Most folks in the rehab therapy tech world—and around the WebPT office—know Joe Dundas as the president and co-founder of Therabill. What most people don’t know about Joe: He created a social media platform before the term “social media” was even a thing. “I wrote a webpage for my wife’s friends to log on and post pictures and notes for each other,” he said. “At the time, there was no such thing as a social network.” Joe’s handiwork was perhaps a bit before his time; his user group didn’t seem all that stoked on the concept of socializing online. “That was back in ’97 or ’98,” he said. “Of course, Myspace sold for $35 million just a few years later.”
Fortunately, his timing was much better when it came to therapy billing software—and his wife, Cynthia, who is a speech-language pathologist, was much more receptive to his efforts. In fact, she was the inspiration behind the Therabill prototype. “I was always watching her do billing on paper, and I thought there had to be a better way,” he said.
So, for the next 10 years, he worked on building that solution—while simultaneously earning a PhD, mind you. It was a slow process, but that allowed Joe to fine-tune the Therabill platform in a way that truly met users’ needs. “We’d get a new member here and there,” he said. “We’d listen to what they had to say about the product, and we just kept building on top of it.” During that time period, Joe treated Therabill like more of a hobby than a job. “I didn’t really see the potential, but that’s also what made it so good, I think,” he said.
Once he completed his doctorate in bioinformatics, though, Joe had a decision to make: continue growing Therabill—which would require him to work on the product full time—or pursue the traditional academic route. And for someone like Joe—who gets bored easily—the latter option didn’t sound nearly as appealing as the former. So, he traded university tenure for the fast-paced world of healthcare technology—and he hasn’t regretted that decision for a second. “After that, we really started to ramp up,” he said. “Within a few months, I was making a good income and we were hiring people. That’s when I was like, ‘I should have done this from the beginning.’”
Being at the helm of a successful software company was a far cry from Joe’s days as school-skipping rebel in the tiny Illinois farm town of Clifton. “I couldn’t stand school,” he said. “It drove me crazy. Anything I could do to get out of it, I would.” Part of the problem was that he didn’t find his classes challenging—which gave way to insufferable boredom. “I ran into that in college, too,” he said. “At first, I went into accounting—which is the most repetitive field there is.” Eventually, he switched his major to engineering; still, he said, “I got nothing done [in college] but meeting my wife.”
In fact, Joe credits his wife for helping him to rise to his potential—and, in his words, “keeping me out of trouble.” Without her, he said, “I’d still be in southern Illinois, doing nothing.” Instead, the couple—and their three boys, James (12), Adam (9), and Joshua (4)—are now proud Arizona residents, thanks to WebPT’s acquisition of Therabill. “We integrated [Therabill] with WebPT a long time ago at the request of a member,” Joe said. Then, by happenstance, he met WebPT co-founder Brad Jannenga at an industry conference—which led to a call and an acquisition offer. “We ended up turning that one down, but a year later, we got another call, and that went really well,” he said.
He accepted the offer the second time around, mostly because he felt confident that WebPT’s wealth of resources and industry expertise would help ensure the future success of Therabill’s customer base—especially in the face of massive regulatory change associated with the ongoing healthcare reform movement. His kids, however, weren’t so sure about leaving behind their home, their school, and their friends. “We were trying to keep the move behind closed doors,” Joe said, chuckling as he recalled the moment he and his wife accidentally let the cat out of the bag. “We were in the car on our way to Mother’s Day brunch, and we mentioned something about moving to Arizona,” he said. “My oldest son, James, was so upset that he wouldn’t go into the restaurant with us. He told us, ‘You guys move; I’m staying here.’” Luckily, Cynthia was quick to intervene. “He had done a school report on California, and he loves [that state],” Joe said. “So my wife told him, ‘You know, you’d only be a few hours from California.’ And he looked up and said, ‘Can we go look for bears?’”
Since making their way to the Valley of the Sun, though, the Dundas family hasn’t had much time for tracking wildlife. Instead, they’ve stayed busy with school and sports: Joe’s kids play soccer, and his wife is training for a spring triathlon. As for Joe: “I’m still trying to figure out my hobbies,” he said, noting that he’s toying with the idea of joining his wife on the triathlon front. “I like to run; I’ve done one marathon and lots of half-marathons…[but] swimming long distances would be a new challenge.”
Speaking of new challenges, while Joe is perfectly happy working with the WebPT team to help our Members best leverage the Therabill software, he isn’t ruling out the possibility of striking out on his own again and building another venture from scratch. “The itch is there; maybe someday [I’ll start something new].” Who knows—maybe it’ll be the next great social media craze.
Fave Five with Joe
- Favorite food: Ramen noodles
- Favorite movie: Cool Hand Luke
- Favorite sports team: Chicago Bears
- Favorite band/musical artist: The Beatles
- Favorite place: In bed, asleep