Why healthtech Maslow is on a mission to transform Australian disability care

Why healthtech Maslow is on a mission to transform Australian disability care

Maslow co-founder and CEO Andrew Akib

Seven years ago, a friend of Andrew Akib had his life change instantly when he fell off his bike and suffered a traumatic brain injury.

After spending nine months in Royal Rehab hospital in Sydney, he was discharged with few tools available to support his recovery, involving scattered, disorganised communication with numerous therapists and support workers. 

His experience became the inspiration for a rehabilitation app developed to centralise communication between patients and caregivers, as well as allowing users to track and manage their health journey from the comfort of their own homes.

Speaking with Business News Australia, Maslow co-founder and CEO Andrew Akib shared what it was like to see his friend struggle. 

“We witnessed as he went through rehab hospital for nine months completely surrounded by therapists, nurses and doctors who were trying to teach him and his family everything that he needed to do to manage his health when he was discharged home,” said Akib, who founded Maslow alongside Nitin Fernandez, Ilya Thai and Steve Ralph.

“They gave him a paper folder and 20 support workers. We saw how challenging that made it for him to stay on top of all of the programs that his therapists gave him or to verbally educate all the support workers that needed to help him do everything at home.

“We saw this and said: this is a flawed system that doesn't put the human at the centre of their own experience.”

In 2019, Akib teamed up with Fernandez to speak to hundreds of people with disability across Australia - and their support workers - to better understand how the process could be improved. Halfway through the year, Thai and Ralph joined the project and Maslow's team of co-founders was born. 

The group's research led them to the conclusion a lot of patients were being re-admitted to the hospital with "avoidable complications". Determined to address the issue, the Sydney-based company launched a prototype in early 2020, supporting a small number of users as the nation went into lockdown.

“It was actually in response to COVID-19 that we hurried up and got this out to two people early on during the lockdowns. That was the fire under us to release this into the wild,” Akib said.

“We were responding to the fact that people with disabilities could no longer visit their rehab clinics [and] had their entire teams of support workers gone in a day because of COVID.”

He also noted the pandemic introduced a shift in attitude towards “remote care tools” and turned what was once a “challenging conversation with institutions and therapists” into an opportunity that saw their digital solutions become embraced.  

“Conversations tipped to them going: 'I need this in order to retain clients, to support clients and to scale my business'.”

Launching publicly in February 2021, it only took six months for Maslow to branch out from its intended userbase.

“We started off very stubborn in terms of who we were designing for – people with spinal cord or traumatic brain injuries,” Akib said.

“But a natural result of starting to advertise our value proposition at scale has been that it's no longer a majority cohort. It was a very interesting shift because we started thinking about the scalability of this business from a market size perspective seriously. Whereas previously, all of our choices made were based on impact.

“Not to say those two things are mutually exclusive, but we started realising that the size of our market was as valid as any other consumer Service-as-Software (SaaS) product.”

Now, the platform is available to people with multiple sclerosis, autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, stroke, mental illnesses and genetic disorders.

Maslow has also become one of 16 accepted into Startmate’s summer 2022 cohort, which will hand out a $120,000 investment when companies reach a $1.5 million post-money valuation. For companies that have previously raised, the Melbourne-based accelerator invests $120,000 while matching the last valuation and terms.

Since launching, Akib says the app has been able to give users “more choice, control and flexibility over their support work schedule”. He shares the story of one user who signed up so she could manage her recovery from a spinal cord injury after having a child.

“She realised she would be juggling the tasks her support workers would need to do and all the little things she'd need to stay on top of taking care of her little one,” he said.

“She used Maslow to bring all of that back into one place. The team of support workers was able to balance all of those tasks and she knew exactly what was going on.”

After a year of being live on the market, the platform has grown to assist “a few thousand” users and has struck partnerships with several clinics in addition to National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) support provider Hireup.

Charging users $299 per annum (which can be subsidised through an NDIS budget), Maslow gives the person’s entire care team, therapists and family free access to the platform.

Customer acquisition has been driven by social media, as well as through patients referring their own therapists and support workers onto the platform, who in turn spread the word to their clients. 

Akib said Maslow’s userbase is “evenly spread throughout different states” such as New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia and has given people in regional areas better access to healthcare expertise.

While the company is currently building its Australian userbase, he also indicated the app would launch overseas further down the line.

“There are a few international markets where we do have quite a lot of users sign up. We haven't decided to service [them] just yet while we’re focusing on Australia. Those are namely in North America, Canada and New Zealand,” he said.

“We’ll be looking to figure out a commercial distribution model that works to scale over there.

“We're proposing a solution to change the overall care and rehab system. We endeavour to scale our impact and this solution globally and to place the human back at the centre of the disability care and rehab experience.”

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