The co-founders and co-CEOs of Jane Software created their booking app to make clinicians’ lives easier
“I think it’s interesting when people ask kids what they want to be when they grow up. Because they know, like, four professions,” Alison Taylor says. “They know what their parents do and what their teacher does and whoever else they run across in their community.”
Taylor should know: she’s a parent of three, and there’s no chance she could have predicted the career she’s enjoyed.
For a long time, her answer to that question was “physiotherapist,” as she envisioned following her parents into the trade. Then the North Vancouver native graduated from UBC with a major in English and a minor in psychology and the belief that she might be a teacher.
But while managing one of her parents’ practices, she started talking with some therapists who wanted another place to work. Meanwhile, the midwives who delivered Taylor’s kids needed office space. So she opened her own clinic, Canopy Integrated Health, in 2011 to help those practitioners as well as experts in counselling, acupuncture and massage therapy, to name a few.
She enlisted Trevor Johnston, co-founder of North Vancouver marketing agency Thought Shop Creative, to do some branding for the clinic and its website. When Johnston heard her complaining about the booking process she was using, he offered to help her build something for that.
Taylor used Johnston’s solution with her clinic for about a year and a half before people in the industry started asking about it. So she and Johnston added a billing component and licensed it out. “We always ran it like our small businesses—made money, hired people, repeat,” says Taylor of the beginnings of Jane. “It was really intended to be sort of a side hustle, and then I think when we got to eight to 10 staff, we realized we had to stop our other jobs.”
The pair worked to make Jane stand out from some of the other options on the market, which Taylor found underwhelming. “It was all very generic, names like Clinic Server, Clinic Master, Practice Mate, Practice Fusion—just two words kind of put together,” she recalls. “You’d ask people what they were using, and they wouldn’t even know.”
Calling their service Jane gave it a more personable feel, and the duo combined that with what Taylor calls a clean and attractive customer experience. “The public school system and health care probably have the worst user interfaces and software out there,” she says. “It was very different back then to have a nice design and user experience.”
One of the first injections of capital into Jane was a $2-million loan from CIBC Innovation Banking, something the institution’s Vancouver-based managing director, Joe Timlin, calls a no-brainer.
“Jane is one of those types of companies we just love,” says Timlin, who notes that the business was originally founded by Taylor for her own use instead of being created as a solution looking for a market. “It was also profitable out of the gate. They put all the sweat equity into it up front and brought it to market where it was almost immediately profitable without a whole lot of marketing, and the physio community embraced it completely.”
Today, North Vancouver–based Jane has some 50,000 clients around the world and 217 staff. As for what’s next, it looks like more of the same in scaling up a business that’s seemingly come out of nowhere. “We’re building a tool that helps people who are helping people,” Taylor says. “Part of joining Jane is you get a software, but you get a whole team of cheerleaders. Our support team is large, and we do a lot of work to try and create actual content, provide an actual solution.”
Taylor has a great deal of sympathy for those with their own clinics, having experienced it firsthand: “We often say that running a small business is some of the loneliest work and really underappreciated—especially as a clinic owner. It’s basically unpaid work for the most part, with low margins and usually not a lot of support. This gives them a support system they don’t have when they’re operating a small business on their own.”
More than anything, you get the sense that Taylor is still fairly surprised that she’s here. And she’s now making sure her kids keep their options open.
“This business is like climbing a mountain in the dark, and you have a flashlight—you can see the next few steps, but you don’t know what path necessarily is going to take you to the top of that mountain,” she says. “We want to always be growing and expanding and offering more and more helpful services to more and more people. That’s the big goal.”
10 Questions With Alison Taylor
What was your first summer job?
Is an entrepreneur born or made?
As with most things in life, a combination of both.
What is your definition of success?
What other job might you have had?
High-school English teacher or physiotherapist.
Name one thing people would be surprised to learn about you.
Usually people are surprised to learn that I have three children: Avery, 13; Liam 12; and Jonah, 10.
Finish this sentence for us: “Entrepreneurs need a lot more...”
What businessperson do you most admire?
I’m going to cheat with a leader I admire, but I have been really inspired by [Prime Minister] Jacinda Ardern’s leadership of New Zealand. She leads with empathy, humour, courage and grace.
What do you do to relax/unwind?
How would you describe your leadership style?
Name an item you typically forget to pack on business trips and regret not bringing.
Fully charged backup battery—phone is always drained by so much mapping, Ubering and hot spotting.