Gorilla Toolz: Not quite 800 pounds, but just wait

By GREGORY ZELLER // Today’s lesson from the high-speed, high-tech world: If it ain’t broke, fix it anyway.

That’s the emerging game plan of software developer Gorilla Toolz, which was doing just fine, thank you, customizing marketing- and sales-management platforms for a range of top-tier corporate clients, but is now angling to capitalize on the technological revolution taking place in a previously unconsidered sector.

The pivot comes courtesy of an unexpected healthcare-sector client that inquired about Gorilla Toolz’s EcoSoft technology, a portal offering better control of reseller channels and other sales-related functions. That job helped founder and CEO Jay Fruin recognize the golden potential of the tech-heavy healthcare sector, which proved to be enticing enough to convince the entrepreneur to take his seven-year-old firm in a completely new direction.

JAY FRUIN

Gorilla Toolz founder Jay Fruin

After California-based Advanced Reproductive Care inquired about adapting EcoSoft to its marketing program, Fruin’s Wantagh-based firm spent months reconfiguring the platform to the fertility specialist’s needs. The work turned Fruin on to the developing world of “patient engagement.”

“I had no idea what that was,” he conceded, “but it sounded interesting.”

Patient engagement is loosely defined as involving patients in their own care, but this simplistic definition belies the complex maze of medicine, communications and real-time technology behind it – exactly the sort of multichannel, multiuser connectivity EcoSoft is designed to provide.

“We recognized a huge opportunity in that space,” Fruin told Innovate LI. “So this year we shifted our focus from what we were doing and we’re now in the middle of a pivot into healthcare.”

Shifting on the fly is fairly familiar to Fruin, who earned a political science degree from St. John’s University before enlisting for programmer training at MetLife’s New York City offices in the mid-1970s. He cofounded his first company, systems integrator Leveraged Technology, in 1985, and helped run the firm for two decades before selling it in 2006.

Gorilla Toolz incorporated in 2008 and according to Fruin “really gained momentum” in 2010, when it landed its first client: Microsoft, which immediately took Gorilla’s B2B partner ecosystem global.

Starting a client list at the top of the tech world was “obviously exciting and lucrative,” Fruin noted, and watching how Microsoft deployed the EcoSoft platform helped push Gorilla Toolz deeper into partner-relationship management, an offshoot of their customer-relationship management focus.

Gorilla Toolz developers learned more in 2013 from a “very deep integration” with SalesForce.com, the San Francisco-based CRM giant.

“We realized, after spending so many years in the world of CRM, that there was a huge gap in how people were trying to adapt CRM to the indirect relationships between people in the sales ecosystem,” Fruin said. Simple fact: CRM wasn’t adapting very well.

“On the sales side, you have resellers, you have distributors who work with resellers, there might be four people who are part of the client’s approval process, there’re account managers – there’s a lot of complexity,” he added. “Our platform deals with that complexity very well.”

Fast forward to early 2015, when Gorilla Toolz – now featuring EcoSoft 4.0 – was approached by Advanced Reproductive Care and started exploring the healthcare realm. That exploration included the formation of an advisory board staffed with healthcare veterans, including the former CIO of Blue Cross spinoff Cambia Health Solutions, the former physician-management director for a regional health network and several current and former hospital advisors.

Soon the Gorilla Toolz team – Fruin and four full-time technicians from his old Leveraged Technology staff – was boning up on HIPAA regulations and re-tasking EcoSoft for patient-engagement protocols. Their work produced EcoSoft Health, a platform focused not on audit controls, budget maintenance and boosted sales, but on connecting providers, healthcare proxies and patients on a real-time, state-of-the-art platform that promotes prevention and recovery.

When Gorilla Toolz demonstrated EcoSoft Health for the advisory board at the end of the summer, Fruin noted, “we blew their socks off.”

“They gave us some feedback and we’re circling back to incorporate it in the product now,” the CEO said. “For example, they said we should expand the concept to include a patient care team that includes all of the physicians – the primary care physician, the surgeons, the anesthesiologist and so on. They also kept saying they couldn’t believe nobody was doing this already,” Fruin added.

“But nobody is.”

While still working the advisory board’s suggestions into the EcoSoft Health platform – including an alert system that automatically texts the primary care physician during a patient health crisis – Gorilla Toolz already realizes the enormous opportunity in its sights. To capitalize, the company is splitting in two. This fall, EcoSoft Health products will be spun off under their own brand, while Gorilla Toolz continues to streamline marketing and sales operations in non-healthcare sectors.

Fruin is planning a strong EcoSoft Health push, including marketing, a dedicated sales team and a new website. He figures he needs a capital infusion somewhere between $1.5 million and $3 million to “literally own this market, which is not small.”

“We’re the first movers in this space,” he said. “We have a beautiful window of opportunity. Driven by the Affordable Care Act and the threat of penalties for not meeting performance levels, there’s a huge drive right now to better communicate with patients post-care.”

Fruin has already spoken with a half-dozen VC groups that are “really specific on healthcare” and this week talked up members of the Long Island Angel Network during a pitch night at LaunchPad Huntington. Gorilla Toolz hasn’t found the right investor yet, but when it does “we really have to jump on this,” Fruin noted.

“I want to capitalize on this window,” he said. “This is really edgy right now, very much in demand.”