Todd Walrath Of ShiftMed: “Disruption is a modern term”

Disruption is a modern term. In the tech or venture world, you want to be doing the disrupting. If you are established or an incumbent, disruption is often looked upon as a risk. They are not the innovators typically. They buy the companies that they couldn’t create themselves. Todd is the founder and CEO of […]

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Disruption is a modern term. In the tech or venture world, you want to be doing the disrupting. If you are established or an incumbent, disruption is often looked upon as a risk. They are not the innovators typically. They buy the companies that they couldn’t create themselves.

Todd is the founder and CEO of ShiftMed, a digital workforce management platform that recruits, credentials and schedules licensed CNAs, LPNs and RNs to work at health care providers. Walrath is also CEO and Founder of, an online marketplace designed to connect caregivers to families and healthcare providers looking for experienced, credentialed post-acute care workers. Prior to launching ShiftMed and, Walrath founded and sold SeniorLiving.Net and Walrath also held positions as COO of and Vice President of AOL Local.

Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

My first jobs after college were in product management with technology companies. I started with AT&T, and later worked for Scientific Atlanta (now owed by Cisco) designing software for TV set top-boxes. Cable systems were basically the internet before there was an internet — movies on demand, information services, program guides, and other things that were precursors to what you can do today on your computer or mobile device.

In 1996, when the internet was still in its infancy, I went to work for The Weather Channel and helped them build their first website. ended up growing into one of the largest media properties of its time and I was the COO through 2001. It was a great learning experience for me and changed the way I think about operations and customers. During the 1998 Atlantic hurricane season, which was one of the worst on record, for the first time, people were huddled in their basements on their computers looking at our radar images to see if the storm was still hovering over their house. You couldn’t do that before. We were probably getting as much traffic as Yahoo! was in a single day during those storms. I’d like to think we helped The Weather Channel evolve from a cable network to a technology company, and I learned a lot about how organizations get work done.

In 2001, I took a role with America Online after the Time Warner merger where I spent two years as the General Manager for AOL Local which included: MapQuest, AOL Local Search, Yellow Pages and AOL Small Business. Up to that point, I had only worked for big companies, but in 2003 I co-founded which was a pioneer in search engine marketing. We were able to grow it very rapidly and merged with in 2006. That company then was listed on the NASDAQ and raised approximately 75 million dollars in a public offering.

Most recently, I founded two companies in the healthcare space. In 2007, I got into senior care by starting SeniorLiving.Net, which was essentially the Expedia of assisted living. That came about through this odyssey I was on with my own family. There was no easy way to find the information you needed to find the right care for an elderly family member. Frustrated with this lack of resources, I created a service to help families find the care they needed. We built it to the point where we had 15,000 assisted living communities in our engine, and our Care Advisors would help families through the whole process. That was a five to six year project which we sold to a public company in 2013.

In 2014 we started, a mobile and web platform designed to connect care providers to families seeking in-home care services, and in 2018 we added ShiftMed to help hospitals with staffing nurses. Both and ShiftMed are at the intersection of two industry problems. The first is the shortage of nurses and caregivers available to families and hospitals across the US. The second is the challenge that frontline caregivers have in earning a living wage. These two factors have made it difficult for healthcare companies to deliver needed services and generate the best outcomes. Our technology solves both of these challenges.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

Yes, for the first time, nurses (CNAs, LPNs and RNs) can use their mobile device to manage their entire work life — from selecting shifts and their rate of pay, to managing their credentials to get getting paid right after their shift. Our platform enables families, hospitals, assisted living providers and skilled nursing facilities to reach their required staffing levels while allowing crucial frontline healthcare professionals to claim shifts when and where they want.

The most common question I’m asked is, ‘Where do we find the workers?” Over the last 7 years we have built a national database of nurses across 700 geographies in the US. We have more than 6 million nurses on our platform and are constantly connecting them with local work opportunities. We also help them keep their credentials current. We now have more than 60,000 fully credentialed nurses available on a daily basis to our families and partners.

Our nurses get to work when and where they want. There are no minimums. It’s exactly what the worker wants it to be. Being able to offer assignments across providers, time slots and locations is very disruptive. It also doesn’t hurt when you can bundle in Guaranteed Shifts® and Next Day Pay™ as differentiators.

