By Hadi Husain, Folana Miller Nov 06, 2019

KKR’s Social Enterprise Accelerator program (“Accelerator”) began in 2018 as a way to enable KKR employees to work with leading social enterprises. The program, which is part of the firm’s citizenship efforts, works in close collaboration with Echoing Green, a nonprofit whose mission is to discover emerging social entrepreneurs solving the world’s biggest problems and support their growth and development.

To kick-off this year’s program, several cross-functional teams of KKR employees were selected from interested participants. Six entrepreneurs then pitched their businesses and the three KKR teams each selected an entrepreneur with whom to work. Over 14 weeks, the KKR teams offered pro bono business expertise to help solve challenges facing these social enterprises and grow their impact. The Accelerator culminated in a pitch before a panel of judges comprised of Cheryl Dorsey, President of Echoing Green, Carter McClelland, Chairman and Partner at Union Square Advisors, Scott Nuttall, Co-President and Co-COO of KKR, and Joe Kronberg, a prior Accelerator participant and a member of KKR’s legal and compliance team.

Below we hear from participants, Hadi Husain and Folana Miller, as they describe their partnership with CareMessage. Their team, which also included Alex Bayman (Credit), Liz Blackburn (KKR Capstone), Jeff Tsai (Finance, Tax and Accounting) and Juliet Zawedde (Client and Partner Group) won first place in the final pitch and earned a $25,000 grant for CareMessage from KKR.

When we first learned of the Accelerator, both of us immediately knew that we wanted to participate. It represented a unique opportunity to collaborate alongside innovative social entrepreneurs, and help them to think critically about issues they face in an effort to achieve meaningful positive change. On the individual level, we sought to sharpen skills and form deep, lasting connections, both within KKR and externally.

CareMessage: Helping underserved populations achieve better health outcomes

After the initial pitch, where we heard from six different entrepreneurs, our team selected CareMessage, a non-profit organization whose mission is to improve health outcomes and reduce cost of care for low income and underserved patients. CareMessage believes that better patient engagement drives better healthcare outcomes.

CareMessage enables healthcare providers to facilitate communication and outreach with “smart” SMS and voice technology. It helps organizations improve patient outreach, encourages patients to communicate and actively engage in their health, fills gaps in care, reduces no-shows, and meets clinical metrics through core features: outreach, health education programs, direct messaging, and appointment reminders. CareMessage also takes into account patient barriers to accessing or receiving services.

Introducing CareMessage to the New York-based community healthcare market

Based on the targeted areas of growth CareMessage identified to us, our team devised the following work streams for the Accelerator and divided into two groups to tackle them:

  • Help CareMessage develop a presence in the New York-based community healthcare market, which it had targeted for expansion but not yet penetrated; and
  • Organize and conduct a comprehensive analysis of the community healthcare space to build out a more complete understanding of CareMessage’s strengths and weaknesses and aid in strategy development.

The two of us, along with teammate Jeff Tsai, focused on CareMessage’s expansion into the New York market. As a first step, we mapped out the universe of community health centers (“CHCs”) in the region and, alongside with the senior CareMessage team, began engaging with some of the largest ones. To do so, we leveraged the broader KKR network, including many relationships that employees developed through other Citizenship-related efforts at KKR. In our meetings with CHCs, we sought to assess their various patient engagement strategies and find avenues through which CareMessage could add value.

As the culmination of our project, we arranged a Round Table panel in KKR’s offices to discuss patient engagement. The panel was moderated by a Senior Director at the Community Health Care Association of New York State (CHCANYS), the organization that serves as the link between CHCs, the Department of Health and Human Services, and state and local government. The panelists included esteemed professionals from the non-profit healthcare space, including from the Robin Hood Foundation. In total, more than 40 healthcare executives from New York-based health centers and other healthcare-focused organizations attended the event.

Project conclusion and key takeaways

Through the Accelerator, we helped to initiate dialogue between CareMessage and 18 New York-based health center networks, representing more than 300 clinics and over one million low income and underserved patients. In the time since our project concluded, CareMessage leveraged the momentum from the experience and the Round Table discussion to execute agreements with nine New York area based health centers representing almost 400,000 underserved patients.

KKR’s culture is underpinned by a robust commitment to support our various communities and give back, in large part through our citizenship platform. Community engagement is encouraged at all levels of the firm, which helped contribute to the success of the Accelerator. It was a fantastic opportunity to connect and work with colleagues from across KKR; in a firm focused on ‘connecting the dots,’ the Accelerator offered a unique opportunity to broaden our internal networks through action. Months after the close of the program, our team is still very close. It inspired us. We were moved by the CareMessage team’s relentless passion and drive. We aim to take that sense of purpose back with us. It helped us to diversify and strengthen our skillsets, particularly in areas outside of our comfort zones. Between the six of us, only one had previous relevant industry or non-profit experience, but we were able to ‘get comfortable being uncomfortable.’

Having built so much ‘like and trust’ with CareMessage during the project, our team decided to continue to engage with them following the conclusion of the Accelerator. We are currently helping CareMessage as they think through their latest fundraising initiative through which they aim to become 80% sustainable in 2020, a notable accomplishment for a non-profit. We deeply believe in CareMessage’s purpose and are grateful that, through KKR, we were able to play a small role in what we hope will be its future success.

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