Makai HR Business Owner Spotlight: Sagely

One of the best things about providing outsourced human resources services on Oahu is getting to know the local business owners who run...

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One of the best things about providing outsourced human resources services on Oahu is getting to know the local business owners who run these companies. Hawaii’s diverse business community is close knit and teaming with talent. We hope you find their insights as interesting as we do!

We spoke with Alex Bitoun, president and CEO of Sagely, for this week’s Hawaii business owner spotlight. Alex was born and raised in France and moved to Hawaii about 14 years ago for his love of the ocean, surfing, and Hawaiian culture.

Here is the Q & A:

Q. What is Sagely?

A. Sagely marries the power of software, data, and the human element to empower caregivers, elders, and their families to improve elders’ well-being.

Engagement teams at senior living communities use Sagely’s suite of automated tools to document, manage, and navigate the tracking and delivery of care programs for kupuna.

Sagely Alakaʻi is a psychosocial telehealth care program focused on improving the well-being of our kupuna.

Q. What is Sagely’s mission?

A. “We feel that respect for our elders has been lost and we want to bring that value back to the world. The American society measures worth based on a person’s productivity, which leaves elders feeling like they have lost their step. In previous generations, kupuna were valued as sage storytellers who passed down their wisdom through stories. With this tradition fading away, many of Hawaii’s elders are left feeling isolated.

Our mission is to restore our kupuna to a valued place in society by using digital health technology to assist them to live happy, healthy, connected, and independent lives.”

Q. What’s next for Sagely?

A. “We are now raising a Series A round to expand our technology and care programs across the United States and Canada. The purpose is to further develop our product into a self-service platform for all older adults. This digital communication platform enables us to honor older adults, recognize their wisdom and life experiences, create reciprocal relationships, and to reinstate dignity and self-determination through the Alakaʻi approach. It extends opportunities for older adults to take initiative and responsibility for their life’s direction and decisions by improving engagement. Engagement means helping older adults overcome barriers to living their best life including transportation, isolation and financial needs.”

Q. What drove you to take on this business?

A. “When I became interested in Sagely, I already had a growing startup called Livongo that was aimed at empowering people with chronic health conditions to live better and healthier lives. Sagely was started to provide software to the senior living community that addressed efficiency by digitizing engagement program’s publishing needs, attendance tracking, and resident profiles. I joined Sagely with the desire to create a business model that would improve health care for elders that would in turn empower them to live their best lives while also lowering the total cost of care. Now we are working on expanding our services through the Alakaʻi approach.”

Q. What advice do you have for people wanting to launch a startup in Hawaii?

A. “You need to believe. I feel people don’t believe that they can achieve. One of the special things about Hawaii is the closed-loop environment; the community is open-minded and willing to back you up and try your product or service without so much skepticism, which makes it a great place to develop a product or business. It’s like having a focus group before you launch nationwide. Not to mention the beauty of the ocean, which gets the creative juices flowing.”

Q. What are the benefits and challenges of owning a tech business in Hawaii?

A. “Despite many amazing, talented people in the islands, if you’re going to grow big you will end up needing to outsource talent.”

Q. Do you have a personal or professional motto?

A. “I believe in full transparency. I believe in having strong convictions while pursuing goals but in being adaptive and flexible along the path. I believe that if you are resilient enough you are likely to make it.

I believe that if you improve the lives of people then that’s enough (inspired by the Richard Branson quote: “A business is simply an idea to make other people’s lives better.”)

Make time for everybody – whether they’re the janitor or the CEO. I am generally interested in getting to know people and you can always learn something.

I am a strong believer in the Pareto Principle: 20 percent of the effort you put into something generates 80 percent of the results. Don’t worry about the details right away. Don’t overthink it. Why worry now about problems that you don’t know even exist?”

Q. What is your greatest success and what is the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your business experiences?

A. “My greatest success is being able to change the lives of our elders. It is always very touching to hear success stories. The biggest lesson that I have learned about business is that you almost have to die 10 times before you make it. It’s all about being resilient.”

Makai HR is proud to provide outsourced HR services to Sagely. Said Makai HR President Valerie Wang, “I am constantly impressed by Alex and his team and am excited to help share his story. Being a tech-driven company in Hawaii is not easy, and it’s great to see Sagely truly being a pioneer in their efforts to bring high-tech to Hawaii.”

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