Our partners want to drive patient outcomes — they want that same worker to come back all the time, to have consistency of care and drive their core metrics that they are measuring. Our workers help them achieve all of those outcomes, so they are offering better care.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

I’ve been lucky to work alongside successful people like Steve Case and Ted Leonsis at AOL. I was able to watch them build and scale as early industry leaders, and I learned how to manage during the decline after the Time Warner merger. Often you learn the most from how you get through the challenging situations.

I also think about my first boss at The Weather Channel who gave me a devastating performance review in 1998, which was exactly what I needed at the time. She taught me how to listen, which has helped me develop into a stronger leader.

Being an entrepreneur can be a pretty lonely journey. I think I have been lucky to surround myself with co-founders and team members who can provide varying points of view to consider.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

Disruption is a modern term. In the tech or venture world, you want to be doing the disrupting. If you are established or an incumbent, disruption is often looked upon as a risk. They are not the innovators typically. They buy the companies that they couldn’t create themselves.

Initially, Ford Motor had very little activity in alternative powered cars and now their commercials lead with their investment in this category. I’m sure they were initially threatened by Tesla’s success. Now, they will aim to leverage their strengths (i.e. branding and manufacturing expertise) to take back share. I read an article that said maybe Tesla is the AOL of electric cars. If all combustion engines are gone by 2050, it would be hard to imagine Tesla with 50% market share at that time.

In healthcare, the existing systems and companies are very established. They are so focused on their own operating models, making it really challenging to deviate or innovate away from the current processes. They feel lucky if they can make today’s version work versus trying to improve it further.

In healthcare, I believe innovation will most likely come from the outside. Providing healthcare services is highly operational in nature. With increasing regulation, scientific advancement, rising costs, patient totals doubling, it’s hard enough to execute today let alone innovate for tomorrow.

A recent example of healthcare innovation is Telehealth. None of that innovation came from within the healthcare industry. Telehealth had been around for 10 years struggling and then Covid happened, and no one wanted to go to the doctor in person, so the government relaxed the delivery rules and now every health system in the country has a Telehealth division or partnership driving a percentage of their patient visits.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

I don’t have any catchy three word slogans that are hung up in my cubicle at work that I live my life by or anything. I mostly manage backwards from mistakes I’ve made. I mentor a lot of young entrepreneurs and I work with different startups and various incubators around DC. Through this, I try to share views with future disruptors. That said, here are three pieces of advice based on my own experiences:

  • Start with a two person organization chart

I think many entrepreneurs make mistakes early in the process: hiring friends, giving away equity, and adding people that the venture doesn’t need at the start. Don’t make your friend Chief Legal Officer or CFO even if they are great in those roles. You don’t need one yet.

  • Be flexible, and don’t fall in love with your ideas.

We are really on our third version of the company in 7 years. We were always successful and growing, but now we are really scaling to be a market leader and a national player. We couldn’t have gotten to the current level without a willingness to tear it down and sometimes go backwards.

  • Keep a healthy perspective on your role

I have a close friend who recently sold his company, and he was really struggling with the fact that most of his identity was tied to being the CEO of his company. I reminded him that he was the creator of the company, not the company itself. He just had to take the time to decide what comes next in order to create again with a new company — a new cause, and new relationships.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

We are moving into all of the other segments in healthcare, from Therapy to Mental Health.

We are just getting started!

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

Adam Grant’s “Originals”

Any Malcolm Gladwell book

Greenlights — Matthew McConaughey

I think all of these stories remind us that the opportunities are all around us and we just need to observe and listen. How many times do we say the next great idea was so obvious? The solution only becomes obvious after the fact, when it has solved a problem. Did anyone know that we needed a computer/video camera/jukebox/telephone in our pocket before Apple introduced the iPhone? But it’s pretty obvious now.

I think most successful people probably didn’t think they were going to be successful in their life. They usually aren’t the smartest, the fastest, or the strongest. It’s usually people who are fighting to prove something, didn’t go to the best school, or just saw something no one else saw.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I tell my kids that most of the happiest people I know weren’t #1 in their class, or the best athletes, or Harvard graduates. Start with being a good person and then figure out something you are good at.

I always wanted to be an entrepreneur, but had to wait until I was 35 to get started.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

My current project is the closest I have come to changing the world. In Q2 we cared for more than 200,000 patients with caregivers and nurses making 35% more than they have ever earned previously. Not to mention, they could dictate their schedule, balancing work with what is best for their family. This truly is the future of work for every industry.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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