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FlareWatch and how a niche app was born from necessity

How does a startup come to be? Where do ideas come from and what are the challenges of executing them? Through the story of FlareWatch’s conception and execution, perhaps you will find the inspiration to finally take action on your own entrepreneurial spirit.

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How FlareWatch was conceived

Startups are often founded when someone sees a need in their life that no product fills, and with a passionate charge, they march off to fill that need. This is exactly what founder of FlareWatch, Enrique “Henry” Perez did which led him to the creation of his tech startup.

Perez shares with AGBeat his own personal trials with family members in 2006 – two of his immediate family members were diagnosed with similar forms of arthritis, and another family member, who happened to be a health professional, instinctively began to document their daily symptoms.

On a typical day, documenting would occur in an ad-hock fashion, just as important events might occur. Documenting may occur on the way to school, while outside playing, or before bedtime and resulted in notes being captured in various places.

When the time came to visit the rheumatologist, it was necessary to aggregate all of the notes and build a timeline of symptoms and important changes in medications. Perez explains, “This timeline was very helpful to the rheumatologist, as it gave him a picture of how the patient had been doing in between visits. Documenting using a pen and paper has its limitations, such as at some point before each doctor’s visit, you have to aggregate and re-enter your notes into a digital form. This can be a very labor-intensive process.”

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And the startup was born

It wasn’t until a year and a half ago that Perez realized that he could build a cloud application that would allow a person to easily enter daily metrics enabling them to capture their loved one’s auto-immune symptoms.

It occurred to Perez during the development of this application that he could build in additional services than would allow the user to correlate their flare data with their diet, exercise, medications, as well as pollen and weather information. Weather changes, such as cold fronts, can be a trigger for flares. Similarly pollen outbreaks can trigger allergies that can also trigger flares. Providing a way to easily generate a report with all of this data, along with flare occurrences, is an invaluable tool in helping individuals manage their conditions.

The one-man show

Over the course of the last 18 months, Perez has dedicated his nights and weekends to building this cloud application. For him, the biggest challenge has been working as a one-man show. He has continued to push forward regardless of how he felt about the project. Perez said, “When working solo, you need to push yourself to stay focused and continue to move things forward, even on bad days. When driving something like this by yourself, you need to push through, especially during the down times.”

Perez rates himself as not being a perfect 10, especially during very low points, but can look back and confidently say that he has done some “pretty damn good work.” The road to get FlareWatch where Perez envisions is still a long one, but he reassures himself that he is entering a new phase of the company where things are becoming more satisfying.

Another burst of momentum

Another huge burst of momentum came when he began to see the positive effects people were having from the direct benefits of FlareWatch. “I have been working with a couple of dozen beta-testers over the last 6 months. The biggest surprise is how grateful and loyal these testers have become. This is truly an under-served group of people. No one has built any type of application specifically targeted to his or her needs.”

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Part of Perez’s likely success is that he is offering a life time of free use for all beta testers as a thanks for their going through the building process with him. Perez says it is important to stay focused on getting this cloud application just right. “These people have endured quite a bit of daily struggles with their respective conditions.”

How FlareWatch works

The same autoimmune conditions can present themselves differently in individual patients. From patient to patient, symptoms may vary slightly and can be present with varying degrees of severity. For some autoimmune patients, lifestyle changes along with the appropriate medications can help them minimize flares or possibly even go into remission. FlareWatch is not a cure, but has been designed and implemented as a tool to help enable patients that make changes in their lifestyle see if these changes are helping them manage their condition.

Users can access FlareWatch using any desktop browser, tablets and wireless devices such as the iPad / iPod Touch and mobile devices such as the iPhone and Android. Entering daily symptom metrics has been designed to be quick and easy. With a click of a button, a comprehensive report can be generated showing symptom metrics along with correlations with lifestyle and external data such as diet, exercise, medications and weather.

Another advantage of using FlareWatch is that when a user signs up, they define a family, and within each family they define who is the patient. In the simplest case, the user is the patient and they are adding metrics for themselves.

But for other scenarios where the individual with the condition is a child, both parents can each have their own user account, and can both enter metrics for their child during the day. If the patient is an elderly parent, both the elderly parent and/or their respective adult son or daughter can also add flare information as needed.

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At the end of the day, when the report is generated for the patient, it will contain all of the data that all authorized users have entered for the respective patent. FlareWatch is very flexible on how a user defines the patient and who can or can’t add metrics for that patient.

This cloud application won’t be for everyone, but for that percentage of individuals that want to take control, track and monitor their symptoms, they will be able correlate flares to external factors and lifestyle.

The company’s future goals

Perez’s number one focus right now is to continue to improve usability for the patients of FlareWatch. He says he wants to make it so easy to use that a person can enter in their daily symptom metrics in less than a minute.

“Everyone is busy, but my group of users also struggles with debilitating illnesses. These users are normally not feeling well when they sign into FlareWatch, so I am doing everything I can to make their experience as quick, easy and pleasant as possible.” The ability to enter data using a mobile device, a tablet device, or a desktop browser allow patients to easily access FlareWatch when it’s most convenient for them.

In addition to usability improvement ideas, requests have been received from international users about adding support for weather data outside of the United States. FlareWatch is also continuing to add support for more autoimmune conditions. Currently, FlareWatch supports about 16 autoimmune conditions, but another 14 are in the pipeline.

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Maintaining focus

FlareWatch is 100% focused on autoimmune conditions. Perez is aware of other terrible diseases out there, but emphasizes that his interest is focusing on autoimmune conditions.  Perez pledges, “I plan to support every autoimmune condition regardless of how few patients have these conditions. With all of this in place, I plan to start promoting FlareWatch very aggressively.”

Perez likes to think of himself as a gardener. “I believe FlareWatch will have a significant impact on the auto-immune community, but for now I am nurturing and tending to it. I am making sure it gets water and sunlight and that it grows straight. With this in mind I will allow it to grow in the way that helps the autoimmune patient community as much as possible.”

Melinda graduated from St. Edward's University with a degree in Communication, focusing in Advertising, PR, Social Media and Media Arts. Her experiences include serving as an Organizational and Media Consultant for Savvy Kids Education, a Promotions and Media Coordinator for published authors, Media Strategy/ Planning Intern at the Multicultural Agency of the Year, LatinWorks and currently serves as the President of the St. Edward's University Alumni - Austin chapter.

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