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Kimberly Corbitt has two daughters, a dog, a successful medical aid company and now a tech startup that’s been partially funded by a community accelerator.

Corbitt’s Pharma Connect Xpress, which attempts to bridge the gap between doctors and pharmaceutical companies via technology, was awarded about $50,000 from the Venture Acceleration Fund.

For Corbitt, the money is nice, but it’s the message she appreciates. “It’s the first outside money I’ve had,” she said. “I am humbled by the community trust.”

Money from the Venture Acceleration Fund is generally awarded to tech startups in Northern New Mexico counties. The fund is partially supported by the group that runs the Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Security, as well as Los Alamos County and Santa Fe County. The program can award up to $100,000. The funds come with a payback trigger if a company exceeds revenue benchmarks, sells to another company or relocates from New Mexico.

The program awarded between $30,000 and $50,000 to 10 businesses this year — from a software mapping company to a producer of goat milk soaps — for a total of $407,000. Besides Xpress, four other startups in Santa Fe received funds.

Pharma Connect Xpress is headquartered in the Lena Street Lofts, a compound of small businesses featuring lush gardens against the backdrop of rustic warehouse buildings.

Corbitt’s work on her most recent project takes place in a second-floor office adorned with modern touches, such as a conference table that doubles as a whiteboard, and Xpress gear — traffic-sign-yellow T-shirts with “Xpress” printed on the back, beige hats with “Xpress” across the center. The official uniform of Corbitt’s company.

As assistant Sara Magaletta types on a Mac laptop, Corbitt works on a Mac desktop at a standing desk. Corbitt is not one to sit still. She stands to explain complex concepts, turning to explanatory drawings if she believes her point needs emphasis.

It’s hard to understand Xpress without first understanding the $15 billion pharmaceutical industry. Corbitt has that advantage. She worked as a drug rep from 1999 to 2007 before starting Santa Lucia, which provides care for the developmentally disabled. In late 2011, Corbitt said she had extra mental capacity to spare, and Xpress was born. Its roots can be traced to Corbitt’s exit from the pharmaceutical industry years earlier.

Over the years, Corbitt said, health care providers have become busier and medicine more nuanced, which means more reps. Doctors don’t have time for that, she said, but most still want educational packets and sample prescriptions about new medications. “They’re not experts on every single therapy,” she said.

In Corbitt’s words, Xpress combines two business models: the drug rep and that of delivery services such as UPS or FedEx.

Xpress employees will drive from one doctor’s office to the next, asking doctors to fill out questionnaires via tablet app. The process, Corbitt said, should take only a few minutes of a health care provider’s time. Once finished, the Xpress employee moves onto the next location. The work, she said, wouldn’t require staff to have more than a high school diploma.

Xpress then will send the data to pharmaceutical representatives who will respond to doctors’ requests, Corbitt said. They could send doctors a brochure about a new drug, provide sample prescriptions or schedule a meeting with a drug representative.

Corbitt believes Xpress benefits both health care providers and drug companies. The doctors save time, and the drug companies save overhead costs, she said.

Corbitt traveled to proof-of-concept meetings in late July, visiting locales such as Florida, Connecticut and New York. She returns later this month, and then she’ll shop the idea to venture capitalists. Barring major delays, Corbitt said Xpress should be running by 2015. She said will initially hire 1,500 Xpress agents after she finishes negotiating contracts with drug companies.

The majority of Xpress agents will be working in more populous areas of the United States. Corbitt said New Mexico might have one Xpress agent, but the state could be home to about 50 managers and other higher-ups.

She said she expects to stick with Xpress for as the long as the company needs her, unless it becomes self-sustaining.

“That will be fine,” Corbitt said. “I’ll go find something else to do.”

Chris Quintana
The New Mexican, August 12, 2014