Dear community members,
I need to share some important news with you:
As you might already know, I am a chronic pain patient too and I've experienced the same endless odyssey many of you have experienced: Going from one doctor to another, trying to get properly diagnosed and trying dozens of different treatments to finally get rid of (or at least ease) the pain... while trying to not lose my mind.
Because of this personal experience, I came up with the idea for this app and have been working on it full-time over the past six years. During the first one and a half years, I worked alone and had no salary. However in late 2011, I was able to get a Swiss government grant, money from a foundation and investments from friends and family which allowed me to recruit a small team of two additional people and pay each of us a modest salary. At some point we were even seven team members working on this app and everything around it.
Although we've achieved quite a lot (e.g. over 160k registered users), there was always one thing that we were struggling with: Generating enough revenues to cover our salaries in a sustainable way. Although you can spend money in the app, and fortunately some of you do so (thank you so much!), we are very far away from covering even one monthly salary. Don't get me wrong, I am not trying to blame anybody nor am I trying to make anybody feel guilty. I know that many of you are not only struggling with pain but also financially.
Because we don't want to put the financial burden on patients, we have always been looking for ways to earn money from other parties, e.g. health insurances, pharmaceutical companies, pharmacies etc.. We had a few smaller success stories but never got the necessary big breakthrough. We were able to close a couple more financing rounds with business angels (independent investors) which gave us more time to improve the app and find a sustainable revenue model. This summer, it looked like we were finally going to get that big necessary breakthrough: A big contract with an online pharmacy. However, in the last second they pulled out of the deal because they have major problems in an ongoing project (which has nothing to do with us) which they need to solve first...
Because those expected revenues didn't come in and because we had no other deals in the pipeline, I had only one option left: I had to let go of my two remaining developers and myself and I had to close down our office with effect of September 30th, 2016 (this might explain why the support hasn't been as good lately as it was before).
I apologize for not having told you all of this a lot earlier, but I just needed to get some time off and reflect on everything including the future of this app and my personal future. It has been a very long and intense journey for me (and my team!)...
Now, what effect does all of this have on the app?
The good news is that the app revenues cover the hosting/server costs. This means we will be able to keep both the new Pain Companion app and the "old" CatchMyPain app running for as long as the app revenues don't decline.
The bad news is that we won't be able to add any new features or fix bugs, for the time being. There is one exception: In his spare time, Andreas is trying to fix the diary export problem (in some cases, the export page can't be loaded). I am very sorry that we won't be able to fix the other bugs that some of you are experiencing.
I hope that at some point in time, I will be able to hire a developer again who can fix the other bugs and keep improving the app. This means I am not giving up! This is just way to important to me and I haven't achieved yet what I intended to: Many chronic pain conditions still seem to be a big mystery to everybody (including pain specialists!). We need to change this sad circumstance! There are way too many patients suffering, because there hasn't been done enough research and because only a small number of medical professionals and patients are up to date on the state of the art diagnosis and treatment of the many different chronic pain conditions. I believe there is a huge potential for improvement and I will keep working on realizing that potential. The pain diary and the wonderful community that we have is just the beginning.
This is my plan for the future:
I have to get a regular job to pay my bills and pay back my loan that I used to invest in our startup, but I will keep working on this app and the pain research in my spare time. I hope there will come the day when I can go back to working full-time on this project. But this might take years.
This is what I will be working on in my spare time:
- Providing support
- Writing articles and creating more videos
- Getting funding to pay for app improvements and bug fixes
- Analyzing all the anonymized pain diary data to gain new insights about the various chronic pain conditions
This last point (data analytics) is what I am currently focusing on and it sort of means going back to the roots: In my early years of being a pain patient, I've imagined that there must be hundreds or even thousands of other patients on this planet having the exact same pain problem just like me. And I imagined that if we put all our learnings and experiences together, it would become much easier to identify the underlying causes and the right set of treatments for our specific pain condition. The same thing could be done for all the other conditions out there. This "wisdom of the crowd" or collective intelligence is supposed to help every patient and doctor to discover the right diagnosis and the right set of treatments as quickly as possible. This idea is the reason why I started working on this project.
As a first step, I am trying to identify patterns in the pain drawings for specific pain conditions. E.g. what does a typical fibromyalgia pain pattern look like and which pain patterns can be used to rule out fibromyalgia. The University Hospital of Berne in Switzerland is helping me to analyze the anonymized data and they have many other ideas for further research. Once we have some first results, I will share them with you.
Last but not least, I would like to thank each one of you for your support during all those years. Reading all your supportive and kind posts in the community shows me that I am not alone in this fight against pain. You are doing a tremendous job supporting each other and I am very proud of being a member of this wonderful community.
If you would like to support this app and our pain research even further, there are many different ways to do so:
- Tell other pain patients about this app (friends, on social media, blogs, etc.)
- Write a positive review in the app store. Your 5-star rating is the single most effective way to help other patients find and enjoy the app. Those are the according links for the Pain Companion app:
- If your budget allows it, purchase a Pain Companion supporter subscription (tap on the "Become a Supporter" link in the navigation menu) or buy some of the features in the CatchMyPain app.
- Let me know if you know anybody who might be interested in sponsoring the app and our work
- Keep up your great work of welcoming and supporting new community members
- And please let me know if you have any other ideas about how to grow and improve this community and gain new insights about chronic pain.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this and for being part of this wonderful community. Talk to you soon, I am not going anywhere ;-)
CEO & Co-Founder of the Pain Companion and CatchMyPain apps