankings that are anonymous and not fair to your doctor. Imagine if someone could anonymously rate you on Linkedin as a bad or great person based off of one encounter. That’s what’s happening.

Some doctors who have one-star ratings see multiple thousands of individual patients a year. Then two unsatisfied outliers who had a negative experience, tarnish their online reputation. Now I am a proponent of patient advocacy, and real patient feedback is a critical part of improving healthcare, but online, anonymous rating systems is not making the grade.

With our website…people trust that they are getting the right information about their care-givers practice, specialties, insurances they accept, etc.., because it has been validated by the doctor. We are improving communication and strengthening relationships between doctors and their patients in a way that is in line with what we all are use to in our digital age.

How did you come up with the idea for Treatspace?

When I was young, I started an advertising and design firm where 80% of our clients were medical.

When you work with so many similar clients, you start to notice some things. For one, doctor’s offices were always disconnected. They were stuck in a fax machine era and have been for about 30 years. Their websites—if they had them–were terrible. They were, and are, neglected and out of date. And then I started seeing doctors that I knew, and trusted, and was confident were actually excellent physicians, having terrible representation online because of ad-selling identify thieves. And that really bothered me.

I unfortunately came up with a line that became all too accurate and have often used “I can see who your ex is dating in less than a minute on Facebook, but I can’t find you a doctor to save your life.” And every time I would say it, the sense that there was something really wrong online in healthcare, that no one was doing anything about, just kept growing.

I saw this gaping hole in the marketplace and in people’s lives. For how connected we are personally through Facebook and professionally through Linkedin, why isn’t there anything like that for your health network? Those relationships are completely unmapped.

So I decided to fill that gap and started Treatspace.

What progress has your company made so far?

We got into Carnegie Mellon’s Project Olympus and started vetting our business idea and building out some product concepts we could run with. From there I pitched one of the ideas at the first Startup Weekend – Pittsburgh hoping to rally some of the folks I was already working with and attract some more talent to the idea. Plus, push right to a working prototype/MVP. That weekend we formed a team of about 10 and were able to refine the idea, hammer out a prototype, put it in front of customers, collect a couple dollars in revenue, and launched it right into 1st place.

From there we got accepted in AlphaLab and have been working on iterating and adding functionality to several features and building a strong base of the platform. We have been able to test and refine to success several sales strategies, and sell several different customer types.

The first week in AlphaLab we closed $14,000 in revenue, through a launch partnership with the Everett & Hurite Ophthalmology practice, an amazing practice and group of forward looking doctors that believed in our vision of better and stronger relationships with their patients.

What do you think is the hardest thing about being an entrepreneur?

It’s very difficult to have a business that you’re launching with no or low revenue, and minimal funding. Your parents are telling you to get a real job. Your significant other is tired of not having an income. Thankfully we have a community, and customers, that helped validate what we are doing.

Everyone knows the rewards for entrepreneurship and everyone thinks you got lucky, but really, there might be some luck, particularly if you made that luck out of unending, passionate, hard work.

How do you cope with this?

About 5 years back I started Next Entrée, a no-frills dinner where tech CEOs—from students to seasoned entrepreneurs—get together for dinner and talk about what they’re working on and how they can help each other. It’s a time to commiserate and celebrate over successes and failures as entrepreneurs.

There are other social groups too. The entrepreneurial community is booming in Pittsburgh. Look at all the tech meetups and Startup Weekend and Open Coffee Club.

Being in AlphaLab sometimes feels like Next Entrée on a day-to-day basis. Your among five other startups, you’re being mentored weekly, driven on objectives monthly, challenged daily, you’ve laid out your goals and other people know them and are holding you accountable.  This seems simple enough, but it is highly valuable and very difficult to place upon yourself as an entrepreneur.

If you could give one piece of advice to an entrepreneur just starting out, what would you say?

Read two books: The Four Agreements by Ruiz and The E-Myth by Gerber.

The Four Agreements teaches you how to do four things that are really hard: 1. not take anything personally, 2. not make assumptions, 3. be impeccable with your word, and 4. do your best at those three things. I don’t know how an entrepreneur can live without those 4 things from a personal perspective.

And from the business perspective, The E-Myth by Michael Gerber. It’s based on the hypothesis that entrepreneurship is a myth. Gerber says that there are no natural-born entrepreneurs. There are technicians that turn into entrepreneurs–it’s the haircutter that says I want to open up my own barber shop. It’s the engineer that says I want to start my own tech company.

But when they decide they want to sta
rt their own company, these people know how to do one thing: a technical role. They have to learn how to do finance, marketing, sales, operations, HR—all the things you need to learn to build a business.

And Gerber shares not only the story of the difference b/w an entrepreneur and a technician, but how a technician can morph into an entrepreneur. And it’s told in a simple, unintimidating, straightforward voice.

I found those two books incredibly helpful and think they provide a lion share of guidance that people need in order to take a role like this and run with it.

How can I tell my doctor about Treatspace?

Go to, enter in your doctor’s information and we’ll tell them about Treatspace on your behalf.