Graham Dodge CEO, Sickweather LLC
Approximately one year ago, I had an idea that began to take root in my head. It was one of those ideas that refused to go away as much as I wanted it to – you know, so I could avoid the inevitable time commitment that would keep me from my family and other responsibilities. I can’t pinpoint the exact “aha!” moment for what would become Sickweather, but it evolved out of my experience working in online marketing and observing the behavior of my friends and family on Facebook and Twitter. In particular, I realized that many people like to talk online about their symptoms when they get sick. My familiarity with how the respective APIs (Application Programming Interface) work and how keyword Boolean searches can filter data led me to the conclusion that all this data could potentially be used for a greater good.
I suppose it was my own proclivity towards hypochondria that desired to see this data visualized on a map, like a weather report. The idea was made more concrete for me when I came down with the stomach flu that Fall and wished that I had a way to see if any of my friends in Baltimore had similar symptoms. This would somehow make me feel better knowing I wasn’t alone.
I sought my usual suspects of advisors for feedback about this idea: my wife, family and friends; including founding partners Michael Belt and James Sajor. The idea particularly inspired James over dinner one night at a restaurant near Baltimore. It was this past December and we were meeting to discuss our band Esquimaux and recording a new album. As the main topic of conversation waned, I mentioned my idea. James quickly got excited about it and offered to help make it a reality in any way he could. I was pleasantly surprised by his enthusiasm, but his motivation remained unclear to me until months later.
Michael, James and I were being interviewed by Jeremy Hsu, a reporter with Innovation News Daily. Jeremy asked each of us about our personal interest in Sickweather. Mike said something smart, I probably stumbled over an explanation, and then James provided his answer. He was calm and clear while recounting the story of caring for his mother, Nelinda, while she battled cancer less than a year prior. I can’t do justice to precisely what James said at that moment, but it inspired the opening of the article that was later published:
Taking care of a mother whose immune system had been compromised during cancer treatment meant that James Sajor had to avoid getting sick at all costs. He called ahead to make sure no friends were ill before going out. He even made restaurant reservations during off-hours to avoid crowds.
"My personal interest in it was I simply wanted to see who was getting sick and where it was happening," Sajor said.
James lost his mother to cancer last year. He had left everything he worked towards in Los Angeles, his music career, racing career and friends, to take care of his mom. When he and I met that fateful night for dinner, it had only been a few months since she had passed away, and James had just made the decision to permanently move back to Baltimore to be closer to his dad and family. While I was aware of all these things, I obtusely hadn’t considered that my idea, which has since been shaped and nurtured by James and Michael, could have been helpful in those circumstances.
We’re not doctors, or nurses or healthcare professionals. We’re just regular guys who get sick and care for our families when they get sick. We fully expect that others will continue to define uses for Sickweather as James did for me, and we hope to empower our users and implement their ideas too. After all, Sickweather will only be as good as the data our users contribute to it.
I look forward to writing more for this blog as Sickweather develops. To date, we are accepting Beta Tester Registrations for closed beta testing, and we hope to let everyone in before we transition to public beta later this summer. As for other updates, we do in fact plan on releasing this internationally, as well as for Android and iOS simultaneously when it goes public.
Graham Dodge is an entrepreneur with experience in design, marketing and business development. In 1998, he was a member of the team that created the first interactive Crime Map, an online visualization of U.S. Census crime rate data for the web portal Crime.com (sold to USA Networks). Throughout his career he has worked in varying capacities for such brands as GlaxoSmithKline, Discovery, GEICO, AOL & MTV.
About Sickweather LLC Sickweather, the world's first real-time sickness forecasting service, provides users with streamlined access to the health of their online social circles, allowing them to easily update and monitor their friends and family.